At DSA, we don’t just teach the processes of innovative instructional design,
we actually do it, day in and day out.

Tips Newsletter – October, 2012

Higher Level Learning: The Case Study Method

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Here’s a Secret to Success:

Are you creating sales training? Management training? Manufacturing process training?  For a description on how DSA has approached similar projects, contact us with a brief description of your upcoming project. DSA can help!

Darryl SinkMost training programs probably under-utilize case studies – especially when you consider their purpose, which is to help learners understand specific problems they might readily encounter on the job.  Case studies are a form of simulations and work well for teaching higher-level learning such as analysis, synthesis of ideas and problem solving.  And, by the way, case studies fit adult learners well because adult learners can use their own experiences to analyze the case and make decisions. They work especially well with executive training.

How to get the story for the case study

The stories (raw material) usually must come from Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) with hands-on experience. To get the stories from the SMEs, our designers have purposefully added a couple of questions when interviewing any SME. Modify these questions as needed.

Designer to SME…

  1. “Please tell me a story of a time when things didn’t quite go as expected?” And, “What did you to resolve the issues using your processes?” Tip: Capture the story on an audio recorder. It will sound more authentic as told by the SME.
  2. Now, “Please tell me a story of when things went particularly well. Tell us how you used your processes and procedures to solve the problem or make things work really well.” Again, record the story and your discussions with the SME.

Why do this? We have found the SME’s stories can be used as a basis or outline for a case study, speeding development time and adding authenticity and natural human emotion. The case is believable because it is based on a true story.

Creating A Case

You will need to write a self-contained story that provides enough information for the participant to be able to reach the objective of the activity. The story should provide an accurate description to facilitate comprehension and solutions based on realistic data. The situations should include relevant events, characters, issues, factors and information. Each case should be focused on a single issue and the case must contain all of the data necessary to arrive at a solution. Finally, decide how to present the case to your audience and how to debrief the case study. Please try a case study on your next project. I would love to here from you on how it went.

See you next time,


Many more ideas and resources are available at the DSA Tips Archive; now searchable, organized by subject area, and by release date.