- What is the correct price for newly built homes? A group is working to figure out how to price homes that are not built yet, for a large residential building company.
- What is the tax effect of the sharing economy? This group (where one student works for the Tax Administration) tries to figure out how to identify people who cheat on the tax as Uber drivers – while making suggestions on how tax rules can be adapted to make it easy to follow the law.
- What characterizes successful consulting proposals? A major consulting firm wants to use data from their CRM system (which documents the bidding process) to understand what kind of projects they will win or lose.
- How to recognize money laundering transactions? A bank wants to find out if any of their customers are doing money laundering through online gaming companies.
- How to offer benefits to customers with automated analysis? A company that supplies stock trading terminals wants to use data analysis to create a competitive edge.
- How to segment Norwegian shareholders? A company that offers online trading of shares wants to identify segments of its customers to pinpoint and improve its marketing strategy.
- How to lower costs and reduce the risk of production stoppages in a process business? A hydropower company wants to better understand when and why your power stations need repairs or maintenance.
- How to identify customers who are in the process of terminating? A TV company wants to understand what characterizes “churn” – how can they identify customers who are about to leave them?
- Why are some wines more popular than others? A group will work with search data from a wine site to find out what makes some wines more sought after than others.
- Which customers will buy a new product? A group is working on data from a large bank that wants to offer its existing customers more services.
- How to increase the recycling rate for waste in Oslo? REN – Oslo’s municipal trash service – wants to find out if you can organize routes and routines differently to better utilize trash trucks and recycling plants.
- How to avoid being sold out for promotional items? One of Norway’s largest grocery chains wishes to improve their ordering routines so that customers do not get to the store and find out that there is no more left of the offer they wanted.
- How to model fraud risk in maritime insurance? An insurance company wants to build a model to understand how to find customers attempting to fraud companies or authorities.
- Which customers are about to leave us? A large transport company wants to find out which customers are about to go to a competitor so that they can take action before it happens.
- What characterize students who drop out? BI enters 3500 new students each year, but some of them end after the first year. How can we find evidence that a student is about to drop out?
I just got the message that the new bachelor program Informatikk: Digital Økonomi og Ledelse (Informatics: Digital Economics and Management) is now the most sought-after study program in Norway, with 19 applicants per available place (514 first-priority applicants for 27 available places).
Since I have taken the initiative to this program and developed it with colleagues at the University of Oslo (where I have an adjunct position, this definitely made my day. Week, actually.
In our book Teaching with cases: A practical guide, Bill Schiano and I talk at a fairly high level about how to give effective student feedback by using a spreadsheet and personalized emails. Our argument is that by giving every student individual feedback in addition to the grade, you reduce the number of grade justification requests and complaints. This blog post is a detailed guide on how to do it – too detailed for the technically inclined, probably, but we all have to start somewhere.
You probably already have all the tools you need on your computer – a spreadsheet and an email client that works with your spreadsheet – such as Excel and Outlook, for example. (For myself, I use Excel and SerialMailer, a cheap serial mail client for Mac.) You can probably use online software as well, for instance a Google spreadsheet (which is nice because editing by more than one teacher is easy) and Gmail, though I have never tried it.
The idea is to use the spreadsheet to organize all your feedback, and to set it up so you use as little time as possible to give as much feedback as possible. I will demonstrate this, with an example for a fictitious course with three in-class sessions (with participation grading, 40% of grade), an individual written examination (30% of grade), and a group assignment (30%). I will show the various details of building the spreadsheet below – if you want to skip ahead and inspect the thing your self, I have made it available for downloading.
I start with a spreadsheet of students and email addresses, provided to me by the administration or downloaded from our LMS. Let’s say it looks something like this:
(If I have the time or can get the administration to create it from their databases, I ask to have first and last names in separate columns. For this demonstration, I won’t bother.)
Then I add columns for each of the assignments that I am going to grade:
(In this example, the individual examination has six questions, of which the students should answer four.)
For the group project, I create a separate sheet (in the same workbook, called “Groups”
The group sheet is exceptionally simple, just group number, points and comment. If you have several group assignments, this is where you will put them:
Note that I also create a group numbered 0. This is what I use for students who drop the course or don’t do the group assignment.
