Adapting Problem-Based Learning to an Online Learning Environment

Adapting Problem-Based Learning to an Online Learning Environment

Lisa Lobry de Bruyn (University of New England, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-861-1.ch033
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This chapter explores through a case study approach of a tertiary-level unit on Land Assessment for Sustainable Use, the connections between three key elements of learning—learning outcomes, learning design, and learning objects—in the context of problem based learning conducted in an online environment. At the “heart” of learning is the achievement of learning outcomes guided pedagogically by the learning design (“head”) with the support of well-designed, pedagogically-sound learning objects (“hands”). All the students participating in this case study were undertaking the unit as off-campus or “distance” students, either at under- or post-graduate level. This chapter defines the use of learning objects and learning design in a problem based learning context. Primary evidence is presented to demonstrate the effectiveness of the problem based learning design and integrated learning objects in facilitating learning outcomes when students communicated online on discussion boards within a course management system (WebCT) under two circumstances: one, as a collective group (2001-2003) before face-to-face instruction and practice in problem based learning; and two, in small groups (2004-2006) after receiving face-to-face instruction and practice in problem based learning. Improved student participation rates and quantity and quality of online student interactions on discussion boards seemed to be the consequence of early scaffolding of student learning through face-to-face instruction and practice in the problem-based learning activity, as well as working in small peer groups for subsequent discussion board activity. Overall there seemed to be improved student comprehension of and interaction with the learning design and learning objects in the small group experience of the problem based learning activity, which resulted in a more fulfilling and robust form of learning.
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Educational developments such as the online delivery of unit content, learning activities and assessments, and Web-based learning resources have arisen from the perceived need to diversify university teaching approaches to produce more competent and competitive graduates who can meet the challenges of the workplace. Before university graduates enter the workplace, employers expect them to have proven and demonstrable ability in a range of skills and competencies along with the knowledge base.

The reasons for introducing problem based learning (PBL) into the teaching of natural resource management were primarily to immerse students in the knowledge of the discipline and for them to understand the process of knowledge acquisition and building rather than just learning content. Many undergraduate students on completion of their degree will find work in natural resource management agencies either at local, state, or federal levels, and will most likely find themselves working in small teams with disparate backgrounds and experiences with problem solving. Graduates are expected to function effectively as group members, as well as advance the work activity they are jointly responsible for. Thus, students need to understand and experience “working” as part of a small team, delegate tasks, make joint decisions, and allocate resources. PBL allows students to do this by involving them in learning about teamwork, skills (e.g., interpersonal skills, time management, report writing, communication, and active listening), and experiencing a range of team member roles to achieve an outcome. In addition, the other desired learning outcomes from using PBL in this context are: problem solving, information literacy (i.e., the ability to access, read, synthesise and interpret information), alignment of content and assessment tasks, fostering student motivation, acknowledgement of prior learning, and encouragement of “intellectual prospecting” (Lobry de Bruyn, 2005; Lobry de Bruyn & Prior, 2001).

The use of PBL as a learning design has been well accepted in vocational degrees such as medical sciences, education, law, and business (e.g., MBA). However, the use of problem based learning as a learning design in natural sciences, particularly natural resource management remains rare. Combining PBL as a learning design in an online environment, and the use of computer-mediated communications in the delivery of learning objects1 (including problem based learning situation statements, replies to student questions as rejoinders, and internal and external links to Web-based learning resources) is even rarer.

Traditionally PBL is conducted in a classroom environment and the various steps of the problem-solving process are conducted face-to-face in small groups in which students: introduce themselves to each other, set ground rules, acknowledge prior learning, identify contributions to group learning, identify learning needs and activities, and finally work through the problem-solving process. Transferring the problem-solving process to an online environment, asynchronous computer-mediated communication allows students to communicate independently of time and place, provides social interaction with peers, and even allows small peer groups to be created to communicate questions, opinions, and queries. The use of threaded discussion boards that allow asynchronous computer-mediated communication is advantageous when it is not possible to predict precisely when students will access discussion boards. Threading also allows students to trace and keep track of conversational chains, as each message or posting has a subject label, and is organised in a hierarchical structure that only includes those messages that are related. Unrelated threads are kept separate, and this allows students to pursue multiple avenues of thought without becoming confused (Hewitt, 2001).

