Journal article Open Access

Enhancing student understanding of networks using experiential learning

Paros, Amy; Taylor, Michael; Yawson, Robert M.

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to provide an experiential learning exercise that develops student understanding of social networks within organizations. Understanding these networks can foster complete access to information and inclusive decision-making that translates into career success. Design/methodology/approach This experiential learning classroom exercise supports all student learning styles using a puzzle to teach students to apply social network theory toward real-world decision-making. This exercise is best used in small and medium-sized classrooms with ideally 15–40 students. This simulation could be used during 50 up through 120-min class sessions. Findings The game-like environment created by this exercise helps extend real-world understanding that may traditionally be lost with a lecture. Components within this simulation provide balanced consideration for many different learning styles. This exercise has been used successfully within a graduate-level leadership and decision-making course in at least ten sessions over 5 years. Practical implications This is a real-time theory to practice application exercise where an experiential activity is deployed for students to understand the practical implications and application of a theoretical concept. Social implications Organizations have internal social networks connecting employees. These connections are how information is dispersed and knowledge is shared. When these networks are understood and effectively used, it can result in more comprehensive problem-solving, valuable collaboration and the maximization of subject matter expertise within the organization. Originality/value This is a "how-to" teaching and pedagogical exercise. It is original with the benefit of its flexibility and adaptability in the classroom.

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