Value of Hands-on Projects?


bigblue

In my research to find the perfect MBA program for me, I've been coming across "project components" in curriculum - where students ostensibly have the opportunity to work in real-world environments as part of their MBA experiences. For example, UC Berkeley Haas has an "experiential learning" component as part of its curriculum - a required class; and Columbia has a variety of field-based consulting projects as options.

My question is: how valuable are these? Do the generally short lengths of these projects really give students a deep enough experience? Isn't this just a good way for an employer to get free labor?

In my research to find the perfect MBA program for me, I've been coming across "project components" in curriculum - where students ostensibly have the opportunity to work in real-world environments as part of their MBA experiences. For example, UC Berkeley Haas has an "experiential learning" component as part of its curriculum - a required class; and Columbia has a variety of field-based consulting projects as options.

My question is: how valuable are these? Do the generally short lengths of these projects really give students a deep enough experience? Isn't this just a good way for an employer to get free labor?
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Duncan

They are very valuable compared to the opposite: no experiential learning at all. They help develop, and prove, that students have managerial tempos and team skills. They are, more or less, something with the same strengths and weaknesses as an internship.

It's a terrible way to get free work. You can get a tonne of that tomorrow. These projects don't do exactly what the companies want; they need academic criteria.

They are very valuable compared to the opposite: no experiential learning at all. They help develop, and prove, that students have managerial tempos and team skills. They are, more or less, something with the same strengths and weaknesses as an internship.

It's a terrible way to get free work. You can get a tonne of that tomorrow. These projects don't do exactly what the companies want; they need academic criteria.
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bigblue

They are, more or less, something with the same strengths and weaknesses as an internship.

What if the choice is between a program that has a project component versus one that has a required internship? A lot of the one-year programs I'm looking at, like IMD's, have management projects as part of the curriculum, but not internships.

<blockquote>They are, more or less, something with the same strengths and weaknesses as an internship.</blockquote>
What if the choice is between a program that has a project component versus one that has a required internship? A lot of the one-year programs I'm looking at, like IMD's, have management projects as part of the curriculum, but not internships.
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Duncan

I think that depends on your goals. If you're using the MBA to change (role, sector or country) then the internship works better. And if you want to be hired by a traditional MBA employers, then the internship is a long job interview. If you're not, and you're working towards more depth in the field you already know, then the project works well. IMD and places with older students like that - Ashridge say - has a very senior cohort, and may of them aren't looking for traditional MBA entry-level roles.

Of course projects are also the only option for courses where employers are not very interested in offering internships.

But the content of the project also differs: a paid-for project has much of the intense client contact of an internship, for example.

I think that depends on your goals. If you're using the MBA to change (role, sector or country) then the internship works better. And if you want to be hired by a traditional MBA employers, then the internship is a long job interview. If you're not, and you're working towards more depth in the field you already know, then the project works well. IMD and places with older students like that - Ashridge say - has a very senior cohort, and may of them aren't looking for traditional MBA entry-level roles.

Of course projects are also the only option for courses where employers are not very interested in offering internships.

But the content of the project also differs: a paid-for project has much of the intense client contact of an internship, for example.
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bigblue

Thanks, Duncan!

Thanks, Duncan!
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As for the value of these projects, I would like to offer an example of two Manchester Business School MBAs who went from working on a consultancy project to leading the company's expansion into India. The duo did a project with digital marketing firm Brandmovers and I doubt they had planned to found the company's India business but it just so happened that way...

As for the value of these projects, I would like to offer an example of two Manchester Business School MBAs who went from working on a consultancy project to leading the company's expansion into India. The duo did a project with digital marketing firm Brandmovers and I doubt they had planned to found the company's India business but it just so happened that way...
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ralph

Also, for some industries (like luxury) schools will work with recruiting companies to develop projects in those companies. I know that ESSEC has such arrangements with companies like Dior and Estee Lauder, for example.

This is good for everybody: the recruiting companies get to see what the students are made of, and the students get valuable experience doing real-world tasks. And these can definitely lead to careers post-graduation.

Also, for some industries (like luxury) schools will work with recruiting companies to develop projects in those companies. I know that ESSEC has such arrangements with companies like Dior and Estee Lauder, for example.

This is good for everybody: the recruiting companies get to see what the students are made of, and the students get valuable experience doing real-world tasks. And these can definitely lead to careers post-graduation.
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BigD

... and of course the companies get cheap labour that comes free of internal baggage and political influence.

BigD

Also, for some industries (like luxury) schools will work with recruiting companies to develop projects in those companies. I know that ESSEC has such arrangements with companies like Dior and Estee Lauder, for example.

This is good for everybody: the recruiting companies get to see what the students are made of, and the students get valuable experience doing real-world tasks. And these can definitely lead to careers post-graduation.

... and of course the companies get cheap labour that comes free of internal baggage and political influence.

BigD

<blockquote>Also, for some industries (like luxury) schools will work with recruiting companies to develop projects in those companies. I know that ESSEC has such arrangements with companies like Dior and Estee Lauder, for example.

This is good for everybody: the recruiting companies get to see what the students are made of, and the students get valuable experience doing real-world tasks. And these can definitely lead to careers post-graduation. </blockquote>
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