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
Online Forums

Online Forums

The online forums instructional strategy.

Forums come in two variations :

1) Panel

2) Symposium

The panel is a small group of subject matter experts (around 3 to 6 people) who sit (or sit virtually) in front of an audience and carry on a purposeful conversation on a topic brought up by the moderator (or the instructor). Audience interaction is usually not available.

Ideas for application:

  1. Gather a group of experts, colleagues, peers, or equally competent subject area gurus.
  2. Create a discussion topic related to your class, subject, concept, or chapter section.
  3. Pose a question to the panel in the discussion board.
  4. Allow the panel to post their thoughts.
  5. Guide the panel through your questions or areas in which you feel the students should be concentrating on the most.
  6. Students can watch the discussion taking place.
  7. When the discussion has ended, pose a follow up question to the students and require them to answer your question and discuss with other students in the discussion board.

*Note: Synchronous chat rooms can also be used, however the logistics of gathering 3 or more working professionals in a room at the same time to type responses to questions can often be time consuming and hard to manage. In a discussion board, the experts have more time to respond, think about their experiences, and post their thoughts without being pressed for time.

The symposium involves a small group (around 2 to 5 people) of experts in a given subject area who give presentations and take questions from the audience afterwards. They then move on to the next layer related to that subject area. The process is repeated. Students are allowed to “pick the brains” of the subject experts so they can gather a deeper understanding of the material seen through the eyes of someone working in the field.

Ideas for application:

  1. Gather a group of experts, colleagues, peers, or equally competent subject area gurus.
  2. Create a discussion topic related to your class, subject, concept, or chapter section.
  3. Allow the experts to present the subject in the discussion board. You may choose to moderate and guide the experts with questions.
  4. When the experts have finished their presentations and discussion, open the discussion to students so they can ask questions of the experts.
Online Discussions

Online Discussions

Instructional Strategy: Online Discussions

The asynchronous discussion strategy adheres to online learning in many ways. Students have more time to think about their answers and research areas in which they do not understand. When they have a clear grasp of the content, they can post a detailed analysis of their findings through writing. This luxury of time to think and learn is not available in your traditional course environment.

Discussion Boards are often used to discuss concepts, elaborate on ideas, current events, synthesis, research, simulate application/role play, or talk about non-class issues. The instructor will usually post the instructions in a new topic of a discussion and the students will follow those instructions to post their findings, thoughts, etc. It is a good idea to encourage students to reply to each other to stimulate a discussion and explore new ideas. To avoid destructive behavior, Acceptable Use Agreements may be used.

Excerpt from “Ten Ways Online Education Matches, or Surpasses, Face to Face Learning by Mark Kassop

“Academics have recognized for years the shortcomings of the faculty-centered classroom, but it has been difficult to break away from the paradigm. Whether the classroom instructor uses lecture, discussions, role playing, small group activities, or any other technique, it is still the instructor running the show. In an online environment, however, the instructor soon takes a back seat. Students are empowered to learn on their own and even to teach one another. Particularly in the discussion group mode, students have the opportunity to explain, share, comment upon, critique, and develop course materials among themselves in a manner rarely seen in the F2F classroom. In a recent online discussion about the meaning of deviance, students in an Introduction to Sociology course were asked to cite a human behavior that is considered deviant in all cultures. Twenty-five students contributed more than 125 responses in a week-long exchange in which various students suggested that rape, murder, homosexuality, terrorism, child abuse, and other behaviors are universally deviant. Other students noted how certain cultural contexts could make any of those behaviors (and all other behaviors) nondeviant to one or more groups of people, depending on their perspectives. Students served as instructors to their classmates, and together they worked toward learning goals more effectively than if they had been provided with the answer by the instructor.”

Application Examples:

1) Peer Evaluations can be incorporated into a discussion. For example a student may post their paper (through an attachment) in the discussion board and have other students evaluate his/her work. The student can then post a reply or constructive feedback in the discussion.

2) Critical thinking/current event exercises are also used in discussions. For example, you might require your students to read a chapter on the Economy then have them post in the discussion the effect that war has on the economy, and possible economy recovery options. You can then give participation points to students who reply and participate.

3) Research links for further discussion are a great way to take advantage of the information available on the internet. For example, you may post a new discussion that has 10 links to other web sites. Then in your instructions you might say, “Compare these 10 sources. Out of these sources, which one is the most reliable and why? Post your findings in the discussion area and reply to your fellow students.”

4) Cyber Cafe – Create a place where students can relax and talk about anything. You may start off the discussion with a description of yourself and your family. Encourage students to do the same. This is a great place for students to get to know each other.

Self Directed Learning

Self Directed Learning

Self-directed learning is a proactive initiative taken by the student to direct their own learning. Independent studies, individualized learning, self-paced instruction, and many forms of online activities, etc. are all examples of self directed learning. Pro-active learners tend to retain more information because they actively seek out resources readily available to them resulting in a more meaningful and purposeful learning experience. Their opposite, passive or reactive learners wait for the instructor to tell them what they need know. Proactive self-directed learners on the other hand seek out knowledge based on the objectives, exercises, or assignments given to them.

In regards to online teaching, the self-directed approach weaves in nicely with the environment. The students are allowed to set up their own time to actively seek out new knowledge. Because of the vast amount of information available on the web, students will often run into several different viewpoints on a subject, see how something works, watch a video or interview, take virtual tours, and have access to the library all while sitting in the comfort of their own home.

We all have engaged in some form of self-directed learning at some point in our lives. Whether it be working on an engine, shopping for the best price at the mall, following a recipe, etc. You will probably agree that you have retained much of that information that you actively sought out.