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Guest Post: Beat the Instructor–A Great Classroom Forecasting Exercise

May 16, 2013

brent sniderOur Guest Post today comes from Brent Snider, who is an award winning instructor of Operations Management at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business.

Forecasting is covered late in the term in our required undergrad course, which may contribute to student apathy towards the topic.  Beat the Instructor was developed after recognizing that there were no spreadsheet-based experiential introductory exercises that have been shown to build significant student interest in learning forecasting techniques.

Most forecasting exercises tend to be highly technical and or intended to be used after forecasting techniques have already been introduced in lectures.  Beat the Instructor is an in-class game that enables student groups to compete against their instructor in an introductory time-series forecasting exercise, even before any lecture content has been covered.  In addition to starting the forecasting topic positively via a 30 minute hands-on experiential learning exercise, the game has proven to build strong student interest in learning the forecasting techniques that are covered later in the lecture.

beat the instructor graphStudent groups are provided a spreadsheet with historical demand for 12 previous periods for 4 separate items.  Each of the 4 items represents one of the classical demand patterns of trend, cycles, seasonality, and random variations.  The students are then asked to predict demand for the next 6 periods for each item, and submit their forecast to the instructor.  In addition to competing amongst themselves, student groups are challenged to outperform the instructor’s forecast (who also predicts demand using the techniques that will be subsequently covered).  Each group’s forecast is graphed, in addition to the instructor’s, creating anticipation for the actual demand pattern.  After actual demand is randomly generated (and revealed on the graph), each group’s forecast error is calculated and ranked.  Typically the instructor outperforms most if not all groups, generating student interest in learning the techniques that can answer their often posed question: “How did you forecast so well?”

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2013 6:19 pm

    That is a great exercise. Would you be willing to post a lesson package that is ready to present?

    • January 22, 2014 5:45 pm

      I would be happy to e-mail anyone the lesson package of Excel templates and a completed instructor example file. My e-mail address is

      I have sent out the lesson package to over 10 requesters so far and would love to hear how the game is working for those that have implemented it!

  2. January 10, 2014 3:45 pm

    Beat the Instructor, May 2013 – Is there a “ready to present” package available? I would love to use this in my classes, and avoid the prep time, if possible.

  3. January 24, 2014 12:07 am

    Thanks for sharing this with everyone, Brent.

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