What Are Discussion Cases?
JITE Discussion Cases (JITE-DC) is a repository for discussion cases that relate to Management Information Systems (MIS), Information Technology (IT), Informing Science (IS) and related fields. The four shared characteristics of these cases are:
- Designed for Discussion: JITE-DC cases offer a detailed perspective on a situation that leads up to a set of decisions or plans that need to be developed by students over the course of their preparation and discussion. They are not intended to be examples or illustrations about which an instructor can lecture. They are not designed to be in-depth extended word problems that students “solve”. They are built as showcases for specific technologies or techniques of the sort that frequently appear on vendor sites.
- Authentic: They describe, as accurately as possible, real world situations. While specific aspects of a case may be disguised at the request of organizations or individuals involved in the case, the situations described in the cases have actually occurred and been verified by the case writer. JITE-DC does not publish case studies involving constructed or hypothetical situations.
- Open: Case studies are sometimes categorized as “open” or “closed”. A closed case has an intended solution, the “right” answer. For open cases, such a tidy resolution rarely exists. There will nearly always be a variety of resolutions that are “good”, and many more that are unlikely to succeed.
- Free: They are available for use by all, under a Creative Commons license. Educators may use the cases in their classroom and make the cases files or printed copies available to their students at no charge.
These four characteristics distinguish the JITE-DC from other outlets. While a number of publications and conferences include “teaching cases”, many times these cases are constructed as examples, as opposed to being designed as a basis for discussion. Other repositories, such as the well-known Harvard Business School case collection, emphasize open and authentic discussion cases. They are, however, very expensive to use. It is our hope that by making our cases free, we can encourage their diffusion throughout the global community, including areas still in the early stages of economic development.
Publication: JITE-DC cases are written in English and published online as soon as they have been accepted. Periodically, collections of published cases in paper and electronic book form will also be published. The frequency of book publication will depend upon the number of cases available and the willingness of editors to launch special topics collections.
Teaching notes associated with each case will be maintained in a separate area that is only accessible to registered educators. They will not be published in paper form or distributed on the open web Forums.
Review: The review process for JITE-DC cases can follow a number of paths. All submissions will be reviewed by the Editor-in-Chief (EiC) for appropriateness. Cases that are not built around a discussion topic or that fall outside of the MIS/IT/IS areas covered by the journal will be sent back to authors with an explanation. If a case is appropriate, the EiC will offer the author(s) one or more choices for review, depending upon how well-developed the case is:
- Peer review: For cases that are well developed and properly formatted, two or more prior contributors to JITE-DC will act as reviewers, deciding whether or not the case meets the standards of the journal, leading to a decision to accept (with suggested revisions) or reject the case.
- Editorial review: For cases that are well developed and properly formatted, a JITE-DC editor will make carefully consider the case, deciding whether or not the case meets the standards of the journal, leading to a decision to accept (with suggested revisions) or reject the case. Cases under editorial review are presumed to be accepted, but will not be published until both editor and author(s) are satisfied with the final product.
- Editorial mentorship: A JITE-DC editor will make suggestions for enhancing the case. Cases under editorial mentorship show some promise, but will not necessarily be accepted even after revision. The role of the editor in the process is both to improve the case and to help the author(s) further develop case-writing skills.
- Collaborative mentorship: The JITE-DC EiC will pair the author(s) with an experienced case writer, who will work to develop the case further. That assigned collaborator will ultimately be named as a co-author in the event the case is published. Cases under collaborative mentorship will normally involve intriguing decision situations, but will require substantial reorganizing and rewriting before being ready for publication. Typical candidates for this arrangement would be cases written by international authors who are not used to writing in English, or individuals unfamiliar with the narrative style that typifies discussion cases.
The goal of the review process is to develop each case to its maximum potential, thereby increasing the likelihood that other educators will use it. When a case is published, the process through which it was reviewed will not be listed. For those authors opting for peer-review—a requirement of some institutions—the fact that peer review was chosen will be noted in the acceptance letter.
The mission of JITE Discussion Cases is to promote the development and use of discussion cases for MIS, IT and Informing Science education.
In order to achieve this mission, JITE Discussion Cases seeks to achieve three objectives:
- To act as a repository for discussion cases of the highest quality
- To provide information resources and mentoring for educators seeking to develop discussion cases
- To provide information resources and mentoring for educators seeking to facilitate case discussions in their classrooms
Message from the Editor in Chief
The JITE Discussion Cases (JITE-DC)journal/repository is intended to be an outlet for discussion cases unlike any other in the world. The scope of the objective is captured in the mission statement:
“to promote the development and use of discussion cases for MIS, IT and Informing Science education.”
