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Digital Case Stories for Faculty Development

Centers for Teaching and Learning frequently provide professional development opportunities focused on innovative pedagogies to faculty from diverse disciplines. At times, such professional development opportunities are presented in ways that may not meet the disciplinary and professional development needs of faculty because they do not provide opportunities to view the implementations in classrooms from a closely related discipline.

Digital Case Stories have the power to illustrate exemplary teaching practices and highlight different disciplinary approaches to pedagogical strategies, relevant teaching contexts, unique design/assessment methods, and student-centered teaching approaches. The MERLOT ELIXR Initiative, is one example of a repository that hosts over 100 discipline-specific stories. The MERLOT ELIXR site also contains resources for using and creating case stories for faculty development (including collaborating on design, review and evaluation). 


What is a Digital Case Story?

Digital storytelling is the practice of combining narrative with digital content, including images, sound and video, to create a short movie typically with a strong emotional component. Sophisticated digital stories can be interactive movies that include highly produced audio and visual effects, but a set of slides with corresponding nar­ration or music constitutes a basic digital story. Digital stories can be instructional, persuasive, historical, or reflective[1].

As part of a grant funded by FIPSE (Fund for Improvement for Post Secondary Education), the MERLOT ELIXR Initiative has adapted these best practices for higher education, resulting in a repository of digital case stories for exemplary teaching innovations, illustrating both the product and the process of the innovations and their impact on student learning.  The case stories include multimedia records of both teachers and students reflecting on the process of designing and implementing new learning and teaching activities, and are utilized by faculty developers and individual faculty.  The MERLOT ELIXR initiative has over 100 case stories available for use.  To learn more, visit


Where to find Digital Case Stories for Faculty Development?

 Using Digital Case Stories for Faculty Development

Discover how case stories can be used in your faculty development efforts - workshops, consultation, program promotion, discussion board prompts, brown bags, etc. by reading this comprehensive list of ideas, compiled by Tasha Souza, MERLOT ELIXR's Faculty Development Lead.  

Faculty Development Workshops

Some specific ideas include:

  • Cases can be previewed prior to the workshop by participants.
  • Facilitator can show one or more case stories to demonstrate a point and/or lead into an exercise.
  • Facilitator can have participants get into groups and have each group review, respond to questions about, and reflect on the same or different case stories.
  • Cases can be integrated into an online workshop.
  • Links to cases can be provided in workshop materials as a suggested resource.
The length of time for traditional face to face workshops that include digital case stories have varied from 45 minutes to two hours.   A faculty developer reported that the 45 minute length was too short to show any clips in the workshop although participants were encouraged to view the stories after the class.  Another faculty developer shared that the 90 minute session allowed participants to view and discuss the stories, consider their own personal goals for First Day of Class (this was the focus of the workshop) and then plan activities to achieve the goals.  See a sample First Day of Class Agenda from Tony Rimmer, Faculty Development Director, California State University Fullerton in the Attachments section.

Online Courses

Kathy Ross, Instructional Technologist, at Indiana University Kokomo, offered a First Day of Class workshop online with two formats. The first design was meeting once a week for four weeks. However, Kathy noticed some attrition and experimented with shortening the overall length of the seminar to three weeks but increasing the meeting frequency to two times a week.  However she realized that the pace was not working well and went back to the four-week seminar.

The overall benefits of the online format is more faculty participated in comparison to a face to face workshop, there was enough time to plan activities, and adequate time to respond to feedback.  Kathy discovered that she did need to anticipate that some faculty would need to attend to technology issues (updating Quicktime or browser plug-ins, for instance).

You can read more about her reflections at and view a handout that outlines Kathy's goals and structure for the First Day of Class workshop in the Attachment Section.

Self-directed use by faculty

The Science Education Resource Center,  a discipline-focused organization that outreaches primarily to individual faculty, integrates MERLOT ELIXR case stories into existing pedagogic modules in the Starting Point collection for teaching entry level geosciences. For instance, SERC's Just in Time Teaching module explains the teaching practice, the rationale for it, how to use it, and includes an MERLOT ELIXR case story that features a faculty member applying the Just in Time Teaching practice.  From a recent SERC evaluation study, faculty members reported that

  • The videos were a useful component of the module that complemented the content of the module.
  • The videos provided additional information by demonstrating the techniques in realistic settings via an audio-visual medium.
  • The videos effectively made the case for trying the teaching methods presented.
Faculty members also access the MERLOT ELIXR case stories through the main MERLOT website and their local faculty development centers.   CSU San Bernardino and Humboldt State University, for example, lists case stories as resources for a particular topic (First Day of Class) or under programs.

Preparing Future Faculty programs

This sub-heading about "Preparing Future Faculty programs" is a stub. You can help by expanding it.


Creating Digital Case Stories for Faculty Development

Case Story Structure

Within this case story structure, the uniqueness of your story will still come through via your personal voice as story teller and the personal impact for you and your students, as well as engaging visual examples from your course.  You can use this default Case Story Structure as is, or you can work with your local digital media specialists to adapt the default structure to your needs.