This chapter will explore and expound on the confluence between learning design (pedagogy and learning strategy) and learning objects (learning resources and tools), their application to problem based learning in the context of natural resource management, and a particular use of the learning design and learning objects with off-campus students undertaking a tertiary-level unit on Land Assessment for Sustainable Use either at under- or post-graduate level.

The specific objectives of this chapter are to:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Learning Design: A learning design is the application of a pedagogical model for a specific learning objective, target group, and a specific context or knowledge domain. The learning design specifies the teaching-learning process. More specifically, it specifies under which conditions what activities have to be performed by learners and teachers to enable learners to attain the desired learning objectives

Discussion Boards: Located within a course management system, discussion boards provide threaded or unthreaded asynchronous computer mediated communication that allows students to communicate independently of time and place. A thread starts off as a stand alone note or message and can be responded to by students or instructors with another note or message and is connected by a branch. It can be viewed in a linear or nonlinear fashion.

Learning Object: Any digital resource that can be reused to support learning.

Online Learning: The transmission of information and/or communication via the Internet without instructors and students connected at the same time or place.

Learner/Student-Centered Learning: The essence of student-centered learning is characterised by the adage “involve me and I understand.” It actively engages the students in constructing new knowledge, and reflecting upon their understandings, as well as developing skills and attitudes that inform the learning process and outcomes.

Problem Based Learning (PBL): Learning centered around a problem, a query, or a puzzle that the learner wishes to solve. It is an approach to curriculum which is problem-centered rather than discipline centered with a focus on an integrated curriculum structured by “real world” problems.

Social Presence: The ability of learners to project themselves socially and affectively into a community of inquiry.

