Immersive Learning Experience: From Danish Classrooms to India’s Business Landscape with Sudhansu Rai

“Innovation happens everywhere, at every space, at every time in history,” says Sudhanshu Rai, Associate Professor at the Department of MSC. His research focus lies in the heart of emerging economies and the innovation that takes place there.

Sudhansu brings this understanding into his uniquely designed courses, “New Frontiers or More of the Same: Understanding Innovation in Asian Emerging Economies” and “Designing Imaginative Business Models”. His teaching methods go beyond traditional pedagogical practices, fostering a mindset that is sensitive to the dynamic and complex nature of business and innovation. “Every time a new innovation comes, there is already some other new kid around the block trying to change that,” he explains, providing students with insights into the relentless pace and unpredictable nature of innovation.

Immersive Learning: Designing Imaginative Business Models

Building upon Sudhanshu Rai’s groundbreaking approach to teaching innovation, one of his signature courses is an immersive learning experience that takes students from the classrooms in Copenhagen to the vibrant heart of India’s economy, and finally to the reflective serenity of the Himalayas. Sudnahsu’s courses aren’t open to everyone. They demand commitment and a keen interest in innovation. Through a rigorous selection process involving a motivational letter, Rai selects a diverse cohort of 35 students from various universities across Denmark each year.

Preparation and Integration: Experiencing India’s Business Landscape

The course embarks in Copenhagen with introductory lectures, laying the groundwork for the journey ahead. Throughout October, students delve into an intense preparation period, working remotely in groups. They establish contact with their allocated host company in India, initiating a dialogue to comprehend the company’s problem statement from their perspective. This phase demands a commitment of at least 4 to 6 hours a week and involves extensive background work, reading materials, and identifying potential problem areas. “Working with their assigned companies in India allows students to connect theoretical knowledge with practical experiences,” Rai emphasizes.

Once the preparations are over, the students fly to India. They’re not just observers; they become part of the companies, experiencing first-hand the thrills and challenges of a vibrant, emerging economy. They take the theory they’ve learned and apply it in real-time, in the real world, transforming their theoretical knowledge into practical experience. The program is intense. Students work almost around the clock, engaging in deep reflection sessions with Sudhansu, sometimes lasting until the late hours of the day. The intensity of the program is meant to promote deep personal and professional growth among the students.

Climbing Peaks of Reflection in the Himalayas

The last week of the immersion program takes place in the Himalayas, where students participate in quiet reflection and in-depth discussions about their experiences. There, Sudhansu describes, “they’re writing the paper, they are having very deep conversations with me on their experience.” This period allows students to reflect on their experiences, drawing connections between the academic literature and their lived experiences.

For Sudhansu, students must live their learning for it to truly resonate. “You have to live what you want to learn. You just cannot intellectually be thrown at it,” he asserts. Rai’s pedagogical method focuses on independent learning, where students have to find their own paths rather than being spoon-fed information. This approach can be challenging and even stressful for students, but it fosters resilience and adaptability, equipping students with the skills necessary for surviving in the real world.

The evolution of the course throughout the years

From its initial version as a normal theoretical CBS framework, Rai’s course has evolved significantly over the years. “The initial version of the course was like a normal theoretical CBS course. We went for a week, and it was more like a travelling course where we saw how NGOs and social enterprises work,” he explained. “The second iteration was more focused on generic innovation. It was still passive, like a form of student tourism.”

His aim for the third iteration was to take the learning experience to a new level. “I realized that the 1.0 and 2.0 versions are not good enough for our modern world. We need to have lived experiences and knowledge emerging out of these experiences. They have to work on a real problem in a real company, with real people, with real challenges. It’s a natural design. They naturally have to work on real problems,” Sudhanshu emphasised.

Sudhanshu didn’t sugarcoat the intensity of the course. “You’re getting yourself into three and a half weeks of really intense work. Two and a half weeks are going to be utterly intense. One week is going to be deep breathing and reflecting on your insights.”

Tips for educators considering following a similar path

Offering his advice for other educators considering a similar approach, he highlighted four key elements: being selfless, aligning academic literature with the lived experiences of students, allowing students to deal with their own upsets, and most importantly, refraining from judgment.

Offering his advice for other educators considering a similar approach, he highlighted four key elements: being selfless, aligning academic literature with the lived experiences of students, allowing students to deal with their own upsets, and most importantly, refraining from judgment, while the student is embedded in the experience.

In his words, “I think there are several ways to look at it. I think if somebody wants to evolve a program which is as intense as the one offered at CBS; BLC “Imaginative Business Models, then there are, I would say, four things that you need. You need to be selfless. That’s the starting point. It’s not a great investment in terms of remunerative hours to the faculty, so you don’t get a lot of hours for it. However if you believe in service, here to help the students, the next generation to become better than your generation, then this is it, serve them with a focus on their growth and learning, this to me is selflessness.”

Second, you need to have part of the literature on it reflecting the experience of the students…The third is to allow the students to be upset…And the fourth thing is that in some sense, it’s the hardest is not to judge while the immersion is going on. Be open. Do not judge anybody. Just let them flow,” he advised. “Only then they can take the cue to move forward.”

Future Directions for the Course

When asked about the future of the course, Sudhanshu expressed his wish to involve more academics in the journey. “I would like more academics to come with me on this journey. So we have more resources for our students,” he shared. But, the exclusivity of the course remains, with only 35 seats available and a rigorous selection process. “Everybody applying doesn’t get in,” Sudhanshu stated.

Sudhanshu’s unique approach to teaching is pushing the envelope of experiential learning. By immersing students in real-life business situations, he is equipping them with practical skills that are crucial in today’s dynamic and complex business environment. His course is a testimony to the innovation in teaching that bridges the gap between theory and practice and shows the powerful societal implications of truly immersive education.

Stefani Konstanta
Stefani Konstanta

Learning Consultant at Copenhagen Business School

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