Which method of learning you prefer in your Business School? : Case or Lecture

In premier business schools, learning through case studies is a significant approach. This mode of learning provides 360 degree coverage of a problem or situation wherein participants are expected to arrive at a decision. In this mode of learning participants are required to undertake extensive pre-class reading and analysis. While discussing the issues both the instructor and participants face a situation which had neither been discussed by the instructor nor had been referred to by the participants in their text books. This is the beauty of this mode of learning where every case gives participants a new situation to deal with. Group learning and analysis is always considered as an essential tool of this process. Here Instructor facilitates participants while discussing the issue given in the case. The process enhances participants’ analytical skills by concentrating on the portion which was unlearned in the class.

Some business schools in India and abroad do not appreciate case method of learning. They feel that the traditional style of learning (Lecture Method) through exercises and problems can deliver the concepts in a better manner. So there are different views and experiences behind this phenomenon. It is observed that the lecture method of learning may give participants in-class satisfaction but it never forces them to think beyond the problem. Moreover there is no scope for the post class analysis and discussions. Further, there is no scope for writing decisions on the decision sheet for providing feedback.

Learning through case studies in modules like accounting & finance has always been appreciated by students. It is one area where engineers and non accounting background participants find many difficulties. It is very important to select specific cases to be covered in this module for learning and teaching. Business schools are not supposed to deliver all possible issues of financial accounting to the prospective managers. The best syllabi should cover only issues related to the construction of balance sheet, income statement, cash-flow, changes in accounting policies (revenues, depreciation and inventory), deferred taxes, ratio analysis and additional issues pertaining to the sector specific courses/programmes. Engineers understand the language of equation; hence accounting principles and concepts should be delivered through equation method only. It is observed that the non accounting background students (engineers) can easily deal with the management accounting related issues. Therefore, decision making based modules like management accounting does not create any problem. Finally, Participants should be able to understand the financial reporting and analysis which is the core objective of financial accounting course. Once the participants are well equipped with construction of balance sheet and its analysis they would be able to approach corporate finance issues to an extent. Using ratio analysis for all financial issues is not a good approach. Ratio analysis is an initial tool to analyze the financial health of a company. There are numerous other issues in corporate finance module and other finance modules which can help participants in a better understanding of a company’s financial health.

Finally, participants should be able to connect with the cases and they should be able to understand the issues and their requirements. Each and every case has some specific issue or 4-5 different issues; it’s up to the participant to apply the learning from the last case he/she discussed to the new case or situation. This step requires lots of dedication, learning and post class analysis.

“Be careful your dream business school should not be an institute which gives lectures on the cases but it should be able to provide you a platform for case discussion and analysis facilitated by expert case teachers”.

Please share your thoughts on the following:

1. How comfortable you are with the case based learning?

2. What is the relevance of the pre and post class analysis of the case?

By Prof. Amit Shrivastava ,Adani Institute of Infrastructure Management, Ahmedabad