Problem based learning for teams working in virtual space

Brodie, Lyn (2010) Problem based learning for teams working in virtual space. [Thesis (PhD/Research)]

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Australia is facing a critical shortage of engineers at all levels of the profession – associates, technologists and professional engineers. Universities face three main challenges in responding to this predicted shortfall: the impact of technology and the information revolution both on higher education and the profession, the increasing diversity and choices of the student population, and the changing requirements of governments, professional accreditation agencies, industry and society.

Over the last decade, universities have implemented recommendations from accrediting agencies to demonstrate the competencies of graduates in a broad range of key graduate attributes such as teamwork, communication and problem solving, as well as lifelong and self-directed learning. Universities have also strived to open the access pathways to higher education, granting entrance to more students with a wider range of educational backgrounds and ages and who are looking for flexible study patterns, that is, something other than full time on-campus. This trend is likely to continue in the future. Whilst the efforts of universities have resulted in changes to curricula and teaching methodologies, technology and the global economy is beginning to demand, if not new skills, then extensions of the current graduate attributes: working in a multicultural environment; working in interdisciplinary, multi–skilled teams; sharing of work tasks on a global and around–the–clock basis; working with digital communication tools and working in a virtual environment. These attributes are difficult to attain through traditional, didactic educational programs.

The intent of this dissertation is to document the design, implementation and evaluation of an innovative curriculum strategy to respond to these demands. Problem Based Learning (PBL) meets the demands of the profession with respect to technical content and key graduate attributes. The addition of virtual teams1, students working in a team in virtual space with no face–to–face contact, is original and meets future demands of the profession and changes in the higher education sector. The research spans several broad areas including student teams working in distance education, engineering education, assessment, staff professional development and problem based learning. It takes an overarching view and develops, through an action research methodology, a model of how to deliver PBL to students studying by distance education and in particular for delivery to a large and diverse student cohort.

The research process identified five key areas for successful delivery of course content, both technical knowledge and graduate attributes, to meet student learning outcomes and requirements. These areas include: staff training and changing staff attitudes, curriculum development beginning with basics of team development, individual learning goals, communication skills, development of a ‗learning community‘ among the students and staff, reflection and reflective practice and effective assessment in line with course objectives.

The dissertation presents a case study of successful design and implementation. Evaluation and confirmation of the strategy has been evidenced by a significant contribution to the current body of knowledge through peer reviewed publications, national awards and the uptake of the concepts and resources by other institutions and academics.

The research findings reported in this dissertation has demonstrated that PBL is successful in delivering key graduate attributes to students working entirely in virtual space. This has application in responding to the demands for flexible education initiatives and the global engineering workplace.

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Item Type: Thesis (PhD/Research)
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Doctor of Engineering (EngD) thesis.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Engineering and Surveying - Department of Surveying and Land Information (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Engineering and Surveying - Department of Surveying and Land Information (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Supervisors: Bullen, Frank; Dowling, David
Date Deposited: 08 Nov 2010 06:17
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2019 05:45
Uncontrolled Keywords: teams; problem based learning; engineering; higher education; higher education research
Fields of Research (2008): 13 Education > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130212 Science, Technology and Engineering Curriculum and Pedagogy

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