Action Learning Program Brings Experiential Learning to Forefront of Curriculum

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Action Learning Program Brings Experiential Learning to Forefront of Curriculum

Project-based courses pair students with external organizations to solve real-world business problems.
October 30, 2019
Students sit and work on a project together. Credit: Elena Zhukova
Students in ALP courses will work together to solve real business challenges. | Elena Zhukova

In its continued commitment to deliver advanced and innovative teaching methodologies, Stanford Graduate School of Business today announced the addition of the Action Learning Program to the school’s curriculum.

The Action Learning Program, led by Faculty Director Yossi Feinberg, Adams Distinguished Professor of Management and professor of economics, is a set of immersive courses that provides hands-on learning experiences to students in the Stanford MBA Program and Stanford MSx Program. During the 10-week-long courses, students will be divided into small groups and assigned projects that require them to solve real business challenges faced by external organizations.

Designed and taught by Stanford GSB’s world-renowned faculty, courses in the Action Learning Program will address topical issues facing today’s business leaders. Students will learn the research-validated foundations, tools, and practices needed for projects in the classroom and then, with the support of faculty, put their learnings into practice at private-sector companies.

“Over time we’ve found that students learn best by doing,” said Brian Lowery, Walter Kenneth Kilpatrick Professor of Organizational Behavior and senior associate dean responsible for the Teaching and Learning unit, which provides support for course development and experiential learning, including the Action Learning Program. “With the Action Learning Program, students will gain on-the-ground experience at organizations with the guidance of faculty. The evolution of this program will be an iterative process, with both students and faculty working together to make this a valuable, impactful experience.”

Over time we’ve found that students learn best by doing. With the Action Learning Program, students will gain on-the-ground experience at organizations with the guidance of faculty.
Brian Lowery

The Action Learning Program adds to Stanford GSB’s already extensive list of experiential learning offerings. The program is one of the outcomes of the long-range planning initiative that Jonathan Levin, Philip H. Knight Professor and dean of Stanford GSB, led to address the changing business landscape, evolving needs of business leaders, and the future of management education.

The program will kick off with three courses for the 2019–2020 academic year; additional courses may be added in future years. The first class, taught by Stefanos Zenios, Investment Group of Santa Barbara Professor of Entrepreneurship and professor of operations, information, and technology, is set to begin in January 2020 with the start of the winter quarter. The other two courses, taught by Susan Athey, Economics of Technology Professor, and Baba Shiv, Sanwa Bank, Limited, Professor of Marketing, will be offered during spring quarter, beginning April 2020.

The projects in each Action Learning Program course will be diverse.

The Founder’s Right Hand: From Inspiration to Launch

This course, taught by Zenios, will involve projects where students work with startups to transform the visions of high-potential founders into actual ventures. The course will tackle issues like understanding founders, interviewing potential customers, analyzing the market opportunity, developing and testing a value proposition, generating and testing a go-to-market strategy, running and analyzing results from pilots, and providing advice to other teams.

Data-Driven Impact

In Athey’s course, students will work on projects to improve companies’ products or services using data and experimentation. The course will cover key considerations for designing and executing high-quality research for product innovation to drive business outcomes and social impact. Topics may include designing research and experiments, data analysis, experimental and non-experimental methods for estimating the impact of product features, and management consideration for the delivery of actionable research.

The Corporate Entrepreneur: Startup in a Grown-up Enterprise

Students in this course, taught by Shiv, will work in teams to develop a proposal to start a new venture within a large organization. In the spring of 2020, student teams will work with engineers and entrepreneurs-in-residence in Intel’s Emerging Growth and Incubation (EGI) group to understand emerging technical capabilities, translate those capabilities to the language of business, and identify innovative business solutions to incubate within Intel.

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