With that done, I assign students to groups in the Students sheet…
…and then I am ready to start teaching my course.
As the course rolls along, I enter points and comments for each student. As mentioned in the book, it is extremely important that you do the participation evaluation immediately after each class. I tend to give the students a score of 1-3, sometimes 1-6, with some definition. As I will show later, what scale you use does not really matter, as you can normalize them to whatever you want later in the process.
Anyway, assume the course is finished, and you have entered comments and points for everything – for the individual student, in the Student sheet….
…for the groups, in the Groups sheet:
To finish the evaluation part (we’ll get to communication later), you need to a) match the group points and comments to each individual student, b) calculate a final score for each student, and c) determine the letter grade for each student.
First: Group grades and comments. For a small class like this, this is probably a bit of overkill – you could just copy comments and points over to each individual student. But doing it the way I show here has the advantage (aside from being correct from a database administrator’s point of view) of error-correction (any error you make will be systematic and therefore easily spotted) and repeatable (the first time you do this, it is a chore, the second time, you just copy your previous spreadsheet and fiddle with it). Moreover, if you have a class with more than 40 students, a bit of “programming” saves time and effort. (I have done this for classes of 350 students, a situation where participation grading is not really possible – except as a small reward for exceptional students – but where the group feedback mechanism becomes extremely valuable.)
So, first – link individual students with their group’s scores and comments, using the LOOKUP function:
The formula is
and what it does is take the student’s group number (E2), look it up the first column of the “Groups” sheet (Groups!$A$2:$A$8), using fixed references to be able to copy the formula to the rest of the sheet, and displaying the group score (which is in column Groups!$B2:$B8). This nicely picks up all the group scores and comments:
We now have all the information for each student, then we have to calculate the various scores. We have the exam score already (the average of the exam points) and the participation score (a sum of the score for each session.) We now need to calculate the total points, which isn’t too hard: The max for participation is 9, for the others it is 10, so the formula for the total will be:
(I use comma as a decimal delimiter, parentheses for readability). We can now add a student ranking in the G column (students are always interested in this, so why not tell them?)
Now we are ready to set the grades. The simple way to do this is to sort the students by their scores (or rank, if you will):
How you set the letter grades is up to you, of course, but it helps to have the students sorted. I set grades by starting at the top, trying to get a reasonable distribution, and make sure that I don’t use absolutes so that some unlucky student narrowly misses a better grade. Let’s say we end up here:
Now we are ready to communicate the results to the students. We will do that by writing a letter to them, composed largely of common text (i.e., feedback that is the same to all students), and them use the mail/merge function of word to merge in the individual details from the spreadsheet.
As said above, I use a product called SerialMailer on my Mac. The concept is simple: You write the letter, link to the spreadsheet, and insert field names into the text. When the letter is sent out (or printed), the field names are substituted for the values for each individual student.
Here is how to do it in Word (if you want to send it out via email, you need to have Outlook as well.):
First, open Word and write the letter:
(As you can see, I recycle much of my texts…)
Let’s start by replacing “student” in the opening salutation with the student’s name. Then you open the Mailings tab in Word and hit Select recipients from an existing list…
…and select your spreadsheet:
I get this message, click OK:
And open the “Students” sheet (i.e. the individual sheet):
If you click “Insert Merge Field” now, you should get a list of the column headings in the spreadsheet:
Delete the word “student”, choose “Insert Merge Field” and choose “Name”, and the field code will be in the document:
If you hit “Preview Results”, the code will be replaced by the content for each student:
Now write field labels and insert the fields you want to share with the students. I like to add the listing at the end of the letter, but you can do whatever you want:
Hit Preview, and this is what each student will see:
And there you go. Now hit “Finish and Mail Merge”, and select whether you want to print the documents on paper (or PDF) or send them out via email (shown).
You must tell Outlook where the email addresses are in the spreadsheet:
Then specify a subject and choose HTML Message (if you want formatted text):
…and, well, this is where I will have to stop, since I do not use Outlook. But trust me, it works well, the students love having individualized feedback, and it really isn’t that much more work than just providing the grade. As an added bonus: If students want a grade justification, you can just tell them that they already have it…
(Corrections and feedback welcome, of course.)
