Three Ways to Integrate Experiential Learning in MBA Classrooms

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A report published last month in the Chicago Tribune highlights how business schools are increasingly adopting experiential learning for MBA programs. Experiential learning uses experiences – rather than relying on lectures and textbooks – to teach students. According to the report, schools are embracing experiential learning programs because of the idea that businesses today are facing challenges that cannot be solved with a one-size-fits-all educational approach. MBA experiential learning goes beyond theoretical knowledge to teach students the “art” of practicing management through hands-on experiences instead of a traditional instructional approach.

There’s another reason MBA programs are attaching to experiential learning: keeping enrollment numbers up. Business school enrollment is declining: The number of U.S. citizens taking the main business school entrance exam, the GMAT, dropped by a third from the 2010 to 2015 testing years.  Our most recent Trends Report found that almost half of our research requests from business schools centered on new program development. As competition increases, business schools are employing tactics to set them apart, through unique academic programs such as experiential learning.

Experiential learning is a growing trend in MBA programs both around the country and internationally. Below, we highlight a few ways that experiential learning is incorporated into MBA classrooms.

  • Raw cases: Yale University uses a different take on the traditional “case study” approach, where students read summarized information to reach their conclusion. Raw cases require students to dig through lots of data and many documents to find the information they need. As a result, students learn how to look for information, rather than simply processing streamlined information that is neatly presented.
  • Student-driven learning: Boston University uses a pass/fail method and removes syllabi to promote student engagement in shaping their education. The program is organized around three experiential projects, with executive mentors who maintain a strong educational presence to teach students. This allows students to learn from actual executives and create an education tailored to their needs.
  • International Growth Lab: Northwestern University provides the opportunity for its overseas business partners to bring their real-world challenges to its students. Faculty supervise the teams of students, who must create growth strategies and handle client services and cross-border teamwork to help their clients. This kind of program exposes students to the breadth of skills needed in practice, providing a holistic experience in the field.

More information about experiential learning is available in our report,”Trends in MBA Learning Paradigms and Specializations.” This report also analyzes the effectiveness of innovative programs and provides an overview of MBS specialization trends. Download your copy of this Higher Education report now.

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