My closest experience to a case-based class was a graduate class at Virginia Tech on Decision Analysis. It was more of a flipped course in which we had to prepare for the material and were handed a related challenging problem at the beginning of the class. We formed students’ teams, and the professor had a facilitator role and helped us reach the correct solution. When the problems were more challenging, he would solve them at the end of the class after setting the tone by having us entertaining all possible solutions and scenarios. We were very eager to know the answer at that point, which helped bring home all the key points. Among all the many classes I have been to, this was the most unique that I always remember about. It was the most engaging and inclusive while being team-oriented. I am saying that because I did not use to have good experience with class teamwork. In most traditional classes, in-class team works are a way for the professor to rest and are not very productive more often than not. Defining some group task is not enough for the teamwork to take place. It is critical to peak students’ interests and designs the right structure to do justice to teamwork.
What I think made the Decision Analysis class successful was in a way that it facilitated effective teamwork. For one thing, the topic of decision analysis is very easy to connect with, engaging, and applicable to every aspect of life. At least I was lucky to have this class with people who felt the same way about the topic. While some of the problems sounded trivial at the surface, we were puzzled and had to give it our best. The class’s second influential quality was the professor’s ability to keep enthusiasm and create an environment of friendly competitions. We all wanted to be our best, and this made a lot of difference.
I think classes like this can help bridge the gap between real-world projects or graduate school research with undergraduate education. Teachers adopt the role of facilitators of learning, much more similar to that of graduate advisors. Rather than having a teacher provide hard facts, students are faced with contextualized, ill-structured problems and are asked to investigate and discover meaningful solutions and develop critical thinking. This helps students to learn mindfully and build their unique and creative way of thinking. Besides, when professors give the students the chance to think about the topic for themselves, they don’t risk going overboard and bombarding them with more things than they can grasp.