Brandeis International Business School

An introduction to case-based classes

Learn more about this popular teaching method!

Case-based teaching is a popular learning method used by many business schools. It allows students to generate their own insights and develop critical thinking and communication skills through rigorous analysis of real-world problems. 

Most MBA classes at Brandeis International Business School are case-based and new students are introduced to this learning style during orientation. For some students, this learning method may seem intimidating but it can be quite enjoyable with some practice and preparation. Here’s what to expect from case-based classes at the business school.

professor pointing to board

What is the case study method?

The case-based study method differs from a traditional lecture format by focusing on the application of business concepts and theories to real-world cases. At the International Business School, most case-based courses use Harvard Business School case packets. In these courses, students are responsible for reading and analyzing each case before the class discussion. During class, students must be ready to give and support their opinion about the issues and topics in the case. Most of these classes have a significant portion of the grade dedicated to participation, so quality class participation is essential to getting a good grade.

What makes the case-study method effective?

The case study method is effective because it allows students to embody the role of decision-makers while reflecting on a real-world issue and thinking about solutions.

It’s always amazing to see how much content each session covers and the various ways the class approaches the problem-solving exercise. Students do most of the speaking, while the professor enriches the conversation by asking questions and guiding the discussion. We learn first-hand how to state our opinions, respect the conflicting views of our classmates and support and improve upon valuable ideas offered by others. Ultimately, these classes are excellent opportunities for students to develop their critical thinking, analytical, teamwork and communication skills in a high-reward, low-risk environment.

 How can students prepare for case-based classes?

One of the main challenges of case-based classes is actually preparing for the case discussion. This involves reading the case, analyzing the exhibits and the data, doing further research if necessary and developing an understanding of the key issue and potential solutions. As you can probably guess, this requires considerable time — especially since some of these cases can be over 30 pages (including exhibits)! However, this definitely helps students develop their time management and prioritization skills.

Non-native English speakers and introverted students may initially find it challenging to participate in class discussions. But it’s important to have a growth mindset and get out of your comfort zone. These discussions will help you build confidence and develop your public speaking skills.

I’ve found that the best way to approach case discussions is by reading and remembering that my preparation and participation is not only expected, but will also be instrumental to my learning process. The answer is not always clearly laid out in most cases, but the experience of trying to find a solution is always worthwhile.

Initially it took some time to get used to the case study method. But I have gained so much from these courses. I’ve learned from the diverse opinions and responses provided by my classmates. I’ve become comfortable defending my opinion while respecting those of others. I have learned to link theory with practice. And I have strengthened my debating and public speaking skills. I’m sure you’ll find these types of courses rewarding as well.

Student Insights features blog posts and videos produced by current students and recent graduates of Brandeis International Business School. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here belong solely to the author.

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