Monday discussion thread: Business curricula

It’s been a packed last couple of weeks, leaving me picking up the pieces and trying to clear some of my grading backlog before the Thanksgiving break. Rather than leave the blog alone for another week, let’s try an open thread based around something that’s come to mind just now, namely: Business degrees and the pedagogy used in the curricula for those degrees.

The usual way business courses play out is the usual way any set of courses plays out: You have a sequence of classes on various topics, the early ones being mainly theoretical or overview courses, maybe not in the business department at all. (For example, all business majors at my school have to take Calculus, which is why I am thinking about this in the first place.) The classes get more specialized and, usually, harder as you climb the ladder. Eventually you get to the top of the degree program and have a “seminar” class that is project-based, usually involving case studies.

So, for your discussion, consider this idea: Business degrees should not be conducted in this way. Instead, EVERY course should be project-based, beginning with the first semester of the freshman year and continuing on. (For the sake of argument, restrict your attention just to courses in the business department, not outside classes like calculus.) You can have a syllabus of basic learning outcomes for business majors if you like, and maybe some way of assessing student acquisition of those outcomes prior to graduation, but EVERY business class should be predicated on project-based learning — and let students go learn the theory on their own, with professor guidance if necessary, if and only if that theory has something to say about the project they’re working on. Courses based on imparting “material” through lectures or lab assignments disconnected from the context of a specific problem would be eliminated.

I’m not saying I am in favor of this. It’s just a provocative alternative. Discuss.

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Filed under Education, Higher ed, Teaching

5 responses to “Monday discussion thread: Business curricula

  1. Why just Business curriculum? Why not use the same approach for other areas of study? Like the Humanities, for example, which is rather notorious for championing individual projects and discouraging collaboration.

  2. Since I think even business students should get some maths education — especially statistics — I dare say no, at least those lectures are better given in the “classical” way.

  3. Cory Poole

    I personally think that this is the way that education must progress. The advantage of being at an institution of education over learning at ones own pace at home is the access to resources and lots of people. Time spent at the school should be focused on things that cannot be done at home such as projects (with other people) and hands on lab like experiences. I believe this is true from High School on. That said, even with this belief, I spend far too much of my time (most unfortunately) as a teacher lecturing. (I’m a High School teacher teaching Geometry, AP Calc AB and BC, and AP Physics B and C)

  4. Jeff Walker

    *Where* the math takes place in some business programs is a problem at well. At the best schools, calc and stats are early (like in engineering) as later business classes actually require the use of the math. In most programs, students struggle with even passing calc and stats before their junior (or senior!) year that the classes aren’t actually required or used in any meaningful ways throughout the business curriculum. Not surprisingly, I’m a bit skeptical of the value of these non-quantitative business programs – the amount of math from the math department seems right. They just need far more math in their business classes after they’ve completed the non-applied math.

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