Designing Effective e-Learning Case Studies

By Murray Bourne, 12 Nov 2005

Maish Nichani recently gave an interesting talk on designing e-Learning using case studies.

A summary:

  • Case studies should require students to take action or make a judgement based on what they are given. (based on "Why Wisdom Can't be Told" and Dewey). The case therefore needs to be some kind of emergency - where the student needs to make a decision.
  • Harvard's Case In Point (link no longer available) has several good examples of case-based e-learning. It includes the social network of the case (managing performance). However, it is not collaborative - you are on your own.
  • "Thin slices" concept - looking at a small slice of the total picture to make analytical decisions
  • "Expertise of the masses" - decisions by a group are better than those by individuals
  • Psychology for Soccer (by the Football Association at TheFA) is an interesting example of teaching coaching skills by requiring the learner to make decisions in a game. The authentic coaching class looks at the social network (from parents' perspective, other coache's etc). Collaborative example - others' opinions are available.

Critical Decision Method (CDM)

When designing the case, one approach is CDM. We extract thin slices of experience from practitioners - cues and traps. CDM aims to understand the decision requirements of a difficult task, by interviewing an expert. (eg "Give us a non-routine incident where your experience saved the day.") Go back and chunk the event with a timeline. Then go back again - get deeper insights on each slice. "What if" queries, expert-novice differences.

Wagon wheel - could be used to determine the social network of the learning situation.

Decision Requirements Table

  • What is the difficult decision?
  • Why is it difficult?
  • How is the decision made?
  • What would a novice do in this situation?
  • What instructional materials can help here?

Other techniques discussed were:

  • Cues & Trap Inventory Event, Cue & Trap, Description. What instructional materials can help here?
  • Weave the story Background: Concept map, wagon wheels, CDM.

In summary:

Present scenarios - get responses - compare your responses to everyone else's.

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