(This is a new category I just dreamed up – will post little snippets of useful stuff for teaching. My view is that technology should make your life easier and the experience of the student better – otherwise, don’t use the technology.)
At BI Norwegian School of Business we use a learning management system called It’s Learning. As these systems go, it is (I think) no better or worse than any other system, but the interface is a bit clunky. However, it has a very useful feature (which I learned from Ragnvald Sannes), namely the ability to display Google Docs within the page:
This is very useful because
- you can create all your course documents (syllabi etc.) in Google Docs, which is much better for editing and everything else. You can even edit the docs right in the It’s Learning window.
- you can give the students read, comment or write capability as you please. Giving the students write access to a shared document is useful for many purposes – I use it as a shared arena for proposing term papers, for instance. Linda Rademaker uses a shared spreadsheet for student group formation – the students write themselves into groups, and she has a tab with “Lost sheep” who have not found groups to work in.
- you can also share a Google Folder with the students and link that right from It’s Learning.
To set up a page like this, first create the document in Google Drive, copy the link to the document (“Share” in Google Doc, set the access rights to whatever you want), go to It’s Learning, click “Add” in the left column, choose “File or link”. Here you can choose various options, but what has worked for me is choosing “link” and pasting in the link. Make sure the “Embed page within itslearning” is checked, write the Title, and there you go.
Certainly has made my life easier, and hopefully made the students’ experience better.
(By the way, this does not work in China, of course (no Google Doc access), in case you teach there.)
My versatile and creative colleague Hanno Roberts and I have made a series of five videos on case learning and preparation, originally for students at the BI/Fudan MBA program. This teaching method is difficult both for teacher and student, but highly rewarding provided you give it proper attention – which means effective preparation. Hanno and I talk about the goal of case teaching, how students can prepare individually, how to prepare as a group, how to go through the case discussion in the classroom, and then we sum up with some strategies for how to retain what you have learned.
Hanno and I did these videos against a green-screen, with little preparation – we basically met, outlined a structure with some keywords, decided broadly on who should say what, and dove right into it. Most of the videos were shot once, and then the very capable Milosz Tuszko edited them, added background, logos and keywords.
The updated videos are a less wooden than the previous version, methinks, and available in high resolution and with better sound. We clarified the differences between my version of case teaching and Hanno’s (both work, by the way). Over the years the original videos have been much watched – hopefully, our students (and others) will watch them carefully, and the result will be better case teaching, more learning, and an even more enjoyable experience teaching.
Details about each video below the fold…
I am just back from teaching a four-day module (called IT management and eBusiness, though I might change that title somewhat) at the BI-Fudan MBA program.
This is just about the 15th time I teach in China, all of it in cooperation with Fudan University, which gives me some cause to reflect on how teaching in China has changed – all seen from my rather narrow perspective, of course, but still. Just as the Shanghai Bund view has changed (the pictures are from 1990 to 2010) so have the participants, contents and business environment of my courses.
The students have changed: In 2004, the age range and English proficiency of the students varied much more. About two thirds of the class had rather rudimentary English skills, I had to simplify the language, and the Chinese co-teacher spent a lot of time explaining concepts and partially translating what I did. This is not any longer – gone are the days when Chinese students would sit quietly and avoid your gaze. Now they participate more or less like students anywhere in the world. English skills still vary, but not any more than they do in any European country. The co-teacher (this time the very capable Dr. Wei Xueqi, left of me in the picture) still has one hour of Chinese teaching every day after I am done, but spends more time discussing and less time translating.
The course has changed: I used to lecture much more, focus more on basic concepts and methods. Now I use cases (five in this course, plus one for the in-class exam) and the students analyze and present, challenging each others’ conclusions. I now basically use the same teaching method (heavy on case teaching) in this course as I do in any other course at a M.Sc. or MBA level I teach.
The business environment of Shanghai and China has changed. In 2004, China’s business environment was firmly divided into FDI (foreign direct investment) and SOE (state owned enterprises) and the management culture, measures and methods were very different. Copying was rampant and you sometimes felt as if you were introducing capitalism to an audience where a sizable portion of the students were unsure whether it was a good idea. Not so any more: The students now all have experience with international business, frequently with much more experience than my Norwegian students, particularly when it comes to production and industrial planning. A larger and larger portion of the class works in service industries and in online enterprises, something which I have reflected in choice of cases and examples.
