Project-Based Learning – Part I -Using Project-Based Learning in the Virtual Classroom

Keeping kids engaged in the classroom can be one of the trickiest things you have to do as a teacher. With constant distractions, the different levels of skills and abilities among your students, and a variety of interests to contend with, it really takes some special planning an a lot of luck to pull off the perfect day.

With project-based learning, teachers can ignite students’ passion, really get them thinking, and help them understand things on their own.

Let’s take a look at what project-based learning actually is, and how you can easily incorporate it into your virtual classroom.

According to the Buck Institute for Education:

Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, project or challenge.”

In essence, project-based learning is student-driven. The teacher gives students an objective, and it’s up to each of them to explore the topic, make new discoveries, and craft a response on their own.

It’s the exact opposite of a lecture format where the teacher communicates new information that the students are then expected to listen to, memorize, and repeat back without using any critical thinking skills or doing any problem solving.

Once project-based learning is implemented in a classroom, students gain much-needed experience in:

  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Collaboration
  • Communication

This prepares them to be successful at school, in higher education, and in their future careers.

Project-based learning isn’t relegated to only in-person classrooms.  Virtual schools have been adapting project-based learning for their virtual classes for some time now.   The virtual classroom format naturally lends itself to project-based learning.  It’s much easier to put students into small groups virtually because there’s no moving desks or redesigning the classroom set up.  By using Jigsaw Interactive’s virtual classroom software, teachers can customize each small group room with different content and instructions so students can then present their project to the entire class.   

Using Jigsaw, teachers can use small group break-out rooms, whiteboards with math tools and insertion options, annotation tools on documents and presentations, videos, image files, and polling to get students engaged.  They can let students record themselves and their projects and the teacher can easily change out information based on what the students need for their project.   

A virtual classroom can make building relationships, answering questions, collecting formative assessment data, and providing feedback to students easy. Using project-based learning in a virtual classroom environment makes it easier for multiple teachers to create collaborative projects that pull in the information and skills needed for different subject areas.

For example, a math, science, and English teacher could all design a gardening project together where students plan out a community garden, learn which plants would thrive in their particular growing zones during each season, track their income and expenses, and create an advertising campaign to sell their plants to members of the local community.

The options for using project-based learning in your virtual classroom are endless. This type of collaborative project gives students the gift of learning how to think on a much deeper level and how to use new software in very practical ways that will help them problem solve beyond just the classroom.