The site presents information relevant to the USC Marshall International Case Competition, an annual event hosted by USC’s Marshall School of Business. Most links on the site provide information designed specifically for case competition participants. The specific link provided on MERLOT, however, takes the user to cases used in past competitions. These cases can be downloaded. Currently, the “past cases” page includes information on five cases, although the 2009 case cannot be downloaded. The four remaining cases cover various aspects of strategy, including multiple marketing elements. For example, a case about the Los Angeles Times asks students to develop a strategic response to the effects of technology on print media. The case used in the 2007 competition requires students to develop an international entry strategy for Target. Cases provide detailed data, and range in length from 9-20 pages. These cases could be used as an assignment, either individual or team, and/or as the foundation for class discussions (synchronous or asynchronous).
To benefit from past business challenges and see recommendations for improvements. Although the primary purpose of the site is to provide information for competition participants, a secondary goal would be to provide students access to high quality cases used in past competitions. The individual goals of the cases vary, but all focus on some element of strategy development.
Target Student Population:
Although designed for the undergraduate population (juniors or seniors), these cases could also be assigned in MBA classes.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Pre-requisites should include a business background with undergraduate entry level classes completed. The cases would be most effective in a higher level marketing/business course (e.g., the capstone course), as a strong foundation of business knowledge is required to work through the cases.
Type of Material:
Recommended uses would include homework assignments (either individual or team), combined with discussion.
An internet browser like Explorer or Firefox is needed. In order to open case documents, users will also need Microsoft Word and Adobe Reader.
Evaluation and Observation
The cases are complete and of high quality. Substantial case information is included. The case topics include sufficient coverage of marketing topics, and represent current issues. These cases could be used in a variety of courses. The cases are clear and well-written. The information could be used in several situations, plus all business disciplines are brought together in a real-world simulation.
By design, cases can be ambiguous at times. Consequently, students without the requisite knowledge of key business concepts may struggle with the material. The students are not tournament tough in the real business world so their observations may be "pie in the sky." However, the judges who are generally very well-regarded business professionals choose the winners, so they can offset that weakness of academic competitions in general.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
Students are required to apply concepts learned previously, and to make decisions strategically. The case approach is effective because it simulates real-world decision-making. Working through the cases facilities the integration of concepts. It would be easy to write assignments for the cases. The Marshall Case Studies are a valauable teaching tool, reinforcing concepts of all business disciplines and how they interrelate. These assignments are generally very popular and interesting, drawing excellent comments from student groups.
Because the cases are complex, the instructor would need to guide the students through the discussion. If student learning is to be maximized, instructors will need to provide sufficient feedback and encourage interactive discussion.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Files downloaded easily, and the cases are self-explanatory. The key case questions are provided within each case.
Students can learn more by "doing" than reading and analyzing data. Action learning local or regional projects are just as good, if not better, long term learning experiences. The cases are copyrighted by the University of Southern California; the ramifications of this copyright are not clear to this reviewer. It clearly states on the cases that they cannot be posted or distributed. It is not clear whether students can visit the site and download the cases freely. Cases can be accessed only by downloading or opening via Microsoft Word or Adobe Reader (depending on the case).