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B-School Sells Course Software

By Miliann Kang

After last fall requiring all first year MBA candidates to use IBM personal computers in their courses, the Business School has taken another step into the computer age by offering 10 of its case studies for sale on floppy disks.

All 50 copies of each $10 case diskette have been sold since January, according to Production Manager Caroline H. Michel, and the printing of a second set of diskettes is underway.

The software package contains cases developed at the B-School for use in its executive education courses, which have employed the case software since the summer of 1983, said Joanne F. Segal, director of administration for the Division of Research.

Supplement Case Material

The three types of software available--data matrix, model template and comprehensive caseware--perform a number of functions to supplement case analysis, ranging from performing calculations to exhibiting tables to illustrating model solutions.

"By facilitating the analysis of the numbers, the software allows students to move more quickly to the broader management issues," said Segal.

Michel said the diskettes are designed for use with Lotus 1-2-3 software on the IBM personal computer and IBM-compatible machines.

The marketing of case software supplements the larger activities of HBS Case Services, which coordinates the sale of the thousands of Harvard-developed case studies to companies and other universities.

As the leading publisher of case studies in management education, Segal said, "We have a tradition of field research and development and of sharing the fruits of this effort with other institutions that want to teach about management."

She said the new software complements this tradition of sharing educational resources.

The major purchasers of the software are other graduate business schools, such as Stanford, Wharton and Northwestern, and companies which employ the case method in internal training programs, Segal said.

Michel said although purchasers have not yet returned questionnaires on the software, the initial response has been favorable and "we expect more major institutions and corporations to become interested as we start advertising."

With the success of the pilot software project, she predicted a gradual expansion of the program. "We are bringing in new cases (for use with the software] all the time and I think more and more, cases will be written with software in mind."

Segal explained the Division of Research selected the marketed cases from approximately 100 available on software on the basis of how will they had worked in actual classroom use.

Thoroughly Tested

"The software was thoroughly tested in our classrooms and we gave professors a chance to revise and refine them from insights gained in class discussion before offering them for sale," said Segal.

Segal added that cases used in the first year MBA program beginning last fall will be published shortly, after they have undergone a similar comprehensive testing program.

"The software is meant to enhance the case method of teaching, not replace it or redirect it," Segal emphasized.

Professor Robin Cooper, who uses the software in his required first year MBA course on cost accounting, commented that "It's a very good tool for learning but it's only one tool out of many. It's not going to dominate business school education."

"The computers give students the ability to see the real world much clearer. They provide a multi-data, conceptually rich environment for teaching issues." Cooper said, adding that "the software does not eliminate the need for students to make calculations but it allows them to do 1000 instead of 10 or 20."

The effect of this access to broader data samples, he added, is that "instead of one product solutions for multi-product companies, we can teach multi-product solutions for multi-product companies" which will "in time affect actual business practices.

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