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Teaching Guide: Using the UBC Open Case Studies

Case studies offer a student-centered approach to learning that asks students to identify, explore, and provide solutions to real-world problems by focusing on case-specific examples (Wiek, Xiong, Brundiers, van der Leeuw, 2014, p 434). This approach simulates real life practice in sustainability education in that it illuminates the ongoing complexity of the problems being addressed. Publishing these case studies openly, means they can be re-used in a variety of contexts by others across campus and beyond. Since the cases never “end”; at any time students from all over UBC campus can engage with their content, highlighting their potential as powerful educational tools that can foster inter-disciplinary research of authentic problems. Students contributing to the case studies are making an authentic contribution to a deepening understanding of the complex challenges facing us in terms of environmental ethics and sustainability.

The case studies are housed on the UBC Wiki, and that content is then fed into the Open Case Studies website. The UBC Wiki as a platform for open, collaborative course work enables students to create, respond to and/or edit case studies, using the built in features (such as talk pages, document history and contributor track backs) to make editing transparent. The wiki also also helps students develop important transferable skills such as selection and curation of multimedia (while attending to copyright and re-use specifications), citation and referencing, summarizing research, etc. These activities help build critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and digital literacy.

This guide is intended to help you get started with your case study project by offering:

Getting Started

The UBC Wiki is a set of webpages accessible to anyone with a CWL account and has many unique features in addition to collaborative writing including the ability to revive previous drafts, and notifications setting that can support instructors in monitoring individual student contributions, or support students to better manage their collaborative efforts on their own. Using a wiki successfully in a course, however, requires proper facilitation and support from instructors and TAs.

The following links are helpful in getting started:

General Information:

Self-Guided Wiki Tutorials:

Case Studies as Active Learning

The idea that learning is "active" is influenced by social constructivism, which emphasizes collaboration in the active co-construction of meaning among learners. Simply put, learning happens when people collaborate and interact with authentic learning tasks and situations. These ideas are becoming increasingly prevalent in the scholarly literature on teaching and learning (see for instance, Wilson 1996) and have important implications for pedagogy, especially in the university where traditional lectures remain the dominant instructional strategy. When students are asked to respond to authentic problems and questions, they assume responsibility for the trajectory of their learning, rather than it being decided upon by the instructor. This practice, also referred to as “student-centered learning” allows the students to become “active” participants in the construction of their understandings.

One of the easiest ways to develop higher order cognitive capacities (critical thinking, problem solving, creativity etc.) is through pedagogies that support inquiry based learning, thereby allowing students the opportunity to “develop [as] inquirers and to use curiosity, the urge to explore and understand...to become researchers and lifelong learners” (Justice, Rice, Roy, Hudspith & Jenkins,2009, p. 843). Because case studies are often collaborative, they provide unique inquiry based learning opportunities that will foster active engagement in student learning, while also teaching transferable skills (teamwork, collaboration, technology literacy). That the cases never “end” and that they can be considered by students and faculty from all over the UBC community, highlights their potential as powerful educational tools that can foster inter-disciplinary research of authentic problems.

Instructional Strategies: Using Case Studies in the Classroom

Using case studies successfully in a course requires purposefully scaffolded support from the instructor and TA's. Instructors must properly introduce assignments, as well as facilitate and monitor the progress of students while they work on assignments. This will help ensure that students understand the purpose and value of the work they are doing and will also allow instructors and TA's to provide appropriate support and guidance.

The following instructional strategies will help you teach effectively using case studies:

1. Getting Started:

2. Use, Revise, and/or Create

3. Guiding Case Study Discussions:


4. Staying on Track:

Sample Assignments

References