Student and Facilitator Experiences of Transition to Online Enquiry/Problem Based Learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Experiences of Transition to Online E/PBL
Purpose: This paper explores the experience of students and facilitators of Enquiry/Problem-Based Learning (E/PBL) as it transitioned online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Method: This two-phased mixed-methods sequential explanatory design study targeted academic staff and students engaged in online E/PBL during COVID-19 restrictions. The experience of enforced transition to online provision of E/PBL was examined in terms of the impact of digital tools on curriculum delivery and student perception of online E/PBL. In Phase 1, academic staff (n=21) and students (n= 67) responded to a survey that explored use of digital tools and experiences of online E/PBL. In Phase 2, academic staff (n=6) and students (n=2) participated in focus groups which were designed to elicit current and retrospective perspectives of the transition to online E/PBL.
Results: Findings revealed that a number of digital tools were beneficial in assisting the delivery of online E/PBL. However, challenges were experienced by both facilitators and students with respect to technological competence and variance in IT access.
Student responses suggested that communication barriers, inherent to the online environment, impacted on interactivity, which resulted in more active input being required from facilitators to promote student engagement. Most respondents revealed that they became increasingly comfortable in the online environment despite initial reservations, and that some changes in practice can help overcome limitations of digital tools.
Conclusion: Engaging in online E/PBL presented diverse views amongst both facilitators and students on how best to support transition to student-centred learning and teaching methodology online. Recommendations from this study highlight the need for digital and technological training to enhance facilitator competence and the importance of building rapport, structure activities, and promote social cohesion amongst learners.
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