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Experiential Learning in Business Schools

Cite this article as:"Experiential Learning in Business Schools," in The Business Professor, updated August 25, 2019, last accessed July 7, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/experiential-learning-in-business-schools/.


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Today, there are countless sources of business information.

Many would argue, however, that the only way to truly learn business is to practice it.

As any educator will attest, it is not easy to employ experiential learning within the standard academic course format.

With this in mind, most business schools focus on providing students opportunities for experiential learning.

Types of Experiential Learning in Business School

Some of the primary methods of doing so include:

  • Practice exercises – Business schools routinely employ case studies as course practice exercises. Case studies are generally based upon real-life company scenarios. These companies submit their situations to academic institutions (Harvard is the most renowned creator of business case studies) for writeup and exploration. These institutions later license the exercise for use by professors in courses at outside institutions.
  • Team-based Projects – Another example of experiential learning is done through team-based projects. Business schools will match students with outside businesses who need input on specific business matters (such as strategy, marketing, operations, etc.). The students will act as professional service provides or consultants to the outside business. The project generally culminates with a presentation and detailed recommendations for the business to take specified actions in managing the situation.
  • Business simulations – A new-age method of teaching is the business simulation. There are numerous companies (some within existing academic institutions) that create software to simulate real-life business scenarios. For example, these scenarios might require students to devise a marketing plan, expansion strategy, company financial, funding or valuation model, etc. Students work through the scenarios as if they were professional service providers. The scenarios are built to closely mimic the process and considerations the students would face in a real company.
  • Business Competitions – Business schools often host or participate in business competitions for student teams. The most common type of competitions relate to business plans, business models, new product/innovation, IT systems, venture capital, decision modeling, etc. These competitions allow students to work together in teams on real-life projects or project that are model on real-life situations.
  • Accelerator or Incubator programs – Accelerator and incubator programs for new or startup businesses are becoming increasingly popular. This programs offer to member businesses various combinations of education, access to resources, mentoring, industry connections, etc. The programs are focuses on preparing actual businesses, rather than learning through abstract exercises. Many of these programs are housed within academic programs – primarily business schools. Those housed within business schools focus specifically upon student-led businesses.
  • Internships or Cooperatives – Internships are an integral part of a business school program. Many business school allow for academic credit for an internship experience. Whether academic credit is available or no, taking part in an internship is perhaps the most important component of the a business education. Not only does the student learn from the experience, she makes connections with industry professionals and improves the quality of her resume. For more information on the value of internships, see our article, What is an Internship?
  • Studies Abroad – Lastly, business schools frequently offer foreign study programs. These programs either allow students to study for an extended time in a foreign country; or, it allows the student the opportunity to travel and visit foreign businesses or commercial entities. This serves to provide the student with unique experiences, expand their understandings of foreign business practice, and provide a strong signaling function on the resume.

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