Panel 10: Case Method and WAC - Teaching Innovations at IIMA
In 1962 IIMA began a five-year academic partnership with the Harvard Business School (HBS). HBS had developed its distinctive style of management education which relied on classroom discussion of 'cases' - real-life business situations that usually called for a decision by someone responsible for that decision. By immersing themselves in the case situations, discussing their approaches with the instructor and co-students, and defending or modifying the decisions they would have taken, the participants developed their critical thinking and analytical skills as well as certain leadership skills.
The academic partnership with HBS brought this educational approach to IIMA. The faculty members found this approach exciting, though to the early batches of students it was a shock, used as they were to a traditional system that 'taught' content. However, Class Participation, or 'CP', has become something that unites all batches that have studied at IIMA. It is graded in most courses and has developed its own folklore - 'Clever CP', 'Random CP', 'Soulful CP', and many other less complimentary inventions. Over the years, IIMA faculty members have written a few thousand cases, and have developed their own distinctive styles of teaching. They have adapted the method to the needs of a changing environment and have also engaged in educating other management schools interested in the method. Today, the case method, though still a key component of IIMA's educational approach, forms part of a wider portfolio of learner-centred methods.
Written Analysis and Communication
Known to generations of students as just WAC, this is one of the oldest courses at the Institute. Universally disliked and often dreaded by students, this first-year MBA course, however, is remembered with fondness by them once they are well into their careers. The course is intrinsically linked to the case method of learning, focusing specifically on the written analysis of cases. As with the Case Method, WAC was brought in from Harvard Business School.
In 1964, it was introduced with the title 'Written Analysis of Cases'; the name was then changed to 'Written Executive Communication' and in 1969 to Written Analysis and Communication to reflect a sharper focus on written communication skills. Before the advent of computers, students submitted hand-written reports; they would remember the special paper with extra-wide margins (for comments by faculty members and their assistants who were called 'WAC Readers') and the 'WAC envelope', the fevered analysis and chopping and changing, the rush to deposit the reports in the WAC Box before the deadline-and the attempts of the second-years to delay this, and the disappointment when the grades came in. Over the years, IIMA has experimented with the course's design, introducing other forms of analytical writing or oral presentations of reports, for example. However, it has retained the course, unlike the Institute's original mentor, HBS, which wound up the course in 1993.
Class Participation, or 'CP', has become something that unites all batches that have studied at IIMA. It is graded in most courses and has developed its own folklore - 'Clever CP', 'Random CP', 'Soulful CP', and many other less complimentary inventions.