Taking a Case Method Capstone Course Online

Grandon Gill, Matthew Mullarkey
InSITE 2015  •  2015  •  pp. 930
A capstone course is normally offered at the end of a program of study with the goal of helping students synthesize what they have learned in the courses preceding it. The paper describes such a course, —the undergraduate capstone course for MIS majors, —that was built around the case discussions and projects and originally offered in a face-to-face format. Over the course of the study, an asynchronous online version of the course was developed that was intended to be as faithful as possible to the classroom version. The pa-per examines the design, delivery and learning outcomes of the online offering, contrasting it with the classroom version.

The transition to an online course required many adaptations. Among the issues that we needed address: 1) moving the highly synchronous face-to-face discussions of each case study to an asynchronous format without losing fidelity and energy, 2) changing how “student participation” was defined and evaluated, 3) adapting the project component of the course—which ended with a very popular “science fair” activity at the end of the semester in the classroom version—to a delivery mechanism where students never interacted with each other face-to-face, and 4) evaluating the relative learning outcomes of the two approaches.

The results of the conversion proved to be consistent with some of our expectations, and surprising in other ways. Consistent with expectations, the online tools that we employed allowed us to create an online design that was relatively faithful to the original version in terms of meeting learning objectives. Also consistent with our expectations, student perceptions of the course—while quite positive overall—were more mixed for the online course than for its face-to-face predecessor. The course offering produced two surprises, however. First, the online approach to the project component of the course actually seemed to result in higher quality projects and presentations than the face-to-face version. Second, when results were compared from the instrument we used to evaluate student learning gains, the classroom and online versions of the class proved to be nearly indistinguishable. Given the very different delivery mechanisms employed, we had anticipated far more differences in student perceptions of what they had learned over the course of the semester. Given the challenges of taking a highly interactive class online, we viewed this surprise to be a very pleasant one.

A revised version of this paper was published in Journal of Information Technology Education: Research
Volume 14, 2015
Information systems, capstone, case pedagogy, distance learning, online learning, evaluation, IS curriculum, critical thinking, education
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