Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Making a Case for Video Case Studies

Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Making a Case for Video Case Studies

Article excerpt

A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. Perhaps it is because before we humans had writing and text, we had pictures. After all, the earliest cave drawings appeared tens of thousands of years before the invention of writing and the earliest written words. If a mere picture is worth a thousand words, how much more are "moving pictures" or videos worth? I pose this not merely as a rhetorical question, but because I wish to make a case for using videos in the traditional case study method.

What is a video case study? Educators familiar with the traditional case study method define a case study simply as a "story with an educational message" and may teach it in a variety of formats ranging from lecture, discussions, group work, or a combination of these (Herreid, 1997). A video case study, then, is a type of case study that tells such a story, at least in part, by means of a video.

Although it is true that most faculty in the United States claim to use a video or an animation at least occasionally, surprisingly only ~41% of faculty in the traditional classes (as opposed to online or blended classes) use videos regularly (Allen, Seaman, Lederman, & Jaschik, 2012). One explanation for the low frequency of regular use of videos in education is found in a 2009 survey that revealed that faculty experienced several challenges when using videos in classes. The top challenges were reported as (a) finding appropriate material, (b) finding more material per student demand, (c) being able to use the exact segment in a longer piece of video, (d) expense, (e) copyright issues, and (f) outdated format (Kauffman & Mohan, 2009). Although faculty like the use of videos and most use videos at least occasionally, many barriers remain. On the other hand, experts predict that the world is shifting from "book literacy to screen fluency where video is the new vernacular" (Kauffman & Mohan, 2009, p. 5). Thus, the integration of videos in everyday teaching seems necessary and inevitable.

Teaching science case studies with videos

I recommend four main approaches of teaching the case study method with videos. The first and the easiest strategy is to start by adapting videos that are already available for free on the internet from sites such as YouTube,, and Google Videos for use in conjunction with published text-based cases. Hence, when I use a case from the case study collection of the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (http:// on the occurrence of the drug-resistant bacteria methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), I supplement it with a short YouTube video on a recent outbreak of MRSA in local communities. I do this with the primary intention of showing students that understanding evolution has current relevancy and even some urgency, and therefore I vary the YouTube video every year (but a compelling video could be easily used from year to year).

Another effective use of videos is to pick one with the purpose of expanding the scope of a published text-based case. For example, if the text-based case study is on a type of MRSA that one can get in playgrounds (community acquired), I could use a video to illustrate the evolution of the other type, the hospital-acquired MRSA, to elaborate on this separate evolutionary story and highlight the differences between the two. Sometimes, though, I use a video to lead into a case or end a case, for a powerful beginning or an ending with a punch.

A second, "hybrid" approach is to use videos as part of multipart, multimedia case study stories that require videos, readings, and perhaps even social media such as Facebook for students' input. One example is a four-part case study on the evolutionary influence of malaria on human populations that I teach in an introductory biology class (Pai, 2010). The first part of this four-part case study that stretched over 4 weeks is a short video on the advantage of the sickle cell allele in human populations in West Africa, where malaria has been rampant for millennia (PBS, 2001). …

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