The cases presented throughout this book can be characterized as problem-based. This means that they present an ill-structured dilemma (problem). The purpose of presented ill-structured problems is to require students to identify missing information that would create structure, thereby helping address the isolated problem at hand. This process requires that students 1) discuss underlying problems and issues, 2) consider competing or alternative viewpoints of classmates, 3) analyze the context and craft if-then statements or rules, and 4) craft a solution(s) to the problem. It is important to note that the problem that the students are trying to solve is usually not the isolated problem presented in the case study. Rather the study is used as an instance of a broader, more pervasive problem or issue, which is the issue that students should address.

In order to put forth a reasonable solution, students must define reasonableness and defend their assertions. A reasonable solution is based on grounds and can be substantiated. Substantive arguments are rule-based. For example, if A then B, but if C then D. When forming these rules, students should be encouraged and expected to define the parameters and characteristics of A, B, C, and D.

These type of case studies can be effective for increasing student motivation to learn. Students who have learned with these case studies have commented that they these cases help them see the need for particular practices, principles, procedures, etc. Students comment that they like discussing and considering the topics they are studying in the context of professional practice. Because most students have little to no professional experience in the same discipline that they are studying, lack of contextualization is often a barrier to understanding WHY certain topics are important. These case studies are meant to link coursework in the undergraduate computer science curriculum to professional practice to provide a vehicle for conveying why questions and increasing student motivation to learn.

Many students also have commented that they like the personal nature of the cases where they can identify with different characters and try to project what decisions they would make if they were in the situation and why. We also often hear from our students that they like learning through real world scenarios. Our students have commented that the opportunity to discuss hot issues in their field is of interest to them because they are concerned about issues that pose a threat to the industry and society. Finally, our students have also commented that rarely are they asked to express their viewpoint or thinking critically about such professional practice issues, the role of the computing industry on society, and the health and welfare of the computing industry. Most students we have worked with indicate that they are used to more traditional lecture classes. As such, we have found that students will not jump in right away. They need to be coached on how to learn through case studies. In other words, before they can learn the content of the case, they have to learn how to learn using these cases. And this is where the role of the instructor is critical.

The role of the instructor is to facilitate learning through the cases. When facilitating, the instructor's role as an information disseminator decreases. At the same time, the instructor plays a larger role as a coach, choreographer, engineer, surveyor, and questioner. The instructor has to work to encourage participation - especially in the beginning when students are less familiar with the form of learning. Because students do have limited professional experience, at times the instructor also will need to intervene with redirecting information, clarification, etc., to move the discussion and analysis forward. Because the case studies are dilemma based and fairly personal in nature, students will sometimes for strong opinions and will sometimes disagree with each other. These instances are what I refer to as highly "teachable moments"; there is some tension in the room, all students are paying attention, the students in the disagreement are mentally preparing to defend their positions by scrutinizing the facts and hand, as well as injecting and assimilating other knowledge into the situation to strengthen their positions. This is active learning! The role of the instructor is to seize this moment and choreograph or engineer the next step. Instead of discouraging disagreement, the instructor should encourage argument development. Students should be encouraged to develop grounds on which their assertions are based, specifically to integrate facts and data that replace opinion as the grounds for their claims. The role of the instructor is also to question students thinking, to ask them who, what, where, when, why, how? It is through questioning that we are challenged to get our own thinking out where it can be analyzed and refined.

There are a variety of ways that these case studies can be used. We have found that one case study take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 weeks depending upon the instructor. Included with each case study are instructor materials, specifically a case overview, case objectives, and debriefing guidelines. The instructor materials were written by the case author based on his/her own use of the case and are intended to be a resource for you to the extent that you want to use them. If you find a different way to facilitate the case that was productive and you would like to share it with us, we would be delighted to hear from you. Finally, other comments and suggestions are also most welcome. You can contact me through email, snail mail, or telephone.

Melissa Dark, Ph.D.
Purdue University
Recitation Hall
West Lafayette, IN 47907