NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ977100
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 13
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 12
ISSN: ISSN-1065-0741
Online PBL: A Route to Sustainability Education?
Tomkinson, Bland; Hutt, Ian
Campus-Wide Information Systems, v29 n4 p291-303 2012
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate online problem-based learning (PBL) as a route to achieving sustainability education using sponsored projects. Design/methodology/approach: The Royal Academy of Engineering sponsored project at Manchester; to foster education in sustainability through inter-disciplinary problem-based approaches, has since been extended to other groups and to a broader array of issues. One of the limiting factors is the ease with which this approach can be taken in the case of large numbers of students and a commensurate requirement for large numbers of facilitators. The University of Keele, together with partners from the universities of Manchester and Staffordshire, was awarded National Teaching Fellowship Scheme funding to explore further the use of blended or online approaches, in order to overcome these limitations. The pilot unit already has a certain amount of support using the BlackBoard virtual learning environment (VLE) but this scenario is supposed to rely entirely on online working. At the time of writing, the evaluation of the pilot has not been completed but an online questionnaire was devised to monitor students' reactions to the online working and to ascertain whether they did in fact work entirely online or whether they chose to meet informally face-to-face. Difficulties encountered were both organizational (mostly relating to enrolment) and technical (this was a new version of BlackBoard and had a few teething troubles). Findings: This pilot project has demonstrated that a blended approach to PBL is feasible. There are some forms of resistance from students. The assessment was outcomes-driven rather than process-driven. This meant that it was not necessary for the academic staff to have access to all the discussions, thus acting as facilitators. There is a general theme that while learners found it possible to work effectively as a group online, they also found it more difficult. It is possible that the students were having to dedicate more time and effort to the use of the online system, which had an impact on their creativity and productivity. Research limitations/implications: In the case of the University of Manchester, the developments are being applied to a Masters-level course unit in Managing Humanitarian Aid Projects. This unit proceeds on the basis of five scenarios that students try to resolve in small groups and in the first pilot year one of these scenarios is being delivered on-line. Practical implications: The results of this pilot could be fed in to different stages of programme deployment to examine impact and explore possibilities with distance learning modules. Originality/value: This paper has looked at the effectiveness of nationally run, problem-based learning projects that are aimed at improving understanding, engagement and deployment on diverse learning environments to include VLEs. (Contains 1 table and 13 figures.)
Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Howard House, Wagon Lane, Bingley, West Yorkshire, BD16 1WA, UK. Tel: +44-1274-777700; Fax: +44-1274-785201; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom