Use Discussion Boards, Google Docs, and Pages Tool for Online, Case-based, Collaborative learning

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Case-based learning is often used in social science classes, as well as in other disciplines. This can be challenging to implement online. By dividing a class into smaller groups, and assigning a separate discussion board to each group, the groups can do their planning asynchronously and completely online, while the instructor has a complete record of their interaction and contribution. After assigning a case to each group, they can create a Google Doc or use the Pages Tool to write their final report. Both Google Docs and Pages Tool will allow the instructor to see the group interaction as well as the relative contributions of each individual group member.


Instructor: Steven Berman, University of Central Florida
Course: Childhood Psychopathology

An example of this is the Case Study Term Paper that is assigned in my Childhood Psychopathology course (see detailed instructions with link to the grading rubric below). Students are divided into small groups of approximately 5 students per group. Each group is tasked with choosing a child or adolescent fictional character or celebrity to be the subject of their case study. They must evaluate the case for possible DSM V diagnoses and support their conclusions with specific examples from the case.  I typically give four weeks to complete the assignment, although it could be done in less.

On an anonymous end of semester survey given to a class of 86 students, when asked “How helpful was the Case Study Paper in enabling you to identify the major child and adolescent disorders in the DSM-5?”, 89% reported Extremely or Very Helpful (44% Extremely, 45% Very, 10% Somewhat, 0% Not Very, 0% Not at all). When asked “How helpful was the Case Study Paper in enabling you to apply differential diagnostic skills to analyze and evaluate a childhood disorder case?” 94% reported Extremely or Very Helpful (51% Extremely, 43% Very, 6% Somewhat, 0% Not Very, 0% Not at all).

This type of assignment is easily replicated for other case-based assignments in any discipline. For instance, diagnosing and/or treating a client in Medicine or nursing, or creating an individualize educational plan (IEP) in Education. In geology, students might be asked to identify the particular elements in a rock. In Journalism students might be told to evaluate the credibility of information sources on a particular event, or write a position paper on a political issue. In business, the case could be related to a business decision that needs to be made. Students would make a recommendation including identifying all the stakeholders and its potential impact on all affected by it. For a huge database of examples of cases by discipline, see the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science,, which also includes a number of disciplines one might not think of under his or her conception of “sciences” (e.g., economics, journalism, linguistics, teacher education).

Case Study Term Paper Instructions

For this Case Study Term Paper, you have been assigned to a new group of 3 to 5 students. You can use both a discussion board and a google doc for your small group. Develop one document (and accompanying charts) to turn in for the group.

Read the attached document for more details about this assignment: Case Study Rubric-1-1.docx

For this group assignment, there are several tools within your Webcourses@UCF group area that will help you collaborate: Discussions, Pages and Collaborations. For a tutorial about how to navigate to your group area, please visit

  • Discussions: Feel free to add your own discussions within the group area. You will not be able to build a collaborative project here, but it does allow for back-and-forth ideas to be exchanged.
  • Pages: Any student in your group can create. and/or edit. Pages in your group area. You can also see a revision history. to identify who made the changes and when. The pro of using Pages is that you all have immediate access to the tool, as opposed to Collaborations which requires a Google account.
  • Collaborations: Any student in your group can create a Google Doc by clicking on Collaborations in their group area. (not the main course). However, note that each collaborator will need a Google account and will need to connect Google Drive as a registered service in Canvas.

Whichever means of communication you use with your group, it MUST be visible to the GTA (Dominique Harris) who does the grading, so she can evaluate individual participation. Sending her a transcript of your communication would also fulfill this obligation.

Because the group is depending on each member to get the job done, you CANNOT wait until right before the assignment is due to become involved. You MUST check in with your group frequently to make sure they are not waiting on you to do the work (or proceeding without you).

How to submit the assignment: When your group is done with the assignment, one student from your group can click on the assignment in the main course area and submit the URL for the Page or Collaboration.

Link to example artifact(s)

Case Study Rubric-2

Link to scholarly reference(s)

Courtney, M., & Wilhoite-Mathews, S. (2015). From Distance Education to Online Learning: Practical Approaches to Information Literacy Instruction and Collaborative Learning in Online Environments. Journal Of Library Administration, 55(4), 261-277.

Du, J., Wang, C., Zhou, M., Fan, X., Lei, S., & Xu, J. (2018). Group trust, communication media, and interactivity: toward an integrated model of online collaborative learning. Interactive Learning Environments, 26(2), 273-286.

Mengying, Q., Qifeng, Y., Mengyan, M., Hui, H., & Yan, Y. (2018). Application of case-based learning in instructing clinical skills on nursing undergraduates. Biomedical Research (0970-938X), 29(2), 300-304.

Nkhoma, M. Z., Lam, T. K., Sriratanaviriyakul, N., Richardson, J., Kam, B., & Lau, K. H. (2017). Unpacking the revised Bloom’s taxonomy: Developing case-based learning activities. Education & Training, 59(3), 250-264.

Roberts, T. S. (2004). Online Collaborative Learning : Theory and Practice. Hershey PA: IGI Global.

Thistlethwaite, J. J., Davies, D., Ekeocha, S., Kidd, J. M., Macdougall, C., Matthews, P., & … Clay, D. (2012). The effectiveness of case-based learning in health professional education. A BEME systematic review: BEME Guide No. 23. Medical Teacher, 34(6), e421-e444.

Trommelen, R. D., Karpinski, A., & Chauvin, S. (2017). Impact of Case-Based Learning and Reflection on Clinical Reasoning and Reflection Abilities in Physical Therapist Students. Journal Of Physical Therapy Education (American Physical Therapy Association, Education Section), 31(1), 21-30.


Berman, S. (2020). Use discussion boards, google docs, and pages tool for online, case-based, collaborative learning. In A. deNoyelles, A. Albrecht, S. Bauer, & S. Wyatt (Eds.), Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Center for Distributed Learning.

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