By Peter Walker for CNN
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(CNN) -- Once, MBA students were content to spend the duration of their course cramming their brains full of facts, management theories and test cases.
These days, however, they want something more -- a fully-fledged learning experience.
Amid increasing competition for the top jobs, business students want to make sure that as well as knowing all the theories, they can demonstrate first-hand knowledge of global business and teamwork, as well as a range of personal contacts.
As of this winter, the top-rated Harvard Business School is giving its students an extra hand in doing this through its innovative Immersion Program.
During the January break, many students have traditionally taken part in so-called "treks," overseas trips that let them explore careers and make valuable contacts in different parts of the world.
This January, HBS is organizing three treks of its own, giving students a choice of learning though visits to China, New Orleans or the healthcare industry in Boston.
The "China Immersion" will see 70 MBA students from the school visit a series of places around the country, including Beijing and the economic powerhouses of Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
As well as soaking up China's culture, participants will meet HBS alumni in the country and learn about its astonishing economic transformation, as well as specific changes such as WTO membership.
In New Orleans, a group of HBS students and staff will apply their budding management skills to help with the work of rebuilding and redeveloping the city following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Meanwhile, the so-called "Healthcare Immersion" in Boston will take students round a series of facilities, hospitals and labs, introducing them to leading researchers and other experts.
"These Immersion Programs enable both HBS and other Harvard faculty members to offer our students an extraordinary opportunity to become involved in some of the world's most important issues," said Professor Joseph Badaracco, chair of HBS's MBA Program.
Intense as these immersion programs are, they are relatively short-lasting compared to one innovative new entrant into the field of business education -- the Scholar Ship.
Setting sail for the first time in September 2007, the Scholar Ship will see around 600 students from around the world live and study together on a specially-adapted cruise ship for an entire semester, taking them from Greece to Japan, via central America, Australia and China.
Among the range of subjects on offer will be a postgraduate business qualification, which while not officially an MBA will take in many of its staples, such as accounting, finance and marketing.
According to its organizers, the ship is intended to be "a floating transnational learning community focused on intercultural leadership and communication."
And despite a combined price tag of nearly $20,000 for tuition and living expenses, the Scholar Ship -- run jointly by six universities around the world, including the University of California, Berkeley, Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia and China's Fudan University -- has already received 9,000 applications for information packs.
Life on board: Scholar Ship students will study on the high seas.
FACT BOXFT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Hong Kong UST, China
3. London Business School, UK
4. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Kellogg, U.S.
9. Stern, NY, U.S.
10. Cass, City University, UK
Source: Financial Times 2006
FACT BOXEMBA SNAPSHOT
Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.
A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.
A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.