IBM Markets Self To College Kids Via Video Game

IBM is addressing a skill shortage in business and information technology (IT) professionals by marketing to college students through video games. The program launched last week at the Brandeis International Business School in Waltham, Mass., but more than 30 colleges and universities plan to participate.

The strategy relies on Innov8, an interactive 3D video game designed to educate students on real-world business problems by identifying an issue and solving it with technology.

The method aims to teach MBAs and IT professionals--many of whom have grown up playing video games--about competing successfully in business. IBM began developing Innov8 in February 2006, and made test games available to schools in October.

Brandeis International Business School became one of the first schools to test the game. It developed several courses based on Innov8 to teach technology concepts and business strategies that students can apply when they enter the workforce.



The game, for example, helps professors teach students the basic skills required to manage processes with Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), a technology IBM says draws on functions from multiple applications to support a specific process in a company's IT network.

David Lapp*, an IBM marketing manager for SOA and WebSphere, says the technology gives business professionals real-time access to information such as how the company is performing, and allows them to quickly make changes to business rules, such as reallocating manufacturing resources from one country to another based on changing conditions.

Although the video game creates an interesting method for IBM to market its products and business culture to graduate students, Bruce Magid, dean of Brandeis International Business School, says Innov8 enables professors to cut across cultural barriers--bridging learning gaps. About 52% of the 453 enrolled students come from 49 countries to attend classes at the school. "We want to give students the correct skills before they hit the job market," he says.

The game takes an hour to play. It offers three levels. Students can start, stop and save the work, so professors can hold discussions around the events, highlighting key points and strategies along the way. IBM plans to translate the game into another five languages next year.

Thirty-three universities have begun to use the video game in the classroom. Aside from Brandeis, they include the School of Global Management and Leadership at Arizona State University, Beijing Institute of Technology in China, Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University, Fuqua School of Business and Fuqua Business Technology Club at Duke University, Harvard Business School & Copenhagen Business School at Harvard University, College of Engineering at North Carolina State University, and Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California at Irvine.

*Editor's note: The article was amended post-publication.

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