Next Article in Journal
Effects of Training Parameter Concept and Sample Size in Possibilistic c-Means Classifier for Pigeon Pea Specific Crop Mapping
Previous Article in Journal
Multi-Objective Optimization Using Evolutionary Cuckoo Search Algorithm for Evacuation Planning
Font Type:
Arial Georgia Verdana
Font Size:
Aa Aa Aa
Line Spacing:
Column Width:

PBeL—A Novel Problem-Based (e-)Learning for Geomatics Students

Guenther Retscher
Jelena Gabela
1,† and
Vassilis Gikas
Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation, TU Wien—Vienna University of Technology, 1040 Vienna, Austria
School of Rural, Surveying and Geoinformatics Engineering, National Technical University of Athens, 15780 Zografou, Greece
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Geomatics 2022, 2(1), 76-106;
Submission received: 3 January 2022 / Revised: 11 February 2022 / Accepted: 17 February 2022 / Published: 22 February 2022


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, distance learning had to be increasingly implemented at universities, and more e-learning formats had to be applied. The LBS2ITS project carried out under the lead of the Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation at TU Wien (TUW), Austria, came at the right time for these tasks. Education in Location-Based Services (LBS) is put to a new level including interactive e-learning and Problem-Based Learning (PBL) pedagogy. In the courses modernization, special attention is paid to the development and/or update of the courses to be implemented with these two pedagogic forms. Thus, teaching with an emphasis on learning outcomes is a central theme in the LBS2ITS project. To achieve this goal, the active verbs used in updated Bloom’s taxonomy for teaching on learning outcomes, i.e., remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating, are applied to achieve the six levels of thinking and the active nature of learning. LBS2ITS will build a fully immersive and integrated LBS teaching and learning experience with the LBS application of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) in mind. The outcome will be an innovative digital learning environment supporting synthetic and real-world PBL learning experiences. In the course of the project, a workshop for introduction of these new developments was held. This paper provides an insight into the results and experiences from this workshop. As e-learning and PBL must be combined and integrated nowadays, the new term PBeL (Problem-Based e-Learning) is proposed and introduced in this paper. The development of this approach and background information on the theory and the LBS2ITS project are presented.