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
Tom Carey
Lori Lockyer, Sue Bennett, Shirley Agostinho, Barry Harper
Lori Lockyer, Sue Bennett, Shirley Agostinho, Barry Harper
Chapter 1
Shirley Agostinho
The term “learning design” is gaining momentum in the e-learning literature as a concept for supporting academics to model and share teaching... Sample PDF
Learning Design Representations to Document, Model, and Share Teaching Practice
Chapter 2
Isobel Falconer, Allison Littlejohn
Practice models are generic approaches to the structuring and orchestration of learning activities for pedagogic purposes, intended to promote... Sample PDF
Representing Models of Practice
Chapter 3
Rob Koper, Yongwu Miao
IMS learning design (IMSLD) is an open standard that can be used to specify a wide range of pedagogical strategies in computer-interpretable models.... Sample PDF
Using the IMS LD Standard to Describe Learning Designs
Chapter 4
David Griffiths, Oleg Liber
The IMS LD specification is internally complex and has been used in a number of different ways. As a result users who have a basic understanding of... Sample PDF
Opportunities, Achievements, and Prospects for Use of IMS LD
Chapter 5
Franca Garzotto, Symeon Retalis
“A design pattern describes a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that... Sample PDF
A Critical Perspective on Design Patterns for E-Learning
Chapter 6
Sherri S. Frizell, Roland Hübscher
Design patterns have received considerable attention for their potential as a means of capturing and sharing design knowledge. This chapter provides... Sample PDF
Using Design Patterns to Support E-Learning Design
Chapter 7
Peter Goodyear, Dai Fei Yang
This chapter provides an overview of recent research and development (R&D) activity in the area of educational design patterns and pattern... Sample PDF
Patterns and Pattern Languages in Educational Design
Chapter 8
Gráinne Conole
The chapter provides a theoretical framework for understanding learning activities, centering on two key aspects: (1) the capture and representation... Sample PDF
The Role of Mediating Artefacts in Learning Design
Chapter 9
Elizabeth Masterman
This chapter uses activity theory to construct a framework for the design and deployment of pedagogic planning tools. It starts by noting the impact... Sample PDF
Activity Theory and the Design of Pedagogic Planning Tools
Chapter 10
Barry Harper, Ron Oliver
This chapter describes the development of a taxonomy of learning designs based on a survey of 52 innovative ICT-using projects that formed the basis... Sample PDF
Developing a Taxonomy for Learning Designs
Chapter 11
Carmel McNaught, Paul Lam, Kin-Fai Cheng
The chapter will describe an expert review process used at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. The mechanism used involves a carefully developed... Sample PDF
Using Expert Reviews to Enhance Learning Designs
Chapter 12
Matthew Kearney, Anne Prescott, Kirsty Young
This chapter reports on findings from a recent project situated in the area of preservice teacher education. The project investigated prospective... Sample PDF
Investigating Prospective Teachers as Learning Design Authors
Chapter 13
Paul Hazlewood, Amanda Oddie, Mark Barrett-Baxendale
IMS Learning Design (IMS LD) is a specification for describing a range of pedagogic approaches. It allows the linking of pedagogical structure... Sample PDF
Using IMS Learning Design in Educational Situations
Chapter 14
Robert McLaughlan, Denise Kirkpatrick
Decision-making processes in relation to complex natural resources require recognition and accommodation of diverse and competing perspectives in a... Sample PDF
Online Role-Based Learning Designs for Teaching Complex Decision Making
Chapter 15
Garry Hoban
Digital animations are complex to create and are usually made by experts for novices to download from Web sites or copy from DVDs and CDs to use as... Sample PDF
Facilitating Learner-Generated Animations with Slowmation
Chapter 16
Yongwu Miao, Daniel Burgos, David Griffiths, Rob Koper
Group interaction has to be meticulously designed to foster effective and efficient collaborative learning. The IMS Learning Design specification... Sample PDF
Representation of Coordination Mechanisms in IMS LD
Chapter 17
Johannes Strobel, Gretchen Lowerison, Roger Côté, Philip C. Abrami, Edward C. Bethel
In this chapter, we describe the process of modeling different theory-, research-, and best-practicebased learning designs into IMS-LD, a... Sample PDF
Modeling Learning Units by Capturing Context with IMS LD
Chapter 18
Daniel Burgos, Hans G.K. Hummel, Colin Tattersall, Francis Brouns, Rob Koper
This chapter presents some design guidelines for collaboration and participation in blended learning networks. As an exemplary network, we describe... Sample PDF
Design Guidelines for Collaboration and Participation with Examples from the LN4LD (Learning Network for Learning Design)
Chapter 19
Tom Boyle
This chapter argues that good design has to be at the heart of developing effective learning objects. It briefly outlines the “knowledge... Sample PDF
The Design of Learning Objects for Pedagogical Impact
Chapter 20
Margaret Turner
This chapter introduces an approach to writing content for online learning over networked media. It argues that few resources currently utilise the... Sample PDF
Visual Meaning Management for Networked Learning
Chapter 21
Christina Gitsaki
Due to the increasingly diverse student population in multicultural nations such as Australia, the U.S., Canada, and the UK, educators are faced... Sample PDF
Modification of Learning Objects for NESB Students
Chapter 22
Daniel Churchill, John Gordon Hedberg
The main idea behind learning objects is that they are to exist as digital resources separated from the learning task in which they are used. This... Sample PDF
