Computer Support of Collaborative Case Based Learning by MBA Students

Many UK MBA programmes adopt a collaborative approach to the Harvard style of experiential case based learning. Within such programmes there is widespread use of computers but it is not clear how this improves student learning. Research on computer support of collaborative learning in other disciplines is of limited applicability because of the dual role of student as learner and as expert. In management education such research has mainly focused on technology.

Within this context this exploratory research seeks to establish how the actual use of computers in the collaborative study of cases within MBA programmes affects the efficiency and effectiveness of the learning process.

Three core courses from well-respected MBA programmes are studied in detail. Student attitudes are investigated using an established instrument and an open-ended questionnaire. In each course student behaviour is observed by studying one aspect of the course in which computers are being used. Data is collected through videos, participant observation and the capture of online conferences.

The three MBA programmes have comparable core curricula and computer rich environments. Delivery modes are full-time, part-time and distance so they cover a wide spectrum of the MBA student population in the UK.

Six propositions arise from the investigations of which four are established by this research. These show that UK MBA students are enthusiastic about computers and believe in their ability to use them competently. Most students do use computers extensively at all stages of collaborative case based learning. However there is a marked dissonance between their attitude and actual use. If this dissonance is addressed students can improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of their learning through using computers.

Thesis awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Technology, September 1998