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Why Experiential Learning is So Important in Your MBA

Why Experiential Learning is So Important in Your MBA main image

Sponsored by Alliance Manchester Business School

There’s been a dramatic uptake in the number of business schools offering experiential learning opportunities in their MBA programs.

Unfortunately, the classroom can’t always capture the complexity of the professional workplace and business world in the same way experiential learning experiences can.

With increasing importance placed on experiential learning experiences in education, we spoke with Winarendra and Shilpa, two MBA students at Alliance Manchester Business School, the first business school to introduce experiential learning in the 1960s – famously known as The Manchester Method, to find out more about experiential learning and its place in the MBA curriculum.

Bridges the gap between theory and practice

Whether it’s an internship, incubator program, business competition or business simulation, these immersive experiential learning opportunities let you apply the knowledge you’ve learnt in the classroom immediately to these ‘live’ business settings.

Real-world application allows a better grasp of concepts, theories, models, strategies and processes which may not be as easy to do in the classroom.

Full-time MBA students at Alliance Manchester Business School, get 900 hours of client-facing time when they undertake three consultancy projects in a range of sectors, including not-for-profits, such as the National Trust, commercial business and international business consultancy.

Winarendra is working with a client on a neobank startup in the Middle East, which is targeting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. We asked Winarendra his thoughts on the importance of ‘learning by doing’ and the benefits it can have.

“The AMBS projects have significantly prepared me by building up from the not-for-profit project and the commercial business project up to this final international business project, and lessons learned from those previous projects have helped massively in the effectiveness of carrying out the final project,” he said.

An opportunity to develop sought-after soft skills which can’t be taught in the classroom

Well-organized lectures, discussions and assessments can only go so far when it comes to building social skills, developing practical experience and enhancing your work ethic.

Many experiential learning opportunities encompass an international business culture, helping you gain experience in a new and unfamiliar setting.

“The major development [from the three consulting projects] has been interpersonal skills and appreciation of different working styles while working in a team environment,” said Shilpa.

“The professional skills of some of my team mates have been incredible and I have consciously tried to absorb them in my working styles.”

Increases engagement levels, assists memory retention and accelerates learning

In place of repetitive learning, experiential learning involves actively using critical thinking, problem solving and decision-making skills.

Experiential learning focuses very much on collaboration, reflection and creativity. You’ll quickly learn what works well and what doesn’t work well. More importantly, you’ll learn from your mistakes and see the value in them as you go.

Employers value practical experience

Whether it’s an internship, business competition or incubator program, companies and employers want graduates who have valuable practical experience. It demonstrates your commitment and enthusiasm for the field, while developing key skills that can’t always necessarily be taught in the classroom (see above).

Your capacity to adapt to new situations also develops, as does your confidence when it comes to taking ownership of a situation when it comes to managing and executing business strategies. If an employer can see this, it’s a lot easier for them to envision you already in the role.

“The project is designed to put you in potentially challenging situations, and the way we navigate through those situations can demonstrate behaviors and traits that recruiters are looking for,” explained Winarendra.

It can even have an indirect impact on your Return on Investment (ROI)

The MBA itself is one of the most recognized degree programs in the world, and carries a significant ROI by itself.

But if you decide to change career paths, or are fresh out of business school, your CV can be the golden ticket to showcasing your academic accolades.

Highlighting practical experiences that demonstrate your ability to put theory into practice and a skillset that might not have otherwise been possible to develop through traditional classroom learning alone can help cultivate job prospects and salary increases.

To complement her internship experience in the social sector while on exchange, Shilpa undertook an elective strategy consulting project with a live client in Australia, which allowed her to “work with a leading social sector organization in Australia and experience working culture there.”  

Do actions speak louder than words?

MBA candidates at Manchester Alliance Business School

Image credit: Alliance Manchester Business School

Although experiential learning may not be for everyone, this almost radical recalibration from traditional instructional learning allows students to excel in their ability to work and think like a business professional.

While there’s still a place for traditional learning resources and facilities, it’s clear that experiential learning can help ensure you graduate with the skillset, industry experience and global perspective that employers are looking for.

Written by Stephanie Lukins

As the Head of Sponsored Content for TopMBA.com and TopUniversities.com, Stephanie creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. She attended the University of Portsmouth where she earned a BA in English Language and an MA in Communication and Applied Linguistics.

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