Exploring MBA students’ perceptions and perspectives on international study module visits to BRIC countries
Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In a world of increasing fiscal constraints, internationalisation strategies at higher education institutions should be evidence-based, impactful and measurable. Since the year 2011, the International Study Module has been a compulsory module in the MBA programme at the USB. However, the value added by this international component of the curriculum, has never before been measured. The objective of this study was to explore whether this module enhanced the experience of MBA students at the USB and contributed to the relevant needs of practicing managers, locally as well as globally. This report explored the learning outcomes of MBA student participants on USB International Study Modules to Brazil, Russia, India and China (the BRIC countries) in the years 2012 and 2013. Two forms of data were collected and analysed, namely: optional module abroad student evaluation forms and compulsory student reflective essays. The literature review provided a comprehensive benchmark concerning the best practices of business schools employing global modules in their MBA curricula. In addition, the data analysis process enabled the researcher to explore three key focus areas from the perspectives of the MBA students themselves, namely: i) The knowledge and insights gained about doing business in BRIC countries; ii) How students’ mental models, perspectives and worldviews have broadened and/or changed as a result of their experience abroad on the International Study Module; and iii) MBA students’ perceptions of the personal and educational value added by the compulsory International Study Module. The study confirmed the unique value proposition offered by the MBA International Study Module. Exploring the students’ reflections, it was clear that students had the expectation to have their global mind-sets developed, and they were open to new perspectives and worldviews. A key learning outcome was an appreciation for how different the worldviews of people in the target countries were from students’ own, which confirmed the increased levels of “world-mindedness” the International Study Module brings. The study showed how the international module enabled the USB to develop students’ mental models through a dynamic experiential learning process which disturbed current thinking and exposed students to diverse contexts. The findings provided evidence that the module abroad lead to better cultural understanding and students learnt how to leverage diversity to find better solutions to problems and challenges. A key outcome discovered, was the realisation by some students about the advantage South Africans have over many other countries given our familiarity in dealing with diversity issues. This provides a valuable platform for practicing better cultural sensitivity at home. The research also found that the module abroad enhanced students’ ability to think globally and act locally. Furthermore, the experience abroad challenged the mind-sets of participants to see opportunities. It showed how the theory-practice gap was bridged, and how students’ reflective competencies were further enhanced. Also, it was clear how hands-on assignments in the form of fieldwork among locals greatly enhanced the experiential learning of students on a module abroad. The study concluded with a perspective on the value proposition offered by the USB’s MBA International Study Module. The proposed recommendations relate to improving the value of the International Study Module through integration within a core MBA course. Improved assessment of student learning was recommended in order to ensure the continuous improvement of the module design. Finally, the importance of measuring primary objectives related to this module was highlighted, in order for the USB to partially fulfil its internationalisation strategy by offering a learning experience abroad as part of its MBA curriculum.