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Kindle for the Case Method? Darden School of Business Students Try It Out

In May, we reported that the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia had been selected as one of six schools to participate in a pilot program launched by Amazon to test the Kindle DX e-book reader as a technology tool for classrooms. That program is now underway, and students at Darden are using the Kindle for case studies.

One of Darden’s five first-year MBA sections was given the Kindle in August, part of what Dean Robert Bruner calls a “controlled experiment,” according to a recent article in the Financial Times. Students with Kindles can obtain cases as PDFs for viewing on their devices.

Given that students typically tackle 600 cases during their two years at Darden, using the Kindle could eliminate the paper and printing associated with distributing what amounts to three to four stacks of material, the FT reports.

But beyond saving the environment and reducing the strain on students’ backs, Darden sees a business opportunity if the pilot goes well. According to the FT report, Darden is the second largest producer of case studies in the world after Harvard Business School, and being able to sell its case studies through Amazon could be huge. “I really want us to step out in front in the mastery of digital distribution,” Bruner told the FT.

Happily, a switch to the Kindle could also mean a real savings for business school students. Kindle ebooks generally sell at a significant discount, about 50 percent, according to the FT report.

Whether Kindles will be the right fit for business school students remains to be seen. In fact, even if the pilot goes well, Darden doesn’t plan to introduce Kindles in its executive short courses.  “Forty-year olds have a desire for relationship mastery; 28-year olds have a desire for technical mastery,” Bruner told the FT.

According to Bruner, the incoming class of MBA students is showing attributes of a multimedia generation, which means they prefer structured problems and dislike ambiguity. Of course, case studies provide exactly the opposite. “In case studies there are no right answers but there are many wrong ones,” Bruner told the FT. Perhaps having technical mastery through the Kindle will help this new class feel more comfortable with the ambiguity of cases.

For the full FT article, click here.

Posted in: MBA News

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