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Using Databases Not Textbooks to Teach Undergraduate Business Students

Few would argue that business schools should offer courses that engage students and provide authentic learning environments. Acadia University’s fourth-year Corporate Strategy course is a good example of how this can be accomplished. Teaching undergraduate business students how to analyze an industry or competitive environment has long been a staple of this capstone course for the BBA program. If you are or have been a fourth-year student at another undergraduate business school, you probably have the names of the textbook authors memorized. This is not the case with Corporate Strategy at Acadia. Textbooks went out the door in this class years ago to be replaced by government, commercial and non-profit databases like CIPO, EDGAR, SEDAR, USGS, USPTO and FactFinder. Rather than authors’ names, brand names such as Hoovers, Value Line, CSR Hub, Patent Genius, and Similar Web replace will be recognized.

Dr. Conor Vibert.

Evidence Based Learning

Students are trained to analyze companies and industries using the same information as graduates in the work force. They learn how to identify common industry risk factors using company SEC 10K filings. They also learn industry profiles can be quickly accessed using numerous commercial databases including that of Value Line. These fourth-year learners are also introduced to company efforts to protect intellectual property by exploring patent summaries accessed through Google Patents or the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. Census data from Statistics Canada and the U.S. Census Bureau enables market segmentation decisions to be made based on actual, easy-to-access data. Country and minerals profiles of the U.S. Geological Survey offer students a means to understand the mineral strengths and shortcomings of some countries. Finally, examining national culture differences using Dutch scholar Geert Hofstede’s country comparison tool enables students to quickly grasp challenges of doing business abroad.

Innovative Teaching

Teaching students to use evidence from free online databases is a signal contribution to the Bachelor of Business Administration program of Acadia University of Dr. Conor Vibert, Professor of Business Strategy and Co-Founder of Casenet.ca. His style of teaching, a variant of the flipped classroom, not only helps to better prepare students for the challenges of entering the work force, it also sets them up to succeed in the final compulsory course of their business program, Strategic Issues, one where they use case method to analyze real business decisions of real managers.

Acadia University’s Fred C. Manning School of Business is located in the town of Wolfville in the beautiful Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. Home to over 600 undergraduate students it offers a four-year Bachelor of Business Administration program with majors in six areas including accounting, finance, marketing, entrepreneurship and innovation, employment relations, and technology management. Students enrolled in our program may also take advantage of international study and co-op education opportunities. More information can be found on the Fred. C. Manning School of Business homepage.