Developing a Learning Organization Model for Problem-Based Learning: The Emergent Lesson of Education from the IT Trenches

Developing a Learning Organization Model for Problem-Based Learning: The Emergent Lesson of Education from the IT Trenches

Kam Hou Vat (University of Macau, Macau)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1655-4.ch019
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Abstract

This case describes the initiative to develop a learning organization model to support the pedagogy of problem-based learning (PBL) as an approach to conduct teaching in the author’s undergraduate curriculum development. Specifically, an organizational scenario is described to support introducing the PBL method of course delivery. This is based on an action research depiction on some of the experiences and issues involved in conceiving and developing a Web-based course-support environment called REAL (Rich Environment for Active Learning). This case then deliberates on the idea of setting up a Center for PBL Research as an important mechanism of institutional innovation. This center could be considered as an essential effort to encourage individual organizational units within the university to provide suitable electronic services toward the realization of a virtual university. The dilemma of this effort, however, remains the emergent changes of organizational behavior in education, which is essentially subjective, eclectic, individual, context-specific, and often one-off, making it traditionally the most difficult to support with technology.
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Setting The Stage

As an organizational unit of our university, the Department of CIS has always relied on the mainstream IT resources continually made available for the utilization of our staff and students. To set the stage for our case discussion, it is important to understand the build-up history of IT infrastructure in our university.

Campus Network with Internet Access

Starting in 1993, our university was the first in Macau to introduce fiber-optics and structural cabling system to link all the campus computers. In 1998, our university laid the first high-speed ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) network in Macau with a speed of 622Mbps, the highest standard of ATM network technology at that time. In 2000, we also got an upgraded campus network of Gigabit Ethernet with the backbone speed up to 8Gbps. Meanwhile, in about March 2000, the university launched the Net-Port service to install network outlets in all classrooms, meeting rooms, and library auditoriums throughout the campus. Teachers and students could then connect their notebook computers to the campus network. At the beginning of 2001, our wireless campus network had been incrementally put in place. Our wireless coverage is currently over 90% of our campus, and is the largest wireless local area network (LAN) in Macau, allowing both teachers and students further mobility with the notebooks. To allow remote access to the campus network, we also enjoy a modem pool of about 270 dial-up lines, so that teachers and students working at home can connect their computers to the campus network with Internet access. Our Internet access service could be traced back to 1994, when the university established the first leased line to the Internet in Macau before the establishment of any local Internet Service Providers (ISPs). In 2003, our university launched the Net-VPN (Virtual Private Network) service for students and teachers, which supports the execution of secure applications at home through broadband services provided by the local ISP. This VPN service is essential to accessing valuable e-journals to which our university library has subscribed. Currently, there are about 560 computers installed in the various computer rooms and computer laboratories distributed throughout our different faculties and institutes. With the adoption of smart-card access control and digital surveillance system, our computer rooms are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide the maximum access time possible for students to use the computer facilities.

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