Case Studies in Learning

Case Studies in Learning

Case studies present students with a detailed description of a situation related to the class material. The students can then analyze the decision making process of the characters involved. Using hindsight, the students then can identify things that went wrong and explain or justify why they might have went that way. On the other hand, students can identify what went right and explain or justify why it may have went that way.

Case studies give students a look into real situations that have occurred. This lets the student know that the material they are studying is relevant to what they actually need to know out in the field. Case studies allow students to identify mistakes, analyze them, and figure out how to solve the problem. You should be able to find cases in your subject area. Often there are books that are full case studies.

Other ideas for application:

You can put students in a situation where THEY are the case study in progress. You could give only bits of the actual case study at a time then ask the students how they would react. For instance, you could give them a situation, then ask them how they would react. Have them post their reactions using a discussion board. After the students have reacted to the first bit of the case, you could give them what actually happened, then move on to the next bit of the case.

These activities are a creative way for students to assume roles and to think outside of themselves.

Project Based Work

Project Based Work

Project based work allow students to pursue their own particular interests. They can take place individually or in groups. Many online activities are project based already. Projects allow for students to receive feedback and different viewpoints from other students – not just the instructor. Students can then reformulate their project before final submission. Collaboration is key for peer evaluation-based projects.

Project based activities also enable students to gain a sense of accomplishment while participating in a practical application. Projects often-times start off small and lead to student continuation of the project after the course has ended.

There are tons of things you could do for project based activities. The online environment can accommodate through discussion boards, chats, instant messaging, and the vast resources available on the World Wide Web. Many of the project based activities that you have in your traditional class will also transfer over to the online environment.

Ideas for project-based activities:

  • Create a website
  • Perform an experiment
  • Write a paper
  • Interview an expert and report your findings
  • Create something… etc.

To support project based activities and small group exercises, students will often communicate with each other using various forms of asynchronous and synchronous communication. Text messaging, cell phones, palm pilots, laptops, and wireless communications are continuing to become more and more sophisticated. Education follows these trends and many times leads the way. As these tools become more and more accessible, you can have students communicate in many different ways.

You might want to keep fairly up to date with what is available and what is trendy in technology. Often times, creative project ideas stem from new technologies that arise.

Small Group Work

Small Group Work

Small group work can be just as effective online as it is in the traditional classroom. In many cases it can be more effective because students are not subject to external factors such as shyness, gender, disabilities, geography, etc.

Students can share their ideas while analyzing other input from fellow group members. On Bloom’s Taxonomy, small group activities are placed in the categories of (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation) higher intellectual activities). The collaboration among group members can continue at any time through instant messengers, chat rooms, and discussion boards.

You can implement small group work and encourage communication tools such as chat rooms and instant messengers for students to communicate with each other.

LMS’s have their own chat features that allows application sharing which can be useful.  Just remember that many people take online courses for different reasons so scheduling required tasks in a live chat can throw a lot of people off schedule and many times defeats the purpose of online courses.  You could encourage small groups to utilize the eCollege chat and let them decide how to schedule the meeting.

Application and Examples

  1. Role play and Simulations can help to give students real-world application. For example, you may put students in groups of 3 and give each student a role; Web Designer, Graphic Designer, Content Designer. Then give them a problem. ” You have been assigned to create a web page for Dean Foods. They need three pages complete with graphics, content about their new soy milk product, and a navigational scheme. Coordinate a plan with your group members and follow through with the plan. Post your completed website in the discussion area. That group must now figure out how they are to carry out the plan. There are many uses for role play simulations. Be creative! Switch the roles for another assignment so that each student has the opportunity to be the project manager. On Dale’s Cone of Experience, simulations are the next best thing to “doing” the actual experience in real life.
  2. Guided Design activities encourage students to solve open-ended problems that require them to gather information, think logically, communicate ideas, and apply steps in a decision-making process. The instructor is there to act as a consultant and facilitator during this small group activity. Example: Solve a problem… Research a problem and report your findings… etc.
  3. Games and Competition exercises can be implemented. For example, in a business class, you could assign groups and have them communicate through a discussion or role play to finish a project. At the same time you could have 4 other groups competing to complete the same project. You can offer a reward to the group that does the best job based on your criteria. There are many ways to incorporate games and competition into your strategy.
  4. Cooperative learningis a group activity that is divided into 3 concepts:
    1. Group Rewards
    2. Individual Accountability
    3. Equal Opportunity for Success

Web-Enhanced Classes

What are they?

When referring to a Web-enhanced course, it is simply a traditional face to face course that has supplemental materials online. They are essentially technology enhanced traditional courses.

So for example, it could be a website that includes your syllabus, PowerPoint Presentations from class, other links, student grades, and class materials. Many instructors will use a Learning Management System (LMS) to web-enhance their face to face courses.



  • Allows students to download the class presentations online. (You can have them print out the materials before class which can save you time at the copy machine).
  • If the student lost the syllabus, they can pick it up online.
  • You can make class announcements outside of the regular class period.
  • Allows you to include supplemental exercises or downloadable assignments.
  • Allows you to post student grades online so the students can check their grade at any time.
  • Saves time, paper, and student frustration



  • Keep in mind that the student signed up for your course knowing that it was a traditional face-to-face class.
  • Offer the web-enhancement simply as a supplement to your face to face instruction.
  • Try not to require students to complete online activities unless you complete those activities during the regular class hours, or you know that everyone has internet access at home- after all, they didn’t sign up for an online class.