Innovation in Case Teaching Competition 2014

Nicole HaggertyNicole Haggerty, Ivey Business School, Canada, is the winner of our 2014 Innovation in Case Teaching Competition.

Her outstanding entry is an inspirational project that enables Ivey Business School students to teach their peers in African business schools using the case method. This unique collaboration achieves a number of innovative educational goals for all the students involved while also creating new and mutually beneficial relationships between different cultures.

This unique approach to case-based education involves fourth year honours business students at Ivey teaching the case-based course, An Introduction to Business Decision Making, to business undergraduates at universities in Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Ghana. Before leaving to teach in Africa, the students complete an elective business course devised by Nicole, in which they learn about case teaching and writing, find out more about African business culture and are evaluated as case teachers.

In addition to helping African students master case learning, Ivey students also provide valuable research assistance to support African faculty in the production of indigenous African cases. So far, six cases with teaching notes have been registered and a further 15 are in progress. Over two years, 43 Ivey students have taken part in the scheme and over 800 African business school students have earned a Certificate of Completion for voluntarily completing the course.

Nicole Haggerty describes what winning the competition means to her and the impact her initiative has had on Ivey students and African undergraduates.

Publicity for Africa

For me, winning the competition will help promote this initiative to a wider audience. I am most pleased about gaining publicity for the difficulties faced by business schools in Africa who want to build their capabilities to teach with and write indigenous business cases. I hope that by demonstrating what this course has accomplished, it will inspire other case teaching colleagues and case-oriented business school to consider developing similar initiatives with partners in other African locations. Ivey class in EthiopiaThe countries on that continent will benefit from a stronger pool of indigenous management talent to transform resources and opportunity into sustainable economic growth and social stability.


I was inspired in part by the ‘Leader’ programme – a 20-year-old Ivey initiative that enables recent Ivey graduates (and some students) to teach a case-based business course to entrepreneurs in Eastern Europe. This programme started during the 1990s in Eastern Europe as the educational needs of entrepreneurs grew. After becoming aware of the desire of African Business Schools to develop their case-based teaching capabilities, and with support from several Ivey colleagues, I began to consider how I might create something similar. However, I could see important differences. I wanted to create a credit course with faculty oversight in the curriculum for both Ivey and African participants. I wanted a peer-to-peer model in which students helping students was the focus. Finally, I wanted to create a means for developing indigenous African business cases. The course I created, and which has subsequently evolved, has achieved these goals. Find out more about the challenges Nicole overcame to launch this initiative

Transformation and transcendence

For Ivey students I think there is almost universally a sense of transformation and transcendence. Most are going, for the first time, to live in a place that is vastly different from anything else they’ve experienced. They go with an open mind to both share their understanding of business via cases and with an eye to learning what is different about the African country they work in. Most participants experience deep shifts in their thinking in relation to personal character attributes like humility, gratitude, justice, and collaboration. They also share their fears and frustrations – some return with a deep sense of frustration at the poverty, petty corruptions and ‘disorder’ they see and they continue to struggle with how Africa’s future business leaders will deal with these challenges. Some students see a future in going back to or doing business in Africa. Almost always, they find it difficult to share the depth of their feelings about their experience beyond ‘it was great’. They find it hard to capture what they’ve experienced in a way that an ‘outsider’ can understand. Find out more about the extensive preparation Ivey students undergo before travelling to Africa

Broadening understanding

Ivey students benefit by broadening their understanding of business – especially in economies where substantial employment is driven via the informal economy and micro-entrepreneurs. They develop more substantive cross-cultural skills and a global mindset. I believe they develop their leadership character in ways not attainable within a traditional classroom setting. They also make friends with future African business leaders – something I hope that over time will lead to future collaborations.

Shyness followed by delight

The feedback I get from African students is that at first they feel quite shy, followed by delight and finally a hunger for more case-based learning opportunities. Most African students we work with have never had a chance Ivey students in Rwandato articulate their thoughts about a business situation in a formal setting. They have had a solid business foundation across core topics, but have not very often seen these in action in specific business situations presented in cases.

They find the idea of discussing the cases and coming to decisions intimidating at first. But soon, they learn that it is a conversation with individuals of their age, and they become both more daring and more inspired to speak. They develop more confidence in their judgment and decision-making skills. They feel more creative and are very interested in learning about how Ivey students think about situations. Some are so inspired by the end of the course that they ask their professors to start using cases! This is the sort of grass roots support that I hope the programme will create.

Key skills

African students develop key skills that case-based education is unique in providing, such as judgement, analytical capability, decision-making, communication and personal confidence. They find out that there are more ways to learn and that if they are to benefit from cases they must be prepared to put in substantial work for each class. Finally, they also make friends with future Canadian business leaders. I know they continue to communicate with Ivey students after the course has finished.

Study at Ivey

Through the generous support of the Charles and Rita Field-Marsham Foundation, in Toronto, I raised $5000 for international student travel bursaries that have allowed us to offer one-term exchanges to three African students who have completed the course. This January, we accepted our first African students, two from Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta School of Agriculture and Technology and one from Ghana’s All Nations University. They were selected from a competitive pool of 32 applicants from five institutions. They will attend Ivey from January to April for the winter term exchange, taking Ivey case-based courses. The students pay their home university tuition and the travel award covers the cost of their airfare, accommodation, and food and ancillary fees while in London at the Ivey Business School. I am not aware of a similar undergraduate business travel bursary for African students who see it as an enormous benefit and incentive.

Expansion opportunities

There are so many opportunities to expand the scheme and for other institutions to work with partner business schools in Africa and in other locations. In developing contexts, the need is great for both faculty education, such as case teaching and writing workshops, and for sustainable partnerships to tackle many of the other institutional barriers to case adoption, including student interest levels and the availability of indigenous cases in a variety of core topics.

Achievement and meaning

I have read that there are three paths to happiness: a life of pleasure, a life of achievement and a life of meaning. Being able to make a meaningful contribution is a gift I feel I’ve been given. I am truly grateful to have the ability to pursue this activity; that I work at an institution that encourages this sort of innovation; and that I’m surrounded by a community of Ivey learners in students and alumni who believe in their soul that case-based education is a critical learning paradigm. I hope this is a sustainable contribution and that eventually my partners will tell me it’s time to move on to new forms of collaborating because they have achieved their goals!

Dr Nicole Haggerty

Nicole Haggerty is an Associate Professor at Ivey Business School, Canada, where she studied for her PhD in Management Information Systems. She previously spent nine years working in industry where she collaborated with systems developers to create new services and applications for Fortune 500 clients.

She has 20 years’ teaching experience in a wide range of undergraduate, graduate and executive programmes at Ivey, IPADE, Mexico, and INALDE, Bogatá, South America. She has also taught faculty case writing and teaching workshops in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, India and Canada. Nicole has won a number of teaching awards, including the 2012 Emerging Leaders Awards in Academic Leadership from the Ivey Alumni Association.

Nicole’s colleague at Ivey, Dr Mary Crossan, Professor of Strategic Leadership, describes Nicole as inspirational to both students and faculty:

‘Professor Nicole Haggerty is widely recognised for her innovative approach to course development and case teaching… she creates an incredibly stimulating learning environment, and her Service Learning in Africa initiative is an outstanding example of her work.’


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