Using Simulations to Navigate Real-World Business Ethics Challenges: Do Ethical Prompts Impact Student Outcomes?

Concurrent Session 3

Brief Abstract

Learn how a Penn State Smeal College of Business ethics simulation in a large (~750 students), undergraduate course helped students:

  • examine a real-world ethical dilemma 

  • explore ethical decisions

  • consider real-world impacts of their choices

We’ll compare their experiences and outcomes and discuss how simulation prepares students for future careers.



Renee Ford is a learning designer at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business. She is the lead designer of numerous hybrid and online programs and courses offered at the Smeal College of Business in University Park, PA and at Penn State’s World Campus, globally. Her portfolio includes courses that range in size from under 50 students to over 2000 students and are delivered to over 5000 Penn State students per year. Renee completed her Ph.D. in Education at Penn State in 2015. Her dissertation researched factors that influence leadership effectiveness. She has a background in teaching and learning, training, human resource development, and organization development and is passionate about design, innovation, and educational equity. Renee believes that teaching and learning experiences, when designed well, provide opportunities for students and instructors to participate in excellent, engaging learning experiences that meet the needs of diverse learners.

Extended Abstract

Learn how an ethics simulation in a large (~700 students), undergraduate course at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business helped students:

  • examine a real-world ethical dilemma, 

  • explore authentic choices, and 

  • consider real-world impacts of their choices. 

We will discuss the benefits of simulation in preparing students for their future careers.

The "Catering Conundrum" simulation was developed as a collaborative project between the instructor and the eLearning Design Innovation Group at the college. The goal of the project was to help students identify and respond to factors that influence ethical decision-making. These factors include culture, professional responsibility, apathy, relationships, and mentoring. The simulation serves as a tool to provide resources and support for students in order to develop more informed ethical professionals when students enter the workplace. 

The class was split into two groups. Half of the class were prompted with ethics questions prior to completing the simulation and the other half completed the simulation without being prompted with ethics questions. This presentation will discuss the differences between the two groups and what we learned about the benefits and value of simulation and the impact of ethics prompts as a tool to prepare students for their future careers.

During this session attendees will:

  • Identify the benefits of simulation as a tool for authentic decision-making,

  • Compare the outcomes of simulation with an ethics prompt vs. without a prompt,

  • Discuss the culture, prevention and response to ethical dilemmas,

  • Explore the barriers to assuring ethical decision-making, and

  • Develop strategies to promote ethical responsibility in teaching and learning contexts.