Dear Capstone®, Foundation®, and Comp-XM® professors,
Here is a list of upgrades and improvements for the 2009-2010 academic year. As always, we try to strike a balance between change and improvement. This year the most significant changes are an online version of the student workbook, a significant (albeit invisible) upgrade in our servers, and new language capabilities.
-Online WEB version of the Capstone®, Foundation®, and Comp-XM® decision support spreadsheet.
As a major design goal, we believe any business simulation should mimic the real world workplace environment. Our simulations use the same tools that graduating students will use in workplace - websites, Excel, etc.
However, the workplace is changing. Applications like Excel are moving into "the cloud". Interfaces are beginning to migrate onto cell phones. We want to mimic these changes. Therefore we are introducing a web enabled version of the student workbook this fall.
The online workbook is almost identical in look and feel to the Excel workbook. While there are a few unavoidable changes like a "calculate button", we have gone to great lengths to make the online workbook and the Excel workbook functionally equivalent. Regarding cell phones, even the earliest online workbook will work on browser enabled cell phones like Apple's iPhone, and we are working on a variation that will be designed specifically for mobile phones.
Students will be presented with a choice - download the Excel workbook (recommended), or use the online workbook. There are three advantages an Excel workbook has over an online workbook. First, an Excel workbook is faster - it recalculates instantly. An online workbook requires the student to click a "calculate button" and wait a few seconds for the page to refresh. Second, Excel controls printers better than a browser. For example, the Excel workbook prints nicely formatted and paginated reports, while the online version is content to just get the information to paper. Third, Excel is a local application. Students can work offline, and they are not bothered by the sometimes mercurial nature of the Internet.
On the other hand, in a high bandwidth environment like a classroom, an online workbook is instantly available. It can be very useful for the professor. In a few moments, you can be looking at a team's work, or you can demonstrate a point in the classroom.
The online workbook went live as a Beta product on August 15th, 2009. During the beta period we will almost certainly discover minor bugs, quirks, etc. We are particularly concerned with response times. Until we see it under a load, we cannot spot bottlenecks, tweak the hardware, etc. However, we do not expect any major issues, and we believe it will be out of beta by November.
Over the longer term, we expect the online interface to present new opportunities - particularly around homework, tutorials, and support.
- Powerful new server installation
What would happen to your class if our computer center burned to the ground?
Answer - you would be down a few minutes. We maintain a second data center.
To our knowledge we are the only simulation vendor that operates two geographically separate facilities. Why spend the money? Because even with offsite backups, it would take about two weeks to recover from a major disaster.
We brought up our second data center in 2006. However, we have always been concerned about a simple truth - it has never been tested. We need a system that we can test - one that rolls over from primary to secondary in a few seconds.
For this and other reasons, we brought up a state-of-the-art data center this summer. It is now out of testing, and will replace our primary facility in late August. In December we will bring up its twin brother to replace our secondary facility.
The new systems also bring us new capabilities. For example, we have installed a video studio - expect to see streaming audio and video incorporated into the simulations. We are working on a new homework system that is built around new database capabilities. And expect to see new simulations.
- New language capabilities
Finally, we will introduce additional languages.
At present we offer online Team Member Guides in English, Portuguese, Chinese, Spanish, and Russian.
The decision support software is available in English, Portuguese and Russian, and we will add Chinese and Spanish later this year.
Over the next year we plan to add German and Korean editions.
- Additional support
As always we are keenly interested in supporting professors. If we can assist you in any way, please do not hesitate to call us.
We would be delighted to schedule a refresher tour for you, or assist you with setting up your classes for this year.
Have a wonderful 2009-2010 academic year!