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Case Study Strategy for Online Courses

According to Marsick, good adult education should be experiential. It should draw upon the past experience of participants...should be participatory in nature and should have an action component, which is a link to future experience. The case study is a method that meets these criteria. Marsick claims the key to a successful case method is the selection of the right problem situation. The problem situation must be relevant both to the interests and experience level of learners and to the concepts being taught. The case report should include facts regarding the problem, the environmental context, and the characters of the people involved in the case. Marsick advises that the case report should be factual, but also contain the opinions and views of the people involved. Learners should have access to the problem solution, but not until they have reached their own conclusions and can then compare their results with the actual decision taken to resolve the problem.

The case analysis, according to Marsick, can be carried out with the learners working independently or in groups. She advises that if groups are used, then the group should be provided the opportunity to brainstorm their perceptions of the case before discussion. She encourages the use of the Socratic method, a probing, critical discussion that raises new perspectives and digs for underlying assumptions that may not be apparent. One advantage of using the case method is that it emphasizes practical thinking. Just as in a real situation, learners are required to make decisions under time pressure with an inadequate stock of information. Marsick further believes that the case method assists learners in identifying principles after examining the facts of the case and then applying those principles to new situations; thus they learn to formulate problems as well as solve them. Case analysis is equally effective when used in combination with other instructional strategies.

In the online environment case studies can be presented on web pages and discussed through email or conferencing groups. Many case studies are available for access on the Internet or cases can be developed by class groups as collaborative projects. In addition, the vast resources of the Internet can be tapped by students and educators to contribute data, information and expert advice to case development and analysis.

This text has been adapted from Creating a Powerful Online Course through the Use of Multiple Instructional Strategies