Education and Employability

Rashmi Dravid from the Division of Computing at the University of Northampton has been investigating the application of problem-based learning to an aspect of computing, aiming to enhance the employability of these students. Rashmi has describe this as "The problem-oriented nature of computer networks lends itself to problem-based learning (PBL), which is claimed to integrate many of the requirements stated by graduate recruiters into the learning experiences of students, and therefore aid employability.

The funnel-approach [1] to problem-based learning is used.  The research differs from the existing PBL interventions in the discipline, by using a step-wise induction problem-based learning, using problem-solving learning as a pedestal.

The problems provide the context to relate subject matter content to real-world situations and motivate students to make connections between knowledge and its applications.
The pedagogic framework is implemented for the three computer networking modules on the three-year undergraduate degree programme. It uses traditional lecture-led practical work for the first year module, followed by focused development of problem-solving skills for structured problems for second year module, leading to problem based learning of complex, ill-structured and interdisciplinary problems for the third year module.

The learning environment integrates ‘relate’ - emphasizing team work and ‘create’ - providing creativity and ownership of learning process, for active student engagement and encourages rehearsing wide ranging employability skills in a supervised context. Problem solutions form the portfolio work and are used for formative and summative assessments. Team work using collaborative tools such as blogs, wikis and discussion boards is encouraged. Students’ reflection on their learning, integrated with portfolio development, is reviewed to evaluate and modulate instructional resources and delivery and to create a peer support network.

Evaluation of the approach using student feedback, module survey, student attainment and engagement with the modules has demonstrated positive take-on of this student-centered active learning approach. The students reported real-world connections between concepts and contexts, found their engagement in the context-driven tasks interesting and productive, and identified connected sequences of concepts across the contexts studied.

Lessons learnt from the first run of this approach have brought up issues relating effective use of technology tools such as, blogs, wikis and discussion boards for collaboration outside classroom and would feed into the future delivery of modules."


[1]     Savin-Baden, M., Howell Major C., Foundations of Problem-based Learning. Maidenhead, U.K. Open University Press (2004).