Project-Based Learning (PBL) is an innovative approach to learning that employs a multitude of strategies critical for success in the twenty-first century. It exposes students to the real world, opens an extended inquiry process, and boosts their communication skills and interdisciplinary learning. However, the extant literature on PBL places more emphasis on learning through internal rather than external projects. Industrial collaboration projects build partnerships and provide opportunities to work on real problems, often seeking multidisciplinary approaches. This study explores and suggests the benefits that students derived from their participation in an external research and consultancy project at a University in Oman.
The study follows a qualitative analysis approach founded on an exploratory research design. In-depth interviews were conducted with ten research assistants, two research coordinators, and two project leaders involved in the project. The data from the interview were subjected to the thematic inductive qualitative analysis using Atlas.ti 8 software.
The results of the study revealed that students derived some direct academic benefits, mainly in the area of conducting research. The major learning happened mostly in non-academic areas, for they learned many things necessary for success in real-life work situations. The students benefited largely on behavioural skills and abilities such as communication, self-confidence, English language skills, planning, thinking, and time management skills. Altogether, project-based learning offered them a different skillset beyond what they usually acquire in the conventional teaching and learning environment.
The outcomes of this research support the development of curriculum design and instructional pedagogy in higher education in a specific context, concluding that PBL has much to do with the practical aspects of learning and employability. The finding suggests that by engaging in PBL, students can develop certain skills that cannot be acquired in a conventional teaching environment. PBL enables self-learning and prepares students to deal with different situations and challenges on the ground while inculcating professionalism to act in real-life situations. This study advocates the introduction of some PBL based courses in the curriculum to nurture a balanced set of skills and abilities among business students.
The research outcomes support Oman’s Vision 2040 and one of its strategies for capacity building that aims to adopt innovative methods for individual/collective development of students, as well as for their life-long learning.
Project-based learning described in this study provides a pedagogical way to connect university education to a real-life situation. These results offer promising prospects for infusing outdoor multidisciplinary projects in the course curriculum. This work bears significant value for educators in designing curriculum and facilitating projects, particularly in environments where students exhibit weaknesses or inhibitions to receive the knowledge, appropriately, from the conventional mode of teaching.
The research team acknowledges Oman Environmental Service Holding Company S.A.O.C (be'ah) for awarding a research consultancy (Contract No. C/7/2019) to Sohar University and for granting permission to take up this research work for academic purpose.
Belwal, R., Belwal, S., Sufian, A.B. and Al Badi, A. (2020), "Project-based learning (PBL): outcomes of students’ engagement in an external consultancy project in Oman", Education + Training, Vol. 63 No. 3, pp. 336-359. https://doi.org/10.1108/ET-01-2020-0006
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