Transforming marketing lectures with AI and simulations

How do we teach students marketing theory while preparing them for an evolving professional landscape? Rohim Mohammed looks at how artificial intelligence and simulations foster practical, interactive learning

Rohim Mohammed's avatar
University College Birmingham
26 Mar 2024
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AI has been trumpeted as our saviour, but it’s complicated
A robot marks a book. Aritificial intelligence has been trumpeted as our saviour, but the truth is much more complicated.

Let’s face it: we can embrace artificial intelligence (AI) or fight a losing battle. To do the latter would be to ignore AI’s potential to help lecturers become efficient, to automate administrative tasks, to personalise learning experiences and to enhance the content on offer to students. It would mean denying that AI has become a powerful ally to educators striving to cultivate dynamic and effective learning environments. 

It doesn’t just stop there, however. To a student, AI can be a useful friend, a revision buddy and a personal tutor. 

Combine this with a simulation and you have tools that complement each other to offer an immersive experience where students can be inspired to develop curiosity and passion for their subject. This was our experience teaching a Level 5 module on search engine optimisation (SEO) and digital advertising. After searching for the right fit, we signed up to the marketing simulation created by Simbound, giving students a way to turn theoretical knowledge into practical expertise.

Marketing simulations: bridging theory and practice

We used the marketing simulation within our SEO module to enhance our offer of experiential learning. The simulation was based on a Lenovo marketing case study that was adapted to match our bespoke assessment. The students were asked to show how they would increase sales, website traffic and social media engagement. As part of the simulation, they received weekly market-condition reports to aid their decision-making; they designed web pages, landing pages and ads with keyword optimisation for ranking purposes, evaluated and tracked data, used and assigned budgets, performed A/B testing, sent out email marketing campaigns and put together community groups replicating what you would find on social media. The assessment was a summative evaluation of the campaign.

This exposure meant students weren’t just learning from textbooks, but also applying their knowledge and reflecting on their marketing decisions. This helped them to develop the transversal skills they need to leave university with confidence and enter the fiercely competitive job market. This is especially important to widen opportunities for disadvantaged students. The integrated AI assistant supported students with keyword research and writing meta descriptions for the web pages as well as providing guidance on best practice. Students were learning prompt engineering to get the best results. 

Students on the module concluded that the simulation with built-in AI was “better than just reading about it in a book” because “having evidence that what we were being taught actually works was very reassuring”. Students found the simulation of great benefit as it provided results and the impact of decisions made could be seen. The AI aided students because they were able to focus their planning, revisions and creative decision-making based on the simulation. 

Incorporating simulations into marketing classes and assessments is a way to create a realistic, practical, engaging and low-stakes environment for active learning. As a result, the ability to analyse data, make informed decisions and navigate the intricacies of marketing landscapes become second nature to students immersed in this educational approach. 

Personalised learning in action

AI can help with personalising learning experiences for diverse learners. It can enable lecturers to offer adaptive content, bring in interactivity and support real-time feedback opportunities in seminar environments.

Marketing simulations provide students with hands-on experiences in crafting and directing marketing strategies. Pair this with an assessment and you have students justifying, recommending, analysing, creating and essentially performing all our beloved Bloom’s taxonomy. It creates an environment conducive to active learning that improves results and increases student engagement and retention. 

Preparing students for the future

The combination of simulation and AI helps students hone their strategic thinking as the exercise guides them through the nuances of decision-making. It replicates the complexities of the marketing landscape and instils resilience. These experiences will give our students more than grades to put on their CVs. We are giving them lived experiences they can discuss in interviews.

It’s not just about our students, though. The advent of generative AI also requires educators to embrace emerging technologies, not with fear of failure but according to the marketing concept of “test and learn”, to build the skills our students need to learn. 

By embracing the synergies between AI and marketing simulations, we not only prepare our students for the challenges of the professional world but also invigorate our roles as facilitators of knowledge and architects of transformative educational experiences. 

Rohim Mohammed is a lecturer of digital marketing at University College Birmingham.

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