Using Case Studies in Your Online Asynchronous Course

Case studies are a great way to engage your students in your course materials using real-world problems. The relevance of these lessons better prepares your students to apply their achieved objectives in their personal and professional lives. In a traditional face-to-face classroom, case studies are used to prompt questions and discussion. Often, students are asked to work together to identify and test solutions and compare and contrast successes and failures. 

Like many assignments and assessments, case studies in online asynchronous courses must be carefully selected not only for their relevance to course objectives but for their adaptability to an online format. When selecting a case study for your asynchronous course, carefully consider how students will interact with the materials and with one another to discuss and debate solutions.

Set Expectations

Before students dive into a case, you’ll need to adequately prepare them and set expectations for performance. Consider the following questions:

  • Are there skills, types of analysis, or information that should already be mastered before reviewing the case? 
  • What additional resources such as definitions, readings, lectures, or supplies will aid students as they work through the case?
  • What should students do while they review the case (take notes, prepare calculations, make observations, etc.)?
  • After the case has been reviewed, how will students complete the case? Will they discuss individual findings, develop solutions in a small group, or debate as a class on a discussion board?
  • How will you deliver directions to students? Will you provide written instructions, an audio recording, or short video lecture?

The answers to these questions will allow you to adequately set the stage and prepare students for what is expected of them. An overview of the case should place the case in the context of the class session and the course as a whole. It should also identify the broad learning task and provide information on how students will be assessed.

Providing the Case

After students have reviewed preparation materials, gathered required resources, and understood the purpose of the case study, it’s now time for them to get to work! You can provide case studies to students in a variety of ways including: 

  • As readings
  • As a podcast episode 
  • As a video lecture
  • As a scenario reading or video 
  • As a collection of documents or materials

Your delivery method should be accessible to students in your learning management system and should most closely align to how students may encounter these scenarios in the working world. 

Engaging Your Students

Students can engage with your provided case study in a variety of ways. As individuals, students can be asked to provide a written, video, or audio reflection on the case. For more quantitative content, students may also be asked to provide calculations or solutions as individuals. 

Students may also be asked to complete the study in small groups. Students can engage together using the groups functionality in the LMS where they collaborate together using Wikis, small group discussions, or synchronous meetings. If you are asking students to complete the case study as a small group, consider additional strategies for how you will assess them

Case studies can also be assessed at the course level. Students can engage together in course discussion boards where they debate or discuss solutions or role play through scenarios. Consider amplifying engagement by asking students to post video responses on the discussions rather than sticking to written responses only. 

More Information

Learn more about using the case method in your course from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Teaching with Cases webpage.