Programmatic Experience-Based Learning in an MBA Program


  • Douglas E. Wolfe
  • Eugene T. Byrne


" For more than a decade, experience-based learning methods have been introducted into MBA programs across the country. These methods have taken numerous forms: a variety of simulation games and exercises, encounter groups, business clinics, field projects, internships, and various other classroom and independent study projects and experiences. Generally, these efforts to make use of experience-based learning (EBL) methods have been initially experimental and conducted either within the context of an existing course or as a newly-established separate course. Although several such courses may be offered in the same business school, nowhere, to our knowledge, have EBL methods been introduced on a programmatic basis in MBA programs, where students may choose to complete all or most of their degree program through experiential means. They have not generally been seen as broadly viable alternatives to conventional teaching-learning methods on a programmatic basis. This paper reports on the outcomes of such a program being conducted at the School of Business Administration at Southern Methodist University. The program is partly supported by a three-year grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education. For several years this School has sought to meet the increasingly diverse needs, interests and backgrounds of its students by providing them with as many choices as possible, including limiting the number of required courses and extending the options available in terms of both the range of course content offered and the alternative learning methods employed. As a result, students have been able to choose, not only between different courses, but sometimes between case discussion, the conventional lecture- discussion and EBL methods for a single course. Beginning in the fall of 1976, a new MBA program option, referred to as the Action Management Program (AMP), was introduced to provide a programmatic option for students in which they could elect to complete all of the requirements for the MBA degree using EBL methods. In particular, the program emphasized the use of business projects out in local area organizations. This program, and the research conducted in conjunction with it, were established to demonstrate and evaluate the viability of EBL methods on a programmatic basis and across a wide range of course content. "