A Case for Case Study Approach in Indian B-Schools - Dr. Geo Paul


The Author is Research Guide of Bharathiar University, Coimbatore and
Head of the Department of Elijah Institute of Management Studies (ELIMS), Thrissur, Kerala

Introduction

The case method is a teaching method that is largely used in business schools. For instance, it has been used at the Harvard Business School since its founding in 1908 (Corey 1998) and at the Richard Ivey School of Business since 1921. In India, the IIMs and other premier institutions are extensively using the case method to teach students.

Although case method was initially introduced in business education in North America and Western Europe, other regions, especially Asia, are starting to catch up in teaching and writing cases. The Middle East and North Africa region has recently seen the launch of the Middle East & North Africa Regional Case Initiative (MENARCCI) at the American University of Beirut (AUB). MENARCCI's goal is to serve as a depository of all necessary knowledge about the case method, sources of cases and publishing outlets, and the links to all cases on the Region available on-line.

Why Teach with Case Method?

The case method combines two elements: the case itself and the discussion of that case. A teaching case is a rich narrative in which individuals or groups must make a decision or solve a problem. A teaching case is not a "case study" of the type used in academic research. Teaching cases provide information, but neither analysis nor conclusions. The analytical work of explaining the relationships among events in the case, identifying options, evaluating choices and predicting the effects of actions is the work done by students during the classroom discussion. The case method is a teaching approach that consists in presenting the students with a case, putting them in the role of a decision maker facing a problem (Hammond 1976). In a case method classroom, both the instructor and the student must be active in different ways. Each is dependent on the other to bring about teaching and learning. Instructors are generally experts, but they rarely deliver their expertise directly.

"Case studies recount real life business or management situations that present business executives with a dilemma or uncertain outcome. The case describes the scenario in the context of the events, people and factors that influence it and enables students to identify closely with those involved" - European Case Clearing House, Case studies

A business case is a document that imitates or simulates a real situation. Cases are verbal representations of reality that put the reader in the role of a participant of the situation. Cases often illustrate a business or policy situation to be solved and include information for classroom discussion and other study. The situation does not have an obvious solution. The case provides an adequate fact base to stimulate an educated conversation concerning possible outcomes. Each case has one central decision point, dilemma, or angle. The nature of the situation is clearly apparent within the first two paragraphs. In summary, as an analog of reality, a case must have three characteristics:
. A significant business issue or issues. Without an issue the case has no educational value
. Sufficient information on which to base conclusions
. No stated conclusions
Cases can range from one page to fifty or more. The writing in a case is precise and nuanced, yet always clear and concise. It is neither colloquial nor stuffily formal. It is also engaging and interesting to the reader. It is imperative for a case writer to always be objective - a case is not a marketing pamphlet for the featured organization, though the writer may portray biases that the protagonist may have.

Teaching cases are available through clearing repositories such as Ivey Publishing Case place and European Case Clearing House, or through professional writing and publishing centers, such as Globalens at the University of Michigan.

Teaching case studies, and to a lesser extent writing them, is a central function performed at the top business schools worldwide. Some organizations, such as European Case Clearing House and GlobaLens, run competitions to identify the best new teaching cases. Some of the institutions that are the most active at writing teaching cases (as determined by the quantity and quality validated by awards) are: Harvard Business School, Columbia CaseWorks, IESE, the Darden School at the University of Virginia, University of Michigan Ross School of Business (through Globalens, INSEAD, Richard Ivey School of Business, the Asian Institute of Management, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and Asian Case Research Centreat the University of Hong Kong. In India, IBS Center for Management Research (ICMR) is a premier case development center developing high-quality teaching cases in Management.

Conclusion

Unlike the West, in India the transition from the traditional teacher centered learning to student centered learning at the post graduate MBA level is a real challenge for the education facilitators. A vast majority of Indian students feel quite comfortable with the traditional lecture method and spoon-feeding which they have learnt throughout their school and undergraduate college days. The main reason for this is the demands of the Indian curriculum and examination system that encourages passive learning of text book materials by the students. But, looking at the speed of change in the business world, there is no time to wait for a systemic change. B schools are expected to play a proactive role of a catalyst to facilitate this transition of India students to case method.

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