I used to go to China because it was different and therefore interesting. Now I go there because it is interesting – but not so different. At least not in the classroom.
The Table of Contents in the paper and PDF version of Teaching with Cases: A Practical Guide is only at the chapter level. For readers wanting a more detailed overview of the book or to find something specific, here is the detailed table of contents:
Chapter 1: Introduction: Why you should read this book 1
Why case teaching? 2
How case classes and students vary 4
Class size 5
Core versus elective 5
Part-time versus full-time 5
Weekly versus modular courses 6
Domestic versus international 6
Single versus multi-section 6
Executive versus graduate versus undergraduate 7
One of many case classes for students vs. only or one of few 7
In school versus other location 7
Practical Guidance for all Case-Teaching Faculty 7
The central framework: Foundation, flow, and feedback 8
Chapter 2: Foundations: Preparing for the course 11
Taking Ownership 12
Making a Contract 14
Developing Content 16
Structuring the syllabus 26
Selecting cases 18
Selecting readings and textbooks 24
Using guest speakers 26
Using assignments 28
Working with Students 29
Motivating Students 32
Enthusiasm and Engagement 33
Opportunities to build valuable skills 33
Safe participation 34
Finding Information about Students’ Backgrounds 35
Helping the students prepare for case discussions 36
Classroom participation requirement 36
Establishing Infrastructure 38
Establishing seating arrangements 39
Using Name cards and seating charts 42
Setting length and frequency of class sessions 44
Session Length 45
Session Frequency 45
Wrapping up 46
Chapter 3: Flow During the Class Session 49
Preparing Yourself 51
Crafting a teaching plan 52
Demeanor in class 54
Dressing for class and impression management 55
Managing your anxiety 57
Starting to Teach 59
The first class 59
Opening classes 62
Building trust in the class 64
Managing the Discussion 66
The Emcee: Calling on students and managing airtime 67
The Scribe: Using the board 70
Board plan 71
Writing on the board 74
The Conductor: Using body language, silence, and movement 76
Using the physical space 79
The TV Host: Asking questions 82
Giving up control 84
Time management 85
How long to let a discussion go 86
If you are running out of time 86
Breaks and other interruptions 87
Teaching long class days 88
Beyond Discussion 89
Using theory and other non-case material 89
Inductive versus deductive case use 90
Communicating Theory 91
Multipart cases 94
Group work 95
Group Presentations 96
Group Discussions 98
Team teaching in the classroom 99
Are you getting the most from each student? 101
Humor in the classroom 102
Raising the energy level 104
Relationships among and with students 106
Concluding a Discussion 107
Chapter 4: Feedback: Assignments, Grading and Guidance 111
The Evaluative Mindset 112
Designing Evaluation 113
Designing assignments 115
Individual Oral Assignments 115
Individual Written Assignments 116
Group Oral Assignments 117
Group Written Assignments 118
Designing Exams 118
Selecting Cases for Exams 118
Writing Exam Questions 119
Take-Home Exams 121
Designing Term Papers 122
Term Papers as Research Method 124
A matter of scaling 125
How to structure feedback 127
Group Work 130
Final Exams 130
Class participation 131
Capturing Participation 133
Setting Expectations 134
Setting Expectations by Self-Evaluation 135
The dreaded extra-credit requests 139
Handling academic dishonesty 140
Chapter 5: Managing Classroom Issues 145
Issues with Individual Student 145
How do I manage students who hog airtime? 146
How do I manage combative students? 147
What can I do about students’ computer use in class? 148
What do I do if a student does not pay attention in class? 149
What do I do if a student complains? 150
How do I accommodate students with disabilities? 151
Issues with groups of students 152
What Do I Do When Students Are Not Well Prepared? 152
How do I get students to prepare better? 153
Reward Good Preparation 153
Help Them Along 154
Draw Out Prepared But Reticent Students 154
Require Case Write-ups or Give Pop Quizzes 154
Give a Stern Lecture 154
Make An Example of a Student or Two 154
How do I stop side conversations? 155
How Do I Manage Dysfunctional Class Behavior? 156
What if the class turns against me? 157
How is Teaching Executives Different? 159
How should I deal with student pranks? 161
How Do I Deal with Student Representatives? 163
How Do I Deal with Dysfunctional Groups? 164
Personality Conflicts 165
Poor Project Management 165
Poor Performance 165
Issues Beyond Students 166
What if I can’t find enough cases that fit? 166
What do I do if I have lost track of the discussion? 167
What if I run out of questions? 168
How do I deal with problems in an intensive-format course? 137
Prepare Differently 169
Manage Expectations 169
Manage Process Closely 169
What can I do if I am low on energy? 170
What If the Administration Gets Involved?
