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Business Teaching Cases – A Look at the Market


Conor Vibert

Tech Start Up Co-Founder and Business Professor

It is rare to find a graduate of an undergraduate or graduate university business program who has not had a learning experience based on analysis of a teaching case. This is indeed the situation of individuals who have completed our program at the Fred C. Manning School of Business of Acadia University. Harvard Business School pioneered the use of the case method decades ago and is the runaway leader in terms of creating and selling cases around the world. Not surprisingly, there is money to be made when it comes to creating and selling teaching cases. Indeed, it might be described as an industry. A few months ago, I did a bit of online research to learn more about this industry. What I found is that there is a lot of activity in terms of the creation and selling of business teaching cases around the world. However, there is not a lot of information regarding the size and financial value of the overall industry.

A Traditional Case

A case can take different forms. What I refer to is a description of a challenge or situation facing a manager. The description can normally range in length from a few paragraphs to twenty or thirty pages if financial statements or other information is included. These traditional cases remain predominantly text based. The objective of this style of instruction is for the student or students to assume the role of the case subject and prescribe a solution to the challenge.

Number of Case Suppliers is Growing

Business schools and their professors are the primary source of cases. Major distributors of cases include Harvard Business Publishing, Asia Case Research Centre in Hong Kong, Stanford Business School, Ivey Publishing (Richard Ivey School of Business), MIT Sloan Learning Edge, WDI Publishing (University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business), and The Case Centre.[1] New entrants are being attracted to the market.

Collaborative Selling

Traditional case suppliers work with each other in a network to sell their products. As an example through its website, Harvard Business Publishing serves as a distributor of the case collections of over 25 case creating partner organizations. Most of these collections number between 250 and 400 cases.[2] Ivey Publishing sources its cases from 30 different institutions around the globe.[3] The Case Centre is an important aggregator and selling platform for case developers or professors not employed by business schools with their own case institute or that are not formally tied to a major case distributor.

Cases are Affordable

If one considers cases in comparison to traditional textbooks, cases are an affordable option for students. If comfortable using cases for teaching purposes, a professor or an instructor can bundle a collection of cases across different topics to form the learning content of an entire course. If one takes into account website advertised prices for single print case copies, an entire course worth of case content can be created for roughly half the price or less of a typical new textbook from numerous providers such as Ivey Publishing or The Case Centre.[4]

Harvard is # 1 with Millions of Cases Sold Annually

There is an established commercial market for case studies. Harvard Business School reports that sales of its cases are up 35% since 2011. Harvard Business Publishing (HBP) sold just over 13.2 million teaching cases in 2015 up from 10.6 million in 2012.[5] A recent article reported that Harvard Business Publishing had 2014 case sales revenues of U.S. $30 million.[6] As the title of article suggests, Harvard has the market cornered. Harvard sells to 4000 schools around the world.

But Darden & Ivey are Important Competitors

One estimate is that HBP has an 80% share of the global market share. [7] If this is accurate, approximately 16,500,000 cases were sold around the world in 2015. A recent Bloomberg story reported that Darden Business Publishing is the second largest case publisher in the U.S. with just over 700,000 cases sold in 2014.[8] Ivey Publishing is Canada’s largest developer and distributor of cases with a collection over 3400 active cases.[9]

Case teaching remains an important means of informing students about how the world of business operates and how organizations are managed. Judging by the activities of a number of different case distributors, creating and selling cases is also lucrative for some of them.

Conor Vibert PhD. is an innovative user and researcher of new educational technologies, a practitioner of flipped classroom teaching methods, a developer of evidence based instructional techniques and a creator of streaming video multimedia cases available through Casenet.ca. He trains individuals to use online information sources to understand company behavior and has published a number of books on the topic. Over 600 video interviews with entrepreneurs, managers and executives around the world positions him as a unique source of knowledge in business behavior.

[1] Case Depositories Academy of International Business https://aib.msu.edu/resources/casedepositories.asp

[2] http://hbsp.harvard.edu/list/partners

[3] https://www.iveycases.com/ProductsServices.aspx.

[4] http://www.thecasecentre.org/educators/ordering/buying/pricing/northamerica

[5]Harvard Business School Financial Report http://www.hbs.edu/about/financialreport/2015/financials/Pages/default.aspx

[6] Levy, Francesca, Harvard Business School has the Market Cornered on Case Studies, Bloomberg Business Week http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-09/harvard-s-case-study-monopoly

[7] Melissa Korn (2012) The Business of Case Studies, Wall Street Journal. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970204571404577253513002791028

[8] Levy, Francesca, Harvard Business School has the Market Cornered on Case Studies, Bloomberg Business Week http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-09/harvard-s-case-study-monopoly

[9] http://www.affsys.com/affinity-systems-delivers-on-time-on-budget-and-within-scope-for-ivey-publishing/


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