The Problem-based Learning Authoring and Transformation Environment (PLATE) project seeks to improve student learning using innovative approaches to problem-based learning (PBL) in a cost-effective, flexible, interoperable, and reusable manner. Traditional subject-based learning that focuses on passively learning facts and reciting them out of context is no longer sufficient to prepare potential engineers and all students to be effective. Within the last two decades, the problem-based learning approach to education has started to make inroads into engineering and science education. This PBL educational approach comprises an authentic, ill-structured problem with multiple possible routes to multiple possible solutions. The PBL approach offers unscripted opportunities for students to identify personal knowledge gaps as starting points for individual learning. Additionally, it requires a facilitator (not a traditional teacher) who guides learning by asking probing questions that model expert cognitive reasoning and problem solving strategies. Bringing real-life context and technologies into the curriculum through a problem based learning approach encourages students to become independent workers, critical thinkers, problem solver, lifelong learners, and team workers. A systematical approach to support online PBL is the use of a pedagogy-generic e-learning platform such as IMS Learning Design (IMS-LD 2003), which is an e-learning technical standard useful to script a wide range of pedagogical strategies as formal models. This PLATE project uses the IMS-DL strategies. It seeks to research and develop a process modeling approach together with software tools to support the development and delivery of face-to-face, online, and hybrid PBL courses or lessons in a cost-effective, flexible, interoperable, and reusable manner. The research team seeks to prove that the PLATE authoring system optimizes learning and that the PLATE system improves learning in PBL activities. For this poster presentation, the research team will demonstrate the progress it has made within the first year of research. This includes the development of a prototype PBL scripting language to represent a wide range of PBL models, the creation of transformation functions to map PBL models represented in the PBL scripting language into the executable models represented in IMS-LD, and the architecture of the PLATE authoring tool. The research team plans to illustrate that the research and development of a PBL scripting language and the associated authoring and execution environment can provide a significant thrust toward further research of PBL by using meta-analysis, designing effective PBL models, and extending or improving a PBL scripting language. The team believes that PBL researchers can use the PBL scripting language and authoring tools to create, analyze, test, improve, and communicate various PBL models. The PLATE project can enable PBL practitioners to develop, understand, customize, and reuse PBL models at a high level by relieving the burdens of handling complex details to implement a PBL course. The research team believes that the project will stimulate the application and use of PBL in curricula with online learning practice by incorporating PBL support into popularly used e-learning platforms and by providing a repository of PBL models and courses.


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