'Preparing me for the real world': Innovative role-play labs a hit with students
September 1 2022
Monash Business School Marketing students are learning to enter high-stakes sales and job interviews with confidence, thanks to the introduction of innovative sales role-play labs.
Department of Marketing Senior Lecturer and PhD Program Director, Dr Sudha Mani said the labs — thought the first of its kind in Australia and New Zealand — had been an overwhelming success with students.
The labs — designed to give students practical experience of high-end business-to-business sales — include two realistic “meeting rooms”, a small reception area and a separate space where others can watch role plays as they happen.
Hi-tech cameras link to an inbuilt audio-video system integrated with Monash’s teaching and learning platform Moodle, allowing students to review their role-plays from anywhere.
Dr. Mani said she proposed creating the labs — designed to provide real-world experience of high-end business-to-business sales — after moving to Melbourne from the United States.
“In the US quite a few universities have what are called ‘sales centres’,” Dr. Mani said.
“I was working at a place that had similar facilities, and when I moved here I noticed there was nothing (like this) at Monash.”
Dr. Mani worked with E-solutions and Buildings and Property Division teams, and Facilities Manager Martin Kruppa, to set up the labs in 2019. After a COVID-enforced delay, Sales Management and Negotiation students were able to use the labs in this year’s first semester.
Marketing students: Role-play labs 'practical and hands-on'
Dr. Mani said feedback from her 150 students — who gave the unit a Student Evaluation of Teaching and Units (SETU) score of 4.8/5 — had been overwhelmingly positive.
She said students noted in their qualitative comments how the role-plays forced “me to put theory into practice” and “out of my comfort zone”.
“Students can actually go back and look at the video and see what they've learned,” Dr. Mani said.
“The option to be able to reflect on their performance and how they did on the assignment is a really great thing.”
Final-year student Andrew Simonovski, who is completing a double degree in Marketing and Business and eyeing a career in sales, said he really enjoyed the unit as a whole.
“I have done a couple of placements in the past and (the role-play lab experience) was very similar to situations I had been involved with,” Mr Simonovski said.
“Just the way it was set up was practical and hands-on; it was really beneficial in preparing me for the real world.”
Labs put students ‘at ease’ while pushing them beyond their ‘comfort zone’
Dr. Mani said the labs had taken the “friction” out of conducting and assessing practical sales role-playing.
“The department was using a standalone camera and videotaping the role-plays, which is standard practice,” Dr. Mani said.
“But the role-plays labs have made the recording a seamless experience for the students.”
Dr. Mani said the role-plays helped students learn real-world skills such as active listening and negotiating.
She said a 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey found 36 percent of millennials believed strong interpersonal skills among employees and leaders were “essential” to a company’s long-term success.
“We find the role-plays build confidence for students as there’s a lot of thinking on their feet, just like you would in a real meeting,” Dr. Mani said.
“It gets the students out of their traditional comfort zone (and) pushes (their experience) closer to the real world — and the students appreciate that.”