Behind this specific mission is a key belief: that the case method needs to be promoted. Such a need exists only to the extent that the benefits of the case method can be substantial, that many educators are unfamiliar with the technique, that an inadequate supply of suitable cases exists and too few educators are experienced in writing discussion cases. In my recent book, Informing with the Case Method (2011), published by the Informing Science Press, I explored these issues and concluded that the case method could use all the help it could get. In this spirit, JITE-DC was launched.
For the reasons just presented, JITE-DC’s mission goes well beyond publishing case studies—although that will be the outlet’s most visible activity. Rather, achieving our mission demands that we articulate the benefits of the case method to educators, conduct research that helps us better understand the strengths and weaknesses of the pedagogy, offer resources for educators who which to develop their skills as facilitators further, and provide mentoring to educators interested in writing discussion cases.
This all-encompassing mission also means that we do things a little differently than might be common practice in other journals. Most importantly, since our main goal is to promote the use of case studies, we need to develop case studies that many educators—not just the case’s original authors—will want to assign in their classrooms. We feel that the best way to achieve cases of this high quality is to encourage close collaboration between authors, reviewers and editors. There double-blind refereeing process has many strengths; achieving a close back-and-forth collaboration between authors and reviewers is definitely not one of them. In addition, the discussion case nearly always depends upon cooperation with parties outside of the author(s). The review process needs to be sensitive to the needs of these parties (nearly impossible if one or more of the stakeholders is anonymous). For these reasons, we have established a flexible review process that allows for traditional peer review at one extreme, while—at the other extreme—offering a mentoring option so close that it results in the reviewer becoming a co-author. The process selected will be determined by the needs of the author and, even more critically, by the needs of the case being reviewed.
Other areas where we differ from other outlets are in focusing only on discussion cases—rather than on teaching cases in general—and by committing to keep our cases free to all users. The case studies we publish will all be authentic. That means that they describe an actual, as opposed to fictional, situation. They also tend to have open resolutions, as opposed to a closed, “right answer” solution. They will be framed for discussion, following the pattern of cases developed for Harvard Business School, meaning that their central focus will be the need to make a particular set of decisions or come up with a detailed plan of actions. They will not be constructed as examples of cause-and-effect that can be used as the basis for a lecture about “lessons learned”.
For many years, the production of discussion cases has been nearly a monopoly enterprise. While there are many outlets that publish some cases, most discussion cases that are actually used are produced by a small number of sources (e.g., HBS reports being the source of 80% of all cases in use; Ivey and ECCH are also major players). This lack of competition has resulted in high costs. When I did my doctorate at HBS in the late 1980s, the school estimated the cost at $10,000/case. Today, the cost is probably several times that, particularly inasmuch HBS has established research outposts around the globe whose principal focus is case-writing. While this works well for a research-rich school that can tout the case method as a source of competitive advantage, it makes high quality discussion cases costly to use; often too costly for students in developing countries.
Our hope is that JITE-DC will compete in this market by fostering the development of discussion cases by authors around the globe, each of whom describes situations in his or her local area. To do this effectively will take considerable effort; one reason why a few institutions dominate discussion case writing is that the skills of writing and facilitation are rarely taught. We hope to change this through the development of a collection of online learning tools that will help educators acquire and improve their skills. This collection will evolve over time, but we see its growth as critical both to JITE-DC and to the long term prognosis for the case method in the fields that we cover.
Perhaps the toughest battle JITE-DC will face is convincing academics in our fields that writing a discussion case is a form of research. This is immediately obvious to anyone who has written such a case study, but is equally likely to be disputed by any researcher who has not. Writing a discussion case forces the researcher to address real world problems, builds tight linkages between research and the classroom, and, over time, allows the researcher to build a network of close contacts in practice through which other informing can occur. Before discussion cases are accepted as research, however, there need to be mechanisms in place for determining their quality. Metrics such as journal rating and citation count do not really make sense for discussion cases. What really matters is whether or not the case is used and, when used, the strength of its impact on discussion participants. Over time, we must seek to formalize these types of metrics and make them available to our authors (and their deans).
Obviously, much of what I have described is part of an ambitious “to do” list for the future. At the present, as JITE-DC is being launched, we start with a small number of classroom-tested case studies that were developed as part of an NSF-funded research project. While these may serve as useful exemplars for future submissions, the fact that they come from a single source should not be viewed as a precedent for submissions. The exact opposite is the case. We particularly and eagerly welcome submissions from other sources since JITE-DC cannot succeed in its mission without global participation and a diverse set of case studies.
To submit to the journal, please contact Editor-in-Chief Grandon Gill at [email protected]
T. Grandon Gill
Online ISSN: 2166-1324 Print ISSN: 2166-1316