Proceedings of 9th Annual London Business Research Conference

Proceedings of 9th Annual London Business Research Conference
4 - 5 August 2014, Imperial College, London, UK, ISBN: 978-1-922069-56-6
How Interactive Cases Can Help the Besieged Business
School’s Business Model
James G. Gallagher and E. Fordyce
The landscape of MBA courses is changing as the application of technology
impacts on course delivery. The result may be that fifty percent of business
schools could be out of business within ten years this at a time when the
number of MBA candidates is falling. Innovation in online technology is opening
the door to new forms of learning. How then will these views impact upon the
case method and its position in teaching? The case study and the case method
hold a tremendous potential for bringing life, reality, credibility and utility to the
pedagogic process. On-line, interactive, multimedia case studies are still in their
infancy but their potential for melding into the changing landscape of the MBA is
extremely high. They provide both a vehicle and platform for developing active
self-learning. However, this is not without a cost which both lecturer and
institutions may not be willing to meet.
Field of Research: Business Education
When Francois Ortalo-Magné wrote “The business model of business schools is under
assault. At a time when the number of MBA candidates is falling, innovation in online
technology is opening the door to new forms of learning experiences, offered at a price
much lower—and a scale much greater—than in standard brick-and-mortar classrooms.
Much of the disruption is focused on exploiting the multitude of new ways that overcome
distance to enable people to deliver knowledge, collaborate, and learn—from anywhere,
at any time.‖ He was reinforcing Rich Lyons view that "Half of the business schools in
this country could be out of business in 10 years—or five......... many business schools
derive a large share of their revenue from part-time and executive MBA programs.
Students in these types of programs keep their jobs (and associated earnings) during
their education, and therefore face a lower opportunity cost than full-time MBA students.
They are also often constrained by their jobs to a limited set of schools located within an
easy commute.‖ He argued that ―online technology changes the geography of
competition by allowing the very best business schools to expand their reach, drawing
upon top students from any location. Gone is the local market advantage of the regional
schools—and with it—the crucial source of revenue from part-time and executive MBA
How then will these views impact upon the case method and its position in teaching?
The answer is not difficult. It lies with the movement away from the traditional Harvard
style case study and its teaching methodology towards a more participative style based
on recognition of the demands of the users.
Dr. J.G. Gallagher, School of Marketing, Tourism & Languages, Edinburgh Napier University
[email protected]
E. Fordyce, Director of Research, MBAHELP4U. [email protected]
Proceedings of 9th Annual London Business Research Conference
4 - 5 August 2014, Imperial College, London, UK, ISBN: 978-1-922069-56-6
In his book ―The Name of the Rose‖ Umberto Eco (1982) wrote that the Bible was not
meant to be read rather, it was meant to be interpreted. A sentiment reinforced by
Bauman (2005), when he wrote
―…..we have 89,000+ laws on the book to apply the basic Ten
Case studies may be seen in a similar light. They are generally written to reflect real life
situations and like life, do not supply perfect information. Instead, they require the
reader to read between the lines, make assumptions after re-ordering and combining
the information provided, and by drawing on experience generate solutions. It is
therefore, through this combination of stimuli, this marriage of theory, practice, and
experience that conclusions are generated. These conclusions provide the key to good
case solution generation for it is they that provide the underpinning and justification for
the actions and resolutions chosen.
‗case studies are not meant to be read rather, they are meant
to be interpreted.‘
However, students are not passive recipients of knowledge. They do not simply soak-up
and absorb information and concepts. Nor does knowledge simply download directly
into their brains. They are sentient with a desire to use their accumulated knowledge
and experience not plug and play automatons (Wertheim 2006). Business case studies
allow them to use theory in anger and to test the boundaries of their knowledge.
