Project based learning in Higher Education

Here are the videos referred by Rubin

Why project based learning (may be the sound isn’t that perfect)

What project based learning is

What project based learning isn’t

Very fruitful advice from these videos

My reflection:

Project based learning would involve students learning through projects. The critical questions include:

What would students learn through the projects?

How would projects help students in achieving their goals and learning objectives?

What are the sorts of projects that would help students to learn?

Is project based learning suitable for learning in any subject, or domain?

I think project based learning has been used for decades, and even in my engineering and management education, we worked in group and individual projects, and that was part of the curriculum.

The main differences between what we had done in the past and that nowadays would be that we have got tools and media where students could use in cooperating and collaborating with each others, in the inquiry, exploration, execution, and monitoring of projects, and that they could also do the projects over digital and virtual space, not only in the classroom environment.  The projects could also be based on the building of real or simulated models, by means of hands on projects, or over virtual simulated environment, like SecondLife, where “virtual buildings” and artifacts could be created or produced in a virtual world.   Other projects could also include the building of games, creation of an artifact (video, podcast, softwares, hardware), or a learning event, an organised function or showcase or a research project.  These could be done via wikis, Google doc, or group and individual blogs, in the planning and its execution.  Even the organisation of a virtual event could be a project, or part of a project.

Projects are also part of the experiential learning approach in learning, and so it could be incorporated into any subject, provided adequate support is given, either through the teacher as a facilitator, or other more knowledgeable others, or a community of learners.

Projects could be fun, and I think it is a crucial part of our life-long and life-wide learning.  One of my earliest experience in projects was that in working as a volunteer, where I was involved in the conducting of interviews, preparation of survey report, and organizing events for a program (project).  I learnt the hands on practical skills, project design and management skills, and the communication skills required to cooperate and collaborate with other volunteers.

I have undertaken a few research projects in the past few years, through collaborating and cooperating with others in small groups, in the workplace, and in the community, and I enjoyed learning through such projects.

I reckon project based learning could be a very effective mean of learning, especially in a social networking/media environment.  However, I also realized that there could be a lot of distractions throughout the project, and so a focus on time management, monitoring of the project progress and reflection of the learning achieved both individually and as a group would be necessary to ensure a successful outcome.

Is project always based on a Constructivist approach?  I have been thinking about it based on a Connectivist approach too.  The creation and the development of a community or network could be a complex, emergent project, which is however, very challenging too.

Photo: from Alan Levine

More reflection on project based learning in coming posts….

Social Media in Learning and Education

Social media has attracted the attention from business and education. Is social media a hype? How long will social media hype last challenges the impact of social media on marketing, whilst this reinforces the importance of social media on marketing success.

How about the impact of social media on Higher Education?

How to use social networking technology in learning? It’s software that allows people to come together around an idea or topic of interest.  Social media could help in the conversation between people, so educators and learners are connected all around the world.

In this use of social media in higher education  the concerns on social media include:

1. Loss of control

2. Time commitment

3. Information overload

4. Any one can create an official account for your university

So, what are the solutions? The paper provides a good set of guidelines on how to incorporate social media in HE.

The author concluded

Social media gives us the opportunity to humanize stories of students and alumni
of our institutions, which can create loyalty and earn future business (students),
and ultimately their respect (Solis 2008).

#CCK11 Problem based learning and Socratic Dialogue

Thanks to Irmeli in referring to this Socratic Dialogue

Kristof elaborates:

What is the role of the facilitator?

I personally hold to three rules in Socratic dialogue :

1. Say what you want to say, also about the conversation as such, at any moment you think

it is suitable

2. Be concrete

3.Try to establish a common enterprise

The interventions of the facilitator can be legitimised according to these three rules.

While the possibility and necessity of dialogue is increasingly called upon today, actually engaging in dialogue with one another is very difficult and often unpleasant.

What are the difficulties?

Why are dialogues unpleasant?

