As the classroom becomes more student-centered by the day, educators across higher ed are looking for new ways to engage learners and encourage student ownership over the learning process. From podcasting to video tutorials, technology has unlocked new potential for content types across higher ed, and the introduction of blended learning has changed the way that educators and their learners interact.
But despite all of the changes happening across higher learning, there’s one classic content type that is gaining speed beyond its traditional use cases. While business schools and law schools are used to working with this long-form content type, the case study offers a unique opportunity for active learning across every discipline - not just the ones that come with a professional degree.
Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of using case studies in education, and how you can go beyond the expected to bring your examples to life.
The Benefits of Using Case Studies in the Classroom
There’s no doubt that students learn more effectively when they’re actively involved in the learning process, and case studies are a great way to get the wheels turning in the classroom. Some of the top benefits of incorporating case studies into your classroom include:
- Connecting Theory to Practice: Case studies offer a unique way for students to transfer the theoretical concepts that they learn in class to an applied setting.
- Encouraging Problem Solving: Providing students with real-world examples of how they can apply what they’re learning in practice expands the context in which students apply their knowledge.
- Simplifying Decision Making: Using case studies is a great way for students to practice making decisions without the worry of real-world consequences.
- Fostering Analytical Skills: Using case studies in the classroom encourages the development of analytical skills, targeting the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive learning.
Using Case Studies in the Classroom
A good case study is a versatile way to support the transfer of abstract concepts into real-life experiences, and just like real life, they come in many shapes and forms. While some educators and facilitators incorporate case studies into the classroom to support key concepts at the end of daily lectures, others build their entire course around the case method approach to teaching.
The style, length, and format that your case studies take will depend on the goals of your content and the needs of your learners. They can be used to support individual learning by providing content for reflection or be used as a tool to stimulate classroom discussions and debate. What’s most important is that case studies introduce a sense of ownership over learning, and encourage students to think outside of the traditional box.
Best Practices for Introducing Case Studies in Your Classroom
Whether you’re teaching a college classroom or looking to engage lifelong learners, case studies are a valuable tool to help students transfer what they are learning in theory into practice. But creating custom case studies can take time, effort, and energy. Below are the best practices for incorporating case studies into your classroom plan:
- Identify Your Objectives - Like all good instructional design, creating an effective case study starts by aligning it to your learning objectives.
Since case studies can be as simple or complex as you would like, starting with learning objectives helps to narrow down variables like what types of questions you should be asking your learners, or how long your case study should be.
- Pay Attention to Storytelling - According to the Center for Applied Special Technology, a good case study captures our attention and improves the learning experience because of its storytelling. Choose a topic, example, or experience that grabs your learners’ attention and encourages them to participate in the problem-solving process.
Using the fundamentals of storytelling in your case study will help your learners retain more information, which is particularly helpful when you’re dealing with lots of content and intricate details.
- Get Active - While it may not be suited for every classroom scenario, creating interactive case studies that encourage student participation is a great way to get students actively engaged in learning.
Classroom activities like role-playing the people in the case study, or even taking a field trip to the venue where the case study is situated can help students insert themselves in these real-world scenarios and troubleshoot their problem-solving skills without the risk of making real-world mistakes.
Include External Sources - Including external sources in your case study is a great way to add insight and variety to the learning experience. Look for industry professionals that can relate to your topic, and don’t be afraid to reach out and include them in your content creation process.
If inviting them in to meet your students in person isn’t an option, look for creative ways to capture what they know so that you can use it again and again. Incorporating interviews, podcasts, and video content are great ways to leverage external knowledge without having to orchestrate an in-class event.
Make it Multimedia - Above all, make sure that your case study content meets the needs of the 21st-century learner. Gone are the days of passive learning styles, as the modern day learner expects to be engaged and included in the education process, and is looking to access real-world learning opportunities that support their performance and decision-making in real-time.
Provide your learners with rich multimedia experiences that incorporate added interactivity and encourage active learning. Get creative with your content types, and don’t be afraid to ask your students what they would like to see to make this teaching method most impactful.
No matter what approach you take when creating your case studies, the important thing is to remember to meet your learners where they are. Case studies provide learners with the opportunity to test their skills in theory by troubleshooting solutions with the support of their peers before having to make similar decisions in the professional world. The more engaging, memorable, and realistic they are, the more likely they are to be of use in today’s classroom.