CEC Theses and Dissertations


Development and Implementation of a Problem-Based Learning Model in a Finance Course: A Case Study

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Getrude W. Abramson

Committee Member

Gerorge K. Fornshell

Committee Member

Helen St. Aubin


Problem-based learning is playing an increasingly significant role in higher education. Introduced in medical schools in the 1960s as a learning technique to facilitate learning in context, this approach has been implemented in more than 19 college disciplines around the world. Characterized by its problem-solving process, the problem-based learning approach uses complex ill-structured problems to motivate students to identify, research, analyze, and arrive at workable solutions that are applicable in real-world situations beyond the academic setting. Problem solving is conducted using team collaboration and iterative processes.

This study investigated the application of problem-based learning in an introductory junior-level online finance course, part of the core curriculum for a Bachelor of Science in Technology and Management at a community college. The primary question the study addressed was how an online problem-based learning experience can enhance the motivation and mastery of undergraduate students in this course. The model for designing, developing and implementing problem-based learning into an existing course was explored, and the suitability of its application analyzed against the overall college objectives of providing education to prepare graduates to lead and manage technical processes, operations and personnel through the 21st century.

Working within the constructs of a qualitative paradigm, a multiple-case study was conducted using three course offerings, two Internet-based offerings and one in blended learning format. Under both formats, the problem-based learning collaboration was conducted online through the use of WebCT tools: the recorded chat room and the discussion forums. The course concluded with formal student presentations that included a team consensus of the problem solution, validated with the support students used to arrive at their solution.

Data collected for the study consisted of recorded chats, discussions forums, and student reflection papers, terminating presentations, interviews and surveys. At the interpretive level of the study, emerging patterns were described for each team, across stages of the study and across the courses. A model used for designing, developing and implementing problem-based learning in an online environment was explored. The findings were supported using pattern matching and triangulation, and validated by a panel of experts from corporate and academic environments.

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