He explains that Dialogue differs from a discussion in that it is:

– dialectic (means knowing through)

– aimed at insight in the value of judgements

– suspending judgements

– investigating and checking

– wanting to know the truth

– investigation

– listening to yourself and others

– attitude of taking the others point of view

– questioning

– slowness

– community orientated

Photo: From Flickr

I came across this paper on problem based learning (PBL), Wood says:

“The role of the tutor is to facilitate the proceedings (helping the chair to maintain group dynamics and moving the group through the task) and to ensure that the group achieves appropriate learning objectives in line with those set by the curriculum design team.”  “The tutor should encourage students to check their understanding of the material. He or she can do this by encouraging the students to ask open questions and ask each other to explain topics in their own words or by the use of drawings and diagrams.” Problem based learning could be very effective in the training of medical students, as that would expose them to “real life problems” with the use of case scenarios.  It requires a “group” approach to tackle the problems.

Wood concludes that PBL also generates a more stimulating and challenging educational environment, and the beneficial effects from the generic attributes acquired through PBL should not be underestimated

I found this paper on Using the Case Method to Teach Online Classes: Promoting Socratic Dialogue and Critical Thinking particularly helpful.  I then reflected on the learning from these critical points:

– Tone is conveyed through word choice in the virtual classroom

– Sarcasm in particular comes across poorly in Internet communication

– Teaching students how to create substantial discussion responses to the cases is the critical task of the instructor.

In summary, the case approach promotes social change in that students reflectively and critically examine their own thoughts in relation to the course material and other students’ response.

Problem-based learning, as mentioned by Brooke is not novel, and has been used for decades.  The use of conversation, debates, and Socratic dialogue is also common in classroom environment, together with case studies, especially in more advanced courses in higher education or vocational education.  So the challenge is: how could these be adequately applied in virtual classroom?

The questions remain:

(1) How effectively will problem based learning be when used in virtual classroom in courses such as OOC or an MOOC?

(2) Do participants need to be directed or guided by the instructors in those problem based learning? Could participants be guided by knowledgeable others? How? Why?

(3) How to motivate students, learners, or participants to form into groups in tackling problem-based learning, especially in an online networked environment?

(4) How to improve learning online using problem based learning?

In the case of MOOC, like PLENK and CCK08, 09, 11, I think there were many problems brought out by the participants.  But then, most cases were discussed based on diversified perspectives of participants and so it was hard to come up with any conclusions, or even summary of “verdicts” or learning.

In future MOOC, could we make use of some of the past case scenarios, or those issues and problems people encountered in their online or virtual classes as learning cases?  I reckon this would be an interesting and challenging activity for both experienced and novice educators and learners to share their experience and views together.  Would there be volunteers who would develop those cases or problems?  How and what would help in achieving this?

How about a blog, aggregated blog, a gRSShopper, a wiki or Google document for such problems or cases development, discussion, and debate?

In the paper, Brooke concludes:

Using the case method to teach online classes promotes a learning-centered cultural milieu (Brooke, 2004; Brooke 2005). By learning-centered, I am
referring to students developing responsibility for their own learning. The instructor is the facilitator and further refines critical thinking skills and analysis.

What could you conclude?  Is problem based learning useful and effective in learning online? How about your experience?


Photo: From a post?

This lectures and lecture as a trans-medial pedagogical forms stimulated me to think and reflect on the effectiveness of lecturing in education and learning.

I wish to succeed in scattering in your souls fiery sparks which will arouse and stir them. (Fichte)

I have posted here on to teach or not to teach based on lecture method.  In the past we used to lecture.  Most of my university courses were done through lecturing, workshops, discussion tutorials, and laboratory sessions.  When it comes to mass education, lecture is still the predominant method.  It is clear that even now, lecturing is still the most popular way of presenting information. Video lectures are useful for references, and a quick update of the latest information, especially from those in University Video Websites or free videos website.  So, I reckon there are still lots of benefits of lectures, when used effectively.  This video shows a quick snapshot of the lectures.

If we were to disseminate information, then lectures seem to serve the purpose well.

