Case-based learning is one of the major pedagogical approaches applied in formal and informal teaching and learning. This article introduces an interactive digital case library which supports a full range of case study activities, such as case authoring, browsing, and annotating. Digital case libraries differ from common digital libraries in that resources of common digital libraries usually come from centralized sources, which are provided by the owners of digital libraries, such as university libraries, or publishers who run those digital libraries. Furthermore, cases usually come from distributed sources (i.e., course instructors, students, or real-world practitioners). Many cases are developed as by-products of teaching practice. For example, an instructor creates several cases for the class he or she teaches, and after created, these cases can be used for many years or shared with other instructors. Most case libraries currently available, however, do not support case authoring in such a distributed manner. This causes a version of “tragedy of the commons” in that users do not have means and motivation to contribute to the resources of digital library, and hence the value of digital case library and benefits of using it will be impaired greatly. One solution to this dilemma is to make the users perceive their contribution and authorship in explicit manners, provide convenient means enabling their contribution, and at the same time make the users experience the benefit of using the system. The interactive digital case library presented here plays two major roles. First, the digital case library is a Web application system, providing supports for participatory activities and case use; second, the system is a digital repository, collecting, storing, and retrieving cases. The idea is to provide services for community members to contribute and use what they have contributed. In this way, the value of the digital case library will increase and the community will be rewarded over time.
Case studies, or cases, are descriptions of a specific activity, event, or problem, drawn from the real-world of professional practice. They provide narrative models of practice to students and other novice practitioners. Cases incorporate vivid background information and personal perspectives to elicit empathy and active participation. They include contingencies, complexities, and often dilemmas to evoke integrative analysis and critical thinking. Cases are widely used in professional education: in business, medicine, law, and engineering (Williams, 1992), public policy (Kenny, n.d.) and public affairs (i.e., https://hallway.org). For example, the well-known Harvard Business School case collection includes over 7,500 case studies of business decision making (Garvin, 2003). Perhaps coinciding with contemporary recognition that all disciplines incorporate practice (and not merely knowledge), or perhaps just reflecting contemporary pedagogical concern with active learning and critical thinking, cases have become pervasive through the past decade. For example, the NSF-supported National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science includes many case studies in medicine and engineering, but also environmental science, anthropology, botany, social and cognitive psychology, geology and geography, pharmacy and nutrition, and experimental design (Herreid & Schiller, 2005).
The focus on authentic learning activities is based on the hypothesis that learning outcomes will be enhanced if the activities students engage in, and the materials they use, more directly reflect the social and technical contexts of actual scientific and professional practice in all domains, that is, business, medicine, software engineering, and nature sciences. Realistic activities and materials are more intrinsically motivating because they constantly remind learners of the possibilities for meaningfully applying knowledge and skills in the world beyond the classroom (Dewey, 1933). Today, many computer and information science and engineering (CISE) educators are working to develop and/or acquire realistic instructional activities and materials for their teaching.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Annotation: Annotation is extra information for document or piece of information. It is usually generated by readers of original information, reflecting the use (understanding, interpreting, commenting, etc.) of original information. Annotations are affiliated to original information, but not vice versa.
Tag: A tag is a type of metadata involving the association of descriptors with objects. On the Internet, tags are usually used to help users to categorize information they are interested in and help their memorization. A tag is less formal than keywords or subjects in library taxonomy systems. Basically, on a Web site which supports tagging, a user can create a tag with one’s own words, or use an existing tag to mark a piece of information. Examples are http://del.icio.us/ and http://www.citeulike.org/.
Digital Library: A digital library is a digital repository storing a very large proportion of information in electronic format. The resources are machine-readable and also accessible to users (readers) remotely through network on their terminals. Some of digital libraries are specialized to hold and serve specific type of contents, such as digital image library. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_library
Case Study: Cases are descriptions of a specific activity, event, or problem, drawn from the real-world of professional practice. They provide narrative models of practice to students and other novice practitioners. A case study is a well-accepted pedagogical method in many disciplines. The major purpose of a case study is not to present complete knowledge to students or learners. Instead, it aims to invoke critical thinking and improve problem-solving ability.