PBL and technology-supported learning: Exploring the right blend

Henk Huijser*, Megan Yih Chyn A. Kek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book or Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In the introduction to her book Problem-based Learning Online, Maggi Savin-Baden (2006) outlined the key challenges of using problem-based learning (PBL) online. Her two main underlying points were firstly that we do not really know or understand fully what it is we have created in PBL online, which she terms ‘unrealised complexity,’ and secondly that there has been considerable effort expended on the development of managed learning environments rather than the pedagogy of such development. In many ways, these underlying points are still highly relevant today, and they affect a number of key concerns and research questions that were identified at the time: • whether (and how) PBL online would affect the existence of face-to-face problem-based learning • whether it would destroy some of the original goals of PBL such as learning in groups, group work, or critical thinking This chapter combines theories of Problem Based Learning (PBL) with technologysupported learning practice to bridge the divide between theory and practice as it relates to the development of online PBL curricula. To make a theoretical argument about why PBL is a good approach to teaching in the 21st century is not so difficult, as it appears to tick all the right boxes. However, there is a large gap between the theory and the practice especially because PBL has the biggest potential impact if it is seen as a holistic approach to learning and teaching, rather than as one of many teaching techniques that include curriculum design, assessment, e-learning or any other element of learning and teaching that can be addressed in isolation. Any rewards, however small, from PBL can be achieved by design in a holistic manner and at the curriculum level. This means in turn that the implementation of PBL on an institutional level often encounters major obstacles and challenges, ranging from professional development needs to expectations about resource needs. In short, the theory behind PBL is convincing, but the link to practice is not always explicitly made. This paper attempts to address this gap between PBL theory and practice, by exploring a combination of PBL theory and blended learning theory and applying them to a practical application model. This is crucial if the goal is to revitalise problem-based learning for a new generation of learners, and to make it a relevant and rewarding pedagogical approach for this generation.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProblem-Based Learning
Subtitle of host publicationPerspectives, Methods and Challenges
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781634852173
ISBN (Print)9781634851831
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Blended learning
  • PBL online
  • Problem-based learning
  • Technology-supported learning


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