Intersecting Minds: Education, Business and Technology at the North Carolina State Jenkins Graduate School of Management

The Case Study Approach | January 18, 2009

Roughly two weeks into our spring semester, and we find ourselves up to our ears in reading and project assignments. Unlike last semester, which featured economics, statistics and accounting, we are taking classes that revolve around everyday business functionalities: marketing, operations and finance. As a result, the focus of our studies has shifted away from pure exams (with finance being the exception) to the case study method. For those of you unfamiliar with business school curricula, a case study is a real world example of a business facing a complex decision centered around a particular topic of choice (marketing, supply chain, etc). We are then asked to analyze the situation and develop a recommended course of action based on our findings.

Case studies are difficult. They present a lot of information, and they are intentionally ambiguous. Some of the information presented is relevant to the decision-making process, and some is not. It’s the job of the student to pick out the key pieces of information and then argue a point of view around those facts.

Fortunately, case studies are also a lot of fun – at least more fun than cramming for exams. Part of this stems from the fact that case studies are based upon actual business problems rather than academic concepts. Another part stems from the fact that cases are meant to be discussed in groups, with ideas shared and arguments made back and forth. As someone who appreciates working in teams, discussing ideas, and developing solutions to complex problems, case studies are an ideal format for learning. I’m glad that we’ve moved towards a case-based approach this semester.

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