Mar 10, 2011

The case method!

Over the last few weeks my classmates and I have engaged in numerous conversations about our favourite professors and their teaching methods. It seems there is no clear winner between the case method and the lecture system. While I do understand that certain courses require a lecture method, I clearly can see the value of the case method. That doesn't mean I have reservations.

I dread the lecture method, I find it mainly used in dry and boring subjects (cough, stats, cough). I must admit our prof Trevor has put a lot of effort in making this a non-boring subject. To a large extent he has succeeded. Yet, the challenge that I found with his class is that I can't relate the material to real life situations. I would comment on his class by saying its like studying a foreign language that I am not used to in day-to-day life. Really when was the last time you used terms like coefficients or multicollinearity at work. I cannot deny that they are of value, but it makes it hard to see and appreciate the value without clear business linkage.

Our managerial accounting class was the complete opposite. Our professors, both from the Richard Ivey school of business, pushed hard on the case methodology. We haven't spent time discussing how to build balance sheets and t-tables, we have focused instead on how to use our knowledge of accounting in making better managerial decisions. I found this to be of much use, how do I as a manager use accounting to identify issues and how can accounting systems (along with others) can be used to fix those issues. A lot of the students were surprised by this approach, as they expected and accounting course rather than how can accounting make you a better manager course!

My only concern with the case method, and this could be related to how RSM applies it (not sure how other schools apply it), is that I haven't seen comprehensive cases. By that I mean, a case that can be discussed across different classes. I think comprehensive cases would allow us to take a multi dimensional look into the given business and use lessons from all the semester courses to crack the case. I think such an approach would result in deeper learning of the courses and of the businesses/industries each case study is about.