7 Elements Of A Successful Case Study

7 Elements Of A Successful Case Study
Summary: Case studies are usually dry, factual reports full of statistics and real-world applications. Is it possible to turn them into exciting online training activities?

7 Elements A Successful Case Study Must Possess

If you look at the case study section of a textbook, you are likely to doze off. They often have dull situations described in legal terms. Each one will include the specific chapter of a company policy that was violated, citing its page and number. While this is factually accurate, it holds no relevance to corporate learners. If you really want effective case studies, you have to use your imagination. It’s okay to add a little spice for the sake of knowledge retention. Here are 7 characteristics of an effective case study.

1. Builds A Good Story

The reason we don’t enjoy case studies is due to their drab delivery. But just because something is factual, that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. The trick is to turn it into a story. For example, imagine being told a man stole supplies and was fired. Now, consider hearing the story another way. A warehouse employee rushes to the hospital after receiving a call that his wife has been injured. He accidentally leaves on his lifting belt and other safety gear. These are extenuating circumstances that shed new light on the situation. Thus, creating a dilemma in corporate learners’ minds and evoking emotions. While it will boost engagement rates, try not to stretch your story over too many pages. Modern learners have short attention spans, so you'd better deliver your message with a case study one-pager.

2. Involves Interesting Characters

The average case study omits names to protect privacy. So in the story above, you would be told that an employee was immediately fired for violating company policy. The rules clearly state that you must never remove branded material from the warehouse. If you had read it like that, it would have no relevance or emotional impact. Simply by giving the online training character a personality and backstory, corporate learners now identify with him. If you want to protect the privacy of the person involved, engage in a little creative non-fiction. In the above scenario, we still don’t know his name, or the department where he works. Or we could present him as a chef or janitor instead of a warehouse worker.

3. Uses Realistic Scenarios

Once again, think about the story above. It could happen to anyone. Case studies sometimes veer towards the academic. They may express the above scenario formally. For instance, “An employee was fired on the spot after he was found exiting the premises with company property. The company pressed charges. Theft is against company policy”. This seems unrealistic because nobody would blatantly steal. Corporate learners will be left thinking the employee grabbed a computer or branded car. Giving the story context enhances realism. The message sinks in deeper, and makes an emotional connection. This is important because studies show we remember things better when they are linked to a strong emotion.

4. Makes Corporate Learners Think Critically

Teaching young children is very different from teaching adults. As a kid, you may have learned the basics. For example, stealing is bad and unethical. As an adult, you realize there are nuances and grey zones. For example, in the instance of the warehouse worker and company property, you want to create a dilemma. Was it okay for the man to be fired? Does the context matter? Would you feel the same way if he was an accountant instead of a warehouse worker?

5. Applies Knowledge Of The Online Training Course

Case studies shouldn’t just deliver facts. You could say, ‘Stealing company property will lead to instant dismissal and criminal charges’. This is common sense, but it won’t stop an employee from ‘borrowing’ an office pen or stapler. Yet in reality, that’s something they can be fired and prosecuted for. They need the ability to apply online training course lessons.

In the examples we’ve used so far, the case study should test application. The employee should know that carrying company items can get them fired or lead to legal consequences. This applies to all case studies. Corporate learners should be encouraged to absorb the online training material and translate it into everyday situations.

6. Actively Engages Corporate Learners

An effective case study gets corporate learners actively involved. They become invested in the outcome. They don’t just read the facts and memorize the information. One option is to offer the case study in chunks. Offer a little information that allows online learners to draw a conclusion based on their current understanding. For example, use the company policies they know to make a judgment. Then, give a little more information that may or may not change their conclusion. Invite corporate learners to discuss their conclusion in an online discussion or group chat. As you add little bits of data, they will get more invested and engaged. They will also stretch their thought process to include every new angle and see things from a fresh perspective.

7. Utilizes Branching Scenarios

As corporate learners receive more and more information, go beyond the facts to the consequences. You could chart two paths, as I mentioned earlier. For example, scene A involves a subordinate staffer who walked off with work-related tools while scenario B features an accountant who embezzled funds to pay for his child’s education. Does policy treat them the same way? Extend the case study into the consequences for both staffers and how things play out. What happens if they admit their mistake? Is there any way they can avoid the penalty? What would you do in that scenario, if you were the employee in question?

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Case studies are often considered dull and disengaging, but by making them emotive and practical, you can turn them into powerful tools for online training. Don’t just state dry facts. Weave them into a fascinating story with riveting characters. Just make certain that it helps your corporate learners put things into context and immerse themselves in realistic situations.

Another experience-building tool is relatable real world examples. Read the article 7 Tips For Using Real World Examples In eLearning to discover tips to use real world examples to connect with your audience and facilitate practical application.