Changing the Face of Graduate Business Education

December 22, 2016 - Dr. Eric Mclaughlin

Old Business Cases Make Way for Real World Projects

girl-studying.jpgEl Monte, CA – December 19, 2016: The case method (developed extensively by Harvard University) has been used for years to provide an example of a business setting for academic educational purposes. Unfortunately, the case method has some serious weaknesses in design: prominent among them the fact that most cases are uni-dimensional, thus instilling the belief that each business subject is “siloed” and not related to any other business topic. Each case is written for a particular audience: a marketing case for a marketing class; an accounting case for an accounting class, etc.  The long-standing joke in academia is of a recent graduate at their first day in a management position requesting of the staff to bring in “the case of the day”!

The California Institute of Advanced Management (CIAM) is a business school tackling this challenge head on. Real life business situations are not similar to the single-focus of educational cases as real-life business situations are complex and multi-dimensional. So what is the academy to do if cases are not the answer? Enter real life: consulting projects. CIAM partners with companies that have significant business problems, then challenges students to work on teams to find the best solution. Each student at the business school completes a detailed consulting project in every single course (12 throughout the full MBA program), ranging from marketing projects for startup companies to operations management projects for well-established businesses.

When students work on actual issues associated with a going concern, they learn far more than what is taught in a case. Skills like interviewing, problem identification, contract negotiation, time management, team leadership, product delivery, presentation skills, and report writing are but a few examples built in to a consulting project.  Many of these components are completely non-existing in a case analysis. Thus, live consulting projects far exceed the benefits of a unidimensional case and present each student (and faculty member) with numerous opportunities for an enriched learning community. 

Many MBA programs today are reviewing their dependence on case analyses and considering migrating away from this mode of instruction in favor of experiential learning techniques, among them consulting projects. Some graduate business programs have one class in consulting; very few programs have multiple cases. Student consulting projects incorporate real business experience in every single one of CIAM’s courses, allowing students to immediately practice what they learn inside the classroom out in the real world. This is the fifth year CIAM has successfully implemented student consulting projects with outstanding results. To date, CIAM has performed 77 unique student consulting projects across dozens of industries worldwide, with many more to come.



The California Institute of Advanced Management (CIAM) is a 501c(3) nonprofit university dedicated to providing students with real experience and leadership skills for the modern business world. CIAM believes in real field experience and purposefully integrates opportunities for these experiences into every single one of our courses offered. Students graduate with a portfolio of real projects and real experience they can actually use in their career path. CIAM is focused on delivering a program that is built by the real world, for the real world. To learn more about the CIAM MBA program, please visit; or call (866) 295-5118 for more information.

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