Creat ive Educati on
2012. Vol.3, Supplement, 31-34
Published Online December 2012 in SciRes ( DOI:10.4236/ce.2012 .38b007
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Case-Ba sed Learning on Web in Higher Education:
A Review of Empirical Research
Danucha Saleewong1, Praweenya Suwannatthachote1, Supa ttra Kuhakran2
1Faculty of Education, Chulalongk or n University, Bangkok, Thailand
2Office of E ducati on Technology, Sukh othai Thammathirat Open University, Bangkok, Thailand
Email: dan uc ha _s@hotma il .co m , prawee ny a@g mail .com
Received 20 1 2
Case-ba sed lear ning (CB L) on web makes i ts chall enging st udent s int erest ed and enga ged in l ear ning and
to develop the skills. Because of the nature of teaching and learning on the web is teaching with the
flexi bili ty and co mfort without res tri ctions of ti me and s pace w ith t he use of mult imedia for mats, suc h as
text, audio, video and communication synchronization and asynchronization, students can choose for a
pres ent ati on. Thi s review s u mmar i zes r es ult s of t his exi s ting r esea r c h on CBL on web i n higher educ at i on.
Limitations of existing empirical studies are discussed and some directions for future research related to
the use of C BL on web in higher educati on are suggested.
Key words: Ca s e-Based Learning; CBL; Web; E-l earning; Di gital Learning; Onl ine Learning; High er
Educa tion
When new instructional innovations are introduced to students,
they are implicitly or explicitly requested to adjust themselves
to the new ways of teaching and learning by their instructors,
who believe that new innovations may result in better learning
outcomes than the previous approaches (Choi et al., 2009).
Case based learning instruction is one of the constructivist
oriented teaching approach (Sudzina, 1997) since it promotes
students’ active participation so they could form their own learn-
ing. Cases are stories with a message which students analyze
and consider the solutions of these stories. The teacher and the
students are working together while students have controlled
analyzin g cases. There are many resear ch stu dies th at relat ed to
the cases, used in teaching on the web, allow the students to
study better (Dabbagh, 2002). In addition, case-based learning
helps transfer knowledge and expectations of the students from
their learning. The high level knowledge transfer will be more
effective with case-based learning and problem solving on the
web (Sutyak et al., 1998 and Siegel et al., 2000). This is consistent
with the findings of Choi and Lee (2009) who studied the design
and development of a case study to enha nce learning and problem-
solving abilities of students and the study found that the CBL-
CMPS enhance studentsproblem solving. It also can be used
in real life as well.
Such claims and suggestions, however, have often not been
based on empirical studies. This paper reviews the empirical
research on Case-based learning on web in higher education to
addres s th e quest ion “Wh at d oes th e empirical rese arch i nd icat e
about CBL on web” Following a brief description of CBL on web,
and common features, we describe our data sources, method of
analyses and result findings. In the discussion we focus on
directi ons for future research related to the use of CBL on web
in higher education.
Case-Based Learning on Web
Case-Based Learning is often defined as a teaching method
which requires students to actively participate in real or hypo-
thetical problem situations, reflecting the kinds of experiences
naturally encountered in the discipline under study (Ertmer &
Russell, 1995). Case-based learning bridges the gap between
theory and practice (Christensen, 1987; Ertmer & Russell, 1995;
Flynn & Klein, 2001; Shyu, 2000; Williams, 1992). This in-
structional method is suited for teaching the essential skills of
analysis, decision making, critical thinking and problem solving
in their professions (Merseth, 1991).
Case-based learning has been extensively used in several
areas of professional education such as law, medicine, clinical
health, and business as an alternative to the traditional lecture
as an instructional method (Artan, 2007; Garvey, O’Sullivan &
Blake, 2000; Marcus, Taylor, & Ellis, 2004; Williams, 2004).
The key to case-based learning is to create cases for educa-
tional purposes and to facilitate activities associated with cases.
Cases are like stories for reading and exploring interactively.
