Postgraduate: Using case studies for a richer learning experience
The UNIRAZAK Case Writers Club (UCWC) kicked off with a group of 19 academicians from the university who went through two case writing workshops in December 2007 and in February 2008 that was conducted by the president of the Case Writers Association Malaysia.
“As a result of these workshops, we were able to produce 21 case studies. We then had to go through review
sessions with a panel of experts who gave comments on how to improve the case studies. Finally, these case studies were sent for vetting to an international expert who has been trained on the Harvard Case Method. This stringent process allowed us to produce 21 case studies of high quality,” explains Professor Dr Syed Omar Syed Agil, the president of UCWC and one of the founding members of the club.
Case studies are used in classrooms to expose students to real-world situations. In the classroom, students are taught theories but with case studies students are able to integrate theories into real-world situations while helping them improve their communication and interpersonal skills.
“These case studies are discussed in class enabling students to learn about management, accounting, finance, public administration, ethics and education and how they relate to real life. The case studies are structured in a way that students will talk about the background of the case, the issues, challenges and so on. This is what we call student-centred learning,” says Professor Syed Omar.
The case studies also enable students to think analytically and work out why such a situation occurred and what are some of the measures that can be taken to remedy it.
“We want the students to think of many solutions to overcome the situation so they can expand their mind and be creative and critical in their thinking, making them easily employable,” he continues.
Since the establishment of UCWC, lecturers of both undergraduate and postgraduate courses from all faculties at UNIRAZAK currently use case studies to deliver their lessons.
“We want to produce creative and innovative lecturers who don’t just teach but who employ innovative and creative teaching methods to deliver lessons. The teaching methods have changed immensely with the advent of multimedia and if we continue to use the same approach as we did 10 years ago, students will get bored and may not be able to grasp what we are teaching. So by using media and case studies, either through books or videos, we are providing them with a rich learning experience,” elaborates Professor Syed Omar.
Presently UNIRazak is the only university in the country to have a case writers’ club. UCWC was launched in March 2009 by its patron, Professor Datuk Dr Md Zabid Abdul Rashid who is the President and Vice-Chancellor of UNIRAZAK.
The launch saw an additional 25 new members who went through the same stringent process that the pioneering group went through.
“The club has had a very good reception and now boasts 46 members and we have produced three volumes of case studies. The first volume consists of 21 cases that were written by the pioneering members of the club and was launched in May 2010. The second volume was released in January last year and consists of 24 cases. The third volume of case studies was launched end of last year with 26 case studies. We also produce a newsletter for our members,” says Professor Syed Omar with pride.
The club has two types of memberships. The first consists of members of UNIRAZAK who are academicians and administrative staff of the university. The second is called associate members and is for the general public who are interested in case writing.
“We open the club to people outside UNIRAZAK because case studies encompass a wide range of subjects and we want people from all industries to share their experiences and help students relate to what they’ve been taught in the classroom,” explains Professor Syed Omar.
Professor Syed Omar is very passionate about case studies as he has seen first-hand how effective case studies are in making classes more interactive and fun for students.
“I used to teach my students without cases but now I can see the impact using case studies has on them. My students are more excited about learning as they are able to relate to situations much more easily because the case studies we use are Malaysian case studies and closer to their hearts and minds,” he adds.
UNIRAZAK has plans in the future to establish a Malaysian Case Clearing House (MCCH) to collate cases written by UNIRAZAK lecturers and also lecturers from other universities, and cases produced by public and private Institutions in Malaysia under one flagship. In order to achieve this objective UCWC will meet all the institutions involved in writing case studies as it is not possible to establish MCCH without their support and cooperation. What is important is that it is done with the intention of benefiting all Malaysian lecturers and students using the student centred approach case method.
“UNIRAZAK will also be signing a memorandum of understanding with the Malaysian Productivity Centre (MPC) to collaborate on case study development including case research, case writing and also publication,” Professor Syed Omar divulges.
In addition, UCWC is in discussions with other institutes of higher learning to collaborate on Malaysian case research and case writing. The club will collaborate with MPC to invite Professor Jeffrey Shay, President of the North American Case Research Association to conduct a case writing and case research workshop in December.
Next month, representatives from the European Case Clearing House (ECCH) will be visiting UNIRAZAK to give a talk on Case Study Development and Distribution. They will also be discussing the possibility of future collaborations with members of UCWC.
The club plans to go international with the launch of its new Facebook page. In just a month, the page has garnered more than 800 ‘Likes’ from people across the globe.
“Many people have expressed the interest of the club through our page and we see this as a great avenue to promote our activities and our cases writing,” Professor Syed Omar says.
Professor Syed Omar hopes that in the coming years that the case studies produced by UCWC and also other institutions in Malaysia will be used by lecturers in Malaysian universities.
“We invite institutions and individuals from both the public and private sector, and universities to work hand-in-hand with us for the nation as we need many Malaysian case studies of high quality in order to produce students who are qualified, competent, problem-solvers, critical, innovative, creative and ethical so when they venture out to work, they are job ready,” Professor Syed Omar concludes.
For more informationon the UNIRAZAK Case Writers Club, visit ucwc.unirazak.edu.my