Apparently, we owe the term “project learning” to John Dewey and the dawn of the 20th century. This has not stopped a hundred years worth of confusion about its meaning, or the countless roadblocks about its implementations. A post on the bie.org blog tries to sort the practical implications between the many flavors of Project-Based Learning, with a particular concern for Problem-Based Learning.
PBL or PBL?
Writer and Editor in Chief John Larmer proposes “Project-Based Learning” as the broad framework, in which “Problem-Based” coexists with other, more specific practices.
Being “Project-Based” means that the “Learning” intervention is considered satisfactory after a “tangible product, performance or event” is accomplished. The defining characteristics of this outcome define the type of specific practice the project promotes, be it “Problem” or something else.
General Project Learning in Moodle
Hundreds of Moodle Activities, be it as standard features or through contributed Moodle Plugins, support Project-Based Learning at any stage.
Perhaps the easiest way to introduce a Project view within Moodle is by using the standard Moodle Workshop Activity, as it satisfies Larmer’s Project Based Learning checklist:
- Often multi subject
- May be lengthy (weeks or months)
- Follows general, variously-named steps
- Includes the creation of a product of performance
- May use scenarios but often involves real-world, fully authentic tasks and settings
The Moodle Workshop has been around at least since Moodle 2.7. Moodle 3.2 further enhances the Workshop’s capabilities, particularly in Larmer’s item #4, by supporting Portfolio export in workhsop.
Problem-Based Learning in Moodle
A subset of Project, “Problem” is by definition more specific, but the kind of activities within it can be broader and less defined. I would argue that the “project” structure, of a series of steps and a conclusive outcome, remains. But within each trait, the activities can be enriched. Of which in Moodle, a synonym is plugins.
Here are our suggestions of plugins for some of the defining features of Problem-Based Learning, compared to Project-Based:
- More focused, single-subject. Moodle plugins are often domain specifics, as illustrated by the amount of STEM plugins available (most of them for free).
- More variable (shorter or longer) time frame. A teacher can change the structure of an active Moodle Workshop. Features such as Moodle Choice (standard) or E-Voting (plugin) simplifies collective decision-making in case a roadmap needs revision.
- Product expressed in writing or presentation. Like with STEM, there are several, general and specific plugins involving writing, that can be connected to a Moodle Portfolio. Moodle also features several presentation plugins, as well as integration with popular Office suites.