Holistic Business Learning Environment: Bringing practice and integration to business education

Karoliina Nisula

Research output: Book/ReportDoctoral thesisCollection of Articles

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For decades, business education has been criticized for being too theoretical and distant from the realities of actual business. The business school curricula are poorly aligned with the competencies and knowledge needed to succeed in today’s business world. In addition to disciplinary knowledge and soft skills, graduates need the capabilities to be able to integrate these skills and implement them in practical settings. Learning practical, integrative skills in an environment that emphasizes theoretical orientation and academic research is challenging.

Experiential learning has been widely used to bring the practical element into business studies. In particular, technology-driven learning environments such as simulations, games, business information systems, virtual worlds, and social media have offered great possibilities for experiential exercises.

And yet the criticism continues. Despite the technological developments, education still continues to be theoretical and academic. Experiential business education has not become mainstream. Different types of experiential learning solutions have been presented but they tend to solve specific areas of business management. They often focus on the technology rather than on a holistic, pedagogical model. Business education research is yet to present an experiential learning environment that combines people and information technology in a holistic way.

This dissertation investigates how an experiential business learning environment should be constructed to provide a holistic business perspective and a practical training ground to enhance the competencies required of future business graduates. First, the theoretical foundations of learning and learning environments are examined. Second, the relevant research on business learning environments and curricula is presented. These lead on to the refined research questions. A design science approach is chosen as a method to construct and study a business learning environment artifact consisting of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, a business simulation, and learning communities of students and teachers. It is structured around a supply chain network, and the business transactions utilize automated information flows in an information system structure that is based on the principles of ERP II.

The artifact alone does not solve the challenge of integrated business learning. It needs to be attached to the whole learning process. This dissertation presents an integrated business learning model that combines the artifact with a business curriculum based on the dynamic capabilities’ framework. This brings the intellectual coherence that indicates how disciplines, courses, and the business learning environment influence each other. It is the concrete combining factor between the people and the disciplinary topics on the curriculum plans and documents.

There are positive indications of learning on all of Bloom’s domains. In particular, the artifact appears to improve the poor and average students’ long-term lower-level cognitive learning. The dissertation offers an explanation for such improvement: The artifact acts as a boundary infrastructure where different stakeholders carry out their own roles and tasks and interrelate with each other. It provides a common ground to join the theoretical perspective to the practical processes and tasks of business management. It is flexible and can be used from many different perspectives and for many different purposes at the same time.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherTampere University
Number of pages152
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-03-1071-4
ISBN (Print)978-952-03-1070-7
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2019
Publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (articles)

Publication series

NameTampere University Dissertations
ISSN (Print)2489-9860
ISSN (Electronic)2490-0028


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