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Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2005 Aug;10(3):231-52.

Problem-based learning online: perceptions of health science students.

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School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


This qualitative study explored health sciences students' perceptions of their experiences in online problem based learning (PBL) and focused on their views about learning and group process in the online environment. Participants were novices to online learning and highly experienced in PBL, therefore, they could reflect on past face-to-face PBL experiences. Three groups of learners were involved, including undergraduate nursing and midwifery students and graduate students in a neonatal nurse practitioner program. Findings are presented using the six steps of the PBL process (Rideout & Carpio, 2001). Results indicated that it is feasible to conduct PBL online. Students felt that it increased their flexibility for learning, enhanced their ability to deeply process content, and provided access to valuable learning resources. Students experienced a period of adaptation to the online environment, perceived a heavy workload, and had difficulties making group decisions online. In addition to using asynchronous communication, chats (synchronous communication) were valued to support group decision-making online. Students appreciated validation of their online contributions from their peers and wanted clear expectations of what constituted successful tutorial participation from their tutors. Although online PBL can work effectively, tutors and students need to develop online literacy skills to smooth their transition to an online PBL environment.

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