The Sine Qua Non of Case-Based Teaching

It is easy to outline some ideas about case-based teaching and then show some examples. We have found, however, that it is possible to turn even these ideas and examples into bad software. Even when a designer starts with a good set of cases and an interesting task, a good case-based teaching program will not necessarily result. The tendency is for course designers to attempt to turn everything into a "page turner" style. Thus, they set up situations and tell whatever story they were going to tell when the situation has run its course, regardless of the user's interest.

Good case-based teaching systems, regardless of whether they are implemented using computers or not must have three characteristics: They must have lots of cases, a complex task in which students can pursue individual goals in individual ways, and flexible indexing so they can choose just the appropriate case at just the appropriate time. A large panoply of experts, with hundreds of stories indexed in such a way as to get nuances to matter, connected to a program in which many different kinds of actions and failures are possible, is the sine qua non of case-based teaching. Or, to put this another way, if it isn't possible to fail in a variety of different ways, and get a variety of different kinds of individually tailored instruction, it isn't case-based teaching.

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