A. Barona, B. Etxebarria

University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU (SPAIN)
The importance of linking meaningful teaching to its practical application within an educational context is widely acknowledged. One of the most commonly used student-centred approaches to active teaching is the case-based methodology (or the case method). The case method is defined by the Association for Case Teaching as “a means of participatory and dialogical teaching and learning by group discussion of actual events” (Dunne and Brooks, 2004). Thus, it combines the case itself with the discussion of that selfsame case.

This study focuses on the application of the case method in a lecture-based undergraduate course held at the Faculty of Engineering (University of the Basque Country, UPV/EHU) during the 2013-2014 academic year. The target subject was “Business Competitiveness and Innovation”, which is a compulsory discipline studied in the fourth year of undergraduate programme in Industrial Management Engineering.

After describing how the course syllabus is organized, the teacher briefly describes the topics, which are arranged in a sequence that makes sense to both the instructor and the students. The lecture-based classes initially focus on an explanation of the evolution and current meaning of relevant business concepts, such as competitiveness and innovation.

Subsequently, the case-based methodology is thoroughly explained to the students, and a particular case is selected. The case and its materials have been structured according to three basic requirements, namely, suitability, engagement of students in a discussion, and an instructor ready to deal with the unexpected.

This particular open case is called “a successful company in decline”. Founded in the nineteen-eighties, ALBI S.A. is a family-owned company whose facilities are located in a small village in the Basque Country. Its main activity is the production of components for the metal polishing industry. Nevertheless, US and German rivals are now investing in China with a view to producing cheaper, medium-quality components.
This paper presents the conclusions from this experience, focusing on decision-making and problem-solving. The students successfully undertook the analytical work of explaining the relationships among events in the case, identifying options, evaluating choices, and predicting the effects actions will have on the company´s future.

[1] Dunne, D., & Brooks, K. (2004). Teaching with Cases. London (Ontario); Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.