Learning methods

Direct learning

Lectures allow for an immediate and direct transfer of knowledge onto students: although lectures don’t require active participation or independent work on the part of the students, they are still an engaging learning method. In the case of executive education programs, lectures are fewer and further in between, and are typically used to fill any knowledge gaps and share core information.

Distance-learning lectures
Distance-learning lectures also allow for an immediate transfer of knowledge onto students: such lectures can be pre-recorded and made available for students to watch in their own time or they can be broadcast live and watched remotely by participants, who can interact both with the lecturer and with each other throughout. The level of interaction varies depending on the type of technology employed for each lecture.

Case studies
Case studies are stories that illustrate business issues encountered by companies across a wide range of sectors. Case studies are used to stimulate debate amongst students as they work to identify possible solutions applying previously acquired knowledge to a real-life scenario. Case studies can be relevant to the students’ own background or be far removed from their areas of expertise. Depending on the complexity of the knowledge that needs to be applied, case studies can be used to induce solutions (i.e. without having a solid knowledge base) or to deduce them.

Testimonials typically involve exemplary, real-life business stories – both positive and negative – and are relayed by someone who’s played a key role in them. Testimonials aim to offer participants an example of how a certain situation can be addressed; they are not intended to transfer knowledge or encourage the application of specific approaches. Testimonials have proven to be a successful technique, especially as part of a program that focuses on highly innovative or complex topics that are not often discussed openly.

Experiential learning

Simulations involve replicating a scenario - either problematic or requiring challenging decision-making - as faithfully as possible both in terms of content and dynamics. Simulations allow participants to test their problem-solving abilities operating within a scenario that is complex but at the same time safe. Typically simulations require participants to work in groups, given the complexity of the situations. These simulations can be technology-based, using interactivity and game dynamics such as team work and competitiveness, or paper-based, focusing more on face-to-face interaction amongst participants.

Role-playing involves two or more people interacting with each other in a simulated, challenging scenario: participants take up and act out different roles as they try to resolve a problematic situation using the knowledge and skills previously acquired. Role-playing allows participants to experience first-hand and in a safe environment what their future job role may entail and to understand how they can best fulfil it. Overall, this technique strengthens problem-solving skills.

Laboratories allow students to create artefacts, under the supervision of a teacher, using techniques far removed or at least very different to those usually employed in their day-to-day work. Laboratories can be “metaphorical” if the artefact is made using tools and techniques that are very different to the ones normally employed in their work context. This is the case for art (e.g. cinema, cuisine, etc.), as it allows to test the validity of ideas that are both complex and difficult to explore within the work context.
The use of metaphors allows participants to think laterally and to follow more complex and articulate processes to make decisions and share knowledge.
On the other hand, a laboratory is considered to be more traditional if the artefacts are made according to principles that are in line with those applied by companies when making decisions – i.e. using techniques such as nominal group or setting up a wiki.
Finally, a metaphorical laboratory can also involve the use of advanced technology.

Field-based learning

Field projects
A field project involves the participant working on an actual project within their own organization, in order to apply the knowledge gained during the program. The project allows the participant to understand how to apply in the workplace what they have learnt in class, as well as to assess any limitations of such approaches and overcome them.  

Case studies based on personal experience
Personal case studies involve the participants sharing and analysing their own professional experience so that everyone can use it to strengthen their problem-solving abilities. Sharing and analysing one’s personal experience – whether this is done individually or as a group – leads to the discovery of new approaches to problem-solving.

Company Wikis
A Wiki is a page that can be updated by any of its users and the content of which has been put together by all the people who have access to such page. Content can be modified at any time and by any user (in some cases users will need to be registered and in some cases they can be anonymous). Users can add, edit or delete information previously written by other people. As a result a Wiki is a tool to stimulate group debate around the program, the application of what’s been learnt in class and its effectiveness within the context of a specific company and company culture.  

Quality circles
This is a technique to solve problems and improve quality by promoting debate between participants and their leaders (either managers or teachers). The leader is required to act as a coach, and therefore they should now propose solutions but encourage participants to analyse the situation independently. This is therefore a technique used to strengthen leadership and problem-solving skills, as well as to empower participants. 

With the support of a coach, participants draw on their own skills to improve their performance in their current role or to prepare for a role they aspire to. Coaching is particularly effective following a class-based program because it allows participants to adapt what they have learnt on the course to their own work scenario and to use it to improve their performance.