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e-Learning to solve problems

Originally published Feb 2001.

[David H. Jonassen conducted workshops on e-Learning & Problem-based Learning during a visit to Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Following are some of the challenges he shared.]

There's an underlying assumption that if you deliver content students will learn."

We need to shift our focus away from content and more towards process. Instruction should not be focused exclusively around how we deliver content but rather how best we can support different kinds of learning outcomes.

In higher education we find formal, structured, abstract, transmission style instruction whereas in everyday professional life we find informal, activity-based, construction of knowledge in real world contexts within communities of practice.

In higher education we tend to learn 'about'...
In the "real world" we need to learn 'how'...

The only legitimate goal of professional education is problem solving, where students learn by doing, because people in the 'real world' get paid to solve problems. The focus of learning should be a problem or a case study. Surround it with:

  • related case studies [a case library]

  • information resources

  • cognitive tools

  • conversation/collaboration tools



David H Jonassen
Distinguished Professor,
School of Information Science & Learning Technologies,
University of Missouri-Columbia
February 2001

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