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?