We Developed a Different

Approach to Adult Learning

An interview with Albert Stähli

Founder and Rector of GSBA Zurich

About GSBA

GSBA is the oldest and largest business school in German-speaking Europe. It differs from most of its European peers in that it only offers executive programs. Its students therefore are quite senior and well-placed: Virtually all GSBA MBA students and many of its BBA students are already in middle-management or even senior positions. GSBA has been active in the German-speaking market for 34 years and has some 9,000 alumni and 1,400 executive students.

Could you describe the structure of dual degree MBA program?

The program is very flexible with a modular structure based on learning blocks with a combination of E-learning, on-the-job and on-campus training and transfer elements. All modules/blocks are offered several times throughout the year. Thus students can choose their own most convenient time and pace. The length of the program is by and large up to the student. Most students average around three years on a part-time basis. Learning is closely related to the students' practical business world and case studies are real-life business situations presented by real executives expecting real answers.  

How does your program differ from a traditional MBA program?

GSBA does not use Harvard case studies. Students and faculty work only with real-life, living cases. They work out real-life solutions for companies and receive regular feedback on the implementation of their proposals. We developed a different approach to adult learning, based on andragogic principles rather than pedagogic methods. The purely cognitive part of learning is by and large delegated to the students themselves. In class, we focus on practical application, using a peer-to-peer approach based on knowledge exchange, always in close cooperation with our corporate clients. In other words, the company, the student and the professor form a triad. The learners are also teachers and vice versa.  

What is your approach of E-learning in your dual degree MBA?

E-Learning is applied in the preparation phases to the on-campus blocks. Students are requested to acquire a certain amount of theoretical elements in preparation of the blocks and e-learning helps to assure the transfer of these theoretical elements into the students' workplace realities.

Could you explain to our readers how the Genetically Growing Case Study Method and Andragogic Management help to better transfer knowledge to the business students?

The most effective method for Executives is the “living-case-study” which was devised and developed by GSBA in Zurich. Extensive experience with the living case shows that it provides an excellent foundation to develop practical management skills.

GSBA's manager students profit from this interactive, interdisciplinary and integrative approach. These graduates are far better equipped to find business opportunities and harvest those opportunities in ways that enhance their value to their employers. Experience shows that the graduates make an immediate, positive impact on their own company's management effectiveness.

About Albert Stähli

Dr. Albert Stähli is the founder and Rector of GSBA Zurich. He has a master in political sciences from Zurich University and a PhD in Business Administration from Vienna University. Stähli's dissatisfaction with the classical pedagogic approach to business teaching made him found the school in 1968 and continuously develop its management andragogic approach and its core methodology of the “Genetic Case Study”. Stähli developed the business school ever since to become the first institution in German-speaking Europe in 1985 to work with an international faculty and offer an MBA Degree and a few years later the first institution again to offer a Dual Degree Executive MBA.

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