PBL design of Alien Rescue

Because students see no value in what they are asked to learn, they “tune out”and never own that knowledge. PBL seeks to address this value proposition by creating authentic situations that students care about. PBL develops skills in 3 areas:

  1. problem definition (critical) and problem solving (trial and error?)
  2. reflection (can this be done with blogs or social networks?)
  3. deep understanding

Alien Rescue implements 3 implementations of PBL:

  1. anchored instruction
  2. goal-based scenarios
  3. cognitive flexibility (multiple learning perspectives in ill-structured domains)

Alien Rescue uses cognitive tools to support the scaffolding that PBL requires (which I think is equivalent to leveling up in games); these tools:

  1. support cognitive and metacognitive processes;
  2. share cognitive load by supporting lower-level cognitive skills to free up resources for higher order thinking;
  3. allow learners to engage in activities that would be otherwise out of their reach; and
  4. allow learners to generate and test hypotheses in the context of problem-solving.

Alien Rescue incorporates PBL design features:

  • situating the problem
  • complex problems with tools
  • multimedia formats for different learning styles
  • expert guidance from multiple perspectives
  • interrelated knowledge through links

The lessons from the learners were enlightening:

  • The expert tool brought self-study inline with expert actions (expected) although another Alien Rescue article suggested that students did not like the loss of control that occurred when the expert tool was used.
  • A tool that supported activities otherwise denied to students proved too popular; students over-used the tool, requiring a design change that made the tool availability a reward.
  • The version that includes expert stories (which seem distinct from the expert tool) to scaffold learning produced significantly better near transfer and far transfer results.