What are Cases and Why are they Important?

Watch this video as an introduction to case studies and their value in education:

Engineering case studies are a representation of an engineering practice, event or challenge. They have a realistic context and appropriate complexity. Cases motivate learning through the realistic application of engineering principles and theories, through analysis and design.

Waterloo Cases in Design Engineering uses a modular case structure, with the first module presenting the case itself. Subsequent modules present stages in the solution, and are made available to instructors for guidance on case use.

Case teaching resources are available for instructor use. They can include a teaching note, presentations and simulations, and activities that have been used by other instructors.

Cases and Learning

Cases can be used in a variety of ways to teach content, and to involve students with real-world situations, to help them develop appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes. In comparison with classical lecture methods, case-based approaches have been shown by educational researchers to improve different aspects of teaching and learning, reasoning and problem-solving skills, the ability to make objective judgments, cooperative and active learning the ability to identify relevant issues and recognize multiple perspectives, and awareness of ethical issues.

Cases can be used in a number of ways to improve understanding:

  • as example problems,
  • in-class projects,
  • basis of class discussions to illustrate an engineering principle or process, including design.

Diagram of Case study Uses inlcudes class discussion, examination, reserach material, practical illustrations of theory, homework, design projects

Learning with cases is an active process. It requires individual work to gain an initial understanding of the case, but learning is significantly enhanced through active discussion with fellow students and the instructor. Case learning provides an excellent forum for the development of teamwork and communication skills in students.

Over 100 cases have been developed to date by Waterloo Cases in Design Engineering. Please browse the available cases. Upcoming cases can be previewed and if you are an instructor interested in finding or using a specific case, please contact us. 

testimonial from Hannah Van Opstal

Hannah Van Opstal

Student, Systems Design Engineering

I think getting case study experience is the first step in really helping students see all the possibilities and everything they can accomplish.