For business and entrepreneurship classes, the case method is an excellent learning tool. In this article, you will learn about a four-step strategy for the implementation of multimedia and live cases as learning resources.
If students are not given the chance to put their reasoning and critical thinking skills to the test in the classroom, making well-founded decisions becomes even more difficult in high-pressure, stressful spaces, such as their own business or the workplace, after graduating. The more interactive and closer to reality the class, the better students will understand concepts and put them into practice outside the classroom. This logic applies in particular to business and entrepreneurship classes.
From this point of view, teaching with the case method is an ideal option to immerse students in a safe setting with variables and data that are real or very close to reality. However, the main challenge for the teacher is to find the right case that will have the precise impact for student learning. The question all teachers ask themselves when preparing a class is: Is there a case that is short enough for students to read in detail, yet comprehensive enough to achieve the learning objectives? Most often, the answer is no. The reality is that, even though there are many documented cases, they are not in Spanish, do not meet the needs of an undergraduate level class, and are not written in such a way as to capture the attention of the millennial student.
“The more interactive and closer to reality the class, the better students will understand concepts and put them into practice outside the classroom.”
Many teachers view this as a barrier to implementing the case method in their classes. Every university usually has its own case library, but I recommend that teachers should open a free account in Harvard Business Publishing Education (hbsp.harvard.edu). After registering as a teacher and proving that you work for an educational institution, you will have access to top quality cases in a variety of languages, including Spanish.
When preparing my class, I apply a four-step strategy:
Define the learning objective and the tools I will use to accomplish this objective.
Choose the source and the case. I very often look to my campus’s digital library or Harvard Business Publishing Education to find quality cases.
Use the teaching notes written by the author of the case, decide how to guide the class discussion and define the assignments to be completed by the students to prepare for the same.
Introduce the case in class and explain the context and the expectations for its solution. Students are given a specific amount of time to review the case and prepare the solutions (usually one to two weeks). Then the alternatives and strategies for the solution are discussed.
There are two dimensions related to case-based education: multimedia cases and live cases. I have adapted both tools to my undergraduate class, where I have seen that young students suffer more with the challenge of reading a twelve- to fifteen-page case compared with postgraduate students.
“Teaching with the case method is an ideal option to immerse students in a safe setting with variables and data that are real or very close to reality.”
The multimedia cases are closer to traditional cases in the sense that students have to read part of the case. However, they also have access to a variety of information in video format, interviews, images and, lately, even virtual reality, making it easier to understand the context and interact with the setting where the case events took place. In this way, students are immersed more deeply in the problem compared with a traditional case.
Multimedia cases are available in a variety of platforms that are more accessible for traditional teachers. You can log on to Harvard Business Publishing, choose the case topic and, from the format section menu, select the option “web-based html”, which shows all the multimedia cases that are available for the selected topic. These cases are free for teachers, but, in order to use them in class, you must obtain the case through your university’s library to avoid any copyright issues.
Live cases are more interactive than the multimedia cases. Their preparation is not as exhaustive, since the teacher has to define the case objective clearly and prepare a few pages of context for the students.
The live case tool normally consists of a brief description of the context or the businessperson’s dilemma. Students usually need to prepare in advance in order to understand the case. Then, the case protagonist, typically the businessperson, manager or decision-maker, comes to the classroom, either in person or through a videocall, and talks about his or her perspective of the problem, experience and reflections. Students can ask questions and, if the teacher so decides, prepare solutions and ultimately share them with the protagonist.
Exchanging opinions in the classroom with the protagonists of case studies helps students to become motivated and focused to address the case in greater depth. The impact generated by this type of tool in my classroom has been positive, supporting students by generating their decision-making capacities and developing their critical thinking.
In order to find real dilemmas, teachers can use their network of professional contacts or the university’s academic department. This helps to generate information exchange between academia and real practice.
I would like to invite you to share your experiences in case-based teaching on my social networks or by email, so that, together, we can develop top quality methodologies and cases.
About the author
Ján Rehák (firstname.lastname@example.org) holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration, focused on inclusive entrepreneurship. He is an entrepreneurship and business professor at Tecnológico de Monterrey and a research candidate for admission to the CONACYT National Researcher System.