Case studies are designed to bring out the details from the viewpoint of the case
participants by using multiple sources of data (Tellis, 1997). Essentially it is used to
amalgamate disparate sources of information into a structure and analysis that makes
sense of a complex unstructured problem. Reva Brown 1995 put it succinctly when she
observed that:
―..the case study is many things. It is systematic story-telling; it is a way of writing (or
talking) about seeing; it is a tool for teaching; it is a philosophy for approaching research; it
is a technique for researching; it is a reason (or an excuse) for taking seriously
investigations into vague, blurred or fuzzy topics; it is a rigorous vehicle which sits
comfortably and equally alongside more quantitative research; and I could go on.‖
This is augmented by the view that
― rather than using large samples and following a rigid protocol to examine a limited
number of variables, case study methods involve an in-depth, longitudinal examination
of a single instance or event: a case. They provide a systematic way of looking at
events, collecting data, analyzing information, and reporting the results. As a result the
researcher may gain a sharpened understanding of why the instance happened as it
Proceedings of 9th Annual London Business Research Conference
4 - 5 August 2014, Imperial College, London, UK, ISBN: 978-1-922069-56-6
did, and what might become important to look at more extensively in future research.
Case studies lend themselves to both generating and testing hypotheses (Flyvbjerg,
The case study and the case method hold a tremendous potential for bringing life,
reality, credibility and utility to the pedagogic process. Moreover, when linked to
Managed Learning Environments (MLE) and Virtual Learning Environments (VLE)
developing as new technologies are introduced and applied, a new educational
paradigm emerges which is more efficacious to the achievement of active and deep
It seems that business case study development, analysis and use still suffer from a
number of shortcomings, not the least of which is a paucity of choice. In itself, this is a
serious weakness, and one which is further compounded by an even worse supply of
business case study teaching guides. Today, even with the inexorable march of
technology, very little has changed, though the application of new technologies, hold the
promise of radical transformation.
The relationship between key stakeholders of the lecturer and the student in case
methodology as noted by Merseth, 1991, could not be sustained when online, interactive
applications were introduced. A third stakeholder, the higher education institution, entered
the equation when these interactive, online applications were developed and dramatically
realigned all stakeholder expectations. Where before, the lecturer could, when developing
a paper-based case study, undertake this research from his own resources now, when
online interactive business case studies are undertaken that call for a greater resource
base, this may no longer be the case. As Bonk (2004) commented in the
―Perfect E-Storm ……. [there] are now dozens of innovative learning technologies to cloud
the online landscape.‖
This fact alone has resource, training, pedagogic and process issues which impact on
case development.
Diagrammatically, the relationships between these constituent elements of the lecturer,
the student and the institution can be shown as in the Case Study Flow Chart, diagram
1. Two streams of activity flow from the traditional business case study methodology A
and B both of which generate research and scholarly activity output.
Proceedings of 9th Annual London Business Research Conference
4 - 5 August 2014, Imperial College, London, UK, ISBN: 978-1-922069-56-6
Diagram 1: Case Study Flow Chart
Stream A: comprises the choice and evolution of case study development
Here, the traditional business case study methodology is pursued and is a decision that
will impact on both the student and the institution. On the one hand it requires
resources, such as time-table allowance, to develop the case study and these will be
allocated by the institution. On the other hand, it impacts directly on the student who will
use it and assess its efficacy.
The next step is the construction of the interactive case study. This draws on greater
institutional resources than those of the paper-based case study such as video,
scripting, design and animation, hypertext linking, web site construction, storage,
internet access, etc. but hopefully, as Bonk 2004 would support, provides a stronger
more effective and enjoyable learning experience for the student.
Proceedings of 9th Annual London Business Research Conference
4 - 5 August 2014, Imperial College, London, UK, ISBN: 978-1-922069-56-6
Finally, the interactive case study has to be bedded in with the multimedia delivery
system that provides a matrix of pedagogic materials that support the interactive case
study. This architecture is dynamic in nature and is subject to an environment which is
continually in a state of flux. Its efficacy is to a great extent conditional on the
institution‘s VLE and MLE (Lane-Maher and Ashar 2001, Moskal and Dziuban 2001,
Smith 2001, Twigg 2004,).
