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Business Studies Go High-Tech
Darden Professors Compile Multi-Media Business Cases

January 4, 1999 -- Southern consumers roared with approval when McDonalds Corp. featured NASCAR drivers in a recent advertising push for its Big Macs.

But could stock car drivers sell hamburgers in Denver as well as Daytona?

That's the question facing students in Paul Farris' marketing class at the University of Virginia's Darden Graduate School of Business Administration. Unlike past classes that pored over case studies in print, these students are logging onto the Internet to hone their marketing skills online.

The electronic McDonalds/NASCAR case study, "McDonalds: Marketing at 200 MPH," written by Farris, enables students to read newspaper ads, listen to radio spots and watch video clips of television commercials, bringing business problems alive with sound, light and action.

"These cases offer information you could never convey in a print case," said Christian J. Lehmbeck, director of multimedia and graphics for Darden's instructional technology group. "At the same time, you have to work with the medium," Lehmbeck said. "You can't just put textbooks online. It has to be interactive."

Multimedia cases enable professors to do things that just can't be done with printed cases, agrees Farris, Darden's Landmark Communications Inc. Professor of Business Administration. "For international students, who may never have seen a NASCAR race, we can show an excerpt, complete with crash-replay. For all our students, we can show consumer focus groups, store visits and shopping encounters with sales people. Things students just read about in the traditional cases come to life. While we don't want to replace paper cases, we do want them to have more impact."

Farris' innovative case study has turned heads even outside of Darden. Stuart Feldman, director of the Electronic Commerce Institute at IBM, recently said the case demonstrated the best use of multimedia that he had seen. And Farris's case, along with others compiled by Darden faculty, have been used by students at Harvard University's Business School and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Darden likewise may sell access to these copyrighted cases to other interested business schools in the future.

Farris' marketing class is one of 20 Darden classes that now use multi-media case studies, according to Lehmbeck. The most enthusiastic users of the new technology so far have been professors teaching marketing, finance and organizational behavior. Marketing, with the availability of short videos, advertising campaign materials for print, television and radio, is particularly suited to the medium.

The multimedia case studies are just the tip of the electronic iceberg at Darden.

The school has electronic capabilities built into all of its large lecture halls, with outlets for students to plug in their computers at their desks. Display screens can be lowered from the ceiling when needed.

A centrally operated videotape system allows a single tape to be projected into one or more classrooms simultaneously -- and if an individual VCR is out of service, the central operator merely switches to another machine.

Darden also has a state-of-the-art television studio that enables the school both to tape discussions for later viewing or participate in a national or international videoconference on a real time basis.

These systems are part of Darden's 10-year investment in video production, which accelerated with the construction of Darden's new campus in 1995-96. The electronic infrastructure is part of Darden's "Next Generation Internet," or NGI, a data delivery system scheduled to be finished early next year.

On completion, the NGI system will deliver video on demand to 48 group study rooms, 14 classrooms and four mobile videoconferencing rooms. First Virtual Corp., of Santa Clara, Calif., is supplying the products and services needed for the NGI system, which delivers voice, video and data over the Internet.

To discuss the multi-media cases and their use in the classroom, call Paul Farris at (804) 924-0524, or write him at

For more information about the delivery of electronic services to Darden, call Chris Lehmbeck at (804) 982-3029 or write him by email at; or, call Randy Smith, telecommunications engineering supervisor, at (804) 243-6173, or write him at

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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