A Blended Approach to Problem-Based Learning in the Freshman Year
This paper describes the development of a first-year chemical engineering course over 5 years through action research based on evidence from student feedback. As a result of this research, the course has evolved into a blended approach which incorporates problem based learning (PBL) and online learning tools. Through the use of PBL, the students were exposed to the way process engineers work, think and communicate their ideas, as well as being introduced to the fundamentals of materials balances and the processing/chemicals industry. Due to a 3-fold increase in student numbers, an alternative mechanism for improving the fundamental core knowledge and developing the problem solving skills of weaker students has also been developed through the provision of the online formative quizzes. This took the course towards a so-called blended approach i.e. providing both online and offline learning resources and supports. These changes transformed the course from a module with a high failure rate where students were struggling to grasp the key concepts and were unhappy, to a successful module with significantly lower failure rate and positive student feedback.