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History of Case Study – from Columbus to Nowadays

After the introduction of the new teaching method, the Harvard Business School immediately sensed an influx of students.

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Christopher Columbus Langdell is considered the founder of the case method. History of case study starts when he becomes a dean in Harvard University. Langdell practically opened a new field in teaching, much like his famous namesake discovered America in his time. In the same way, at first he had to face difficulties, distrust and resistance of supporters of traditional education. Langdell served as dean of the law school at Harvard University. He himself was a graduate of this school, having studied there twice the allotted time and spent the extra time working at the Harvard Library. Langdell carefully studied numerous court cases and had a truly encyclopedic knowledge in this area.

At that time, students at law schools were studying by listening to lectures and studying textbooks, in which interpretations of normative acts were collected, and best practices of applying laws were described. Students memorized the material and then reproduced it in front of the teacher in class. They got this experience much later when they started practicing real practice. Langdell suggested the opposite approach, interrupting the tradition of constant cramming. Having become a dean in 1870, he immediately began to implement the case-study method — a method of analyzing real situations, inviting students to familiarize themselves with the original materials of the case and draw their own conclusion. To facilitate this work, he prepared a special collection of training materials — cases, providing each case with a small two-page introduction. In the classroom, students with the help of Langdell discussed the facts, revealed controversial points, studied the arguments of the parties, talked about the doctrines and principles underlying the case, and compared them with other legal cases.

Case Study
The difficulty was that the majority of teachers were scientists and did not have practical business experience and hence didn’t have good Case Study Material

Innovation = Conflict

At first, the innovation met sharp resistance and outrage from the students. Speaking on a given topic turned out to be much more difficult than simply reproducing a learned text. Many of the students “voted with their feet” — during the first three years of the introduction of the new method, the number of applicants decreased from 165 to 117.

Nevertheless, Langdell retained his post, and by 1895 the case study method was firmly

established in the Harvard Law School, and with it in six elite law universities (in Columbia, Yale, Chicago, and others). By the 1920s, the method of handling cases from real court practice became fundamental in legal education and remains so to this day.

First business cases

In the business environment cases also came from Harvard. In 1908, the Harvard Business School (HBS) was founded, which began to award Master’s degrees in business (Master of Business Administration). At first, things were not going very smoothly – “we had to deal with sponsors from the business community, not at all enthusiastic, loud and skeptical students, jealous and cynical university colleagues, and trustees, not to mention financial problems.” Only eight of the thirty-three students of the first set reached the second year of study.

Case Study
By the 1920s, the method of handling cases from real court practice became fundamental in legal education and remains so to this day and is used as case study

The idea to build training around the discussion of problems related to business management arose from the first dean of the school, Edwin Gay, and the first trial course entitled The Art of Doing Business was read in 1912.

Professors Were Smart… But not Enough

The difficulty was that the majority of teachers were scientists and did not have practical business experience. Therefore, at first, managing managers and directors of large firms, owners of their own companies, who shared real situations with their audiences, were invited to the Harvard Business School. Students analyzed what they heard and two days later submitted written reports with recommendations for solving the problem, and then discussed them in the audience.

However, the case-based method was finally established in HBS only half a century after its invention by Langdell — in the 1920s, when a graduate of the Harvard Law School, corporate finance specialist Wallace Donham was appointed dean. Donham spoke of his work this way: “I did not have theoretical knowledge in business, and my teachers, as I found out, had little practical experience in this field. To get used to each other was very problematic.

Donham himself was an ardent supporter of the use of the case method. The only obstacle was the lack of ready-made materials like published collections of court decisions. Donham convinced his colleague, marketing professor Melvin Copeland, to remake his training program as a pilot project and include a description of several real business problems. Published in September 1920, this program is considered the first collection of business cases. Students discussed the situation in the audience, analyzed it from different sides and offered solutions. Unlike legal cases, business cases often did not have a ready answer, and students learned to act in the face of uncertainty, tight deadlines and a lack of information.

case study
Unlike legal cases, business cases often did not have a ready answer, and students learned to act in the face of uncertainty, tight deadlines and a lack of information, therefore case study are crucial

After the introduction of the new teaching method, the Harvard Business School immediately sensed an influx of students: their number increased from 30–50 annually accepted applicants to 500 in 1932.

Top-9 Facts about Case Studies

  1. The teachers of the Harvard Business School (HBS) wrote about 80% of the cases used for training around the world.
  2. Each year, HBS teachers create about 350 cases on the basis of real business situations. It takes from one to four months to write a case.
  3. The main characters of the cases are mostly men (91%); in the next five years, HBS plans to increase the number of female characters in cases up to 20%
  4. At the height of the Second World War, HBS teachers wrote 600 custom case studies for military personnel.
  5. On average, in two years, every MBA student at HBS studies 500-600 cases and spends 80-90% of his time doing it.
  6. In HBS, there is a common practice when a real prototype of the main character of a case is present during the analysis (personally or in video mode), answers students’ questions, comments on their decision and explains how and why he acted in a real situation.
  7. In May 2008, HBS decided to diversify the format of cases, make them more elegant, literary, with a bright cover and sell them as books near cash desks in stores. Similar cases can be targeted, for example, for housewives. For this, HBS has already signed a contract with a famous American novelist Danielle Steel.
  8. It is believed that most of the heroes of the cases are top managers. However, there are also cases dedicated to athletes, cultural figures, community leaders and government officials. So, some famous cases are devoted to the former head coach of Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson, tennis player Maria Sharapova, and even Lady Gaga.
  9. HBS has Kids Case Discussions — a special children’s class for children of graduates. University professors teach classes, and children discuss real, un-adapted Harvard cases with them.

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The Biggest Casualty In Yemen’s War- Education

Yemen also suffers from a shortage of learning facilities.

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Girls attend a class at their school damaged by a recent Saudi-led air strike, in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen.VOA

The school year in Yemen is officially underway. But, the U.N. children’s fund reports the country’s ongoing civil war is keeping millions of children out of the classroom.

More than three years of fighting between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels is having a devastating impact on children’s health and well-being. The U.N. reports more than 11 million children or 80 percent of the country’s children are dependent upon humanitarian aid.

Another major casualty of the war is children’s education. The U.N. children’s fund says the education sector is on the brink of collapse because of conflict, political divisions and chronic underdevelopment.

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UNICEF: Education a Major Casualty of Yemen’s War.

As a consequence, UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac said around two million children are not going to school this year. Furthermore, he said nearly four million primary school children soon may not be able to get an education because of a severe shortage of teachers.

“About 67 percent of public school teachers — and this is across the country — have not been paid for nearly two years. Many have looked for other work to survive or are only teaching a few subjects. So, obviously, the quality of education is at stake. Children are not getting their full lessons due to the absence of their teachers. Even when schools are functioning, the schools’ days and years are shortened.”

Yemen also suffers from a shortage of learning facilities. UNICEF reports more than 2,500 schools have been damaged or destroyed by the war. Many schools also are being used as shelters for displaced people and some have been taken over by armed groups.

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FILE – A supporter carries posters depicting Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi during a rally in Sana’a, Yemen, March 6, 2015.
Image source: VOA

The agency warns children who are out of school run many dangers. It notes boys are at risk of being used as child soldiers. It estimates more than 2,600 children have been recruited by all armed groups.

Also Read: North Kivu And Ituri, Congo To Welcome More Than 80,000 Children In This New School Year

UNICEF says girls are likely to be married off at an early age. A 2016 survey finds close to three quarters of women in Yemen have been married before the age of 18, and 44.5 percent before the age of 15. (VOA)