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Celebrating the power of cases

Feb 5, 2021

Three cases, a laptop, a book, a pen, a highlighter marker, and an Ivey-branded mask lying on a table

As the pandemic forced classes online and faculty and students in schools around the world to teach and learn in new ways, the merits of Ivey’s signature Case-Method Learning have been brought to the forefront. 

The case method is a more active, participant-centred learning approach that brings interactivity to online learning.

And as we celebrate #WorldCaseTeachingDay, it’s a time to reflect on the contributions of this learning approach, particularly in the current environment.

“The current pandemic has reminded us all just how important social learning is to engaging our students in their educational journey. Lectures, readings, and videos are all absorptive and, in a world of distractions, they have proven even less effective when learning online,” said David Wood, HBA ’97, MBA ’12, Lecturer, Operations Management. “Instead, faculty have found renewed interest in the case method, or immersive learning. Cases are not only an excellent tool to demonstrate the relevance of the fundamentals of business, but they engage students in a discussion that piques their curiosity and commitment to learning."

Wood leads case teaching workshops for Ivey Publishing and won The Case Centre’s 2019 Outstanding Case Teacher Competition.

An effective method of learning during the pandemic

In addition to cases engaging students, Wood said online learning tools help students to better prepare for the case discussion, both individually and in small groups. Content once delivered in class can be provided in advance of the case discussion to help students to better grasp the tools needed to analyze the case.

“Discussion forums and small group activities have given students a new mode of social learning. Even the faculty can look at the work done online to adapt their teaching plan to match the students’ comprehension of the case,” he said. “As a result, students are better prepared for class, the discussion is more fulsome, and students are excited to learn. Teaching and learning with cases has proven to be an even more effective method of learning in this pandemic.”

A powerful teaching tool

Ivey Professor Alison Konrad won the 2020 Ivey Publishing Career Achievement Award for her contributions to the case method. She sees merits in case teaching because cases engage students so they are more likely to prepare for class. Konrad said cases provide substantial learning about the context and institutions of business and connect them to the course concepts directly. In addition, students continue to develop the knowledge in class by providing answers to the facilitator’s questions.

“While we know people only remember 10 per cent of what we hear, we remember a very high percentage of what we say,” said Konrad. “Also, once students have spoken in class, they are more engaged because they are watching their personal impact on the lesson.”

Real-world learning

One of the major benefits of Case-Method Learning is the use of real business scenarios to ensure the learnings are relevant in today's world. That’s why Ivey Publishing has been working hard to develop new cases on the most important topics that future business leaders need to understand. Some of the latest offerings teach students:

  • To recognize and explore the challenges faced by both individuals and groups that experience intolerance and discrimination;
  • How to evaluate business decisions during the pandemic;
  • The role and expectations of modern business leaders in the face of social problems;
  • The risks and merits associated with incorporating controversial topics into advertising; and,
  • Factors that contribute to growth for a young startup.

Here’s a summary of five recently launched cases co-authored by Ivey faculty on important topics.

Breaking the Silence (A): Taboo Topics (September 25, 2020)
Authors: Alison Konrad, Kanina Blanchard, and Karen MacMillan

Discrimination is nothing new, but the #Me Too Movement and Black Lives Matter protests made 2020 the year to break the silence on centuries-old oppressive structures and demand change. This case looks at the struggles business schools have faced in dealing with intolerance. It presents a series of mini-cases based on real events that occurred on campus on topics such as gender, race, harassment, socio-economic diversity, white privilege, and LGBTQ+26 inclusion to encourage students to consider how they’ll speak up or respond to others who do.

Broadway through COVID-19: Can the Show Go On?  (October 14, 2020)
Authors: Kyle Maclean and Jessica Ross

COVID-19 has closed the curtain on Broadway for an indefinite period, but is there a way for the show to go on? This case looks at the Broadway League’s challenge to determine what theatre might look like amid the pandemic and how to communicate that vision to stakeholders. It prompts students to evaluate the risks and impacts of business decisions under different scenarios, including the unprecedented scenarios of the current environment.

Michael McCain: Tweeting on the Maple Leaf Foods Account (November 17, 2020)
Authors: Gerard Seijts, Stephen Foerster, Kersi Antia, Lee Watkiss, and Jana Seijts

Should a CEO’s views be separate from corporate views? This case explores that question and the risks of corporate leaders engaging in activism. It uses the example of Michael McCain, President and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods. In January 2020, McCain tweeted on the company’s social media platform, venting his anger with the U.S. administration over a civilian airplane being mistakenly shot down in Iran. The accident caused the death of a Maple Leaf Foods employee’s wife and son.

Nike and Colin Kaepernick: Worth the Risk? (November 18, 2020)
Authors: Jennifer Jeffrey and Matthew Thomson

Nike’s 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” campaign was an important milestone that required an impactful message. But would having a controversial spokesperson hurt or helps Nike’s sales and brand reputation? This case looks at Nike’s decision whether or not to sign NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick as the face of its upcoming campaign. The dilemma comes at a time of public criticism of Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the U.S. national anthem to protest social inequality and police brutality. The case challenges students to reflect on different marketing strategies and the risks of companies taking advocacy-related stands.

Viral Nation: The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Entrepreneurial Venture Sale Decision (November 26, 2020)
Authors: Simon Parker and Vania Sakelaris

To sell or not to sell. That was the dilemma facing the entrepreneurs behind Viral Nation when they received three competing acquisition offers just as the pandemic hit. They had already grown the company to become the largest social media influencer talent agency in North America. Now they had to consider whether a strategic partnership could move the company into the top spot in the world, or if they could do it alone. And what additional challenges would the pandemic bring?