Preparing Case Studies for College Students

Long and detailed case studies have been used extensively in universities for decades, but short, well-prepared case studies can be effectively used in colleges to stimulate thinking and interactive discussion or debates.

The Internet, newspapers, and magazine are littered with interesting stories, and there will most likely be hundreds, or even thousands, or articles to choose from. 

It is important to remember that the case must provide a problem for the students to solve or debate.   If this is missing the professor can add the challenge as a footnote, or, perhaps, by removing paragraphs in a newspaper stories that contain the solution to the problem.

Other types of case studies can force a student to take a position on a contentious issue.  Whether the case is a though-provoking issue or is an issue that demands an answer to the challenge, the purpose of the case is to engage the student in discussion.

Short case studies can be read quickly in class and need not be distributed before class.  Depending on the level of the class, students may find working in pairs to be less intimidating.

Getting the discussion or debate started takes some prep work.  It’s best to create a list of questions that are based on the both the topic of study and the case study; but be prepared to put interesting, but non-case study ideas in the “parking lot” on the whiteboard.  These ideas can foster discussion for future classes.

As a facilitator it is important to play the role of a non-participate.  This is not the time to add lecture material or tell the students your opinion, or even what the right answer is.  A case study is a perfect student-centred activity that can help the learner solidify complex ideas and provide them with a deeper level of understanding of the subject.

The key to a successful case study is for the professor to know the depth of the material, have prepared questions for the students that allows them to discover new meaning to previous lectures and gain a deep understanding of the topic.

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