Chapter 6 Quantitative and technical material 174
Flipping the Qualitative and Quantitative 175
Being Qualitative about the Quantitative 175
Being Quantitative about the Qualitative 176
Explicitly Teach Estimation 177
Quantify Anything 177
Know the Industry Data 177
Change Assumptions or Problems on the Fly 179
Teaching Quantitative Material 179
Making a Teaching Plan for a Quantitative Case 179
Pacing the Discussion 180
Asking for a Number at the Beginning 181
Managing Math Phobia and Aversion to Numbers 183
Making the value clear 182
Acknowledging the Phobic 182
Filling in the Holes 182
Fostering a Sense of Self-Efficacy 183
Using the Board 183
Making the best use of students 185
When Students Go Wrong 185
When No One Has the Correct Analysis 186
Discussing a Quantitative Case with Subjective Numbers or Estimates 187
Using Groups 188
Teaching Technical Material 189
Motivating the Study of Technology 189
Structuring the Teaching of Technology 190
Chapter 7 Adjusting for language and culture 195
The Foreign Student 197
Making Adjustments for Foreign Students 200
The Foreign Teacher 202
The Teacher Abroad 204
Expectations for teaching 205
Teacher power 206
Student behavior 207
Using Interpreters 208
Trust the locals 211
Chapter 8: Preparing for the next time 213
Debriefing a course 213
Interpreting and using student feedback 215
How to Read Student Feedback 215
Striving for High Evaluations 217
Reviewing Case Selection 217
Debriefing with a Teaching Group 218
Archiving Material 218
Evaluating case teachers, including yourself 219
Before Class 219
During Class 219
After Class 220
Managing relationships with alumni 220
Chapter 9: Fostering Case Teaching at the School Level 223
The Commoditized Business School 223
Relevance is Relevant 224
Integration is Integral 225
Institutionalizing Case Teaching 228
Recruiting, Incentives and Promotion 228
Teaching-Related Procedures 230
Getting Infrastructure Right 230
Classroom Design 231
Good, Abundant Board Space 231
Blackboards Rather Than Whiteboards 231
Making Cases Easy to Use and Produce 233
Case Production 234
Chapter 10 Technologies for Case Teaching 238
Take Control of the Technology 238
Technology for Teacher Productivity 239
Teacher’s Computer Use in Class 241
Presentation Software 243
Tools for Student-Teacher Interaction 246
Learning Management Systems 246
Build a Sandbox 246
Explore the System 247
Maintain Communication Norms 247
Create a FAQ Repository 247
Structure for Reuse 247
Facilitate Searching 247
Consider the User’s Experience 248
Maintain Structure 248
Automate Availability 248
Explore the Analytics 248
Seek and Accept Help 249
Other Technologies to Support Student Interaction 249
Social Media 249
In-Class Polling and Voting Tools 249
Shared Documents 250
Analysis Tools 250
Online Simulations 251
Online Teaching 251
Teleconference Teaching 251
Get the Basic Technology Right 252
Communicate in a Way Suited to the Medium 252
Communicate via Side Channel and Back Channel 253
Get to Know the Students 254
Lighting and Background 255
The Video Camera 256
Concurrently Teaching Face-to-Face and Remotely 259
Teaching Asynchronously with Discussion Forums 260
Foundations: Designing the Course and Forming the Contract 262
Flow: Running the Discussion 265
Guidelines for Students 267
Feedback: Evaluating and Closing the Loop 269
Managing the inevitable technical failures 271
About the Authors 293