Here is a summary about lecture – Lecturette:

The lecture, an oral presentation prepared and delivered by a subject-matter expert, is probably the oldest and most basic form of instruction.  It is used to supply the greatest amount of information in the least time.  Like other types of information presentation, it does not allow for feedback from the learners; thus, it should be combined with participative techniques whenever possible.

How It Can be Used:

1. To introduce concepts, identify and analyze problems, or clarify issues related to a subject or topic – e.g. supervisory and managerial functions.

2. To deliver training content which is best presented all at once in an orderly manner and does not require practice (of the subject or topic).

Who Can Benefit from It:

1. Learners who have similar needs and similar capabilities to learn the material.

2. Learners who are highly motivated to learn but short of time.


1. Lectures are efficient in terms of time, facilities needed in case of face-to-face teaching, and Elluminate/UStream/AdobeConnect needed in case of virtual teaching, and the number of participants who can be trained or taught at one time.

2. The lecturer retains control over the learning content.

3. This technique may be more acceptable than others are to participants who are accustomed to a traditional teaching-learning situation.

4. Lectures can easily be varied to suit learners’ needs and can be used with almost any other teaching or training techniques.


1. Participants usually have no opportunity to make comments, ask questions, or otherwise show that they understand the material presented.

2. The lecturer must be qualified both as a subject-matter expert and as a speaker.

3. Long lectures (over 40 minutes) may not be readily learned or remembered.  Lecturettes are shorter and can be highly effective.

4. Listeners (learners) might not make the transfer from intellectual understanding to practical application.

Reference: Adapted from Managerial and Supervisory Training Techniques and Methods 1977, written based on the Request of the Interagency Advisory Group Committee on Development and Training.

What is lean startup?

What is lean startup?  Here is  Lean startup

This Lean startup provides an interesting startup business model based on the 5 principles – Entrepreneurs are everywhere, entrepreneurship is management, validated learning, build-measure-learn, innovation accounting.

I would like to reflect with my views and experience.

1. Entrepreneurs are everywhere – Yes, they are. For entrepreneurship to be successful, do we need to look for a niche market, rather than a market “dominated” with “experts”?  Most successful entrepreneurs started with a small test or niche market, but developed it into a giant business with long term visions.  Consider those disruptive innovative and technology.

Startup = experiment.  Yes!

Stop wasting people’s time.  I have to think about the meaning of this time wasting.  Are we wasting people’s time if we don’t add value to our customers or clients?  May be.  But we don’t save people’s time either.  Time is money, and is valuable, so it can be equated to VALUE.  Value people, and that will be the key to success in building relationship with the customers, and they won’t see you as wasting their time.  In other words, focus on the customers’ needs and expectations, and that is VALUE & QUALITY.

Most startups fail – because of the principles of scientific management?  May be/may be not.  Scientific management is part of the evolution in “management and control”  Without scientific management, we don’t understand why system could be right, and why system could go wrong, due to its mis-application.  In science, scientific management allows for management based on facts and data, so there is nothing wrong if that is the case.  The problem often lies with the inappropriate twisting of the facts or the incorrect interpretation of the data and trends.  The recent financial crisis is one where all the facts and information were covered up, because they turned out to reveal problems with the companies concerned.

So it is the inappropriate application of scientific management principles in human that caused the failures, and if we are to apply scientific management on human, then we need to be aware of the complexity of human behavior, market dynamics and networks interaction, which all would cause a “chaotic” and unpredictable sets of human behavior in any organisation, or networks.

2. Entrepreneurship is management – Create an institution.  I would consider creating a network, better still, a self-organised network as a support to the institution.

Speed wins.  Yes. But I would add that speed loses, especially when there aren’t enough space because of a lack of reflection, a lack of critical thinking and creativity, and a disconnection with the customers.  Too much task-oriented, and too much emphasis on efficiency and effectiveness, neglecting that customers are PEOPLE, who are looking not for speed, but VALUE.

3. Validated Learning – Well laid out flow of the plan-implementation-control process, similar to the Plan-Do-Check-Act.  I think nothing is predictable and known in an open system, and all are based on Assumptions.