Cases direct students toward contexts to discuss and debate
issues dynamically. Williams (2004) summarizes the benefits of
case used for tea ching an d learn ing, st ating th at it al lows learners
to apply theoretical knowledge to real school contexts, reason
critically about complex situations and recommend courses of
actions, develop self-knowledge and recognize own assu mp -
tion s, clarify person al beliefs abo ut teachi ng, compare and eva-
luate their own and others’ perspectives, and develop the prac-
tice of refl ection.
While case-based learning challenges students by providing
authentic experiences of situations (Williams, 2004), case studies
itself will not guarantee the efficacy of online learning proc-
esses since some ef fe ctive pedagogical approaches t hat instruct-
tors use in their traditional classes may not be applicable for
online environments. When case-based learn ing is implemented
online, instructors should be aware that pedagogical activities
can be either limited or fostered by conditions associated with
technology tools employed. Technology can offer cognitive
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
support for students’ thinking by reducing working memory
limitations, and help them to represent evolving ideas, concepts,
and solutions. At the same time, technology can burden stu-
dents since they have to manage tasks and tool functions si-
multaneously in the learning processes. (Lee, 2009)
Sources of Data
The search for peer-reviewed empirically based articles was
condu cted in fou r stages. In t he first stage, se arches wer e made
in electronic databases using descriptors including case-based
learnin g, CBL. In the second stage, furth er searches on some of
the articles not related with web, e-learning, digital learning,
and online learning or technology were carried out. In the third
stage, did further searches on some of the articles not related
with higher education. And in the last stage, selected the
articles published from 2009/01/01-2011/12/31. The electronic
datab ases used for the literature search included Springer, ER I C,
and Academic search Premier.
The searches yielded a total of 221 articles. Out of these, 11
were iden tified for review and 8 of those 11 papers were based
on various forms of self-report data (e.g. surve ys, in terview) or
observations, and discussion forum transcripts. The question-
naire survey was the most commonly used as data collection
tool. Three papers were based on an experimen tal design.
The current review follows the guidelines set by Creswell
(1994), which stated that the goal of a review is to summarize
the accumulated state of knowledge concerning the topic of
interest and to highlight important issues that research has left
unresolved. This is accomplished by summarizing the pre- do-
minant research areas or topics, discussing the weaknesses or
limitations of current research, and highlighting several direc-
tions for future research related to the use of case-based learn-
ing in education.
The basic unit of analysis was each individual empirical article.
Using the constant-comparative method espoused by Lincoln
and Guba (1985), the coding scheme was not predetermined
prior to our analysis but emerged inductively from the data.
Specifically, the constant-comparative method involves the
following steps: examining each individual article, forming
various categories, comparing categories, and achieving cate-
gory saturation. For example, we began by selecting the first
article, reading it, and noting its content to form a tentative
research topic catego ry.
The categories identified seemed to cluster into two groups:
Case-based learning (CBL), we using profile and effects of
Case-based learning (CBL) on web. Within each of these, there
were two categories, as shown in Table 1.
Case-Based Learning on Web Usage Profile
Disciplines of study in which CBL on web were used. On the
whole, past research on CBL on web had been carried out in
four different disciplines: business (e.g., commerce and man-
agement), science (e.g., biochemistr y), medical (e.g., doctoral),
and edu cation (e.g., teacher educatio n). Overall, o ur analysis of
previous research suggested that CBL on web had been most
frequently used in the medical discipline (45%). This was fol-
lowed by education (28%), business (18%), and science (9%).
How students or instructors use CBL on web. The review
found that Case-based learning on web has been applied to a
variety of teaching and learn ing. It add resses the issues of inte-
gration of diversified technological tools for pedagogical facili-
tatio n of case-b ased acti vities an d develop ing multimedia cas es
in order to enhance student involvement and engagement in
understanding contexts embedded in cases toward solutions
from mult ifaceted aspects, as sho wn in Table 2.
Tabl e 1.
List of major CBL on web topics.
