If you’re anything like me, you’re spending a fortune on business school tuition and you were shocked the first day classes started and you were told that you would have to buy up to $200 in HBS cases for your classes (and this happens every new mod/quarter/semester depending on which classes you are taking). If you’re like me, any money you can save can go a long way.
For most of my business school career so far (aside from my first mod), I have been creating my own coursepacks of HBS cases for my classes and saving money while doing so, while saving paper by not having printed copies of them. At UNC KFBS, most students aren’t even aware that it is an option to create your own coursepacks, much less save money by doing so. You also get the added benefit of not having to have printed copies of every case unless you want a paper copy.
How is this possible, you might ask. The trick is that every HBS case is available through the Harvard Business Review website (http://hbr.org/) with a discount, and many of the readings that professors assign through HBR articles are available free through the main university library. There are some cases where professors will assign cases from [Stanford/MIT/Darden] but sometimes those are available as reprints from HBR that you can get with the discount, or you can buy them at regular price from their respective stores. Other times professors will create custom cases for their class, but for these you can usually email the professor and they will send you a copy of them. These two situations have happened to me a few times and they were usually very easy to overcome.
Here’s my actual process. For the cases, just go to the HBR site, create an account, and search for the cases for the class. There are a few ways to do this. Usually a professor will list all the readings for the class in the syllabus, so you can just do a search for the case title on the HBR site and they will usually be easy enough to find. Sometimes, they will even list the case number (it will usually look something like 9-910-036), in which case you can search for that and you will find the case. You can also usually find a listing of the readings on the course website, usually under the schedule.
For each case, just add it to your cart, and then when you check out, use the code “HBRORGREG2″ to get 20% off your entire order. The site says that it is for your first order but I have been using that code successfully for all of my purchases for well over a year now. Do that and bam, you already saved 20% off your cases.
[As an aside, there's a way that you can even get 50% off of your cases. However, this requires your professor to take action and register their class at http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/register (it's free for faculty from degree-granting institutions to register) and choose the cases required for the class. They will get a url to give to their students, where the students can buy the cases for 50% off. I have approached some of the core professors at UNC KFBS about doing this (one of which was the assistant dean) and they were reluctant to do this for various reasons, some of which were political. I didn't agree with them and I won't get into details here but I'd be glad to hear if anyone approached their professor about setting this up and what your experience was.]
The next part of the coursepacks is getting the readings. From my experience, most of the assigned readings are usually either available for free from online sources (which the professor will provide links to or provide the pages downloaded, available from their course website) or they are HBR articles. The first kind you don’t have to worry about as you wouldn’t be paying for the copyrights for them, but the second kind you will be paying for the copyrights if you buy the coursepacks from the school. Most people don’t know that the university purchases a license for their students to access publications such as HBR or The Economist. The following instructions will apply to UNC but if you are a student at a large university, there is probably a similar method where you can get access to these publications for free through your university library. Part of your high tuition money goes to pay for services such as this so you shouldn’t feel like you’re doing anything underhanded here.
If you’re going from the MBA intranet site, there will be a link on the left sidebar that says “Research & Library Resources” that will take you to the research tools page. There are many research tools available here (I’m surprised and saddened that the only time I’ve heard about these incredible and generally expensive-but-free-for-students resources was in my consulting classes) but the one we will be focusing on for this post is the link on the left sidebar labeled “Other Electronic Databases at UNC-Chapel Hill” that will take you to a page of the UNC library. If you want a direct link, it’s here. Again, you will see many sources here but we will focus on getting the HBR articles. There is a search box on the right that will let you search for any article in the electronic library. If you search for the article name, generally you will be able to get the sources you want. From the list of results, click into one of the results to see a list of available sources for that result. Most likely you will want to use “Business Source Complete” as the source. Click on the link to go directly to the article, and it will open a page where you can access the article. Most likely you will want the pdf version, so click on the link for that and you can save the article to your computer.
There are a few issues you may run into. Sometimes, the link to the article from the list of sources will be broken and show an error page. In this case, go back to the list of sources, note the year, volume, and issue of the article you are looking for, and click on the link to go to the “Journal” instead. From there, you can browse through the complete journal collection and find the issue where your article is, and that will give you a listing of all the articles in that issue. For “Business Source Complete”, you can change the page options at the top to list 50 articles per page, and do a ctrl+f to search for the article easily. From here, you can access the article page and get to the pdf version.
Another potential issue is that sometimes there will be a few listings for an article in the search results, and some of them will actually be reviews or abstracts of the article you are looking for. In this case, if you run into one of these, just go back to the search results and check out a different results.
This is all it takes to create your own coursepack. It can be a little bit of work but it’s not as bad as it sounds once you’ve gotten used to the process. I also find the money that I save to be well worth the time.
One other thing to look out for is that there will be some coursepacks that end up cheaper through the school than buying them independently. This is because of the price structure. I’m not sure exactly how cases are priced but most cases are $6.95 regular price. There will be a few cases that are $12 so those are a little more expensive, but reprints are $6.95 if you already bought the original case. This is a situation where the school coursepack can potentially be cheaper. For Digital Marketing below, there are 2 such $12 cases in the coursepack, and no HBR articles so it is actually slightly more expensive to create your own coursepack.
To give you an idea of how much you can save, here is a listing of some classes I’m taking this mod, with the price of the coursepack from the school compared to my cost for buying the materials independently.
|Class||cost (school coursepack)||cost (independent)|
|Digital Marketing||$44.24 (8 cases)||$52.56|
|Project Management||$80.59 (6 cases + 4 articles)||$37.40|
|Strategic Innovation||$87.80 (6 cases + 11 articles)||$33.36|
I hope this post has been helpful. Leave a comment if you have questions or if you’ve tried doing this as I’d be interested in hearing your experiences.