Can the HBS case method for learning be exported to earlier stages of education?

The HBS case method leverages crowdsourcing inside the classroom to enhance the learning process. By exchanging perspectives, defending different points of view, and building on other’s ideas students teach and learn from each other. The role of the professor is to guide the conversation, but he or she lets students become the protagonists. This education experience can be extremely enriching because students learn to work as a team and be more active in their learning process. It allows students to go from simple spectators to risks takers and from memorizing information to challenging ideas and building their own opinions.

If the world requires individuals to have opinions, be proactive, and make decisions in whatever they do at early stages of their lives, I wonder why we create schools and universities that base their education on lectures that only incentivize passive learning. I believe that we are not building the skills that people require to be successful in their interactions. If the HBS crowdsourcing method in the classroom seems so successful, can we leverage it to improve earlier stages of education? Can we let younger students take a more active role in their learning experience? Can we create programs that are more align with the expectations that society has for people?

Although crowdsourcing has been used in several areas of education, it has not been widely implemented in our education system. I can imagine an improved learning process where there is a curriculum that must be met, but students have the responsibility to generate most of the content and they can do it using the internet. For example in a math class students could be in charge of bringing math problems to solve them in class; or in a science class they could be in charge of selecting the projects, implementing them and also evaluating their peers. In addition, there could be a couple of sessions available to cover topics by groups of interests. In a history class for instance, students could choose the areas they want to explore in more depth, come up with their own research and discuss in groups guided by the professor. This way education can also motivate students as it focuses on their interests. In addition, technology can be used to improve the process by making students interact not only in a physical classroom, but across regions sharing their learning experiences.

There is no doubt that this method of learning would build skills to be successful early on in our lives, but there are also several challenges with the implementation. HBS is a successful example of in classroom crowdsourcing because students have a diverse set of skills and backgrounds making the interactions rich in content, they have a high level of engagement in the learning process and professors know how to drive the discussion while encouraging students to be the main actors of the learning process. Meeting this requirements across all American schools would be extremely challenging, and it would require professors willing to give up control of their classes. On the other hand, I strongly believe that we will not improve education only by improving content, but by creating new skills in our students. I believe crowdsourcing can help in this process.




Yelp: An old dog may need a new trick soon


How Not to Crowdsource : The Demise of Quirky

Student comments on Can the HBS case method for learning be exported to earlier stages of education?

  1. Great post Ximena! I agree with you that the HBS learning method could give a set of skills to young students that are very useful for their college or professional lives. On the other hand, its hard to overcome the fact that this method works well here because people have experiences and insights to share with the class. I think that there are some fields of study, like social sciences, where this method could work, especially in high school. Students with a base on many fields are in position of developing opinions that may contribute to their classmates’ learning, while, as you say, developing skills themselves. Interesting topic!

  2. I really enjoyed your post, Ximena! I agree with GA that the case method tends to work better with folks who have experience and it might be better suited for social sciences. I do think though that some of this can be overcome by the teachers assigning the students to do research on the topic before the case discussion. For example, if the case were on the creation of the US Constitution, the students could spend a few weeks reading/learning about the different points of view that the writers of the Constitution held at the time.

  3. Hi!
    Thank you for your comments. I do agree that the case method tends to work better for people with experience, but what if we use crowdsourcing to replace the “experience” needed. For example if I am, as you said Angela, getting ready for a US constitution class, as a student I could use forums online and leverage the knowledge of other students across the U.S. I do understand this poses challenges (e.g. content curation), but I do believe that this is where education is going in the future, and that we need to invest in it to build these skills.

Leave a comment