Case Studies

Written by Mishiara Baker
October 7, 2020 • 2 minute read

Case studies provide real or simulated stories/situations for students to analyze and apply given frameworks and existing knowledge as they respond to specific questions or determine a response. Each student or group must explain how they applied course concepts and show evidence of how they arrived at their conclusion.

  • Peer-to-peer learning: Students work together and learn from one another, enhancing building connections in the remote environment
  • Stretch your imagination: Stories can help spark students’ interest and challenge students to think creatively
  • Active participation: students are tasked to interact with the material and one another as they analyze and exercise deductive reasoning, rather than passively listening or watching a screen
  • Identify gaps in learning: students (and instructors) can more readily see gaps in their knowledge and reasoning when they articulate their findings
  • Real world application: students practice applying principles and making decisions as they might in a professional context, while adapting to new remote work and learning environments and they get practice doing this remotely

Download our how-to guide of using case studies in remote/online teaching from Google Docs.

Synchronous Application Example

To guide students to actively apply and build upon their knowledge in a synchronous session:

  • Introduce the problem: Start with discussing the case study as a group, showing the case study on a shared screen, and identify the situation and specify tasks for students.
  • Provide a framework: Give students the guidelines/data they need to apply or evaluate within the given scenario and make sure they have access to this in their break out rooms by posting a link to it in Canvas
  • Divide into groups: Put students in breakout rooms in random (or preassigned) groupings to explore the case study, answer specific questions about the case study and determine their key findings.
  • Visit groups: Visit breakout rooms on Zoom to support students and guide them as you might in a face-to-face class. Explain why and how they can approach the problem presented and encourage them or redirect their inquiry.
  • Share back: Return groups to the main session and ask them to share and explain their findings and the reasoning. An instructor can then point to different findings and highlight the best process.

Asynchronous Application Example

Using Canvas discussion boards and Zoom meetings, students can meet outside of class in small groups to share and develop their knowledge.

  • Introduce the problem: Post a case study, with supporting documents and any needed context, on a page in Canvas. Provide students with specific questions to consider as they review the case study.
  • Group work: Task student groups to schedule and meet up in a Zoom session to discuss the case study
  • Written reflection: Students can develop their response to the case study in a shared document or share screen and build together during their meetings.
  • Report back to the class: Create a discussion board and ask groups to create a group post of their findings on the discussion board

Preparation Tips

  • Make sure students can access the case study and other provided documents in their breakout rooms by posting on Canvas or uploading to Zoom Chat
  • Consider your student grouping preferences
  • Become familiar with using breakout rooms in Zoom/Canvas discussion boards
  • For synchronous activity, send students timing updates via the breakout room announcements function
  • Review the principles they will be applying to the case study to ensure that they are known
  • When using a discussion board, set posts to require students to submit their responses before they can view submissions of others

Facilitation Tips

  • For the live session, let students know beforehand that they should be prepared to share back their findings when they return to the larger group.
  • Consider defining group roles - recorder, presenter, applying a line of questioning, etc.
  • During synchronous class sessions, visit breakout rooms and check in on students, guide their understanding and answer any questions. Provide students with time left updates as announcements to the breakout rooms for sync sessions.
  • Before asking students to meet asynchronously, remind students to exchange contact information and set up their meeting time.

Are you or someone you know finding success with incorporating case studies? If so, we'd love to hear from you! Email

  • Google Suite tools for collaborative work — could ask students to answer questions in a shared google doc, create a slide in a shared slide presentation, fill in a spreadsheet, etc.
  • Zoom breakout rooms
  • Zoom for individual group meetings
  • Canvas discussion boards for posting group or individual responses

Not sure where to start? We are here to help! To learn how to implement the jigsaw method effectively in your course, contact Instructional Design to request a consultation.

Contact Instructional Technology & Training to schedule a training session and access self-guided training materials.