Technology in problem-based learning: helpful or hindrance?

Sherry Fukuzawa (Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto – Mississauga, Mississauga, Canada)
Joel Cahn (Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto – Mississauga, Mississauga, Canada)

International Journal of Information and Learning Technology

ISSN: 2056-4880

Publication date: 7 January 2019



The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between student motivation and technology in the implementation of problem-based learning (PBL) in a technologically enhanced active learning classroom (ALC).


PBL was implemented in an undergraduate course in human osteology (n=49) at a large Canadian University. Numerous activities using the ALC technology were conducted to engage students in self-directed active learning. Students wrote critical self-reflections at the beginning of the course and with each PBL report. They completed a survey at the end of the course using a Likert scale that included written comments on their motivation toward different uses of technology.


Students generally had high motivation toward PBL at the end of the course. Their evaluation of the technology to support PBL was dependent on the activity. Students (88 percent) appreciated the use of an overhead camera to visualize anatomical elements, and short problem-solving exercises using the whiteboard but they negatively evaluated the real-time projection of PBL sessions through a discussion board (52 percent). Almost half of the class (43 percent) felt that technology was a hindrance to their learning process in PBL.


This study demonstrates the complex relationship between student motivation toward active learning, the learning environment, and technology. Instructors and students influence the learning environment through their conceptions of effective teaching. According to this framework, technology should be implemented not only according to the teaching method, but consider teaching conceptions and the learning environment.



Fukuzawa, S. and Cahn, J. (2019), "Technology in problem-based learning: helpful or hindrance?", International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 66-76.



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