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Pros And Cons Of Problem-Based Learning

Pros and Cons of Problem-Based Learning

Problem-based learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students work together to solve a problem.  In PBL, students first examine the scope of the problem, explore possible solutions based on prior knowledge, and determine what new knowledge is needed to solve the problem and how to best acquire the necessary information (Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation, 2017).  Next, students choose one solution out of the many possible solutions, solve the problem, and report on their solving process (Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation, 2017).  The report typically covers the reasons for their solution selection and the results of choosing that option.  PBL has many applications in continuing medical education programs, and can even be incorporated into continuing education software.

Problem-Based Learning vs. Project-Based Learning

Jin and Bridges (2014) conducted a systematic review on the effectiveness of PBL emerging technologies such as learning software and digital learning objects, with integration of interactive whiteboards and plasma screens, and learning management systems aimed to teach dentistry students, medical students, and students of the speech and hearing sciences.  Overall, these educational technologies have a positive impact on PBL (Jin & Bridges, 2014). The pros and cons of these various continuing education softwares are outlined below.


Pros of Continuing Education Software for PBL

  1. Offers authentic problems for learning of new medical skills.
  2. Enables students to engage each other in problem-based inquiry and structure knowledge and skills showing newfound medical expertise.
  3. Offers a platform for proper articulation, collaboration, and reflection regarding new topic matter.
  4. Fosters disciplinary, critical thinking, and strategizing.
  5. Reduces the perceived cognitive load of difficult information. (Jin & Bridges, 2014)


Cons of Continuing Education Software for PBL

  1. Insufficient staff-student and/or student-student support and feedback limits the effective implementation of continuing education software in a PBL medical learning context.
  2. Insufficient training materials incorporated into the continuing education software decreases learning outcomes of PBL curricula.
  3. Setting up a well-designed, highly effective continuing medical education software that supports PBL is time-consuming for educators (Jin & Bridges, 2014).


Overcoming Challenges With Continuing Education Software

Selecting the right learning platform can help to overcome some of the inherent limitations of online learning.  The following are suggestions for selecting effective continuing education software:

  1. Develop a realistic feedback plan prior to incorporating the PBL software of choice. Setting expectations regarding your feedback patterns on student work as well as setting expectations regarding how many times students should interact with one another increases engagement.  With increased engagement, students will become more comfortable with the software and can become more efficient in regard to solving online, problem-based inquiries.
  2. Encourage other teachers or teacher’s assistants to collaborate with you in setting up a well-designed, continuing medical education software that supports PBL. This enables your program to support a wider audience of students and increase accessibility to competence training while also reducing the work load on the main administrator of the PBL program.
  3. Receive training on the continuing educational software before setting up your course and starting course administrations. Mastery of the software will lead to clearer instructions to students on how to utilize the software best for PBL.  Additionally, receiving software training will enable you to choose the best functionalities to maximize student understanding of training materials.




Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation (2017, October 18). Problem-based learning. Retrieved from

Jin, J., & Bridges, S. M. (2014). Educational technologies in problem-based learning in health sciences education: A systematic review. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 16(12), e251. doi:10.2196/jmir.3240

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