Define Your Path

What is Applied Learning?

It is not uncommon for people who start graduate programs to have trouble adjusting to the writing requirements. Unless someone tells them differently, many new learners assume they can just succeed the same way they did in undergrad and move along. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and people who get stuck in this trap usually struggle to complete their degree. Getting a clear grasp on these differences is critical. In simplest terms, the differences come from applied learning.

To understand applied learning we have to clarify the enhanced expectations for a Master's program over and above those for a Bachelor's. In a Bachelor's program, your main task is to demonstrate that you can retain and recall facts.

By comparison, Master's programs tend to take an applied learning approach where the student is expected to also demonstrate that they can understand and apply knowledge. This means taking the new concepts and using them to address a problem they have not seen before. This is why graduate classes often have far more case studies than quizzes. In this modality we learn a new theory, discuss how it is applied with classmates and professors, then get a case study that relates to it. There is not always a single "correct" answer because there may be several different approaches. The most important thing is demonstrating how one applies the information from the class to developing the answer to the question at hand.

So why is this so important? That answer brings us back to our original question of what is applied learning. Jobs that require a Master's level education want people who can apply knowledge to solve complex problems. Showing that you can solve these complex problems is why many Master's programs have capstone projects that require degree candidates demonstrate the integration of all the subjects they have covered in the program. It not only shows that you have learned what has been taught, but shows that you have changed your thinking process.

If you would like to learn more about applied learning or enroll in our online MBA and experience it first hand, contact a Program Manager at 866-295-3104.

About the Author

Jimmy Brown, Ph.D. is a senior level management consultant with eighteen years of experience leading efforts to develop and implement practical strategies for business performance improvement. Dr. Brown has held senior level consulting positions at leading firms such as Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Accenture and Hewlett-Packard.

He can be reached at or via Twitter @jimmybrownphd