The Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois is set to launch what it calls the largest experiential learning course in the country this fall. According to an announcement today (June 22) from the College, Business 301: Business in Action will be a required course for all juniors at the Gies College. School officials believe the course will enroll around 800 business majors and will match them with about 130 Fortune 100 companies, startups, mid-sized businesses, and nonprofits.
“Learning by doing is built into the Gies DNA, and we’re proud to be a leader in this area,” Andrew Allen, director of the Magelli Office of Experiential Learning, which manages action learning at Gies said in a prepared statement from the school. “Experiential learning is embedded into the design of our programs. As a result, employers and alumni tell us that our graduates are better prepared to hit the ground running and add value from day one on the job.”
The course was already piloted on a smaller scale. Students will be placed in teams of five or six and will work directly with real clients to analyze and solve their business problems. The overall goal is to prep students for working in teams and solving complex business problems while also giving them more experiences to reference during recruiting and job interviews.
“Our goal is to create opportunities for our students to have meaningful experiences,” Allen also said in the prepared announcement. “We’re able to present our students with actual business problems brought forward by clients. By doing this, we’re able to bring our classroom into the business world and prepare our students in a very powerful way.”
POSITIVE RESULTS FROM PILOT COURSES
Over the past two years, the school says students participating in the pilots reported positive results. Specifically, 89% said that the learning by doing approach of experiential learning improved their overall experience at the Gies College. And 95% said they had a better story to tell recruiters.
The additional course is part of a curriculum overhaul that places Gies business majors into cohorts and includes four required courses over four years. Students first take Business 101, which focuses on introducing professional responsibility. During the second-year students take Business 201: Business Dynamics. The third-year is the Business in Action course. And fourth-year students take Business 401: Business in a Global Perspective.
Experiential learning is a big part of undergraduate business education as it provides a structured way for students to gain real-world experience. Many programs offer experiential learning opportunities, but it is less common to take an entire semester course focused on experiential learning and make it a required course for all business majors.