Embedding the case method and accreditation – focus on Africa and the Middle East

By Emma Simmons

Embedding the Case Method and Accreditation – Focus on Africa and the Middle EastAs nations develop, the need for business and management education grows.

We explore with regional experts the potential and unique role for cases, and how they might play a part for institutions on the path to accreditation.

A role for cases?

Tim Mescon observes a keen and growing interest in writing and teaching with cases throughout the African and Middle Eastern regions he curates for the AACSB: “We see conferences on the future of management education, quality assurance projects, regional councils and affinity groups now all exploring cases.”

Nermeen ShehataAt the School of Business at the American University in Cairo (AUC), Dr Nermeen Shehata heads up the El-Khazindar Business Research and Case Center (KCC) which provides case studies and other participant-centred learning tools. “Our vision is to contribute to the development of top calibre regional students by bridging the gap between academic theory and business practice,” she says.

Dr Muhammad Roomi, at the Prince Mohammad Bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia, values the flexibility of cases for students who do not have the academic backgrounds of their Western counterparts: “To capture attention, our pedagogical choices must be participant-centred; cases give us creative ways to engage students we are preparing for a society where grasping what to do with knowledge will be crucial.”

In Morocco, at ESCA, Professor Thami Ghorfi, identifies: “Cases foster competencies such as creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, entrepreneurial spirit; they offer our students the best opportunities to gain skills including teamwork, and learning that there is not just one right answer.”

Lana ElramlyAt the Association of African Business Schools (AABS), Lana Elramly observes a growing interest in using cases, but across Africa overall they remain relatively rare. The start potential is there: “Where cases have been used as a result of student-centred assessment recommendations to improve teaching methods, students excelled”

For Dan LeClair of the Global Business School Network (GSBN): “Cases can help nurture a framework of knowing- doing-being for local students, helping them not only learn about concepts and skills but also apply them in context and develop new perspectives.” Professor Antonis Simintiras at the College of Business, Gulf University of Science and Technology, Kuwait, agrees: “Cases are important as one of the teaching methods for our region’s students, but they will need to evolve in form and content to respond to their specific needs.”

Cases must be relevant

For Lana Elramly, relevance is key. “Doing business is about people and cases need to keep relevant for their specific context. Students want and need cases relevant to their cultures; local identities and historical relevance play a significant part in businesses and relationships in Africa which we rarely see in cases from the West, for example.”

Antonis SimintirasFor Antonis Simintiras, relevance applies to all-round pedagogical accessibility: “Traditional longer cases are not appropriate in the Gulf region. Instead, short cases that engage and challenge with subjects that relate to our students’ environment, lives and lifestyles prove to be more suitable.” Nermeen Shehata reports that before publication, KCC poses questions: “We need to be assured of what a case will do for students, its relevance and key message. Cases need also to be a force for local betterment and building connections between businesses and students in the region.”

IKEA in the UAECases about multinationals still have a role to play, but they have limited relevance without local or regional understanding. Muhammad Roomi illustrates: “Visit IKEA in Europe and then in Jeddah,” he says. “The stores may look the same, but the ways people work and shop there are completely different.”

For Dan LeClair, the challenge is to get more relevant content to the classrooms of the developing world. “Most cases have been written for and by the developed world,” he says. “However, when regions produce their own relevant cases, they will not only benefit their students but will surely also be taken up by schools worldwide for their invaluable insights.”

Thami GhorfiThami Ghorfi reminds us that neither the Middle East nor Africa are single locations, but each comprise a vast array of hugely different nations and cultures. “Precision of identity is essential,” he cautions. “Case issues such as business ethics must always be examined in their local context.”

Tim Mescon feels such considerations illustrate why cases have so much to offer: “There is a widespread need for local engagement and focus across the business education of developing regions, and writing and using home grown cases for teaching can provide this relevance and value.”