Topic Subtopics
Case-based learnin g
usage profile
Disciplines of study in which case-b ased
learning were used
How students or instruc tors use case-based
Effe cts of Case-bas ed
Effe cts of Case-based learning on
pe rfor manc e outcome
Effe cts of Case-based learning on affective
Table 2.
The review context of CBL on web.
Study Context of CBL on web
Weil et al. (2011)
The case -based learning was introduced into
Acct 210 in a n a synchr o nous di scuss io n m o de
using the Moodle open source le arning software
Students used of case-ba sed learnin g for online
discussion forum
Hartfield (2010)
The constructivis t teaching str ategy aime d to
integrate the teaching and learning activities to
the assessment items, and a set of case -based
learning (CBL) function as the central teaching
and learning acti vity that facilit ates alignment.
Case-based learning used primary biochemistry
res ea rch art icle s a s t he source of the problems
and i nte g rate (and further de v e l op) t he students’
learning with the conc eptual theor y material
covered within the fra mework of the lectur es.
Students are support ed in their acquisition of
competencies and skills in reading, assimilation
and interpretati on of primary rese arch articles, as
well as team working and c ommunication ski lls.
Bennett (2010)
Investigated lea rners’ underst anding of
multimedia instruc tional and deve lopment
derived from the analysis of two richly detailed
cases, and how this understanding then
supported learners in their own design projects.
Student work from case an alysis, group project
and reflective tasks was the key data source,
complemented by interviews with students and
their instructor, observations of class meetings,
and the collection of on line discussi on list
records and electronic res ource files.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Study Context of CBL on web
Kim et al. (2011)
Stud e n t u sed onl i ne case-based le arning (CBL)
module in the e-learning en vironment .
Williams (2009)
The case -b ased l earning in onl ine env ir onme nt
used in the clinical cu rriculum of the Bachelor of
Emergency Health (BEH) de gree. Cases were
presente d in “web pa g e ” form at to eac h e-tutorial
group in Blackboard.
Students were given between 8-10 cases and
additional learning reso urc es per se m e ster.
Stud e n t s had onl i ne a cc ess to cases an d
discussions for revision purposes.
Choi and Lee
(2009) Students used the online CBL-CMPS
environment. The students were asked to
complete Stages 1, 2, and 3 of the CBL-CMPS
online and to submit their responses to the
questions (proble m identific ation and solution
generation) posed at the end of each stage as a
homework assignment and the y checked out
Stages 4 and /or 5 (one c ase did no t ha v e Stag e 5)
for another homework assignment in the same
way that they did for the previous stages.
Choi et al. (2009)
Students used case-based e-learning environment
in anes thesiology cou rse.
Effects of Case-Ba se d Le arning on Web
Effect o f case-based learning on web on performance outco me,
researchers were also interested in examine whether CBL on
web could enhance thinking skill or participants’ learning, as
shown in Table 3.
Effect of case-based learning on web on affective outcome,
researchers were also interested in affective outcome such as
attitudes and satisfaction of using CBL on web. Most students
agreed that the CBL on web was easy to use and had exciting
experience to explore technologies and that CBL on web was fun
and interesting, as shown in Table 4.
Our review found several limitations concerning previous
empirical studies on CBL on web in higher education. We
found that previous research studies related to CBL on web
usage were limited mainly to discussion or technology-related
disciplines such as medical, education and business. The dura-
tion o f the research on CBL on web usage is an other limitatio n
iden tified. Mo st research stu dies were lar gely cond ucted over a
period of one semester.
In some study that used experimental design, to compare
between the use case-based learning and case-based learning
with technology. For example, the study of Choi and Lee (2009),
these results indicated that two of the seven sub-skills gained
during the CBL-CMPS experience were transferred to a new
case problem while three of the other sub-skills showed posi-
tive potential for the transfer effects to some degree. To illu-
strate ho w students’ answers wer e improved from th e pretest to
the posttest. The results showed that the CBL-CMPS and its
stages facilitated the college students in a) considering multiple
perspectives, b) critically reviewing situations and solutions in
Table 3.
