Experiential Learning @CIIM MBM: Connecting Business and Education via Live Case Projects
by Olga Kandinskaia

Practical learning has become so much more important in the post-covid business management education. Live case studies offer a learning process that today’s students both expect and need: real-life situations provide added context and complexities. Live cases can also offer additional incentives to students, well beyond the academic grade.

Even before the current global pandemic, the rise in experiential learning has been a new significant trend at the leading business schools worldwide. Practical learning in its various formats was being increasingly added to the academic curriculum to enrich the experience of the Master-level students and thus prepare them for a successful career in the challenging and dynamic business environment of today. This year we have witnessed the unprecedented challenges that the covid-19 pandemic has imposed on businesses in all countries. For me, as Programme Director of the CIIM MBM, one lesson has become even more clear than before: the new professionals entering the workforce need to be truly agile, highly innovative, super flexible, and more creative than ever. They need to develop excellent team communication abilities as well as gain good analytical skills. The learning process to prepare such professionals has to be re-designed. Academic programmes should place higher emphasis on hands-on experience, which should be structured and well-organized by the joint collaborative effort between industry professionals and educators.

CIIM-Medochemie Live Case Project 2020

Since 2011, CIIM’s Master of Science in Business Management (MBM) has built several successful corporate partnership relationships – which are now used to the mutual benefit of the companies and the students. One example of experiential learning by CIIM MBM students is a joint Live Case Project between CIIM MBM and Medochemie, the leading pharmaceutical company in Cyprus. Medochemie is truly a role model for other companies and would-be entrepreneurs. Starting with just 8 employees and 3 machines in 1976, Medochemie developed itself into a mighty manufacturer of quality pharmaceuticals for the global market that has received numerous awards from the Cyprus government and from the European Union for outstanding performance.

This year, the Live Case Project was organised in cooperation with Agetis, a manufacturer of branded nutraceuticals within the Medochemie Group. John Diakides, the General Manager of Agetis, and Charis Theocleous, the Medochemie Group Product Manager, introduced the Live Case Project to the selected three teams of MBM students in February 2020 at the brand new premises of Medochemie in Limassol. Commenting on the company’s motivation, Mr Theocleous noted: “Medochemie is a firm believer in standards and actions that promote the younger generation which has the enthusiasm, passion and innovation to progress and succeed in our ever-demanding era.”

Competing teams of CIIM MBM students had to develop recommendations for the strategic market placement and successful sales path for new nutritional supplements of Agetis in Cyprus. Each team’s tasks included primary field research among pharmacists, doctors and potential consumers, situation analysis, market segmentation, and a strategic marketing plan plus immediate actions within a certain budget. As Programme Director of the MBM, I worked with each team as their academic mentor in this project. What was new this year is that we used virtual meetings extensively throughout the project, and this in fact increased the communication flow during the preparation. The Live Case Project was both a test and a practice for students’ agility, creativity and innovative approach, not to mention flexibility, as we had to ‘freeze’ the primary field research during the lockdown months and adapt to a new deadline. The final presentations successfully took place on September 30th, 2020, in front of a committee comprised of managers from both Medochemie and Agetis. Each presentation was followed by an extensive Q&A session. The experience of presenting recommendations directly to the company creates powerful incentives for students, and they go well above the regular effort of earning an academic grade.

Virtuous Cycle of Live Case Studies: Beneficial Connections between Companies and Business Schools

The CIIM-Medochemie Live Case Project has proved to be highly beneficial for both sides. Mr Diakides commented: “All three presentations were of high quality and well researched with very interesting and unique ideas which we are willing to try! Well done!” The company issued recommendation letters to express appreciation of the three presenting teams, and each participant individually:3

   Team 1: Andjela Dimovic and Evangelia Zerva
   Team 2: Sophia Constantinou, Giorgos Damianou, Ruslan Kulak and Konstantinos Papadopoulos
   Team 3: Demetra Lordou, Ariadni Louka and Dimitrios Papachlimintzos

The company has selected team 1 as the winner of the 2020 competition. We are happy to give our congratulations to the students of the winning team. Here is what they said about their experience during this project: “The beauty of this project is that it was more than just a competition; it was a learning experience and adventure. It gave us a unique opportunity to use the knowledge we previously acquired from diverse MSc courses and apply it in a real-life environment. Working on a “live” project, analyzing the market, generating our own creative ideas and proposing innovative strategies to Agetis managers was a truly motivating experience!”

CIIM would like to use the opportunity of this article to express sincere appreciation of the Medochemie’s continuous collaboration to support the business education process.

Dr Olga Kandinskaia is Associate Professor of Finance and Director of MBM – MSc in Business Management at CIIM – Cyprus International Institute of Management. She is a recipient of Cyprus Education Leaders Awards 2020 for her innovative “Learning by Doing” method in the CIIM MBM programme. Email: [email protected].