Integrating Project-Based Learning Into Online Learning

Integrating PBL Into Online Learning
Andrey Suslov/
Summary: The transition of traditional learning into online learning would have taken years, but due to the lockdown, it happened in weeks.

Discover Why It Is Important To Integrate PBL Into Online Learning

Now, as education goes online, it becomes extremely important to incorporate project-based learning (PBL) into online learning.

3 Reasons For Integration

1. Substitute For Outside-The-Class Learning

In schools, students play a lot of games and perform co-curricular activities which are important for developing collaborative skills. PBL provides students an opportunity for teamwork and the ability to stay connected with their school friends in a constructive way.

2. Opportunity To Involve Parents In Children's Education

Students start feeling more valued socially and emotionally when parents take an active role in helping them develop projects. When parents and teachers work together, they can send clear messages that foster positive academic behaviors in students. Many parents are working from home, so the constraint of time availability is also resolved to a certain degree.

3. Developing 21st-Century Competencies Faster

The jobs that kids will be doing in two decades aren't defined right now, so it becomes absolutely necessary to ensure they start developing problem-solving skills as early as possible.

3 Phases Of Integrating PBL Into Online Learning

1. Restructuring Of A Project

When integrating an existing PBL framework into 100% online learning, the following 3 key factors should be taken into account.

  1. Group formation strategy
    The sole purpose behind forming groups is to make students learn collaborative skills. Ideally, the group should contain students with different learning styles. Friends should be kept in different groups to ensure that students learn real-life teamwork skills.
  2. Incorporation of goal checks
    As the classroom interaction is minimized or in most cases not available, it becomes extremely important to design goal checks so as to ensure students are moving in the direction to answer the driving question.
  3. Maintaining social distancing norms
    It's extremely important for educators to think of all possible activities, which are to be done as a part of the project, that can be easily done by students without them leaving their homes and still maintaining distance from everyone in their society.

2. Project Evaluation

This intermediary step involves setting the right metrics of evaluation, as open-ended questions don't have definite answers. The 3 metrics that can be used for effective evaluation of online PBL are:

  1. Teamwork
    In the real world, students have to work in teams, so it becomes the most important learning objective when it comes to PBL. Now, how good the student was at communicating with the team members through calls/Zoom meets determines their collaborative skills.
  2. Driving question
    The teacher needs to see to what degree is the project answering the driving question. This is usually the hardest metric to evaluate. With the help of feedback loops, the driving question can be refined.
  3. Resilience
    We learn to walk by falling over and not by following rules. While doing project evaluation, students will definitely face some challenges, the teacher must give weightage to the ability of students to come out of challenges with minimum guidance. Also, brownie points should be awarded to students who explored new online tools in the journey.

3. Project Delivery

Traditionally, the projects done by students are just submitted to the school and no one comes to know about the interesting work done by students. Now, by blending it with online learning, we can help them reach a larger audience.

  1. Writing a blog
    PBL blogs can be used to allow project team members to share their accomplishments and challenges they faced during the project. This can open up opportunities for students from other groups to share their opinions on the projects done by the peer group.
  2. Recording a podcast
    It doesn't require any fancy device to record a podcast for a project. Recording videos for projects requires a lot of hassle, while recording sound is very simple. Students find it easy to gain recognition by sharing podcasts with their connections on social media.
  3. Creating a documentary
    Students can record video interviews of the stakeholders who were involved in the project. Also, they can take random pics of the team while doing the project. In the end, they can assemble all of them in a documentary that can be uploaded to YouTube.

3 Precautions To Be Taken While Integrating Project-Based Learning Into Online Learning

1. Avoid The Garbage Project Phenomenon

Students should not be just the consumer of information that’s available on the internet, we want them to be producers of the information. As educators, it's our responsibility to ensure that the final product is not a research paper in disguise.

2. The Project Should Not Overtake The Curriculum

The teacher can create outlines and checklists in order to ensure that students stay as close as possible to the curriculum. Children have amazing creativity, if they come up with something exciting and tangential, then a separate driving question can be defined. The choices which the students make can be guarded constructively by the boundaries of learning objectives.

3. The Driving Question Should Not Be Replaced By The Goal

The goal doesn't give much emphasis to the process of reaching the outcome and the driving question opens up avenues to explore new opportunities to get desired results.