A Review of Case-Based Learning Practices in an Online MBA Program: A Program-Level Case Study

Article excerpt


The field of business requires multifaceted practices for real-world problems as much as or more than any other field. A business school expects that application skills and knowledge available to MBA graduates will be comparable to the skills and knowledge possessed by business professionals. Creating learning situations where knowledge can be acquired, organized, and applied, then, is a vital consideration for business educators. Case-based learning facilitates learning transfer and real-world applicability, which is the main concern in the teaching philosophy of business education.

Recent developments in advanced technology have received keen attention in the field of business education. According to Allen and Seaman (2005), more than 60 percent of schools that provide face-to-face courses have begun offering graduate courses via the web. Business schools have been aggressive leaders in this trend, and online education is highly regarded for MBA programs (Liu, Lee, Bonk, Magjuka, & Liu, 2008; Oram, 1998; Phillips, 1998). Oram (1998) indicates that technology integration with case-based learning is increasing in business education.

The integration of technology-supported instruction and case-based learning provides students with an environment to interact with a case in diversified ways and settings (Andrews, 2002). Technology support enhances the quality of case-based activities due to its capacity to immediately make available the most current issues of a case on the web, allowing students to analyze and discuss them regardless of the students' location. In case-based learning in online environments, feedback that students get from instructors and experts provides them with timely insight as to how to address or solve a particular problem or situation embedded in a case. Furthermore, instructional multimedia components--text, video, animation, narration, etc.--can help students gain a richer comprehension of the concepts and principles surrounding the case. A case, which is called a story described with rich contexts of situations, problems, knowledge, and skills to be used, also serves as support that can help to transfer learning to various job settings. In other words, teaching and learning via case studies is powerful and will undoubtedly become richer, more authentic, and more widely used in the coming decades.

However, studies related to online learning, distance education, or other technology-supported instruction often focus on technology systems or tools, rather than on examining the underlying nature of the online environment (Bonk & Dennen, 1999). How cases can be used effectively in online environments is an area of inquiry that has not received sufficient attention from educators, considering the aforementioned plethora of instructional possibilities. It is true that there is little agreement about such fundamental issues as instructional design, facilitation for learner engagement, and technology support associated with case-based learning activities in online environments. As online programs in many educational fields--including business education--have experienced rapid growth in recent years, it is critical to examine the use of case-based learning in online environments and the obstacles and challenges that instructors and students face in their actual experiences.

Purpose of study

This study explores the perceptions of students and instructors about the current practices of case-based learning in a fast-growing online MBA program at a large state university in the Midwest. It addresses the following research questions:

1. What are students' and instructors' perceptions regarding instructional design to enhance case-based learning in online environments?

2. What are students' and instructors' perceptions regarding facilitation to enhance case-based learning in online environments?

3. What are students' and instructors' perceptions regarding technology support to enhance case-based learning in online environments? …