Problem-based learning has become a popular pedagogical strategy for teaching problem-solving skills as well as subject content. However, implementation of this strategy is time-consuming. Use of the Internet and computer software could aide the creation, use, and maintenance of these teaching tools, encouraging more educators to use them. This study focused on 45 Iowa State University students enrolled in Horticulture 342, Landscape Installation and Maintenance. Students were assigned a series of four online, ill-structured case study problems based in a realistic residential landscape. Results indicated students understood the need for developing problem-solving skills, especially as they relate to future employment opportunities. However, students were concerned with obtaining the right answer, not with developing a strategy for solving problems. Students rated the statement about determining the best solution highest in importance (4.75 in 2007, 4.90 in 2008). Conversely, they rated a statement about determining what standards and judgment criteria should be used to evaluate possible solutions of least importance (3.75 in 2007, 4.20 in 2008). Students identified the value of the solution to the customer/client (4.63 in 2007, 4.80 in 2008), how well the cause of the problem was addressed by the solution (4.46 in 2007, 4.30 in 2008), and any potential negative consequences (4.33 in 2007, 4.40 in 2008) as the important factors that influence decision-making on the job. Students rated the online learning environment as adequate and they rated the overall experience as 3.94. Frustrations were primarily technical, including problems connecting to the system. Students liked the variety of resources available and that case information was consolidated in a single location.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/annmarie-vanderzanden/12/