Learning Objects, Learning Tasks, and Handhelds
Chapter 23
Peter Freebody, Sandy Muspratt, David McRae
The question addressed in this chapter is: What is the evidence for the effects of online programs of learning objects on motivation and learning?... Sample PDF
Technology, Curriculum, and Pedagogy in the Evaluation of an Online Content Program in Australasia
Chapter 24
David Lake, Kate Lowe, Rob Phillips, Rick Cummings, Renato Schibeci
This chapter provides a model to analyse the effectiveness and efficiency of Learning Objects being used in primary and secondary schools by... Sample PDF
Effective Use of Learning Objects in Class Environments
Chapter 25
Robert McCormick, Tomi Jaakkola, Sami Nurmi
Most studies on reusable digital learning materials, Learning Objects (LOs), relate to their use in universities. Few empirical studies exist to... Sample PDF
A European Evaluation of the Promises of LOs
Chapter 26
Tomi Jaakkola, Sami Nurmi
There has been a clear lack of rigorous empirical evidence on the effectiveness of learning objects (LOs) in education. This chapter reports the... Sample PDF
Instructional Effectiveness of Learning Objects
Chapter 27
Robert McCormick
This chapter will examine the approach taken in the evaluation of a large-scale feasibility trial of the production, distribution, and use of... Sample PDF
Evaluating Large-Scale European LO Production, Distribution, and Use
Chapter 28
John C Nesbit, Tracey L. Leacock
The Learning Object Review Instrument (LORI) is an evaluation framework designed to support collaborative critique of multimedia learning resources.... Sample PDF
Collaborative Argumentation in Learning Resource Evaluation
Chapter 29
Philippe Martin, Michel Eboueya
This chapter first argues that current approaches for sharing and retrieving learning objects or any other kinds of information are not efficient or... Sample PDF
For the Ultimate Accessibility and Reusability
Chapter 30
Sue Bennett, Dominique Parrish, Geraldine Lefoe, Meg O’Reilly, Mike Keppell, Robyn Philip
As the notion of learning objects has grown in popularity, so too has interest in how they should be stored to promote access and reusability. A key... Sample PDF
A Needs Analysis Framework for the Design of Digital Repositories in Higher Education
Chapter 31
William Bramble, Mariya Pachman
Reusable learning objects (LOs) constitute a promising approach to the development of easily accessible, technologically sound, and curriculum... Sample PDF
Costs and Sustainability of Learning Object Repositories
Chapter 32
Kristine Elliott, Kevin Sweeney, Helen Irving
This chapter reports the authors’ experiences of developing a learning design to teach scientific inquiry, of integrating the learning design with... Sample PDF
A Learning Design to Teach Scientific Inquiry
Chapter 33
Lisa Lobry de Bruyn
This chapter explores through a case study approach of a tertiary-level unit on Land Assessment for Sustainable Use, the connections between three... Sample PDF
Adapting Problem-Based Learning to an Online Learning Environment
Chapter 34
Tan Wee Chuen, Baharuddin Aris, Mohd Salleh Abu
This chapter aims to guide the readers through the design and development of a prototype Web-based learning system based on the integration of... Sample PDF
Learning Objects and Generative Learning for Higher Order Thinking
Chapter 35
Sebastian Foti
The author describes the work of Dr. Mary Budd Rowe and the establishment of an early learning object databases. Extensive training with K-12... Sample PDF
Applying Learning Object Libraries in K-12 Settings
Chapter 36
L. K. Curda, Melissa A. Kelly
We present guidelines for designing and developing a repository for the storage and exchange of instructional resources, as well as considerations... Sample PDF
Guidelines for Developing Learning Object Repositories
Chapter 37
Sandra Wills, Anne McDougall
This study tracks the uptake of online role play in Australia from 1990 to 2006 and the affordances to its uptake. It examines reusability, as one... Sample PDF
Reusability of Online Role Play as Learning Objects or Learning Designs
Chapter 38
Lori Lockyer, Lisa Kosta, Sue Bennett
Health professional education is changing to meet the demands of a limited workforce and a focus on community-based clinical training. The change... Sample PDF
An Analysis of Learning Designs that Integrate Patient Cases in Health Professions Education
Chapter 39
Mohan Chinnappan
The shift in the way we visualise the nature of mathematics and mathematics learning has presented educational technologists with new challenges in... Sample PDF
Reconceptualisation of Learning Objects as Meta-Schemas
Chapter 40
Henk Huijser
This chapter provides an in depth discussion of the issues involved in integrating learning design and learning objects into generic Web sites. It... Sample PDF
Designing Learning Objects for Generic Web Sites
Chapter 41
Morag Munro, Claire Kenny
E-learning standards are a contentious topic amongst educators, designers, and researchers engaged in the development of learning objects and... Sample PDF
Standards for Learning Objects and Learning Designs
Chapter 42
Eddy Boot, Luca Botturi, Andrew S. Gibbons, Todd Stubbs
In developing modern instructional software, learning designs are used to formalize descriptions of roles, activities, constraints, and several... Sample PDF
Supporting Decision Making in Using Design Languages for Learning Designs and Learning Objects
Chapter 43
Gilbert Paquette, Olga Mariño, Karin Lundgren-Cayrol, Michel Léonard
This chapter summarizes the work on instructional engineering and educational modeling accomplished since 1992 at the LICEF Research Center of... Sample PDF
Principled Construction and Reuse of Learning Designs
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