Virtual Enterprise

Board of Education of the City of New York
Rudolph F. Crew, Ed. D., Chancellor


INTRODUCTION

The idea of an office simulation can be traced back to the 17th century. In Europe, simulated Practice Firms have been established as places for commercial training for many years. Since World War II, however, these simulated offices have evolved into a practical vehicle for interdisciplinary instruction and an in-school work experience for the development of school-to-work skills and the application of academic and occupational knowledge. Currently, more than 1,500 Practice Firms in 20 countries are part of The International Practice Enterprise market.

After visiting Practice Firms in Vienna, Austria and observing the operation and benefits of this instructional model, the New York City High School Superintendents spearheaded the development of Practice Firms in six selected high schools, with the ultimate goal of joining the international network of Practice Firms.

THE PRACTICE ENTERPRISE

Practice Enterprises are internationally referred to as Practice Firms and Training Firms. A Practice Enterprise functions like a true-life business. Within the national and international network of Practice Firms, it always sustains business contact with other practice enterprises.

The Practice Enterprise is a comprehensive and student-oriented approach towards teaching and working which provides practical and task-oriented instruction in a simulated business environment. It gives students a broader international perspective as well as the ability to use the latest technologies and equipment as employed in the real business world.

NEW YORK CITY VIRTUAL ENTERPRISES

Mission

In September 1996, a Virtual Enterprise (Practice Firm) was established in six New York City High Schools. In addition, the Virtual Enterprise Center (VEC) was concurrently established.
The establishment of Virtual Enterprises in New York City will serve as a prototype to immediately apply academic and work-related knowledge learned in class to real world business situations. In addition, it has the potential to drive comprehensive restructuring of occupational and academic education and to give students the opportunity to join the international network.
A Virtual Enterprise offers students the opportunity to experience in a simulated business environment, all facets of being an employee of a firm. Students are responsible for the completion of real work-related goals, objectives, transactions and daily activities--applying knowledge, skills and personal characteristics needed to succeed in employment and/or post-secondary education. The Virtual Enterprise in New York City secondary schools will interact with each other, be part of an international network of other simulated firms, and actual firms, banking institutions and training programs.

Virtual Enterprises, International is the umbrella name for the model and organization of the Virtual Enterprise initiative that includes:
  • school-site simulated businesses
  • the VE Center (VEC) that provides essential business, economic and backroom operations as well as educational materials, curriculum and support for the VEs throughout New York City.

    Characteristics of a Virtual Enterprise

    Each Virtual Enterprise:

  • will develop a specific type of business, i.e., advertising agency, travel agency, office supplies firm, etc.
  • is legal form of a business with unlimited duration.
  • has a corporate partner in a real business matching the type of Virtual Enterprise
  • has regular opening hours during the business year (within periods of the school day).
  • is organized into departments according to the line of business
  • allows for job rotation according to a rotation scheme.
  • is equipped with up-to-date communication, information and office technology
  • participates in the network of Practice Firms and maintains regular contacts with them.
  • makes invoice and payroll payments via money transfer.
  • practices accounting according to GAAP, including preparation of VE tax returns.
  • keeps books and records in the VE.
  • maintains documentation of relevant proceedings and occurrences in the VE.
  • will prepare transition procedures to and for successors.
  • prepares periodic employee performance evaluations.
  • is a member of the Virtual Enterprise Center.

    Expectations

    Virtual Enterprises, International will:

  • be a vehicle that fosters system change and establishes a common theme for all disciplines for all students in academic and occupational classes.
  • take advantage of the success and experience of NYC programs and European Practice Firms.
  • raise expectations for all students.
  • standardize the implementation of school to work across the disciplines.
  • develop SCANS skills and competencies which include (1) resources (allocating time, money, materials, space and staff); (2) interpersonal skills (working on teams, teaching others, serving customers, leading, negotiating, and working well with people from culturally diverse backgrounds); (3) information (acquiring and evaluating data, organizing and maintaining files, interpreting and communicating, and using computers to process information); (4) systems(understanding social, organizational, and technological systems, monitoring and correcting performance, and designing or improving systems) (5) technology (selecting equipment and tools, applying technology to specific tasks, and maintaining and troubleshooting technologies) as well as foundation skills, which include (1) basic skills (reading, writing arithmetic and mathematics, speaking and listening); (2) thinking skills (thinking creatively, making decisions, solving problems, knowing how to learn and reason); and (3) personal qualities (individual responsibility, self-esteem sociability, self-management, and integrity).

    Benefits/Objectives

    The main objectives of a Virtual Enterprise simulation is to improve the students skills to use acquired knowledge, to deal with business problems on their own or in a team, to develop and present solving strategies, to communicate and cooperate with supervisors and other employees in the firm.

    In addition, students working in the Virtual Enterprise will be able to:

  • develop skills and competencies to succeed in employment.
  • participate in the international network of Practice Firms.
  • acquire global economic knowledge including the monetary and business systems of the countries in which the Practice Firms operate internationally.
  • expand their knowledge of history, English and foreign language through interaction with other firms/enterprises and completion of tasks and projects.
  • apply academic and work-related knowledge learned in class to real-world situations including the use of languages other than English.
  • gain "hands-on experience" about a variety of careers associated with business and industry.
  • use technology as applied in business, including the use of the Internet for global transactions and communications.
  • understand management objectives and organizational structures.
  • make decisions, analyze results and refine methods and procedures.
  • negotiate transactions and assess results of decisions.
  • develop initiative, creativity, and readiness to work in a team.

