The three primary teaching methodologies employed in a typical MBA program include case study, lecture and discussion, and experiential learning. Each of these methods caters to a different learning style, and has specific skills and topics which it develops best. At most business schools, the goal is to optimally combine these methods so as to best prepare students for the variety of challenges they will encounter in the business world. These methods can be used in a part-time, full-time or even online mba setting. Additionally, many schools offer immersion programs on top of the standard course of study.
Lectures and discussions are the traditional university methods of teaching theory to students. Nearly all business school students will have encountered these methods during their undergraduate education and will be familiar with the processes: A professor leads the class, explaining theories behind economics, statistics, marketing and other important business subjects, while students take notes. Often, the topic of the lectures reflects prior reading selections from course texts. In addition to the lecture portion, time is usually dedicated to discussion of the subject or a question and answer session. The professor may or may not moderate this portion of the class, sometimes delegating the role or encouraging students to discuss the material in independent groups.
This method emphasizes student participation and leadership rather than professor-led lecture and discussion. In a typical MBA case study, students analyze a business scenario, consider the possible options for action and attempt to recommend the best solution or plan. This methodology prepares MBA students for actual situations they may encounter in their future careers as members of the business community, teaching them to make measured decisions, consider a problem from all angles, and work effectively with their peers as leaders and teammates.
Unlike the other classroom-bound styles of curriculum, experiential learning attempts to apply theories to real-world situations. This is not to say that all experiential learning occurs outside the classroom, but rather that its method is to use real experiences — even if those are examples or simulations — to educate business students. Unlike the lecture and discussion methods, which focus on theory, experiential learning examines these theories in a more practical context, encouraging students to learn by doing. Examples of experiential learning include team challenges, simulations, field work and extracurricular activities.
In addition to the experiential learning offered within the context of a given program, many schools also provide opportunities for immersion in real-world business situations, often in other countries. Immersion programs are especially valuable for student in part-time and online programs as they provide intensive face-to-face interaction and numerous networking opportunities.
Some schools ignore the case study method in favor of teaching skills. The emphasis here is on quantitative processes, such as modeling, statistics and decision science, teaching the student a “toolbox” of skills that will allow him or her to solve real business problems.
In order to provide the best possible education, most business schools employ a combination of these teaching styles. The exact ratio of one type to another, however, varies from class to class. While some classes are devoted entirely to working with case studies and others are primarily lecture-based, many courses work in a mixture. Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business even provides breakdowns of specific classes by the methods with which they are taught. For the most effective MBA learning experience, all three methods of teaching will come together to prepare students for the post-graduation business world.