Review of CBL on web performa nce outcom e.
Study Performance outcome
Choi and Lee
The individual comp onents of the CBL-CMPS promoted
ill-structured p roblem solving abi lities respecti vely, and
that the CBL-CMPS as a whole learn ing environmen t was
effective to a degree for the transfer of learning in
ill-structured problem solving. The potential, challenge,
and implications of the CBL-CMPS are discussed
Cirai et al.
Students respond ed that, apart from helping them a cquire
substantive knowledge in microbiology, CBL sessions
enhanced their analytic, collaborative, and c ommunication
Hartfi eld
Students perceive that this approach enables the
development of problem-solving skills and confir ms that
students identify a high degree of alignment between
teaching and learning activities and assessment. And a
case-based learning paradigm can faci litate constructive
alignment of teaching and learning activities with
assessment, and tha t this approach supports and bolst er s
students’ satisfac tion and leads to improved academic
performance of students.
Weil et al.
Students percei ve numerous benefits associated with
case-based onlin e discussions , including being exposed to
othe r st u dents’ opinions, im pr o v ing the ir abili ty to
critically review cas e information, motiva t ion to co n sult
additional non-co urse rel ate d ma te
rial and the convenience
of the technology utiliz ed.
Lee et al.
It addr esse s th e is sues of integration of diversified
technological t ools for pedagogical facilita tion of
case-based acti vities and developing multim edia ca ses in
order to enhance students’ involvement and engagement in
understanding contexts embedded in cases toward solutions
from multifaceted aspects.
The result that the case analysis task r aised learners’
awareness of design approaches and project management
strategies, and that discussion and reflection play critical
roles in developing students’ understanding. The study also
highlighted some lim itations of th e case approach,
suggesti ng th e ne ed for strate g ies that suppor t learne rs’
thinking and reasoning.
Table 4.
Review of CBL on web affective outcome.
Study Affective outcome
Kim et al.
comparis on group across a ll scores : Easy to u se Easy
to learn Usefulness and Satisfaction.
student satisfaction and leads to improved student
academic performance.
social and historical contexts , c) developing coherent arguments,
and d) applying theories to their arguments to a certain degree
while solving ill-structured problems. In the stud y of Ki m et al.
(2011) the experimental design by treatment groups using tu-
torial with case-based learning (CBL) module and comparison
groups using tutorial only. The results found that a significant
increase in the level of domain knowledge in both a tutorial-
only group and a tutorial with CBL module group. The tutorial
with CBL group scored significantly higher on learners’ per-
ceptions of the e-learnin g envir onmen t in ter ms of us e, sati s fac-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
tion, and usefulness.
Our review of the effects of CBL on web on the affective
domain leads us to a better understanding of the personal or
environment-related factors that could impede the use of CBL
on web by students in higher education. The review found that
the use of CBL on web is useful and easy to use.
Technology applied to education was more important. Since
technology is not the only medium of teaching anymore but the
process of using technology to improve student learning and
further education in the 21st century is what makes teaching
more effective. Case-Based Learning on Web is the challenge
to help students develop skills and interests. Due to the nature
of the course, it is taught on a flexible and convenient. There
are no r estrictions i n terms of time an d place. Several multime-
dia formats can be used such as voice, video and visual com-
munication through the synchronous and asynchronous com-
munication. The students can choose the presentation format
and be controlled according to the instruction which will en-
hance t eaching and lear ning more.
The use of CBL on web or CBL with technology is an
emerging trend. We hope that this review will be useful to re-
searchers and educators as they continue to study and build a
knowledge base concerning the use of CBL on web in higher
educat i o n.
Futu re rese ar ch need to di scus s and impl y a ss ess ment met hods
to measure students’ outcome related to deep learning and ad-
vance skill in the CBL on web suitable for learning in the 21st
centu ry.
I gratefully acknowledge the Office of the Higher Education
Commission for supporting the research funds.
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