Case Studies in MOOCs


Right, I've never used one in a MOOC. So how I would set one up is a bit speculative, though based on some examples (references completely forgotten) I've seen in the past.

There are different types of things called 'case studies'.

When I think of a case study, I'm thinking of an open-ended scenario, often drawn from a real-world example, where a problem is presented (usually in a business context) and students need to consider what they would do in that context. The most typical of these are the Harvard Business School case studies, which cost money. But they are not limited to business, eg., here's an example in ethics.

There's also a second type in which the full case is presented (usually in the context or marketing a product) where a problem is introduced ad then the solution is presented. Some examples.  These are also used in professional contexts, eg. in medicine or psychology. Example.

I'm thinking for the former, not the latter.

Basically, there's three parts:

- presentation of the case

- working with the case

- presentation of resolution

1. Presentation of the case is usually done with a text description, which would be distributed as part of the course materials. Sometimes the presentation is supported with multimedia or (always unbelievable) video vignettes.

The most typical MOOC adaptation would be to have individual members create their own cases or (better) find cases from online sources (example). See eg. UBC's Open case Studies.   A good example of this sort of approach is Jim Groom's DS-106 assignment bank, though this would be used for cases, not just assignments. Minimally, I would want to reuse cases, rather than create them from scratch. I would resist using any system that required subscriptions or payments. Links to cases could be entered into a publicly-accessible website; Groom adapted WordPress to collect them, though you could also use an openly-accessible Google Doc or a discussion list.

2. Working the case is almost always done as a group activity. We discussed groups briefly (and I mentioned how much I hate them). In more involved cases you might have different individuals or groups representing different parties involved in a case. Either way, you need to enable a way for groups to have live-discussions. There are now several applications that allow you to set up instant videoconferences just by sending people a URL (this is basically how Zoom does it). AU should have a system they use. These groups would need a way to work with or document their progress, usually using shared document authoring such as Google Docs.

You might provide online forms, templates or help sheets to help them plan and construct their response to the case study (I know I would).

3. There's typically a time or an event where the different groups sent and discuss their results. I would set up something like a videoconference for this, inviting each group to appear in turn, supported by chat or discussion where people could comment on each others' solution. In the case of a large MOOC, it's not possible to set up a single event, but instead to request that participants record a video presentation (maybe with slides) of their case. A follow-up activity could be then to have individual course participants write blog posts or discussions linking to the video and discussing the results. (You need to use video because the presentation aspect is important, I think - it's not just about coming up with a good resolution, it's about presenting it and talking about it and showing why it's a good resolution).

Just my thoughts.


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