Recognising cases and accreditation

Business schools, especially young ones, in developing regions, face the challenge of raising standards and recognition. Accrediting organisations usually include teaching quality in evaluations and some include the case method. Muhammad Roomi feels that accreditation should consider participant-centred learning: “Learning is facilitated by teaching; rankings consistently fail to establish metrics for teaching quality, but accreditation has the flexibility to evaluate relevance, and the impact of learning.”

Tim Mescon“AACSB accreditation is usually a multi-year path that recognises institutions that demonstrate a focus on excellence in all areas, including teaching, research, curriculum development, and student learning,” says Tim Mescon. “We can envisage the benefit of indicators such as getting credit for engaging with local businesses and producing relevant materials, which can both be expressed through cases.”

Antonis Simintiras highlights the challenge of finding measurement norms that are robust across different cultures and that keep a focus on relevance: “Many of the international faculty in the Middle East have Western backgrounds and they need to constantly reconsider their teaching approaches – even between local regions so that learning outcomes are achieved; appropriate teaching notes to cases will always be important in this context.”

Africa connecting with the worldThami Ghorfi broadens the case context: “We are teaching for local impact but also to open our students to worldwide business learning and connectivity. When the accreditation system can recognise this balance in the intellectual contribution of cases, it will be succeeding.”

Lana Elramly reports: “Accreditation is useful in raising standards, and to help on that path, AABS uses ‘realistic’ goal measurement underpinned by African values and contexts; we look at relevance to the local environment and how bringing together the three key stakeholder groups: students, faculty and practitioners/businesses, achieves local impact, and sustainability. Cases are frequently much more up-to-date and relevant than academic publications.”

Dan LeClairAccording to Dan LeClair: “It is right that case activity is recognised, now we must grow the impact. Schools in the developing world face additional challenges that need to be kept in mind such as how cases will be paid for. Distribution platforms are still not well developed, so cases involving emerging economy businesses are not used as much as the schools that create them would like, especially across borders.”

Nermeen Shehata reports: “AUC has evolved a points system to recognise many kinds of faculty output which includes technical reports, translations and cases alongside peer reviewed journal publication.”

Embedding the case method

Embedding the case method in a research and teaching culture sends a clear message of intent. “ESCA has used cases since its inception 27 years ago,” reports Thami Ghorfi. “Ten years ago we created a centre with resources to support faculty to write and review cases, to innovate new formats, and to publish and distribute them. At graduation we now honour faculty for developing quality cases as a high level contribution to our research and teaching.”

Muhammad RoomiMuhammed Roomi concurs: “At MBSC we realised we needed to build our own engine of case development with more relevant content and new creative case and caselet formats incorporating different media that will keep our students engaged over time.”

Antonis Simintiras reports: “We have been taking steps to establish a case writing infrastructure but alongside evolving our pedagogical approach and developing a very interesting industry advisory board to help us understand the skills we need to give our students.” But, according to Dan LeClair: “Having recognised the value of case activity, a school in a developing region faces obstacles, such as a lack of training, difficulty in gaining access to companies unfamiliar with cases, and writing cases will often be less well regarded than peer reviewed journal publication.”

Lana Elramly reminds us that there will also be regional variations: “Producing cases depends heavily on the right leadership mindset and resources available, including the readiness of the surrounding environment in relation to the local social, political and economic context of every nation.”

Climbing togetherTim Mescon is clear: “To nurture local engagement and focus on building a case culture and materials, schools and faculty are in need of experienced support; faculty need access to training - live or virtual. Schools need a case champion on the ground. We have been collaborating on creating the new journal Case Focus for the Middle East and Africa, which could become a game-changer in straddling the worlds of teaching and research and giving a peer reviewed context for cases.”

For Nermeen Shehata, it is also about mission: “KCC has always envisioned becoming the main regional case centre. The centre is perceived to be one of the important parts of the university and attractive to prospective students; we find that they do understand what the case method will contribute to their education and future prospects.”

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Case Focus Journal

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Case Focus offers a journal publication outlet for high-quality, peer reviewed teaching cases, with a focus on management and business situations in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region.

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Cases are welcomed on all areas of business, management and government that are set in the MEA region.

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We are looking for enthusiastic reviewers, who are passionate about cases.

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