MBA degree – The path to the finish

Learning methods and performance assessment

MBA studies: Beyond mere classroom instruction

Different learning methods are used in all MBA programs. Just like at WHU, there is generally a set theoretical component (which we refer to as the core modules), which is typically taught in the traditional classroom format during the first months of the program. Once the basics have been covered, the fundamental knowledge can be enhanced through more practical approaches. It is common for projects, basic group work, and case studies to be conducted in the context of MBA programs. This gives students the opportunity to exercise their soft skills in addition to acquiring specialized knowledge. Teamwork, negotiation skills, and the ability to present information in a confident way are essential tools for those planning to fill management positions.

**This is just general information and does not apply to the WHU MBA Program specifically.**

1. Project-based learning: Working in phases

Project work involves a very thorough, precise, and gradual progression. A project generally consists of four distinct phases: First comes the project definition, in which you set the goal and conduct an opportunity and risk analysis. This phase also involves assessing parameters such as time, costs, and effort. Next comes the project planning phase, in which all relevant content is determined, tasks are assigned, and processes are structured. This is also the point at which milestones are set, facilitating the review of previously set goals as the project continues. Then comes the execution itself, including a constant monitoring of the status quo. Changes or adaptive measures can be implemented during this phase, if necessary, to assist in reaching the set goals. Finally, the results of the team’s efforts are summarized and presented.

2. Group work: The small project

Unlike projects that run over a longer period, group work is a shorter-term approach for handling a defined problem. Accordingly, the problem is less complex and does not require long-term planning. Still, communication and cooperation among group members remain a focus of group work. The goal is to find a common solution, taking account of and involving all group members. In contrast to project-based work, group work involves using prepared material and working within a set schedule.

3. Case study: Two different methods

Case studies can be used, for one thing, as a learning method. Group members are presented with a specific case, which describes a problem related to the subject being covered. The group members are then tasked with finding a solution. This method was originally used in the training of law students, in order to help prepare them for practicing law by working through examples of actual cases. Students learn to identify problems on their own, to highlight relevant information for solving the case, and to discuss the matter objectively. For another, case studies can be used as a research method. This involves examining a problem in a real-case scenario – specifically, though empirical research. This means theoretical knowledge on the selected subject does not necessarily have to exist already. When using a case study as a research method, the objective is to discover new findings through an examination of the problem.

4. Performance assessment at the end of the semester

Each module in the MBA program ends with an assessment. This can take different forms. It can involve submitting a term paper or taking a written exam. Students are permitted to use resources such as academic literature when writing a term paper, but this is not permitted when taking a written exam. In either case, the performance assessment relates to the MBA content covered during the particular seminar. The term papers must comply with academic standards and thus serve as an additional preparation for the final paper, the thesis.

The master’s thesis: Almost the final hurdle

In order to attain the MBA degree, you will have to prepare a master’s thesis at the end of the program. This is a scholarly work that should outline your own research path and findings. It involves identifying an area in which the existing body of literature is limited and thus further research is needed. A supervisor provides you with subject-specific support during the writing process. This person also serves as the initial examiner of your completed thesis. That means he or she is the first specialist to review your thesis and to assess and grade your work. The thesis is then read and assessed by a second examiner. The two grades are calculated together, with more weight given to the first reviewer.

The defense: The final step toward your MBA degree

Based on their experience in previous studies, MBA candidates will not be surprised to hear that they have to defend their MBA thesis after it has been submitted and accepted. The defense of the master’s thesis is similar to that of the bachelor’s thesis: The research results are presented to the first and second examiner and subsequently discussed with them. The examiners frequently ask questions concerning the choice of topic or special research approaches that were used. Points of critique that arose during the assessment of the master’s thesis may also be included in the discussion. After the student has responded to the questions raised, the final grade is awarded. This is the final step in achieving the MBA degree.

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