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Context & Problem

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Problem
Introduction of problem based learning (PBL) into a blended BioDefense Lab Methods course:
Is PBL as effective as traditional online delivery for meeting unit learning objectives?
What are student's perceptions of learning through PBL?
Context
Student Population
Students are working adults coming to class either in the evening, weekends or online.  The majority of students are part-time.  Overall, the average age of our students 28 and 70% female.
 
Course
BioDefense Lab Methods is a hybrid lab course that presents the methods used in investigation and identification of a BioD agent through laboratory exercises and lecture.
It will meet every other week, in-person primarily for hands-on laboratory experience. 
Class content and non-lab investigation methods will be delivered in the intervening weeks online.  There will be seven onsite meetings and  five online sessions or units. the online sessions will cover investigation methods, category A, B and C agents, sampling methods and experimental design.
 
The class is undergoing a complete restructuring because student reviews indicated that  the course goals were not being met and were very dissatisfied.  Although this is not a required course in our program, it is a very important elective in our Biodefense concentration.
 
Rationale
Student Learning
Our students are working adults and look for authentic problems as a way to learn and apply their new skills.  PBL is a way to introduce real world experiments. Problem based learning is an active learning strategy where students are presented with a "messy" problem.  The students need to determine what they know and what they need to know to solve the problem.  The students then gather the necessary background information and solve the problem.
The previous methodology we employed in the course did not meet the student learning objectives. Introduction of a new  learning modality  into the course should be assessed to  determine  if the unit objectives are being met.
Student Satisfaction
Students were not satisfied with the previous iteration of the course.  As PBL is new to our program and relatively new to the online environment we need to determine if students arenexcited and engaged with the material
Implementation
For our program, PBL is a new strategy for active learning in the online environment.  There is little literature about its implementation and success in the online environment and even less for a hybrid lab course.
Finally, ~55% of our enrollments are online and we are continually looking for new teaching strategies that will engage our students and meet learning objectives.  As our faculty is compromised primarily of adjuncts (we have 75 faculty members), any new teaching strategy usually requires an early adopter to provide the method for implementation as well as the data to convince the faculty that this is a good teaching method.
 
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Viewing 11 of 11 comments: view all
Nice! I think you're studying a novel, interesting question.
Posted 14:25, 17 Jul 2009
I will also be assessing PBLs, so let me know if you find an established rubric. I will let you know if I do. Miriam
Posted 14:26, 17 Jul 2009
Not much PBL online? I wonder why?
What about the student reviews lead you to PBL? What goals were not being met?
Posted 14:28, 17 Jul 2009
Based on the topic, there should be some interesting problems you can develop. Check out cdc website, the book Outbreak.
Posted 14:28, 17 Jul 2009
I recently purchased a book called "Problem Based Learning Online" (although I haven't read it yet). It might be helpful: http://www.routledge.com/books/A-Practical-Guide-to-Problem-Based-Learning-Online-isbn9780415437882
Posted 14:30, 17 Jul 2009
Can you really tell if PBL is more effective than traditional online delivery if you are covering different information in those sections of the course? I am not sure that you can make that conclusion unless you teach 2 different courses in which you switch the PBL with the standard lecture in a different course.
Posted 14:31, 17 Jul 2009
I mistakenly put my comments on your research design page.see that page.
Posted 14:32, 17 Jul 2009
Are you putting more weight towards the PBL compared to the standard delivery?
Posted 14:32, 17 Jul 2009
online PBL does indeed sound novel to me - important area of investigation
I suspect rubrics for evaluating each of the learning components of PBL is available - Deb Allen (U Delaware) or medical literature should give you a good idea.
How are you going to capture the PBL product? Smart boards/discussion boards
PBL learning is progressive, and learning can be idiosyncratic - will facilitators/tutors write quizzes since they know how far the students progressed?
Posted 14:33, 17 Jul 2009
This article from Inside Education (THe Evidence of Online Learning) might be of interest: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/06/29/online

Also, here is the link to the U.S. Dept of Ed meta-analysis report:
http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf

Finally, here is a link to NSF's Cyberlearning report:
http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2008/nsf08204/nsf08204.pdf
Posted 16:31, 17 Jul 2009
Ron Gerrits: "I am not sure that you can make that conclusion unless you teach 2 different courses in which you switch the PBL with the standard lecture in a different course."

A follow-up on Ron's comment. How did you survey student attitudes in the past to come to the conclusion that they were dissatisfied? Typical end-of-semester student evaluations of course and instructor? Do you have specific examples of aspects with which students were dissatisified? I noticed in your timeline that you are working on a survey of some sort.
Posted 07:49, 25 Jul 2009
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