The Student Experience of Online Problem Based Learning in Sport and Exercise Science

Michael Duncan


Problem-based learning (PBL) has long been used as a means to foster motivation, critical thinking and independent learning in students. Recently, there has been an increase in the nature and use of interactive media which has subsequently been used in the form of online PBL as a means to enhance the student learning experience. However, little research has investigated the student experience of online PBL, particularly in groups of students how are new to both PBL and online learning. This paper documents the student experience of an undergraduate module delivered using online PBL in a cohort of students new to both modes of learning. Following completion of the module students participated in focus group interviews. These revealed that students believed online PBL to offer greater autonomy, was more vocationally relevant and enabled them to engage in a more student centred form of learning compared to traditional didactic face to face delivery. However, although online PBL was received positively by the students, there was a degree of anxiety regarding the use of online learning which prevented students from engaging fully in the online learning tasks. In addition, students who were actively involved in the online tasks were critical of students who ‘lurked’ during these activities despite the potential benefit lurking may have. These results indicate that online PBL can be effective in enhancing the student learning experience but, on initial presentation, online PBL may need to be implemented carefully to avoid student anxiety and ensure active participation in online tasks.

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