1. Introduction

Many teachers are still struggling with the distance learning experiences from the beginning of 2020 when everything changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some teachers might feel confirmed in their position that digitally supported teaching and distance learning will/must/should be the future. Regardless, we have to prepare for our teaching assignments, just like every semester. However, we must say goodbye to a concrete constant, the where, and thus, to a certain extent, the how. The place of learning and the associated opportunities are only predictable to a limited extent. How can we prepare ourselves as teachers for the upcoming semester or teaching season? This paper tries to give an insight and answers to this question in respect to e-learning, Problem-Based Learning (PBL), and Problem-Based e-Learning (PBeL). PBeL is a novel concept proposed in this paper. We propose PBeL as the integration of e-learning and PBL. This idea originated after a workshop on PBL and distance learning held in September 2021, which was held for the members of the Location-based Services to Intelligent Transport Systems (LBS2ITS) project (, accessed on 30 December 2021). When presenting distance learning and PBL separately at the workshop, we noticed that there is an opportunity to combine the two due to their complementarity. Many lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of distance and e-learning can be utilized to modernize and enhance PBL. Consequently, the PBeL concept was conceived.
Several steps need to be followed and focused on in order to achieve good learning and teaching experiences. These steps are in line with ( (in German), accessed on 30 December 2021) and shall be followed to optimize the learning and teaching experience:
  • Refer back to the learning objectives or learning outcomes. There is a difference of opinion as to whether learning goal formulations are still up-to-date or whether competence orientation should be focused on. Competence-oriented learning goal formulation is carried out at TU Wien (Vienna University of Technology) by [1] for the creation of learning-outcome-oriented descriptions for modules and courses. The clearer the intended learning outcomes (for the entire course and individual units within the course), the more flexible the methodological response can be. The formulation of the learning outcome comes before the selection of the method.
  • The teaching–learning arrangements need to be fine-tuned. This means that we cannot think in units or blocks but in areas that can be defined as finely as possible. This allows the teacher to change the timing of the event more quickly.
  • We need to reflect on how to decide which content or methods have to take place online or in person. For example, consider surveying education where field practicals must be held in presence and not just online. Otherwise, the students will miss the skills of practical work, such as setting up a tripod on a measuring point, for instance.
This paper is developed in the course of the European Erasmus+ Capacity Building in Higher Education project LBS2ITS, which is led by three program countries universities in the EU: TU Wien (TUW) from Austria, National Technical University Athens (NTUA) from Greece, and Technical University Dresden (TUD) from Germany. European program countries’ universities will work with four universities in the partner country Sri Lanka. Like other nations worldwide, Sri Lanka faces many transportation challenges. Constraints such as timely access to modern technology and the lack of appropriately trained personnel have contributed to increasing social, economic, and environmental concerns around road safety, pollution and transport inefficiencies. In the project, these issues are addressed through enrichment of the university curricula; specifically, the integration of Location-based Services (LBS) into Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). This is important for Sri Lanka, where population growth and resource constraints demand the urgent use of emerging technologies to secure the safety and sustainability of their society. This level of education in the partner country is in its infancy and cannot rapidly deliver the knowledge inputs required to change transport management decision making. European cooperation is needed, and it is beneficial for the partner country Sri Lanka because it will help reform and improve education by transferring education experiences and modern technologies. It will also promote the internationalization of the education system and implement more advanced quality assurance (QA), introduce PBL pedagogy, and modernize e-learning tools. All these improvements are leading to an enrichment of the course modules and courses taught in line with priorities in the education of Geomatics and Transport Engineering students. For this development, Sri Lankan University staff members will be trained on a variety of LBS-related topics and pedagogic workshops.
The paper is structured as follows: In Section 2, the didactic aspects of digitally or media-supported teaching or e-learning are presented followed by the theory and basics behind PBL pedagogy in Section 3. This section also includes the discussion of the utility of Bloom’s taxonomy and examples of PBL courses in Geomatics from the literature. Then, in Section 4, the new concept on PBeL (Problem-Based e-Learning) is introduced including examples for the implementation of the integrating approach in the teaching of localization concepts and solutions, as well as in GIS, Cartography, and Geoinformatics. In Section 5, the background of the LBS2ITS project is introduced in more detail as the driver for this investigation. Apart from the general description of the project, the role of LBS in ITS, as well as the experiences gained from the project workshop on e-learning and PBL pedagogy, are also presented. Conclusions and an outlook on future work in the LBS2ITS project may be found at the end of the paper in Section 6.

2. Didactic Aspects of Media-Supported Teaching

Many teachers prefer face-to-face teaching because they have little or no experience with online teaching. The following section is aimed at those teachers who want to expand their skills and achieve more success in planning and implementing online teaching. The differences in communication, teaching content, and organization in person versus online teaching are analyzed and discussed. This involves planning and conception of online teaching with e-learning platforms, with time requirements, necessary competencies, as well as organizational requirements for various scenarios. Space is also given to reflect on past experiences.