Stream B: comprises case analysis which is essentially the case study teaching guides
with their concomitant analysis, teaching outlines, pedagogic relationships and
recommendations for questions to be asked with suggested answers (Taber, 2003).
The next step is case teaching which is specific to that case study and its setting. To a
great extent this is dependent upon the place in the course module the case study is to
be used and the level at which it is directed.
Finally, Blended Learning provides the delivery platform and the interface between student
and pedagogy, Bennet et al 2003, Bonk 2004. This essentially, creates a milieu for
introducing a broader and more student controlled pedagogic process.
(A) + (B) feed into the process of movement from Business Case Study Methodology to
Business Cases and the Interactive Pedagogic Process and each carries with it the
potential for a stream of research output (Gallagher, 2006).
For the lecturer this online, interactive teaching provides a more rewarding and
stimulating teaching experience and as with the institution it allows a more efficient and
effective teaching pedagogy that increases the performance of all the constituent
For the institution, organisational performance will increase as both its efficiency and
effectiveness is enhanced for example, as these elements impact student retention will
increase as students respond to this higher quality pedagogic process and may help
answer Ortalo-Magné and Lyons views and predictions.
Interactive, multimedia case studies are still in their infancy. Construction and usage
parameters have not yet been set and mistakes are still being made at fundamental
levels. However, interaction has been highlighted as one of the keys to the success of
Internet-based distance education (Picciano, 2002). Nevertheless, this e-resource has
attempted to provide a richer and more enjoyable experience for the user by extending
their horizons and for those developing interactive case studies aid them through
recording the processes associated with the production of these business cases and
their associated online interactive applications.
Proceedings of 9th Annual London Business Research Conference
4 - 5 August 2014, Imperial College, London, UK, ISBN: 978-1-922069-56-6
Developing interactive, multimedia business case studies does not happen in isolation.
The lecturer who builds case studies can no longer simply
record a good story. He or she is driven by a market whose customers now demand
more in terms of information, analysis, and integration of pedagogic linkages, timeliness
of communication, ease of access and increased efficiency and effectiveness.
In seeking to achieve this electronic delivery the lecturer must produce not only the
most effective and rewarding learning experience possible but also the most efficient.
However, as Zawacki-Richter (2005), point out ―A frequently encountered reason for the
reserved attitude to media-based teaching is the high workload associated with it.
Academic reputations on the road to a professorship are acquired more by publishing
research results and attracting external funds than by good teaching. In contrast, 60%
to 70% of the working hours of a member of the academic staff are taken up with
teaching, without this being adequately appreciated in proportion. The motivation to
invest even more work in teaching is at times correspondingly slight.‖
This view is supported by Jenkins and Healey 2005, when they observed that
―Internationally there is a range of studies that show staff experience of institutions that
give limited recognition to quality teaching in promotion decisions (e.g. Ramsden et al.,
1995) and mainly emphasise research. There have been very few studies that have
looked at whether institutions provide rewards not only for better teaching or for better
research but for demonstrations of the integration between teaching and research‖
(Hattie and Marsh, 1996, p.529).
Lecturers may not have the motivation to devote the effort and time to climb the learning
curves of the software packages and systems requirements to produce online,
interactive deliverables if they are not perceived as route to academic advancement.
This perception is dependent to a great extent upon the actions of the institution and its
administrative systems.
Much has been said about the student but the lecturer also experiences fear and
trepidation with the development and use of case studies their analysis and use. After
all, in the eyes of the student body he or she is judged by the quality of the experience
they take away with them. For the lecturer analysis and delivery is the yardstick.
However, if the e-resource integrates lecture notes as an embedded resource, selfassessment tests and worked analysis this will go some way to aiding the university in
its objectives of providing students with more flexible and deliverable course materials.
Part of the problem lies in the fact that business case studies have no definitive solution.
