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  • We follow a problem-based pedagogy, not a lecture based approach

    Published on February 22, 2013

    For Mr. Dinesh Singh, a graduate from IIT Kanpur and MBA from Cornell University, learning is a passion.  After spending a few years as consultant with McKinsey & Co, Pittsburgh the US he is now the director Student Engagement in Sunstone Business School.  In an exclusive interview to APN News Mr. Singh Elaborates his vision on focused business learning. Excerpts:

    How are you different from the leading Business Schools in the country like the IIMs?

    The primary difference is the level of experience of intake students and our unique problem based pedagogy.  Our intake is more experienced (4-10 years), per-dominantly in tech-centric companies. The program is designed ground up keeping in mind the unique needs of experienced professionals from the technology industry to enable them transition into business roles. We follow a problem-based pedagogy rather than a lecture based approach by most of the leading institutions. It is a top down approach that delivers curriculum in context of real business like problems.

    What exactly you mean by experiential business education?  How it is helpful to the professionals?

    The basis of  Sunstone PGPM is learning by problem solving. Our belief is that knowledge isn’t enough; it has to be practicable and applicable in real context. We take real world problem situations and impart management concepts in the course of solving them. The pedagogy at Sunstone relies on three important pillars: redefining faculty as a consultant and coach rather than a lecturer, use of workplace and peers for instantly experimenting with the learning, and use of technology for dissemination and collaboration. Our strong belief is that it will impart the right combination of execution and management skills to create future leaders for the industry.

    You have been talking about problem based learning; can you please explain the concept and its effectiveness?

    We have embraced a “Problem Based Learning” (PBL) curriculum, an approach in research for over 20 years and some of the pioneers include Stanford and Ohio State. In PBL, every topic starts with a problem and underlying concepts are understood in the process of solving them. At Sunstone PGPM, the problems are focused around key business questions that a business manager should be able to answer. For example, while teaching budgeting, we ask the students to work on create a one year budget for a business unit of a large IT services company for which data is provided along with the key questions they need to think about. The problems are developed in consolation with senior business leaders from the industry. The students present their work to an industry panel which provides feedback to the students. This is very similar to how one learns on the job, and enables students become professionally productive at once.

    What special affect the management studies could have on IT/ITES professionals in their carrier?

    We believe that quality management education has significant impact on both the long term career prospects and an individual’s performance within an organisation. IT/ITES/ICT sectors have huge talent tool but many of them are far removed from customer needs and their experience is isolated and narrow. On the other hand, the need of professionals with technology depth and astute business skills is ever increasing especially in India. Our graduates have become business leaders and entrepreneurs in tech-centric companies. We strongly believe that developing management perspective is a must for any knowledge based worker and it can help any individual in future.

    What could be the future of Business schools and management studies in the country and elsewhere?

    Business schools carry an ever-greater burden of keeping up with the industry demand for leadership in number and quality – readiness to perform. This requires business schools to innovate and keep up with the pace of change. There are 3 key things that are affecting the future of business schools now more than ever – the easy availability of information because of Internet, changing face of the workplace and high cost of a quality MBA. We believe the future of business schools lies in solving these challenges and leveraging these opportunities. This might mean a ground up design of curriculum that helps students see the big picture. It might mean transferring the traditional burden of “lecturing” to technology while faculty plays a much greater role as a coach. It might mean making a business school to look more like the distributed “knowledge-based” company using technology for greater collaboration. And it might mean bringing down the cost of MBA for high quality working professionals by keeping them in their jobs while they study.

    According to you what is degree of qualitative change that the management studies can bring in the professionals?

    I have observed that management studies are associated with management concepts, frameworks, terminology, theory, tools and lot of business cases. However, we believe that objective of management education is not to teach a lot of stuff to students, but to change their mindset and make it business centric. It’s not about collecting information, but about developing attitude. It’s good to read a lot and understand other’s opinion, but the true purpose is to start building your own opinion. The purpose of curriculum is to make students aware of the world around them and increase their self belief so they are comfortable handling any situation. All of us have immense potential but we need to be challenged enough to realize it. The purpose of management education is also to change you enough and make your aspirations high!

    At Sunstone Business School, we have observed drastic results in some of the students primarily driven by the level of increased comfort (with themselves) and confidence. Entrepreneurship is one example where people had good ideas but didn’t have the courage to take the plunge, and education helped them take that decision.