Nowadays, innovative concepts in learning are making headway. The concept of augmenting learning through immediate application is considered to be one of the most effective ways for an individual to understand and retain learning for a long time. Case studies are among the top training tools that are embedded into the curriculum to impart and apply new concepts.
Case studies are forms of real life scenarios or situations that require resolution by identifying the problem, analysing the key issues and coming up with a recommendation. The idea of doing a case study is to apply theoretical concepts learnt into a practical situation and thereby do effective problem solving. Most management, law, social science and business degree programmes have courses in their curriculum that are case study based. Normally, a standard business case study is a written description of a situation or a story of something that transpired within a company or an organisation within a certain timeframe.
Format of a case study
A business case study can be as brief as 1-2 pages or as elaborate as 20 pages or more, based on the course content. Depending on the teaching method, the instructor chooses to distribute the case study to the students prior to teaching the topic in class or in some situations after the subject matter has been imparted. When the student receives the case study in advance, they are expected to read the entire case and come prepared with analysis of the problem along with recommendations for change. In general, there are no right or wrong answers, though a decision about the situation or problem has to be made. The case is then discussed, often in small teams as directed and facilitated by the instructor. Unlike the role of a traditional lecturer, the instructor opens up the case for active discussion to the class with the objective of engaging students to discuss the issue among themselves. The instructor will move around the classroom observing student interactions and being their guide.
The format of a case study involves details about a real situation with key players, stakeholders and their role in the business or industry. The objective and challenges faced will be presented along with specific instances and sometimes even data will be provided as facts. Often, there will be a set of questions that will have to be answered at the end of the case.
Purpose of doing case study
A good case study instils critical thinking skills, the ability to apply a newly learned concept and also inculcate class participation in every student by making them talk their opinions. This differs from a routine lecture or a reading assignment as it requires the student to apply a wide range of abilities. By working on a case study, a student gets trained to review the business case, assess the situation, analyse the pros and cons and thereby make a logical and well thought out solution to the problem. Faculty in business and law schools use case studies to teach management and business concepts.
The timely usage of case studies provides students the opportunity to work in teams. Effective team building activities such as discussing different viewpoints, problem solving skills and application of the learnt concept will provide students the practice and experience needed during future employment in the corporate world. Case studies also train people to think about what they would do when they are put in a particular situation. This is an effective characteristic to survive in a competitive work environment.
To sum up, case studies are an engaging and interactive tool used by instructors in an academic setting and sometimes even used by corporate trainers to train business professionals. The importance of doing a case study will be understood by the learner when they directly apply what they have learnt into resolving a business problem by using team interactions and other skills. Case studies can be written by an individual for a particular subject or topic. However, there are many case studies that have been written earlier by experts in the field. The most popular ones are available from online sources such as The Harvard Business School, ABI/Inform database, etc. An online search on the database for a particular case can be done by using keyword searches on the topic and subject. If you are an academic instructor or work in training and development, including case studies in your course content will have multiple benefits and will add value to your curriculum.