Our website is having a makeover! www.thecasecentre.org will be unavailable from 10h (BST) on Saturday 31 July until 17h on Sunday 1 August while our team makes the new site live.

Five minutes with Bill Schiano

Bill Schiano is Professor of Computer Information Systems at Bentley University.

What’s been your experience with the case method, and how do you apply it to your area of expertise of computer information systems?

I have been teaching using the case and discussion method for over 25 years, and have always found it essential in helping students learn lessons they will retain and apply throughout their careers.

I find the case method particularly valuable when teaching about technology. Sometimes these discussions are rooted in purpose-written case studies, but often they are based on white papers, technical documentation, frameworks, or program code. No matter what, the process remains the same; I facilitate a discussion by asking questions. If my students cannot conduct detailed, engaging, extemporaneous conversations about technology using language anyone can understand, they will never achieve their career potential, and businesses will never realise the full value of technology.

online coursesYou’re a big supporter of using technology in your case teaching. How can tech improve both the case teaching and learning experience?

For the teacher, technology offers great opportunities to increase efficiency in preparation, administration, and grading. Time invested in becoming more adept with document design and creation, spreadsheets, voice recognition, learning management system features, and communication management pays itself back quickly, and then returns enormous dividends when the processes and results are reused in subsequent terms. The saved time can be devoted to improving the students’ learning.

In a traditional classroom, writing on a tablet displayed in the room can be transformative. It alleviates issues with limited board space, lets you face the class while writing, makes it easier and less intimidating to “hand a student the chalk” and (instantiates) the concept of sharing the job of knowledge creation. Shared document creating, polling, chat, messaging, multimedia, and simulations can all be transformative, inside and outside the traditional classroom. These and other technologies can help us make our preparation and discussions more engaging, increase our efficiency in sharing thoughts, draw out reticent students, and capture our learning.

What impact do you think the Coronavirus outbreak will have on the online case teaching landscape going forwards?

I think we are likely to see more, and better, online case teaching. Some once sceptical faculty and students will now be interested in, and perhaps demand, online options in their programs. The sudden influx of great case teachers to online is driving innovation as they work to adapt their techniques online. This is going to help us evolve best practices, and push the software platforms to develop more discussion-friendly features. As online becomes more robust, we’ll see more hybrid programs, with the in-person components focusing even more on interaction and discussion.

If you could be transported into another profession for one week, which would you choose, and why?

Motion picture film producer. I’ve always been fascinated by movies, and doing it well requires so many of the skills we try to teach business students. Having to apply those skills under tremendous time and budget pressure to produce a creative work would be great fun and a wonderful opportunity to challenge and develop my understanding of the concepts.


How do you relax?

I do my best to get away from screens for at least a few hours each day. I will sometimes make an exception for my dedicated e-book reader, but luckily, I still have a long backlog of hard copy books. And after a couple of decades of good-natured hounding from non-US friends, colleagues, and students, I finally learned to take several weeks of holiday each year during which I am offline.

Do you have a favourite quote or guiding principle?

Trust the class. My mentors always returned to this phrase, which distils nearly everything that’s important to remember, yet hard to implement, about case teaching. Whenever I struggle in class or a course, I always try to ask myself how giving the students more responsibility or power could help.

About Bill

Bill Schiano is Professor of Computer Information Systems at Bentley University.

He teaches both managerial and technical courses exclusively using discussion and case method, and has done so in purely online and hybrid formats.

Bill is an avid experimenter with technology that supports case teaching. His book, Teaching with Cases: A Practical Guide, co-authored with Espen Andersen, focuses on advice that can be easily implemented. 

Would you like to be featured in '5 minutes with'? If so, email us today.

Share this page:

Read all about it...


Get our newsletterFirst page of current issue of Connect newsletter

Discover all the latest news and views in our free newsletter, Connect. Read it online or sign up to have it delivered direct to your inbox!

If you would like to contribute to a future issue of Connect please contact Antoinette Mills.