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Problem based learning in virtual teams to deliver key graduate attributes

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1 Author(s)
Brodie, L. ; Fac. of Eng. & Surveying, Univ. of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, QLD, Australia

This paper investigates the use of virtual teams in delivering key graduate attributes to engineering students studying via distance education. The course uses a Problem Based Learning approach where students work in teams to solve open ended, contextualised engineering problems. The team members are distributed across Australia and the world and have no face to face contact. They communicate solely by electronic methods, both synchronous and asynchronously. These teams form a learning community which scaffolds individual and team learning goals. The student cohort is diverse ranging from school leavers to mature age students entering tertiary education for the first time, often without normal prerequisite studies in math and physics. These older students do however bring significant life and relevant industry experience to the teams. This student diversity is a significant resource for the teams and mentoring and peer assistance is part of the assessment strategy. The recognition of prior knowledge and learning and the ability to set individual learning goals has increased the progression and retention rates and the team work has also encouraged a social network which has not been previously available to distance students. Results from a longitudinal study show that students significantly increase their teamwork, communication, problem solving and self directed learning skills. In addition specific theoretical and technical skills and knowledge are learnt and applied to new problems. These are key graduate attributes now required by professional accreditation bodies.

Published in:

Global Engineering Education Conference (EDUCON), 2011 IEEE

Date of Conference:

4-6 April 2011