Rita Cossa of McMaster University Uses Capsim to Boost Engagement for 1,000+ Online Students, Worldwide

Case Study – Cossa

Rita Cossa, Associate Professor of Strategic Management at the DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, was asked to teach in a new program--Integrated Business and Humanities (IBH). When presented with an opportunity to incorporate different teaching strategies and tools into the course, she was adamantly against simulations. So what changed?

Key Points 
  • When Professor Rita Cossa was already tasked with taking on a brand-new program, she was reluctant to embrace simulations. With 1,000+ students across her three courses, there wasn’t much room for error. She needed an effective and immediate solution to engage her students tuning in from across the globe.
  • While introducing new technology as an integral part of her course was nerve-wracking at first, her students quickly provided positive feedback on their learning experiences. Professor Cossa’s students developed critical thinking skills reflective of the real world without penalizing consequences for their learning mistakes.
  • One of the top benefits she’s noticed since implementing simulations is increased student engagement, made evident by a keener sense of connection to how different theoretical concepts factor into tricky on-the-job business situations.
  • Because of positive student reception, Professor Cossa can’t see a future without simulations in her classrooms. Professor Cossa shared she’ll continue elevating her students’ learning experiences with powerful and immersive tools long after in-person learning returns.

Many instructors are hesitant to adopt simulations into their classrooms. Especially when a course structure is already in place and students are navigating so many online challenges in addition to their standard educational methods.

This was no different for Rita Cossa, Associate Professor of Strategic Management at DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, who created a course model approach to help her students succeed.

The DeGroote School of Business offered Professor Cossa a career-defining opportunity to teach a new, innovative program. The course, Integrated Business and Humanities (IBH), was meant to produce Canada’s next generation of business leaders.

With such a lofty mission, the course needed to offer various engaging and experiential learning opportunities to equip students with the critical-thinking skills necessary to create valuable and lasting change, both locally and internationally.

To meet these demands, the course was going to push pedagogical boundaries. While many experiential learning solutions exist, Rita faced a looming challenge: how do you incorporate meaningful learning opportunities for 1,000+ students across the globe in an online format?

Fellow faculty and admins suggested taking a look at simulations. But Rita had her reservations and preconceived notions about the interactive platforms.

From “Not a Believer in Simulations” to “Never Going Back” to the Classroom without Them

Professor Cossa had a few persistent concerns. With students online during the pandemic, she didn’t want to throw yet another learning tool their way. Students were already frustrated with the online learning format. And even if she did choose to incorporate a simulation into her classroom, how could she be sure the value outweighed the additional costs for her students? 

And the final barrier to entry: simulations could be resource-intensive and difficult to integrate into rigid course structures and requirements. 

Despite her initial hesitation and with enough nudging from fellow faculty members, Professor Cossa agreed to meet with Capsim to discuss the simulation-based learning tools that best fit her needs.

Professor Cossa wanted to make sure that any tool she integrated into the program was:

  • Scalable to meet the needs of her diverse and global virtual classroom
  • KPI-oriented so she could use direct outputs and feedback reports to address knowledge gaps and have personalized conversations with her numerous students
  • Well supported to help guide her students across time zones when she wasn’t available to help

She soon learned that the power to engage and immerse her learners was at her fingertips. 

The next step? Convincing her students that the additional cost was worth the value of putting theory into practice.

“I said to my students, ‘Listen, this is going to take a chunk of your time. I think this is what you're going to learn. But I want to get your feedback: is it worthwhile?’” she began, “because they were grumbling about the cost.” After implementing the first round of CapsimCore into her course, she asked her students for feedback.

It’s one thing to talk about theory. It’s something else to make decisions and to learn how these decisions impact different areas of business. And so certainly, for me, that was very useful. And the student feedback has been very positive.” 

Personalized Feedback, Stellar Support, and Satisfied Students

Once Professor Cosssa realized the need for more immersive tools with individualized feedback for her hundreds of students, she knew she needed to implement CapsimCore immediately. The Capsim team was ready to provide her and her students with the necessary support to make it happen.

When Professor Cossa first introduces the simulation to her classroom, she tells students: 

“This is going to be a great experience, but you’re going to have to do some homework, and you’re going to have to learn about the user guide. We’ll talk about the six strategies, and you’re going to have to watch the debrief video. I’ve got these additional videos to support you. If you do that work, your stress will go down substantially, and you will have a better experience.”

She poses questions to her students to get them thinking strategically before participating in the simulation. For example, when faced with questions like “How should you market this product?” and “Do you have the necessary workforce to run your plants and meet product demand?” students begin to make connections between the decisions they’re making and the results they achieve during the simulation. Unpredictability is another realistic factor of simulation-based learning, and since students are competing against each other, it keeps things interesting.

Professor Cossa understands the value of speaking to students and explaining their results. But she explains, “When you have 1,000 students and more, it’s just not scalable to have one person input KPI results for students as was the case for IBH when I first adopted CapsimCore.”

“I love the fact that today CapsimCore’s product update allows me to pull an Excel or CSV file, and all of the student data is there,” Professor Cossa began. “It minimizes human error, and manual inputting isn’t required.”

No matter where Professor Cossa’s students are tuning in from–whether they’re six hours ahead in Egypt or nine hours and thirty minutes ahead in India–support is always available.

Access to Capsim support is crucial to help answer specific questions Professor Cossa’s students may have during their simulation-based learning experiences. Asynchronous support is an added benefit. One of Capsim’s employees, Tyler O’Neill, created a custom video to reflect the changes in Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and the first time Professor Cossa shared the video Tyler created after the practice round report in IBH, “the students clapped,” Professor Cossa began. “He wasn’t even there, but they were so relieved to hear someone enthusiastic and engaged explain the results and connect with them.”

Adopting a product with holistic support, including videos, product blog posts, Intro to Business eBooks, and live online support, helps Professor Cossa’s students succeed, no matter the time zone.

“There’s magic when bridging the gap between the theory covered in class and business practice,” Professor Cossa shared.


Now, students across all of Professor Cossa's courses learn with CapsimCore. One of the top benefits she’s noticed? Increased student engagement, made evident by a keener sense of connection to how different theoretical concepts factor into tricky on-the-job business considerations.

Within four weeks, Professor Cossa’s students have a total of eight core strategy decisions that apply classroom concepts to realistic business scenarios. The prize for students is reflected in their competitively influenced grades, where the top group of students receives 100%, and the lower group receives 60%. This increases the stakes and motivates students to succeed.

Simulation-based learning tools provided Professor Cossa and her 1,000+ students with immediate and individualized feedback to bridge the knowing-doing gap. Engaged students helped Professor Cossa overcome her initial doubts of student cost relative to the benefit of throwing a new tool at her students.

With CapsimCore, students in Professor Cossa’s classrooms engage in opportunities to test their skills and assess areas for development before ever having to step foot into the workforce. They are given the power to steer a simulated business and are faced with common dilemmas that allow them to apply newfound knowledge that aligns with her lesson plan.

Because of positive student reception, Professor Cossa can’t see a future without simulations in her classrooms. Professor Cossa shared she’ll continue elevating her students’ learning experiences with powerful and immersive tools long after in-person learning returns.

Discover the product Professor Cossa uses to produce career-ready graduates.

CapsimCore: Bring fundamental business concepts to life with this flexible and easy-to-use business simulation ideal for intro-level business courses.

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