The way we make choices is funny, sometimes. I remember the first year of my MBA, when I often found myself wishing with every fibre of my being that I dint have to study certain courses, and at the same time waiting for the time to come when I could choose my electives in the second year. As it turned out, there were the following things that came into picture while choosing electives:
1)We do tend to get influenced by the perspectives given by our seniors, and this means that we overlook the fact that their experience may not be the same as ours.
2)Sometimes, the subject matter or importance of an elective doesn't necessarily mean that you would get some value edition from taking it. This is because of the influence of the delivery style, or quality of the professor on your learning.
3)Since electives are generally based on a consensus of students, such as a bidding mechanism, it is possible that a course you would really like to study may not be popular with your batch, in which case the course gets dropped.
4)There happens to be a course or an area that you would like to study but it's not on the list of electives to be floated in the year.
The bottom line of the above is that the above reasons were what made me realise that I wanted to do a course of Independent study, and it is a good option to consider for any second-year student.
What is a CIS?
A CIS basically allows students to probe deeper into a subject of their interest with a faculty of the students choice. This makes it possible for students to integrate real-life business problems, such as by way of a live project along with a curriculum. The course allows the students more control and flexibility as compared to other courses, since the student can decide how many meetings are required with the professor, and how the courses’ deliverables are set. It allows you to use various research techniques as and when required with the end objective of either publishing a case study with the mentoring professor, or present a working paper.
How does it work?
Each B-school defines at which term students can opt for a CIS, but it's usually in the second year. Similarly, the credits vary from 2 to 3. It begins with approaching the faculty and getting his/her consent for the course. Post this, the topic of the CIS is chosen and agreed upon. This topic will be reflected in your list of subjects taken in your Degree, so some caution needs to be exercised while choosing it. The faculty mentor and the student decide mutually on the submissions for the midterm and the end term, but the weightage is usually fixed. In place of the end term exam, there is a report to be submitted and a presentation to be delivered in front of a panel. As mentioned earlier, the number and duration of the meetings between the faculty and student are at the discretion of the two, since there are no regular classes taking place. A learning diary is often required to be maintained to keep track of the progress of the course. However, this course is generally taken by students who are motivated to work for the course on their own and are interested in getting a mild flavour of research.
I took up a CIS in the HR & OB area, on the topic of "Organisation Justice" with a live project with an Original Equipment Manufacturing company based out of Chennai. The problem highlighted by the company POC was the Great Place to Work ratings that the company revived post the survey of the same in 2018. The ratings were less than favourable for the Trust component and a course of action was required to measure it as well recommendations to improve the same. I used the interview method of data collection and with the Colquitts' Framework as the centrepiece, based the case I built. The same is submitted to a leading journal for publication.
- Self-motivation is necessary, since the course isn't as defined to get the basic frameworks right. You would have to find reliable sources to learn from and pave your way from there.
- Be wary of the deadlines, since you won't have your friends sharing the course to remind you of them. Also, they might be spaced out a lot too.
- The course might take more time and energy than you envisioned initially, so definitely don't attempt it with the idea that you would get to finish a course without attending classes.
- Your validation may come later than expected, i.e if you're expecting your paper to get published within the year, or your case to be featured in a particular journal, you have to realise that there are stringent guidelines for the same, and these things take time.
- Approach your faculty mentor at the earliest, since there may be s limit to the number of students he can take up for a CIS.