research on student perceptions, misconception resolution, and learning via the case.
Participants included 32 female natural and health science major
undergraduate students enrolled in an introductory microbiology
course in a private university in the northeast United States. Approximately two-thirds of the students were nursing majors, and the
majority of the remainder were biological science majors.
Design and Procedures
Case Study Design
Using a storyline with a main character and probable scenario of
infection, The Ebola Wars: General Edition supports student learning
of the general attributes of viruses, and application of their general
knowledge of virology to the specific biological features of the
Ebola virus. The case uses a stepwise approach to guide students
• What are viruses?
• What are the structural features of viruses, and how are they
related to their function?
• How do viruses infect host cells and utilize host cell machinery
• What are the major structural features of the Ebola virus?
• How does the Ebola virus enter host cells and reproduce?
• What treatment options were available during the 2014 outbreak? and
• What treatment option is most efficacious for the main character of the case?
Advanced courses with students who have extensively studied general virology and lifecycles can use the Parts I, II, and III of the case
for review. Introductory courses may devote more time to the beginning sections of the case to encourage foundational learning. Revision of the main character and storyline for context, as well as the
latter portions of the case to focus on the biological attributes of a
different virus, allow this case framework to be adapted for other
Case Study Implementation
The case was implemented in a microbiology course serving natural
and health science majors. All research was approved by the Institu-
tional Review Board, and participants provided informed consent. Stu-
dent perceptions were evaluated after completing the case, and pre-
and post-instruction knowledge assessments were administered. Prior
to the employment of this case, the students were introduced to some
general virology concepts such as obligate requirement for a host, com-
mon structures, and replication stages. As an out-of-class assignment,
students were provided Parts I–III of the case, which introduce the sce-
nario and main character of the case and review general virology con-
cepts. They were asked to read and answer the relevant questions prior
to class. In class the next day, the instructor led with a ten-minute con-
textual discussion with the students about the Ebola virus, focusing on
the epidemiology of historical and recent outbreaks (Appendix I). This
was followed by an instructor-prompted, but student-led, discussion
and overview of Parts I–III of the case. The remainder of the case study
(Parts IV, V, and VI) was then distributed, and the balance of the class
session (approximately thirty minutes) was organized in an interrupted
fashion, where students read a single part, then worked in small groups
(two to five students) to answer the provided questions before coming
together as a whole class for a brief discussion, and moving onto the
next part of the case. After the case was completed, the class came
together one final time, and the instructor led a wrap-up discussion,
aimed at focusing on the major “take-home message” of the case and
its relatability to other infectious diseases. Additional details for future
implementations can be found in the Teaching Notes published with
the case at the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science.
Student Perceptions Survey. Immediately following instruction,
students responded to a twenty-nine-question survey regarding their
perceptions of learning with the case on a five-point Likert scale.
Possible responses included: “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,” “Neutral,”
“Disagree,” “Strongly Disagree,” and “N/A.” The class data was then
compiled and analyzed.
Pre-/Post-Assessment. The efficacy of the case study in supporting
student learning was assessed through pre- and post-knowledge
assessments. The pre- and post-knowledge assessment consisted of
ten identical questions in varying format and Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy levels, covering diverse content from the case. The specific questions used can be seen in Appendix II.
The pre-assessment was administered in class immediately prior
to the case study being provided and Parts I–III assigned, and the
post-assessment was included in the students’ standard course examination approximately two weeks after the instruction. The students
were not aware that the questions from the pre-assessment would
be present on their post-assessment, nor were the questions and
answers returned to the students during the intervening time. The
resulting data were analyzed by raw score on a question-by-question
basis, as well as for normalized learning gains.
In general, the students found both the material and the manner in
which the material presented to be interesting (97%), with only one
student of thirty-two disagreeing with these statements (Figure 1).
Additionally, 53 percent of responding students indicated that they
enjoyed using the case study to learn about the Ebola virus, 28 percent
were neutral, and only 19 percent did not like this method of learning.
Moreover, 63 percent of students stated that this instructional method
aided their critical thinking broadly about virology and human health,
and 75 percent of students responded that it aided in their critical
thinking about the Ebola virus, specifically. As relevant to this study
focused on teaching about recent and current emerging infectious diseases, 94 percent of students indicated that the instructional method
“clearly connected the material to its effect in the real world.”
With regard to student perceptions of learning, 83 percent of
the respondents “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with the statement,
“Prior to the class session, I did not know much about Ebola virus.”
Only 22 percent of the respondents disagreed with the statement,