A. Yadin

Yezreel Valley College (YVC) (ISRAEL)
This paper describes a specific course structure that was designed to help students fully understand the process of complex problem solving. “Solving Complex Managerial Problems” is a yearlong course that aims to explain and demonstrate logic processes employed in the process of problem solving. The course infrastructure is based on a virtual and collaborative learning environment in which the students learn, assess and analyse different approaches for solving a given problem. The visual learning environment resembles a playing ground in which the students can "play" by commanding, controlling and monitoring the activities of a virtual robot. In addition to the virtual robot, the environment contains walls, representing obstacles and "beepers" which are small virtual objects the robot can handle (hear them, place, pick and carry). These walls and beepers are the main objects used in defining the problems to be solved. By controlling the robot's movements while performing the predefined assignment and avoiding the obstacles, the students are exposed to various ways for addressing the problematic situation and completing the task. These playful actions help students build and enhance their analytical and problem solving skills. Taking into account all available factors relevant for the decision making process is achieved by using simple "programming like" instructions that enforce accuracy and paying attention to details. In addition good learning habits are acquired by using personal and individual assignments in which each student receives a different task to perform. Furthermore, the students are also engaged in evaluating their peers' solutions which enhances their understanding by exploring other and different approaches to solve the same problem. As part of teaching the course, two distinct structures are being used. The “standard” one in which the students are taught the ordinary way and the second one that uses the virtual environment. The results obtained in this qualitative research, are based on comparing the students' grades when using the two course structures. The second course structure enhanced the students' understanding especially regarding the more abstract and unstructured issues of problem solving. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the results obtained.