What is the “Case Method”?

Teaching using case studies has typically been used in Business Schools, Law Schools, and Medical Schools but it is a technique being used by other disciplines to provide exposure to complex real world problems for which there is no “right” or “wrong” answer. At Waterloo, cases have been used in disciplines including Engineering, Biology, Accounting, Social Work, Environment and Business, English and others.

The traditional “Case Method” used in Business Schools involves a three stage process where:

  1. students are given the case and asked to work on it individually to come up with a recommendation or course of action (done outside of class time). The key here is for students to be able to justify and support their choices or decisions.
  2. students meet in small groups of 4 or 5 to discuss the case and their recommendations (done outside of class time) – the objective here is to share perspectives, not come to a consensus as a group
  3. the case is discussed in class with the entire class with the Professor acting as a facilitator to guide discussion.

The amount of learning increases over each stage with exposure to different perspectives.

Learning using the Case Method

While this is the typical method used in MBA programs where cases are used in most courses, it can be modified and adapted. For instance, students can read the case and prepare before class and class time can be used for small group discussion and then discussing the case as a large group (i.e. the entire class). It is important to communicate expectations to students about coming to class prepared as the quality of discussion depends on proper preparation. One technique to encourage students to prepare is to give them questions about the case to answer and submit before class begins.

These techniques of using small group work for peer teaching (i.e. small group work to share perspectives) and facilitating a discussion with the entire class can be adapted and used for other contexts than just cases.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Case Method or using cases in your course, contact Scott Anderson in the Centre for Teaching Excellence.

Waterloo Cases in Design Engineering also writes and supports the use of cases in Engineering courses.


Erskine, J., Leenders, M., and Mauffette-Leenders, L. (2012). Learning with Cases, 4th Edition, Ivey Publication Services, Richard Ivey School of Business, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada.

Erskine, J., Leenders, M., and Mauffette-Leenders, L. (2003). Teaching with Cases, 3rd Edition, Ivey Publication Services, Richard Ivey School of Business, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada.

Mauffette-Leenders, L., Erskine, J. and Leenders, M. (2001) Writing Cases, 4th Edition, Ivey Publication Services, Richard Ivey School of Business, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada.

Privacy and Cloud-based Tools — Scott Anderson

There are many free tools and applications available on the web (in “the cloud,” so to speak) for instructors and students to use to support and enhance their teaching and learning. A few examples include:

UW-ACE replaced by LEARN in January 2012

Don't Panic imageDon’t Panic.

Wise counsel from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as we move to a new learning management system (LMS) in the Winter 2012 term. In January 2012 UW-ACE (Angel)  will be replaced by LEARN (Desire2Learn) and all courses for the Winter 2012 term will use LEARN. To learn more about the background and why we need to change, see the LMS Selection Project site. Continue reading UW-ACE replaced by LEARN in January 2012

Exhibiting the Integration of Knowledge — Scott Anderson

KI-X 2011

A special exhibit opened today at the University of Waterloo Art Gallery showcasing seven museum exhibits designed by groups of students in the Knowledge Integration (KI) program at UW. The exhibition will only be available until Wednesday at 6pm.

This is the culmination of over a year of work, including four courses and an overseas field trip to Amsterdam. This is truly integration as it draws on different disciplines (from art to engineering), different types of learning (courses, research, experiential, self-directed, team based) and pulling it all together to build publicly accessible museum design projects from which we can learn.

In spring 2010 students travelled to Amsterdam for a field trip and intensive exploration of museums. After they returned, they spent much of the next year applying what they learned to design their own museum exhibits. This year students will be heading to Berlin at the end of April.

Exhibits include:

  • bukimi no tani – learn why robots may make you feel uncomfortable
  • Give Peace a Chance – learn about peaceful protest including John and Yoko’s bed-ins
  • Guess What – learn about archaeology and figuring out the purpose of an unknown object
  • In Your Dreams – learn about dreams
  • Knocked Out! – learn about concussions
  • Letters Numbers Colours – learn about synesthesia, where some people see letters and numbers in colour
  • Math Tools – learn about how limitations in mathematical tools like the slide rule led to the development of new ones

Check it out!

Hours for the Exhibition:

  • Tuesday March 15, 12-7 pm
  • Wednesday March 16, 12-6 pm

University of Waterloo Art Gallery
East Campus Hall (ECH) Room 1239
263 Phillip St., Waterloo

Limited metered parking is available behind East Campus Hall.
Visitors Parking in Lot UWP, Lot N and Lot B after 3:45 pm (Lot B is permit only before 3:45 pm)

Here’s a campus map (ECH is at the far right; click on “permit parking” to see Lot B):

For more information see:



The Centre for Teaching Excellence welcomes contributions to its blog. If you are a faculty member, staff member, or student at the University of Waterloo (or beyond!) and would like contribute a posting about some aspect of teaching or learning, please contact Mark Morton or Trevor Holmes.

On Lecture Capture and Talking Heads… – Scott Anderson

Talking Head Machine
Image from Laputan Logic

At the end of last week, I attended a conference on blended learning (essentially integrating face-to-face and online activities in an instructionally sound way, though there’s debate about whether it entails a reduction of face-to-face time).

One presentation that stood out for me was one about lecture capture at Queen’s University, something we’ve been experimenting with here at Waterloo. Essentially they’re capturing live lectures on video using automated mechanisms and then making the video available to students online. Continue reading On Lecture Capture and Talking Heads… – Scott Anderson

A Convert to RefWorks – Scott Anderson

The Conversion of St. Paul
The Conversion of St. Paul. Photo: Br Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Being a part-time student again has given me a renewed appreciation of the myriad demands on students including class, assignments, bureaucratic hurdles, work and trying to have a life. Have I been the guy who has either just skimmed or not done the readings before class? Guilty.

The amount of reading required and articles to keep track of has made me a convert to RefWorks, a web-based bibliography and reference manager. I saw the light after Continue reading A Convert to RefWorks – Scott Anderson