Case studies are a valuable way to train employees, and they can easily be incorporated into e-Learning courses to maximize the emotional response of students and improve your return on investment for training, yet many businesses don’t use them as a learning and development tool.
For those organizations that do already incorporate case studies into their e-Learning, they may be unclear on the best way to structure them to maximize effectiveness, so we created a guide to case studies that works well as a framework for any training content, regardless of your business or industry.
The Basics: What is a Case Study
We’re starting with the basics here, so it’s important to delve into what a case study is. Case studies, in a general sense, provide a story of what happened within a business. It can represent one particular situation, or it can reflect something in the company or industry that occurs as a trend over several years. It looks at events that have to be dealt with in a business and then outlines how managers or employees tackled particular challenges.
In the simplest sense, a case study highlights a problem and then describes the solution. It’s very much a business tool that relies on a problem-solving approach, which is one of the many reasons they can be such an excellent training tool. Case studies used in e-Learning force trainees to take a deeper, more complex and more analytical look at a situation, which evokes deeper processing and critical thinking. This builds a stronger training foundation than merely presenting information in a vacuum.
Boston University says the following about using case studies as a teaching tool: “Many students are more inductive than deductive reasoners, which means that they learn better from examples than from logical development starting with basic principles. The use of case studies can, therefore, be a very effective classroom technique. Case studies come in many formats, from a simple “What would you do in this situation?” question to a detailed description of a situation with accompanying data to analyze. Whether to use a simple scenario-type case or a complex, detailed one depends on your course objectives.”
In addition to provoking deeper thought and processing, case studies can also provide a more realistic setting that mimics true-to-life challenges employees will be facing. It’s an approach centered on the individuality of the learner, and because of the emotional component of case studies, it can motivate trainees more effectively than other training tools. Case studies can also promote collaboration in training.
What to Include in a Case Study
Most case studies follow a relatively similar format. When writing, consider these essential elements:
- There should be a clearly defined problem or some situation. Defining the problem in a way that’s clear and concise is pivotal to the success of your case study as an e-Learning training tool. Work to be as clear as possible about the problem, and don’t leave trainees trying to guess what it is. The best case studies used in learning and development are those that use a real-world problem that’s actually been faced by employees in your company. That adds the necessary sense of realism to the case study and allows employees to become really immersed in the situation at hand.
- Build the characters and the details in the case study. This is where it can get tricky during the writing process. The goal is to have enough details to motivate trainees and evoke some emotional response, without getting so detailed that it becomes overwhelming or overly complex.
- Once you have the details, the case study will logically move through the process the primary subject took in their endeavor to find a solution or resolution to the problem or challenge presented at the start of the case study.
- A case study ultimately needs to include steps the subject took to find a solution, as well as the details of the solution.
- Finally, a strong case study won’t just have a solution included but will also reveal the results that came because of said solution. When it comes to creating a case study for training purposes, it can often be best to interview employees or customers to build the details of the results.
Tips to Ensure Your Case Study is Compelling
Along with following the above format, there are some ways you can make a case study more compelling for your employees.
- The first is to make it as realistic as possible. This is something that can’t be emphasized enough. Spend adequate time doing the legwork and research to ensure you’re creating a case study that really does match the experience of the employees you’ll be training. The research should be one of the areas to which you dedicate the most time when you’re developing case studies. If your employees don’t see it as being relevant, they’re going to immediately write it off as unimportant to them.
- Use real numbers. Rather than using generalities, it can be more impactful to use facts and figures that will reinforce the points you’re trying to drive home to employees. For example, saying there was a 15% increase in compliance issues resonates more than saying “there were a lot of compliance issues.”
- Include actual quotes from either other employees or customers. Real quotes make case studies feel more genuine and relevant, and they’re also interesting and can even help to evoke a stronger emotional response on the part of the learner.
- Case studies don’t always have to be delivered in a traditional format. You can also consider doing the same thing in a video or even by creating an infographic. Infographics pack a lot of visual punch and can help learners see what you’re trying to convey. You may consider combining a traditionally formatted case study along with a video or infographic for maximum impact.
- Consider switching up the perspective of a case study. Yes, you want to make it relevant to your employees, but for something thought-provoking you could write the study from the point of view of a customer.
Let us know your thoughts and experiences when it comes to using case studies as an e-Learning training tool.