Achieving Failure = Successfully executing a bad plan.  So bad plan is unavoidable in an experiment, and based on historical researches, most “revolutions” failed, and failed badly.  So if failure is the mother of success, we need more failures, and more learning through those failures, to succeed.  The critical question is: What have we learnt through such bad plans, such poor implementations, and failures, and how could we improve its chances of success? So entrepreneurship is about management, is about validated learning, and about learning through experiments, and failures.  What did we learn from SARS? What did we learn from the financial crisis? What did we learn from the demise of Enron, Ansett Australia, and HIH?  Here in Insolvent Trading of Companies, where Ansett, HIH, One.Tel and Harris Scarfe were cited as examples, symptoms of failure include:

– Poor management

– Inadequate financial control

– Competition

– Cost structure

– Market demand

– Over expansion

– Over trading to the point of insolvent trading

It is also crucial to review the success and failure factors in Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) implementation process, and see what we could learn from the cases.

4. Build-Measure-Learn – Great metrics

5. Innovation Accounting – Establish the baseline, tune the engine, pivot or persevere

The logic of a business system for creating value in the Internet era as explained in this eBusiness Model Ontology for Modelling eBusiness includes:

1. Product Innovation

2. Infrastructure Management

3. Customer Relationship

4. Financial Aspects


Ideas, discussion and discourse in social and online networks

I read Sarah’s post with interest.

Here she posted three questions:

What motivates you to join in with online discussions?

I join in with online discussions when I found some interesting ideas to share, or to comment on some posts that I found interesting, or to gain insights into a topic that I wish to know more, either a new one or one that I need to keep updated.  So, most of these engagement was based on my intrinsic motivation, to learn and contribute to the community.  I don’t associate my desire to connect are based on extrinsic motivation, after some years of networking. I would however thank everyone who has shared and contributed in one way or other in sharing their learning with me.  So, I am not expecting any rewards, or would need any such rewards in return, in online discussion.  For me, the greatest reward is to give, not to receive.

What tips would you pass on either as a teacher or student?

Just be yourself when sharing online.  Keep an open mind.  Appreciate others’ views, and acknowledge them even if you don’t agree with them, especially if they are different from your perspective.   Look for different ideas, perspectives, insights posted by others and see how you could learn from them. If you disagree with the authors’ views, ask yourself why? Think and reflect critically during a conversation with others. Ask questions if you don’t understand.  Always thank others for responding to your questions.

What do you think is the secret to a successful online discussion for students?

Put yourself into their shoes (i.e. be empathetic). Think about what interests them, and how you could add value to the conversation or discussion.  Keep the conversation simple, focussed, though, stimulating and interesting.  Imagine if you were the audience, how would you feel during the conversation?  Be honest with your responses, and be professional at all times.

Here is a useful list of causes of conflicts in online community that could be used as guidelines, and one should be aware of.

#CCK11 Globalisation and Glocalisation of Higher Education Part I

Here are some quotes from the video:

Education is about lighting a fire, not filling a bucket with water.

Purpose of education is about learning how to learn.

I would like to reflect on the globalisation of education in the 21st century.

What is happening in education around the globe?

Is college worth it provides some interesting insights about how people view higher education in the US. “Right or Wrong Direction? Six-in-ten college presidents say the system of higher education in this country is headed in the right direction, but a substantial minority (38%) say it is headed in the wrong direction.”

How about higher education in Asian countries? In this Globalisation and higher education restructuring in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China, Mok concluded that not all nations have responded in the same way to globalisation due of the specificities of their national histories, politics, cultures and economies.

So, what I could I conclude? Globalisation of higher education needs to be considered under the context of glocalisation – Look at the big picture, the big global forest, but act locally to contextualize the education to suit the needs and vision of the communities, with the local citizens in mind.  Learn globally and act locally, and be connected to the international communities.

Photo: From Flickr

Advice Network

This paper on globalisation sounds interesting too.