Each person will arrive at his or her solution based on the intellectual and experiential
baggage that they carry with them when trying to analyse a case study. As Saint Jean &
Lapierre 1993 commented:
Proceedings of 9th Annual London Business Research Conference
4 - 5 August 2014, Imperial College, London, UK, ISBN: 978-1-922069-56-6
“One of the epistemological factors of the case method is the affirmation of the relativity
of knowledge… knowledge is relative…not only is knowledge relative, but the
organisation is a highly complex system where all components interact sensitive to the
Learning by doing; increased familiarisation with the application of analytical techniques
and appreciation of their implications; exposure to a number and variety of cases and
their solutions; will help hone analytical ability. Likewise, exposure to peer group
solution generation and lecturer driven solutions will also enhance the learning process.
It is therefore, the responsibility of the lecturer to provide the milestones and directions
for the students to follow especially at the start of their journey. Recognition of this by
the lecturer is crucial as the test of a case study lies with the instructor, the situation and
its setting. If the case produces an exciting and provocative learning experience for those
participating in its use then that is a good case. It emphasizes synergistic collaborative
learning (Boehrer & Linsky, 1990). Perhaps at this point the role of the lecturer should
be clarified. He is part of the learning equation. He has to provide as a minimum a
working solution that enhances the students learning expectations. Current wisdom
says that there is no standard form for a business case study. Business case studies
will vary in length, style, format, and data presentation. However, the common feature of
the case study is the route to understanding and arriving at a resolution for it. This
resolution is simply a process, driven not by the search for answers per se, but rather,
by continually asking questions such as,
‗What was the cause?‘
‗What was the effect?‘ and
‗What impact did this have on performance?‘
If these questions can be answered then solution generation and justification for such
are well underway. For the lecturer then, the aim is to create a vehicle that, through the
application of judicious questioning, fosters a learner centered and action oriented
experience geared to producing a stimulating, challenging and illuminating pedagogy for
the student.
However, students new to the case method may experience an element of fear when
first confronted with this form of complex, unstructured problem. It is at this point that I
tend to use an ‗armchair‘ (non-factual) case study.
Diagrammatically the interactive e-resource case study may be represented as shown
in Diagram 2: the E-Resource Case Study diagram.
At its heart is the case study which has been developed by the lecturer for use with the
student body. In the e-resource case study diagram the case study is depicted as being
Proceedings of 9th Annual London Business Research Conference
4 - 5 August 2014, Imperial College, London, UK, ISBN: 978-1-922069-56-6
embedded in a matrix where its compass points depict an integrative and
interdependent relationship. Furthermore, a ‗live‘ case study may lead to further
research on the target company, its industry or pedagogy.
Case teaching is not about pedagogy per say, rather it is partly about releasing the
lecturer from the regurgitation of theory to the interpretation of such through a more
dynamic environmental interface. Likewise, case analysis is not simply about providing
a solution to the case. If it were and if we believe that everything has a price, then the
solution to all cases is simply to sell the company. Finally, research is not a one off
event, rather it is a river at which we drink as the need and occasion demands. The
case study simply provides the access point to the water e.g. the target company of the
case study.
Diagram 2‘s four quadrants also display the necessity for commitment, co-ordination,
collaboration and co-operation between the stakeholders in the development,
production and use of the e-resource case study.
Diagram 2: E-Resource Case Study
Proceedings of 9th Annual London Business Research Conference
4 - 5 August 2014, Imperial College, London, UK, ISBN: 978-1-922069-56-6
The e-resource case method (Diagram 2) calls for the appreciation of the following
PASSIVE (Lecturer Driven)
Here the case methodology is of the traditional Harvard model where the student is to a
great extent a passive recipient.
If the objective is to produce effective teaching then commitment on the part of the
lecturer to achieve this is high, particularly if the approach is through the creation and
development of case development and use which calls for a greater input and
maintenance of the resources. Furthermore, this has clear resource implications for the
institution which may need a clarification of the institution‘s commitment to this
approach. Likewise, if the case study is a ‗live‘ one the target company is likely to be
heavily involved e.g. video interviews, worked examples, access to operational systems,
use of past and current marketing analysis etc.
