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Mitchell, R. The Complementary Benefits of Cases and Simulations. Page 4 of 6.

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Implications for University Teaching and Learning

I urge an eclectic approach that makes use of both cases and simulations, in appropriate ways, to support the learning objectives of each particular course.

I arrived at this conclusion from both the literature and a research study conducted with six sections of a senior seminar in strategic management using two different course designs, each with the same mainstream learning objectives. One design used traditional case discussions exclusively; the other replaced half of the case-work with a computer-based simulation of companies competing in a global industry. This "Viewpoint" commentary is not designed to discuss that research in detail, but the outcomes, if you will take them on faith, are pertinent to my recommendation. There were no significant differences between the two design conditions on any of the 11 outcome measures, which included both self-report and objective measures of student performance. (Contact the author for more detailed information on the study.)

I conclude that:

  • Both cases and complex, computer-based simulations are valuable to use.
  • Neither is a panacea or generally superior.
  • A professor has considerable flexibility to choose the relative emphasis given to each.
  • "The problem, therefore, is not to discover the one right method, but to use the most appropriate methods to enhance the type and level of learning we want students to achieve" (Paget, 1988).

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