Support for educators from case authors
By Emma Simmons
INSEAD’s innovative new case websites offer educators free access to previously unavailable original materials for their teaching.
INSEAD boasts an enviable track record of case success. The school won the prize for the overall winning case in four of the last ten years of The Case Centre’s awards, and its authors have produced 6 of the top 10 bestselling cases from the last 40 years. Recently, case authors and administrators at the school began reflecting on how to enhance access and use of their cases to educators worldwide.
Pierre Chandon, one of the school’s most prolific, award winning, case authors realised that the challenge of a case class is not just teaching participants - instructors themselves often need additional support to unlock a case’s maximum potential. It has long been recognised that the existence of a traditional teaching note makes a case more attractive to a prospective instructor. 40% of cases in The Case Centre catalogue have a teaching note, but 95% of the 50 most popular cases have one.
“The case is only a starting point,” says Pierre. “You need more materials to tell the full story and to add classroom drama; actually, the teaching note and support materials can be more important to the pedagogy and the class than the case itself. We need to innovate beyond the traditional teaching note if we are really to facilitate case use by other instructors and make the case content more real.” The team considered how they might provide easy and direct access to more original materials that authors use in their own teaching. How might their wisdom and experience of teaching the case also be shared to help faculty around the world?
One case, one website
INSEAD’s innovation was to develop a new platform enabling a dedicated website to be created to accompany an individual case. Each one provides direct and free access to a wealth of additional information and audio visual materials previously only available to the author. Typical content might include an enhanced teaching note, video clips of the case protagonists or company advertising, marketing or financial materials relating to the subject company, presentations the author has developed for class, and some case websites even have a video of the author teaching the case.
While anyone can view the websites and some materials can be directly accessed by students, much of the material is password protected and available only to certified instructors. Login details for the websites can be found in each case’s accompanying teaching note, provided free to educators through The Case Centre’s online search facility.
At the time of writing, 14 case websites (see below) have been completed. Four of the accompanying cases have won awards from The Case Centre. According to Isabel Assureira, INSEAD’s head of case publishing and licensing, a further 12 are already in the pipeline. “By creating a website for a case, we sought to go beyond less flexible and older technologies such as CD-Roms, or YouTube postings,” says Isabel. “Testing has shown us how powerful these case websites can be and we want to grow and roll out the programme for most new cases and some already published ones. To facilitate the initiative, we have developed a content management system, tailored to case author needs. Our faculty are busy people so we have created features to allow them to work off-line, any time, without bureaucratic hurdles. They can focus – fast - on the value-added components; my team handles the rest.”
Initial feedback from external users of the new websites has been overwhelmingly positive. Like many other experienced educators, Vicki G Morwitz, at New York University, Stern School of Business, confesses to still being apprehensive ahead of using a new case. “I was nervous about teaching L’Oréal in China for the first time to 150 students,” she reveals, “however, the auxiliary case materials on its website were immensely helpful to me in preparing the class. For example, I extracted material from the presentation provided as a base for the few slides I used to kick off the case discussion, which saved me hours of preparation.”
Mirjam Tuk at Imperial College Business School has also experienced the positive impact the case websites can have on the preparation and teaching of her consumer behaviour classes for the Masters in Strategic Marketing: “The materials provided on the website definitely make the case easier to prepare for class. It increases the quality of what I can offer my students in terms of finding the really important messages of the case.”
Getting case protagonists into class
Videos have long been available as a powerful add-on to paper cases, allowing participants to hear directly from people involved in a case scenario and to bring ‘reality’ into the class. Indeed, there are currently more than 600 videos available through The Case Centre’s search. The new INSEAD websites incorporate such audio visual elements and allow authors to edit this material precisely to each case’s pedagogy. “For the new websites for my cases, rather than just using a long interview, for example, I have taken the time to create short clips, often just a few minutes long, so that each video segment focuses on one particular point the instructor needs to cover,” says Pierre.
For Mirjam Tuk, “audio visual elements definitely help enliven the class. Having material such as the company’s original advertising footage definitely adds a dimension and always makes the discussion livelier,” she says. “Having a series of short focused videos especially helps me concentrate the class on the theory we are extracting.”
Vicki Morwitz agrees that the audio visual segments bring the case alive for the students: “We watched several of the interview video clips in class and the students really enjoyed hearing about the important issues in this case from the actual people involved in making the decisions.”
Learning directly from the author
Some of the case websites include a film of the author teaching a class. According to Vicki Morwitz, “It would be remiss of me not to mention how invaluable the video was of Professor Chandon actually teaching the case I was preparing. Ahead of teaching a new case, there is nothing like watching a colleague teach it themselves to help one prepare and dispel nerves. This support enabled me to achieve one of my best case class discussions ever."
The author perspective
Hilke Plassmann and Hernán A Bruno, co-authors of the award winning case Michel et Augustin Cookies are among those INSEAD faculty who have already developed a website of materials to accompany their case. In spite of the additional work involved, they are both convinced of the value of the project, particularly because it fully exploits the advantages technology can offer the case instructor. “The INSEAD case websites are a flexible resource not least because they make additional audio visual, pedagogical and topical materials so easy to access - and that 24/7,” says Hilke. “We can update our case site at any time and then all the very latest case information is just a click away for the instructors.”
Hernán Bruno feels that the websites illustrate the way technology continues to enhance learning. “Technology is already revolutionising teaching,” he says. “Our case websites will become more sophisticated over time and more interactive elements will be added – such as students being able to play with data from the case. Much has been said about MOOCs in which students watch a professor lecture,” he comments, “the cases with additional online tools for participants and instructors may start to take the form of ‘the lecture’ itself,” he predicts.
In spite of the possibilities offered by the technology, Pierre Chandon does not believe the new websites spell the end of the paper case. “The basic case document will still be used, though probably getting shorter – even down to one page,” he suggests. “We will always need something simple and compelling for participants to begin their case learning journey with. But we believe the dedicated case websites will help the educator to lead the students along the different paths they need to explore to reach their destinations.”
And for INSEAD itself, the case websites also fulfil a strategic purpose, building a wider reputation for the school’s cases, while also disseminating pedagogical expertise far beyond the school’s three physical campuses. According to Tim van Zandt, dean of faculty, “The case websites enable us to break new ground; in addition to helping participants around the world build their management knowledge through cases written by our faculty, they enable us to help the educators themselves to benefit from our wide experience and expertise.” Through the case websites, INSEAD’s strap line ‘The Business School for the World®’ has just taken on a whole new meaning.
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Share your views
What do you think of this initiative? Would you like more authors to prepare additional materials to accompany their cases? If you've used one of the dedicated case websites what did it add to your teaching experience? Have your say!
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