Each stage of the case study demands extensive co-ordination. Data collection with the
target company at first sight looks fairly easy but this can often be deceptive for
complexity builds as case research develops e.g. secondary data generation is
inevitably extensive as this is the basis upon which most case studies are built.
Furthermore, if the lecturer‘s objectives are to be achieved then co-ordination between
case development and case analysis must be addressed. Here pedagogy is the
lubricant facilitating integration. It starts with what is the case study about and ends with
what has happened, what is likely to happen, and what recommendations for solution
resolution may be made.
For the student these stages tend to be passive with a reliance on the lecturer to
generally provide the pedagogic base and the case solution.
ACTIVE (Student Driven)
Crisp and Wood (2014) commented in their study that ―Five years ago just over half of
all respondents preferred full-time study, today that has fallen to just over
40%. Increasingly students are choosing a hybrid approach, taking advantage of new
technology and continuing to work while studying, embracing the concept of lifestyle
learning.‖ adding to the student driven approach.
Through their increasing demands and expectations students are forcing lecturers and
institutions to reassess their teaching provision. To this end the case study needs to be
enhanced and augmented by the augmentation of interactivity, accessibility and ease of
Proceedings of 9th Annual London Business Research Conference
4 - 5 August 2014, Imperial College, London, UK, ISBN: 978-1-922069-56-6
Collaboration is multi-faceted. It is easy to see collaboration between the lecturer and
the target company when developing the case study but it is also more subtly, the
collaboration between the delivery platforms, the research basis and environments in
which the case study is grounded. The lecturer and institution developing the interactive
case study must be prepared to expend greater time, effort and resources to its
Here, if the case study has been developed as an e-resource then by definition the
student is accepting responsibility for self-directed learning and self-progression. This
may mean that the lecturer has to build in a more open access to his teaching
methodology. Likewise it is inevitable that the target company will be approached for cooperation in its development. This also impacts on co-operation with in-house
specialists such as video interviewing and editing, software development such as
Dreamweaver, Flash, Flipping Book, Dragon Naturally, Fireworks, ClaroRead,
Articulate, Mindjet etc., as well as architectural constructs embedded in software
packages such as Articulate.
A practical example of the e-resource case study is provided by Gallagher & Fordyce
(2014) where they attempt to create a learning resource based on the marriage of both
the passive and active elements of Diagram 2.
The process of case study analysis is simply a means of making sense of large,
complex, unstructured, problems. It provides insight into the building blocks and the
relationships which bind and influence them and which in turn, are used by the
individual in conjunction with his or her own intellectual and intuitive abilities to form
these rational solutions. However, for many students fear manifests when faced for the
first time with this unknown methodology. Consequently, the first introduction to the
case method is extremely important and should therefore be given due consideration by
the lecturer as a means of settling the student into a deeper and more productive
method of analysis. To this end, doing the ice breaker case study Gallagher & Fordyce
(2014) and drawing out the analysis and showing relationships and possible
interpretations is fundamental. This initial case study may effectively be enhanced by
developing an interactive platform that takes the student from passive recipient towards
a more active learner with a deal of control over the learning process. Moreover, this
process attempts by example, to encourage students to construct their own solutions to
future cases by applying the same questioning and relationship building steps (or
diagnostic adaptations) encountered in the interactive case study. Diagnostic tools should
and must be adapted to circumstances existent in the case study under examination - one
size does not fit all.
Proceedings of 9th Annual London Business Research Conference
4 - 5 August 2014, Imperial College, London, UK, ISBN: 978-1-922069-56-6
The provision of the e-resource case study is based on the Ice Breaker Case Study ,
Gallagher & Fordyce (2014) which provides support for the student by presenting access
to the worked ‗solution‘, appropriate theory base and tests and quizzes delivered to
multiple platforms and accessible when the student wants them.
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