15.060 | Fall 2014 | Graduate

Data, Models, and Decisions

Instructor Insights

Using Case Learning Modules

In this section, Prof. Robert Freund talks about teaching using the case method, and how he got started writing his own cases for the course.

Teaching cases has the advantage of giving the students the opportunity of seeing how the quantitative models and concepts are put to use in a management environment. But developing good cases is very time consuming. Given that MIT Sloan puts a premium on faculty research productivity, professors here must choose wisely when deciding whether or not to spend their scarce time developing management case materials. Cases do support our educational mission, but some of our best teachers have never written a single case and instead prefer to use cases written by faculty at other management schools, most notably Harvard Business School (HBS).

"I decided to re-make the course cases so that they would be precisely what we wanted them to be."
—Robert Freund

When the materials for 15.060 Data, Models, and Decisions were originally developed in their predecessor form, almost all of our cases were from HBS. Then when Dimitris Bertsimas and I started to think about writing a textbook to cement the course and allow it to be widely disseminated, we decided to instead write all of our own cases. This was a very time-consuming task, which we undertook primarily for two reasons. First of all, if you write your own cases, you can have each case match the exact educational goals that you have in mind. This is great for the course and for the learning experience of the students. The HBS cases we were considering did not align well enough with the specific design goals of 15.060 Data, Models, and Decisions. There were always a few things about each case that were not quite right—too little emphasis on a key concept, or too much emphasis on a topic that we do not consider important enough—or the case focused on a company (or industry) that no longer exists, etc. Therefore I decided to re-make the course cases so that they would be precisely what we wanted them to be.

I also want the students to be proud that they are at Sloan, and not be reminded of Harvard Business School or any of our other peer schools. If a student comes to Sloan and has to read HBS cases all the time, the student might feel that they might as well have gone to HBS instead. In a sense, it was as if you walked into IBM’s offices and everybody’s using an Apple Mac. Instead, we wanted to have Sloan cases with the Sloan brand. After all, we should be promoting our own institution first.

See the Case Learning Modules section for a list of cases used in this course.