Erik Horsthuis
Case study

Realistic cases from real companies

To get to the heart of the subject of data analytics, as a teacher you want students to be able to work with realistic data. Saxion University of Applied Sciences developed a MOOC on Business Analytics in which students can get hands-on with fictitious data from real companies.

To collect the cases in a MOOC and develop the course, Saxion used the Open and Online Education Incentive Scheme.

"Can't we solve the high absenteeism rates with Big Data?" So begins one of the cases Saxion presents to students in the form of a MOOC. It turns out to be about sickness absence rates at KLM: they do not fit the HR goal of employing and keeping healthy employees. Moreover, absenteeism costs a lot of money. "Big Data seems to be the solution to many business problems," the KLM manager continues in the case study. It is up to the MOOC student to use HR data to give him insight into the many factors and variables that influence absenteeism. And more importantly, to formulate a recommendation on how KLM can reduce absenteeism.

Informed decisions

In another case study, the management of the well-known and successful mediation company lost track of the large amount of data collected due to its stormy growth in recent years. "We are in good shape. We know that for sure. But how good exactly? We have a bright future. But how bright exactly?" Participants are challenged to identify the current situation and opportunities for improvement based on data provided, so that the company can make informed decisions for the future.

Reality in teaching material

"Data analysis is basically an abstract subject," says Erik Horsthuis, lecturer in Business Economics at Saxion. "It only becomes concrete when you start working with it outside school. Then you realise that behind the numbers and columns on your screen there are people and stories. That they are issues and problems you can solve. First by making the data transparent, then by analysing them and then by drawing conclusions and policies. My colleagues and I wanted to bring that reality into the teaching material. To bring the material to life and to improve quality."

I am now convinced: by sharing education with each other, quality goes up.
Erik Horsthuis

Business cases

"We were looking for appealing companies - preferably from the region - that could help us with business cases and associated data. SURF put us on the trail of the Incentive Scheme and that was a great decision. Not only to fund the project - we featured the cases in the form of professional and pricey videos - but also because it forced us to offer them as open educational resources. The MOOC was delivered in 2018 and is still widely used. And I am now convinced: by sharing education with each other, quality goes up. After all, as an institution, you don't have to keep reinventing the wheel. And the student can choose the best course on the subject."

Privacy and competition

"Because it was about open education, by the way, it was not easy to win over companies. You can imagine that most companies are not keen on making their privacy- and competition-sensitive data publicly accessible. That is why I want to stress again that while the issues are realistic, the data are fictitious. Nothing can be traced back to individuals or company data."

Video presentation

Saxion has put the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on its own EdX platform. Besides KLM and, mattress manufacturer Auping, Medisch Centrum Twente and Saxion University of Applied Sciences themselves contributed a case for the course. Students choose at least three cases to work on and complete the course with a video presentation of their findings. To make the data transparent, they can use programmes such as Tableau or PowerBI. Upon completion, participants will be able to analyse data independently.

We have developed this education for our own students, but other colleges and universities can also use it.
Erik Horsthuis


Erik Horsthuis: "We developed this teaching for our own students, but other colleges and universities can also use it. And they do: students from all parts of the country have now gone through the learning material and it is still being used. That does me good, but I have to be honest: when the MOOC was just live, I panicked. There were still some teething problems and I was constantly getting messages and questions. To make matters worse, the site was also down for a day once, by which time my mailbox was completely full. What stress! Later I realised: all those messages indicate that this experiment was successful. What if I hadn't received them? Then there would have been no interest."

New cases

"So I am proud of what we have achieved. But now the biggest challenge is to keep the course running well and the material current and relevant. For example, the software Tableau gets an update every six months and so we have to adapt the teaching accordingly. But not only that. The world is changing and the cases are becoming outdated. It would be great if other educational institutions came to me because they would like to supplement the teaching material with new cases. From companies in their area and with new current themes and issues. If that happens, I really consider the project a great success and an example of how open education can work now and in the future."

Would you like to contribute?

Would you like to supplement Erik Horsthuis' learning materials with new cases? Or do you have ideas to keep the learning materials current and relevant? Contact Erik Horsthuis,

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