The current default Case Story Structure has five parts: 

  1. The Trailer is a 1 minute or less thumbnail of your case story designed to quickly give the viewer an understanding of the content and drama of the case. 
  2. The Story - is your story about why you adopted the practice that is the subject of the case, what it is that you do differently now, how the students are responding to what they and you are doing, and what evidence you have, if any, that it is making a difference in student learning.
  3. Personal Reflections This is your personal reflection – video and text – on what making this change in your teaching has meant to you. 
  4. More on this story - The elements here will vary depending on the unique parts of your story that are worth emphasizing including a visit to a lab where students are at work, syllabus, sample questions, assignments, links and examples of student achievement.
  5. Instructor's Guide - This is where tips and tricks and the expertise of others who have used this technique are brought together so that the reader who wants to dive deeper into understanding the technique, and maybe even other techniques that support it, can be learned.

Case Story Timeline

This document visually summarizes the steps in creating a Digital Case Story and is available in the Attachments Section.

Case Story Production Guideline

This document outlines the mutli-step process on story development, filming, and post-production and is available in the Attachments Section.  

Additional Resources

    • Guide to Writing a Case Story Synopsis helps case story builders create a written summary of the story points and is available in the Attachments Section.

    • Accessible Captioning
      • There is a "Steps to Captioning" document in the Attachments Section that outlines the steps to caption QuickTime and Flash videos for use in Pachyderm.
      • Automatic Sync is one company that provides transcriptions and captioned files in any format for a fee.


Collaborating on Digital Case Stories for Faculty Development


Collaborative work on shared issues

By selecting a common topic of interest among multiple institutions, and then creating stories that highlight different principles on that topic, the various institutions have access to a greater number of resources on the topic.  For instance, teams from four CSU campuses created seven digital case stories for ELIXR on a shared issue, Universal Design for Learning. These stories revealed different principles of Universal Design Learning highlighting how faculty are reaching more students through diversity in teaching approaches. The teams had joint conference calls to learn more about the each story's main points and share collaborative feedback. Additionally, Brett Christie, Faculty Development Director at Sonoma State, serves as the theme leader and summarized other useful resources that complement the video content.

Reviewing Case Stories

When you create a case story about an exemplary teaching practice at your institution, it is easy to forget that some of the local terminology and context will be unfamiliar to other potential users. There are also multiple ways in which potential users may employ a particular case story in their faculty development programming, and many of these will only emerge when a partial story is available to spark their imaginations. Formative review of case stories by external faculty developers and other experts is therefore a valuable step to insure that your story has maximum impact elsewhere.

For example, the teams developing case stories in the ELIXR program used a review website and a list-serve.  The review page and list-serve are strategies for the storytelling process to occur in a collaborative way. This process also helps case authors receive feedback early on in the process with the goal of creating relevant and useful stories about teaching practices.

On the review page, case authors post updates on their stories during three critical stages: 1) case story synopsis; 2) rough video clips; and 3) prototype of the case story as it would be made available to users.  When a post is made on the review website, the list-serve notifies subscribers – faculty developers who would be interested in using the story, individual faculty, multi-media specialists – that a case author is seeking feedback or that feedback has been made to a particular story.

Another way to provide a collaboration space is via reviewer contributions – comments or edits – to a specific collaboration page for the case story. This allows individuals to subscribe at the case story level rather than being notified about review opportunities on all case stories under development.

Here are some comments back from case story authors about the value of this collaborative process for them:


From Cheryl Bielema, University of Missouri, St. Louis and Theme Leader for Reimagining Learning Spaces

Tom, thank you for your ideas. You have energized our graduate assistant who loves to create computer images. He's busy working on distinguishing the various Teaching Strategies points. I have reviewed the interview video once again and discovered two segments that may suit the "prologue" or overview function. We'll be updating the case story yet this week and look forward to your further comment.

Tasha also provided valuable input on the College Algebra story and we've since chunked the first segment into three parts. Thanks again!


From Jeff King, Texas Christian University, Theme Leader for Audience Response Systems:

Thanks, all, for the suggestion about overlaying segments of the first instructor interview clip with footage from the classroom--this helped a great deal in ensuring that the instructor's habit of looking down and away from the camera doesn't lose viewers simply due to the presentation (and not the content; and no, she was not looking at any notes--just her method of using her eyes). This adjusted clip should work much better, we hope. Let me know what you think.

To learn more about the kind of feedback that elicited these comments, click here.

 List of Contributors

 Joel Bennett, Multimedia Producer, CSU - Center for Distributed Learning,
 Tom Carey, Visiting Senior Scholar, for both San Diego State University & Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario  Professor, Management Sciences Department, Faculty of Engineering, University of Waterloo, Canada,
 Season Eckardt, Program Manager for the MERLOT ELIXR Project,  
 Tony Rimmer, Faculty Development Director, CSU Fullerton,
 Kathy Ross, Director, Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment Indiana University Kokomo,
 Tasha Souza, Coordinator, Faculty Development, Humboldt State University,
  Lou Zweier, Director, CSU – Center for Distributed Learning,

[1] Seven Things You Should Know About Digital Storytelling, [1]

Season Eckardt,
Aug 19, 2009, 10:23 AM
Season Eckardt,
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Season Eckardt,
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Season Eckardt,
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Season Eckardt,
Aug 26, 2009, 9:38 AM