    Each Virtual Enterprise will simulate a true-life business. The employees (the students) will be involved in actual "on-the-job" work experiences. Students will according to the life of their VE business, work in departments, e.g.,

    Administration
    Accounting
    Marketing
    Sale/Purchases
    Personnel

    Students will actively participate in the proceedings of their respective departments and directly contact other Practice Firms to do business.

    The difference between a Virtual Enterprise and an actual business is that no goods are produced or legal tender exchanged. The VE will generate documents and information needed to do business with other NYC enterprises. In addition, money transfers will be made electronically. Ultimately, Virtual Enterprises will be able to transact business with existing Practice Firms in other countries.

    The lessons are task-oriented. Where possible, students will rotate jobs and perform tasks in all departments (except where a special skill is needed - like an art director). Students, therefore, will - work alone or as members of a team. The following is a list of common VE tasks and activities (first-year activities will include start-up activities not performed in subsequent years):

    First Year:

  • establishing type of firm, mission, overall goals and objectives and table of organization.
  • developing a business plan.
  • developing a employee manual.
  • developing a company directory.
    First and Subsequent Years:
  • Setting annual goals and objectives.
  • Handling business correspondence and processing outgoing mail/incoming mail.
  • filing traditional and electronic documents.
  • using office technology applications including use of graphs and charts.
  • developing materials including directories, public relations products and campaign or advertising literature, etc.
  • preparing and delivering presentations (sales meetings, progress, etc.).
  • processing the importing and exporting of goods and/or services.
  • communicating with customers, suppliers and business partners, via telephone, fax, e-mail, and Internet.
  • managing and monitoring bank transactions.
  • performing retail, manufacturing, fund, or wholesale accounting transactions
  • researching investment products and processing purchase and sales of financial products (money management)
  • preparing for a audit review for compliance with IRS and GAAP.
  • preparing tax returns according to IRS tax schedules.
  • providing in-house employee training.
  • conducting department meetings, preparing an agenda, minutes of meeting and follow up.

    With the guidance of a VE extrernal partner, teachers and school-based team will create business-specific projects which require research and/or challenge students with other problem solving scenarios.

    Curriculum

  • VE pilot schools will review and revise 9th-12th year curriculum for all discipline subjects (academic and occupational) to include applications related to the Virtual Enterprise theme and to identify essential skills to be developed.
  • Tasks for each departmental job within each department will be developed. Each task/activity packet will include task objectives, outcomes, activities and strategies and the related academic discipline. Curriculum strategies will include and address: interdisciplinary instruction, project-based learning, research, different teaming styles and real-world applications. Curriculum development will require the input and source documents of industry partners to a create real-world, work-based business simulation.
  • Occupational courses to be developed will be aligned with NYS occupational sequences. State and NYC diploma requirements will be met. (Courses required in order to be eligible for an application to the VE and/or courses required to be taken along with the VE are to be determined).

    Prerequisites and co-requisites will be determined during the first-year period.

    Evaluation and Assessment

  • The focus of assessment will be on the demonstration of knowledge and skills the student has gained.

    Student assessment in all course work and the VE will include:

  • Performance-based assessment: The teacher will maintain an assessment form for each "employee," designed to evaluate what the student knows and how well the student is able to apply that knowledge.
  • VEs will include regular assessment of individual and group performance by respective departments and will serve as the basis of teacher evaluation, references and report card grade. Thus, the grade reflects the review of task(s) for completion, quality, organization, accuracy, etc., observation of student performance as an individual and as a team member including the ability to organize and to present work, his/her attitudes toward work, his/her independence, initiative, cooperation and ability to solve conflicts.
  • Discussion with the employee and self-evaluation are important components of grading.
  • Portfolios: The VE student portfolio may contain the collection of work completed over time. Examples: minutes of a department meeting, a newsletter article, resume, letter of application, correspondence, etc.

    THE VIRTUAL ENTERPRISE CENTER (VEC)

    Mission

    The Virtual Enterprise Center is the proposed service center for the NYC Board of Education's Virtual Enterprise network. Its mission is to provide leadership, coordination, conflict resolution, and training for the participating schools, teachers and students. VEC insures a network of programs with the high academic and business standards. It is located at Martin Luther King High School, 122 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10023, 212-769-2710. The office space will house a management/administrative area, the central bank, and a training and conference facility.

    Services

    The Virtual Enterprise Center will provide the following services to Virtual Enterprise:

  • offer advice to those seeking to set up and organize a VE.
  • assist to resolve problems in VEs concerning the work, process and practices.
  • develop and disseminate relevant materials on and for VEs.
  • act as a clearing house for materials, methods, lessons, etc.
  • administration of health insurance benefits.
  • auditing of VE accounting records and course documents.
  • act as the Income Tax Return center to collect and review returns.
  • electronic banking facility with electronic funds transfer cable for ongoing centralized banking services.
  • organize and implement staff development for VE employees and staff.
  • articulate with city-wide and international VEs.
  • liaison for European (The European Practice Enterprises Network) and other appropriate agencies (e.g., the Austria Center for Training: ACT) and any U.S. organization that might emerge.
  • develop partners for VEs.
  • articulate with instructions of higher education.
  • develop, coordinate and support activities of and for VEs.
  • monitor and assess VE standards and educational outcomes.

    The VEC Bank

    The VEC Bank will be established with the assistance of a bank business partner. The bank business partner will assist with the development of a simulated banking program to electronically transfer money from one virtual enterprise to another or from one virtual enterprise to a supplier, and from one virtual enterprise to the VEC Bank.