If you ask a B-School student to name some differences between grad school & a B-school, the method of teaching is going to be right at the top of the list for most of us.
When I asked my friends what they thought about the case method of teaching, I heard a good few answers. But one explanation seemed to make a lot more sense than the others. It went something like, "When I was back in school and my math teacher used to teach us mathematics, she always taught us the formulae first & then we solved the example problems. This is how I learnt the concept first & then learnt its application. But when I came to B-School, I am taught the concepts through a real-life situation or a 'Case'." This is by far the simplest explanation someone gave me about how they found things different in a B-School.
The case method of teaching comes to us from the mecca of all B-Schools, the Harvard Business School. If one were to go on the Harvard Business Publishing page, case method teaching is a course by itself. They say, "Case method teaching immerses students into realistic business situations. Cases provide the reality of managerial decision making — which includes incomplete information, time constraints, and conflicting goals — as students learn how to analyze business situations."
While cases seem like stories on the outside & an elaborate explanation of the historical account of the situation, they also are a good exhibit of the number of loose ends any problem has. The number of factors that can directly or indirectly impact a decision is clearly captured.
To me, the best part of solving a case is the fact that there is no one right answer. And that the nuances that affect any scenario are multi-fold and that they will come to play, in one or the other form. On more occasions than not, we have to do a what-if analysis of the various ramifications each business decision could have. This has taught me the importance of pre-empting any issues arising out of a recommendation. Overall, it helps me in seeing a more holistic picture as against the issue in isolation; the various constraints actually shrinking the already small pool of answers into fewer.
Whatever be the case, the case method seems to be winning; with more and more courses & instructors taking up this method of teaching.
About the Author:
I am a PGP -II student at IIM Indore, prior to which I did my B.Tech in Information Technology from NITK Surathkal. I worked with SAP Labs India for 3 years as a CRM Consultant. I am currently the Head-IT, Placement Preparation Committee & the President for the Toastmasters-IIM Indore chapter.