Case-based Learning in Higher Education

Case-based learning has become a common instructional method across higher education and is likely to be encountered in all disciplines. Its essence is a focus on real situations which require diagnosis and treatment. InCase-based Learning in Higher Education, it is explored by the Editors and contributors within the three separate but interrelated themes of concepts, theories, and outcomes.

The advantages of using cases are that they tend to resonate with students because of their realism and authenticity, and their experiential nature provides specific examples of theory in context. They also require students to practise their analytical, logical, and other high-order thinking skills, and provide opportunities for work in teams. The downside is that cases are not personal, so students have no stake in the ‘company’ or ‘organisation’ and cannot truly empathise with the protagonists.

But overall, the strength and value of the case method are clear, as is demonstrated by these eleven detailed descriptions of its use in a variety of different contexts internationally. Each of the cases described here contains key lessons about the value of case-based learning and the benefits it delivers. There are also ideas about design approaches which can increase the effectiveness of cases. One of the key conclusions is that, since case-based learning requires students to negotiate, argue, and reflect on their knowledge, they develop more responsibility and independence, thereby improving their personal and interpersonal skills. This process can have a demonstrable impact on student self-esteem and self-confidence, both of which increase a student’s employability in the professional world which faces today’s and tomorrow’s graduates from higher education.

John Branch is Lecturer of Marketing and Academic Director of the part-time MBA programmes at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, and Faculty Associate at the Center for Russian, East European & European Studies, both of the University of Michigan, USA.

Paul Bartholomew is Director of Learning Innovation and Professional Practice at Aston University, UK.

Claus Nygaard is Professor in Management Education at Copenhagen Business School and Executive Director of LiHE.

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