Problem-Based learning differs from traditional classroom learning in that the students' learning starts with a problem. The students must define what needs doing, what resources they will need to accomplish that solution, and how they will go about collaboratively creating that solution. In our model of PBL, the problem is presented to the students in the form of an online scenario with authentic professional tasks.
A scenario is a context or setting for the tasks or problems your learners will complete. It should be at a company or institution where your learners may be employed in the future. It can be an actual company (with their permission) or modeled on one. It is important that the setting be believable, the names probable, the language professional.
Your learners will take on a role within the scenario that could be a job in their future. They might be interns or new employees or consultants. Choose what makes sense for the setting, subject, and course material. The only requirement is that it be a professional job--something they would hold after completion of their academic goal (e.g., graduation, completion of a certificate, transfer and graduation from a higher level degree).
Divide the scenario up into discreet tasks that the students will have to complete. It might be that these tasks must be completed by the students in order. If so, the sequence of the tasks can model the process in which a project is completed in industry. It might be that the separate tasks in your scenario are not dependent on each other at all. If that is the case for your scenario, other instructors who choose to use your scenario can pick and choose which tasks in the scenario to use and in which order.
To write your scenario and tasks, you should follow a process that makes sense to you. You can write in a Word document and then copy and paste into your online site (see the directions in Resources) or write directly into the website. Remember that this is your first draft -- focus on the setting you want to create and the story you want your students to get immersed in. You will work on the details and tie the story into your learning outcomes in the next task.
Draft the scenario and tasks out in its full form
as solved (not THE solution, but A solution) – all the details, all
the relevant information, the process, resources, context, history, how
story evolved, etc… Tell the story with as much detail as you can to make it as
real as you can. What is the setting? Name of the company? What role/title will
you have? Will your students have? What problems came up? How did they get solved?
Once you have created the complete, solved story:
a) Highlight the learning moments--what your students should figure out.
b) Divide the story into tasks around these learning moments.
c) Figure out what information your students need to create their own solution
d) Cut out (delete) the rest of the words.
e) Edit the remaining words to make sense.
The idea is that the students solve the problem through constructing their own path.
In this approach you:
a) Mentally draft the story
b) Figure out how that story divides into tasks
c) Figure out what information you will leave out with the expectation that the students will
d) Write out the story as a scenario and tasks, including only the minimal information.
Remember It is better to wait for the students to ask for information than to offer it all upfront. Let them decide what info is needed. As in Option 1, you are writing a draft in this task. Tying tasks to specific learning outcomes will happen in the next task.