MBA students at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business are known to work quite hard amid the rigors of the case method. Each day, they are expected to read and complete their own analysis of a case (a narrative detailing of a business problem) and then compare and reason through their analysis with a diverse team of fellow students. Often students can spend two to four hours prepping on their own and then two to three more with these “learning teammates” to arrive at an answer (as opposed to the answer). And, what can be the reward for all of this? You may just be selected for a “cold call” to start off the class.
At Darden, most first-year classes and some second-year classes start with a professor randomly selecting a student to lead the day’s discussion with his/her case analysis. This student can be subjected to anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes of questioning, as the professor teases out key points of discussion for the broader class to explore. Many a student has sweated through a cold call, only to gain the applause of his/her peers at the end of the class. (Others, of course, may not do as well.) The cold call can be daunting, but it forces students to prepare thoroughly and think on their feet—a key feature of the Darden learning experience.
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