Academic experiences designed to promote active learning can be thrilling and memorable educational opportunities for students and their instructors. Unfortunately, they can also be miserable failures for students lacking necessary skills and motivation, and for instructors lacking necessary resources and support. This paper describes two active learning projects, both successful in many ways, and draws from them observations and lessons on the failings of active education for some students, and the burdens placed on instructors. Experiential learning is not a new concept. Originally derived from apprenticeship programs, experiential learning strives to give students the opportunity to put into practice the theories they learn in the classroom. Proponents are quick to point out that active learning goes beyond memorization and requires students to become engaged in the process. This leads to deeper understanding and longer retention. Moreover, research indicates that student satisfaction is greater when the classroom environment encourages student involvement. Business schools have particularly embraced experiential learning. The new American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) curriculum guidelines (1993) stress the importance of providing students with the necessary competencies or skills to be successful businesspeople. As a result, experiential or “hands-on” activities have become an integral part of undergraduate education. Many instructors work extensively to incorporate as many active learning experiences as possible into their classes. Employers use them as criteria for selecting graduates. Universities use them as a recruitment tool. For the most part, experiential learning has provided many positive outcomes for students and faculty. Nevertheless, there are drawbacks to active learning that rarely are discussed in academic forums. For two semesters in 2000, we supervised two active learning projects. One project brought twelve seniors together to compete in the 37th Annual International Collegiate Business Policy Competition (ICBPC). Substituting for the capstone strategic management class, students competed against other students from universities across the country. For a semester, students created and operated a virtual company in a highly aggressive environment The second project was an entrepreneurship class that brought together business students to actually create, manage and market a music CD over two semesters. The student company, Starving Students Production (SSP), produced and sold a rock CD, “Code Red: Destination Unknown.” Both projects were very successful. Students in the policy competition won first place. The entrepreneurship project won the Southern Business Award for Innovation in Teaching. Nevertheless, both successes came at a very high cost. In this paper, we will look at both the good, bad, and ugly sides of experiential learning and discuss strategies for increasing success.
THE INTERNATIONAL COLLEGIATE BUSINESS POLICY COMPETITION
Computerized business simulations are experience-compression exercises. The instructor puts students into small teams, each representing top company management. Every company is in the same industry and each company sells a product. Initially, each team inherits a company with identical characteristics. Team members then proceed to make all the strategic, marketing, production, financial, and managerial decisions
for their firm. The administrator processes their decisions. The simulation program compares decisions submitted from every team and determines how each company performed in the industry based on the direction and the quality of the decisions. Students get quick feedback as they can typically pick up the results within an hour of...