Facilitating case study active learning activities in physically-distanced learning spaces
Time and Effort
|Instructor Prep Time||Medium|
|Student Activity Time||Medium|
|Instructor Response Time||Medium|
|Complexity of Activity||Medium|
Case Studies have student teams review a written study of a real-world scenario containing a field-related problem or situation. Case studies usually include a brief history of the situation and present a dilemma the main character is facing. Team members apply course concepts to identify and evaluate alternative approaches to solving the problem.|
Use it when you want...
- Students to bridge the gap between theory and practice and between the classroom and the workplace,
- To have students engage in critical reflection by considering multiple alternatives for problem-solving, or
- To help students develop skills in analysis, synthesis, communication, and decision-making.
What students will need
- Laptop, or tablet, or mobile phone
- Classroom with campus wireless connection
- Resources for student access to computers
The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Case Studies learning activity within a classroom with a physical distancing layout.
- Identify a case study or develop a new one. The case can be real or hypothetical.
- Develop a case study handout with a series of questions to guide students’ analysis using Google Docs and/or create a Zoom session in which students with work collaboratively.
- Form student groups and distribute cases (identical or different) to each team. Note: Consider limiting the group size to 2-3 students. Groups larger than 2-3 people are encouraged to use text-based chat features instead of speaking to one another to reduce the noise volume in the room and to prevent shouting across long distances between students.
- Allow time for students to ask questions about the problem presented in the case.
- Share the method students will use to work collaboratively on the case study.
- Option 1: Students speak with one another across the empty seats.
- Option 2: Groups follow a link that creates a new version of the template in Google Docs. Students share the document with each other and with the instructor.
- Option 3: Direct students to the Canvas course space and into the Zoom session. Create breakout rooms spaces for each group.
- Have students work in groups to study the case from the protagonist’s point of view.
- Direct students to sort out factual data, apply analytical tools, articulate issues, and reflect on their relevant experience. Have them recommend actions that resolve the problem in the case.
- Have students prepare a statement describing their assessment of the case, the decision options as they see them, and their recommendations for a decision.
- Guide discussion of the cases with the entire class. If the case is a real-world example, students will want to know what happened. Share this with them after they have reported on it.
- If students prepared a written statement, have students hand it in at the end of class.
- Review the students’ statements on the case study.
- Provide feedback/grade to group participants.
- Discuss the results of the activity at the next class meeting.
Accessibility and Room Considerations
- Classroom furniture is not to be rearranged to facilitate activities. If you need a different general assignment classroom to meet your instructional needs, contact your curricular representative.
- If students are to move around the room during an activity, consider the mobility, location, equipment, and furniture needs of all students.
- The physical distance between students (particularly in large lecture halls) may make it difficult for students to hear one another when they are asked to speak.
- This same physical distance may increase the noise level in the room as students try to speak to one another. This noise level may cause issues for some students. To this end, it is recommended that group size be limited to pairs (ideally) or triads at most. Activities requiring larger group sizes should utilize text-based chat solutions like those found in Zoom.
- The technologies recommended here should meet most campus accessibility requirements. However, you should check with the McBurney Disability Resources Center for guidance on any specific accommodations for your students.
Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 238-243.