Virtual Enterprises (VE) is a simulated business that is set up and run by students with the guidance of a teacher/facilitator and a business partner. This program allows students to experience all facets of being an employee in a firm in an actual business environment. Students are involved in every aspect of a running a business, including human resources, accounting, product development, production, distribution, marketing and sales, and they engage in trade with other practice firms (VEs) around the world. This simulation enables students to understand how employees, workgroup teams, and departments interact with each other and work together for the goal of the company. In addition, the simulation conveys the expectations of the workplace.
The Virtual Enterprise is a comprehensive and student-oriented approach towards teaching and learning that provides practical and task-oriented instruction in a real-world environment. With communication links to nearly 3,000 VE firms around the world, the program exposes students to different cultures, business practices and currencies and gives students a broader international perspective. Students engage in hands-on applications, problem solving, and written and verbal communication. In addition, students learn about a variety of careers associated with business, acquire global economic knowledge, and use technology as applied in business.
By combining a rigorous curriculum with hands-on application of many academic skills, VE aims to prepare students for both careers and college. The task-based curriculum includes a strong academic component focused on writing, speaking, math and technology skills. The program seeks to motivate students by setting high expectations and showing them the relevance of their education.
The Virtual Enterprise
The typical VE company is comprised of five departments: Administration, Accounting/Finance, Marketing, Sales/Purchasing, and Human Resources. The company has a Chief Executive Officer (CEO), a president, and vice-presidents that head each department.
Students actively participate in the proceedings of their respective departments and directly contact other practice firms to do business. In this process, students learn in a way that allows them to improve their ability to handle information, to make decisions, to work in groups and independently, to set up objectives, and to evaluate—in other words—to be life-long learners.
The work is task-oriented. Where possible, students rotate jobs and perform tasks in all departments. In the VE company, errors in judgment do not bear disastrous consequences. Instead, they become teaching and learning opportunities.
In a Virtual Enterprise, real goods are not actually produced or exchanged nor is actual currency used. (There are, however, some enterprises that do produce a real product). The transfer of “virtual funds” is made electronically through a Web-based simulated banking system that links all U.S. firms with the rest of the world.
The Teacher as Facilitator
In the VE learning environment, the teacher’s role changes from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side.” Because the program employs a student-centered approach to learning that emphasizes project-based, collaborative learning, the teacher’s primary responsibility is to guide and direct student learning, not to deliver a daily prescribed lesson.
Students engage in various business activities throughout the year, which create authentic applied learning opportunities. Participation in national and international trade fairs as well as the local and national business plan competitions are key components of the VE program that actualize the world of work, communications, technology and global business.
Trade fairs provide students with the opportunity to present and market the products/services of their virtual business in a competitive marketplace with their local and global colleagues and peers. Each year, different cities are the venue for practice firm trade fairs which draw thousands of participants from around the world and have become a highlight of the VE program.