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Meeting Student Needs with Experiential Learning

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The changing demands of today’s business landscape are causing MBA programs to alter their instructional methods in an attempt to keep up with evolving student needs. While traditional graduate business courses are comprised of case studies and extensive literary analysis, business programs are starting to use experiential learning activities that introduce students to real-world and complex business problems.

“Problems businesses face aren’t as cookie-cutter as they used to be, and can’t always be solved applying methods learned in case studies.” – Ally Marotii, Chicago Tribune

Krishna Erramilli, Associate Dean at Illinois Tech’s Stuart School of Business, believes students who learn through experience are better prepared to solve the problems of the 21st century because they learn to analyze business issues from multiple functional perspectives.

Experiential learning activities, such as internships and consulting projects, are also becoming the preferred method of learning among students. According to a 2015 study from the Graduate Management Admission Council, nearly 25 percent of all graduate business students prefer experiential learning over case studies. These activities provide students with a competitive advantage that improves their employability and promotability.

Let’s briefly explore how some notorious MBA programs are taking students outside traditional learning methods to better prepare them for today’s business landscape, as recently discussed in articles from the Chicago Tribune and U.S. News.

Experiential Learning in MBA Programs

Kellogg School of Management – Northwestern University

Cohorts at the Kellogg School of Management take on consulting projects with Chicago-area companies. In addition, the school is also highlighting the following themes across their curriculum: innovation and entrepreneurship, private enterprise/public policy interface, markets and customers, and architectures of collaboration.

Booth School of Business – University of Chicago

The Booth School of Business, recently ranked as the number one MBA program in the nation, introduces real-world learning through various programs. For example, programs like the New Venture Challenge and the Polsky Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation focus on helping students and faculty takes ideas and products to market.

Wharton Business School – University of Pennsylvania

Students at the Wharton School can customize their curriculum within six pathways that represent relevant business topics for today’s businesses. These pathways include: Managing the Global Enterprise and Understanding and Serving Customers.

Henry B. Tippie College of Business – University of Iowa

Students are exposed to real-world business problems as they form teams across all the business disciplines to consult for companies is various industries. “Students have helped Goodwill of the Heartland move into the baked goods business, for instance, and worked with Stihl to analyze a lithium ion versus a gas engine for its power tools.” – Margaret Loftus, U.S. News

It’s important to note that implementing experiential learning can be a complicated process. Richard Lyons, Dean of the Hass School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley, speaks to this point when he mentions, “It’s expensive, it’s high-touch, and it’s got a lot of logistics. It’s kind of easy to say, but when you are doing it, it’s pretty serious. This is not throwing one more faculty member in front of one more lecture hall.”

Experiential Learning Made Easy With Business Simulations

Higher education needs to borrow a page from corporate education in regards to training and development. In corporate development programs, companies don’t want their employees to learn on the job. As puzzling as that may sound, learning on the job can lead to mistakes and irreparable consequences. Companies prefer in-the-field experiences that eliminate negative consequences while allowing employees to test ideas and learn from mistakes.

Business simulations serve the same purpose in higher education. The internships and consulting projects offered by companies are not suited to teach through trial-and-error. An unprepared student with a “we’ll see what happens” attitude can damage the valuable relationship between company and educational institution.

Similarly to how in-the-field experiences prepare employees for the job, business simulations develop the skills and knowledge needed to successfully complete an internship or consulting project. Simulations teach students how businesses and teams operate in the real world, thus improving business acumen and cross-functional decision-making.

Business simulations tackle institutional and program learning goals without disregarding student developmental needs. To learn more about business simulations and how they can lead to student success in internships and other experiential learning activities, click here or contact us at welcome@capsim.com.

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