Eric Dolansky knows textbooks can sometimes fall short in reinforcing the concepts his students learn in class.
They might tell important theories and provide examples to demonstrate how ideas are applied in the business world. However, the associate professor in the Department of Marketing at the Goodman School of Business knows that’s not the most engaging way to teach.
That’s why it’s not uncommon for Dolansky to do his own case research, interviewing businesses about a current issue or decision they’re facing, then penning a story that inspires students to discuss solutions and use the knowledge they’ve gained during their studies in a practical way.
“It’s similar to a real business,” Dolansky said. “It’s more application than absorption of information and it’s up to students to bring convincing arguments and speak in favour of their point of view. It’s more in line with what students will do when they graduate. They’ll take information and make decisions.”
That unique approach in the classroom has contributed to Dolansky earning the 2020 Goodman Faculty Teaching Excellence Award. The recognition reinforces how he nurtures the next generation of marketers and business minds.
“I have found over my career that students respond very positively to case learning, and this award validates that in large part,” he said. “I know that case writing and being involved with organizations and journals dedicated to cases has made me a better professor in the classroom.”
Case research and writing is a teaching tool Dolansky was exposed to while working toward his MBA and PhD at the Ivey Business School at Western University. Virtually every class during his master’s program was case-based.
Using business cases in the classroom isn’t a new or novel concept, he noted. They’ve been a teaching staple at Harvard University for the past century.
They’re also used across all disciplines at Brock today.
“As a faculty of business focused on experiential learning and providing exceptional education for students, cases can drive that,” Dolansky said.
Dolansky writes two to three cases a year by spending a few hours interviewing a business owner or key person within an organization. Ultimately, he’s gathering information to write a story with a protagonist, conflict and an ending that comes before the story is finished. Leaving the case open ended inspires students to think about what they would do if they were in the main character’s proverbial shoes.
“My role is more to guide [student] discussion than to lecture,” he said. “If I write a case myself, I know what I want it to accomplish in a course.”
Dolansky then writes teaching notes so others can use the material in their own classrooms.
His passion for case research and writing has earned him multiple awards, including from the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada and the North American Case Research Association for which he currently serves as co-president.
Dolansky has also served as faculty advisor for the JDCC marketing team, John Molson International Case Competition and Goodman DECA, as well as serving as a judge for the Dobson and PepsiCo case competitions.
“I really love case teaching,” said Dolansky. “I love the interaction it provides me with the students in the classroom. Because a big part of what I do in the classroom is case teaching, I see this award as a recognition of the value of my teaching approach.”