Enriching the MBA Experience Through Curricular Innovation

In its first century, Harvard Business School created the pedagogy that has come to define management education around the world. The case method, adapted from Harvard Law School, brings real-world business problems into the classroom and puts students in the shoes of case protagonists, helping them develop the skills and judgment required to be an effective general manager. While case discussions remain core to the School’s learning model, HBS is continually exploring ways to innovate in its curriculum to prepare future leaders for tomorrow’s challenges.

Four years ago, the School launched the field method in the MBA Program to provide first- and second-year students with field-based learning opportunities so they could implement and practice, in real time, what they would do in a range of management situations. In the Required Curriculum, the School introduced a yearlong course, FIELD (Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development), which helps students develop leadership, global, and integrative intelligence. In addition to immersive field courses—and thanks in large part to a gift from the family of Margot and the late William F. Connell (MBA 1963)—experiential learning has been incorporated into 11 extended field courses in the Elective Curriculum this year, attracting about two-thirds of the Class of 2016. Six of these courses involve domestic or international travel, where students work in teams with partner organizations.

“Experiential learning helps our students to be more effective, particularly in the initial stages of their careers,” says Andreas Andresen Professor Felix Oberholzer-Gee, senior associate dean and MBA Program chair.

Another innovation in the MBA Program is Bridges, a three-day capstone course that helps graduating students synthesize the insights they gained at HBS. Introduced at the conclusion of classes in April and involving more than 100 faculty and staff members, Bridges encourages students to reflect, consider how they want to make a difference in the world, and prepare for reentry into the workforce.

Oberholzer-Gee and his faculty colleagues are also exploring what concepts and skills are most effectively learned using technology and online platforms. For example, simulations and multimedia cases can provide powerful opportunities for integrative learning. In addition, the MBA Program now uses HBX CORe (Credential of Readiness) to enhance the analytical skills of some incoming students.

Curricular innovation is a dynamic, ongoing process that enriches the MBA experience for students as new ideas are tested and tried-and-true methods are fine-tuned. The end result is a program that builds on the School’s past while acknowledging the needs of our changing society.

“I am excited about the ability of these field-based courses to make our MBA curriculum more applicable and the knowledge more deeply seated. Experiential learning helps our students to be more effective, particularly in the initial stages of their career.”

Felix Oberholzer-Gee, Andreas Andresen Professor of Business Administration, senior associate dean and MBA Program chair


Evolution and Innovation in the MBA Program


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