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Mitchell, R. The Complementary Benefits of Cases and Simulations. Page 5 of 6.

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Recommendations about Appropriate Use

Extensive use of case discussions is appropriate when course learning objectives and conditions such as the following are paramount:

  • Learning about major concepts and models in the field
  • Maintaining close connection with student ideas and responses
  • Providing substantial interaction and immediate feedback between students and the professor about analysis, ideas, conclusions, and recommendations concerning typical real-world situations
  • Emphasizing individual student performance
  • Introducing students to several types of organizations and situations that they might encounter in their careers

In contrast, complex computer-based simulations have advantages when course objectives include:

  • Allowing students to experience more realistically the roles and responsibilities of a top decision-maker who is trying to position an organization in a tough, competitive environment
  • Allowing students to experience the uncertainties and surprises produced by the unpredictable actions of competitors
  • Facilitating affective aspects of learning
  • Promoting student emotional arousal and involvement.

An instructor's specific learning objectives--which should be in alignment with department, college, and university objectives--are the cornerstone for course design. It seems clear that there are many combinations of cases and simulations that could effectively support learning objectives for various courses. It is time to replace debate about which technique is superior with further research and dialogue about how to use both in effective combinations by better linking of course design decisions to specific learning objectives.

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