2.1. The Didactic Triple Jump

When it comes to the creation of learning outcome descriptions for modules and courses, learning outcomes are output-oriented because they describe the outcome of the learning process and focus on the learners. The key message is that learning outcomes are what learners have acquired in terms of knowledge, the meaning of which they understand and can apply/implement [1]. Consequently, at our home university, TUW, every description of a course or a module in the syllabus has to follow this principle. The course description often starts with the phrase: ‘Upon completion of the course, students are able to …’. The constructive alignment in the form of a didactic triple jump therefore is:
Formulating learning outcomes—What should students be able to do and know?
Proof of achievement—How is it assessed whether they have achieved the learning outcome (i.e., What can students do)?
Learning activities—How do students practice to achieve the learning outcome?
An example of the didactic triple jump in mathematics, i.e., solving linear equations, is as follows:
After successful completion of the course, students can solve linear systems of equations;
Written examination with an example in which a linear system of equations has to be solved;
As practice examples, linear systems of equations are solved.
The model syllabus for all studies at TUW contains three areas of competence that are desired outcomes for students. To better explain these three areas of competence, the corresponding sub-competences are given below as examples [1]:
Technical and methodological skills:
  • Technical competences—expertise;
  • Methodological competences—Methods applied in the subject;
Cognitive and practical skills:
  • Cognitive competences (trans-disciplinary competences)—Networked thinking, thinking within context, abstract thinking, critical thinking, analytical ability, problem-solving competence;
  • Practical skills: Applying technical and methodological competences;
Social competences and self-competences (trans-disciplinary competences):
  • Social skills: teamwork, conflict skills, communication skills, presentation skills;
  • Self-competences: self-organization, perseverance, initiative, innovation.
When it comes to assessment, the triple jump is a type of assessment that evaluates the students’ ability to organize information, formulate hypotheses, identify individual learning issues, and reformulate a case using the newly acquired information. The triple jump (i.e., three-stage) assessment is a method of evaluation used in Problem-Based Learning (PBL) curricula [2]. PBL will be discussed more in detail in Section 3. In the following sections, we want to first have a look into the course of action necessary to progress further into distance learning and away from classical teaching.

2.2. Course of Action to Progress from Presence to Media-Supported Teaching

The four main elements of media-supported teaching are depicted in Figure 1. These elements include administration of the e-learning platform, education and knowledge transfer in writing and verbally, communication and exchange between teachers and students as well as between students themselves, and skills acquisition and assessment in not only exams but also students’ self-assessment. To progress from presence teaching towards media-supported teaching, several aspects need to be considered as given in the identifying comparison in Table 1. This list is meant to highlight the most important differences between the two teaching approaches and procedures.
A major advantage in presence teaching is that the teacher always has control of what is happening in the classroom. In an online setting, higher demand for the instructional content exists by requiring additional explanatory information. The requirements for digital material (e.g., instructional videos) are also higher in media-supported teaching. Moreover, the teacher has to move from primary one-way communication to other forms including synchronous and asynchronous communication (to be explained more in Section 2.4). A common experience related to the presence teaching is a discussion after the lecture where students come to the teacher and ask questions in person. One major disadvantage of this in distance learning is that these questions are not heard by all lecture attendees, which would be relevant for discussion in the classroom with all students. Therefore, it is recommended to leave the virtual room open for questions at the end of the lecture in media-supported teaching. They can then be heard and answered for all participants still following online. Online exams are also challenging, especially if calculations have to be performed in writing. New methods and an audit culture are essential.
Table 2 summarizes the changes to be made while progressing from classical teaching to e-learning [4]. As shown in Table 2, these changes are significant and affect the preparatory work required by the teachers, which is usually much higher with demanding requirements. The role of the students also changes, and active learning is required from them compared to the classical approach where the students are passive recipients of the knowledge. Students have to be partners in the teaching–learning process. The roles and responsibilities of the students include, among others, (1) critical and curious thinking as well as (2) proactive co-responsibility for the learning process. These two aspects require that students are sufficiently informed about the indispensable conditions of their learning process.
Correspondence universities (e.g., Wageningen University and Research, the Netherlands) offer online programs and distance learning degrees, and as such, they are at the forefront of distance learning. During the introduction of distance learning at dedicated correspondence universities, the passive role of students has led to high drop-out rates as high as 75 to 80%. This is nowadays decreased to about 25 to 30%. One of the reasons for such a high initial drop-out rate may have been the lack of students’ intrinsic motivation. The intrinsic motivation of students can be significantly affected by the way online teaching is approached. An Austrian/German study from 2020 ( (in German), accessed on 28 December 2021) showed that the intrinsic motivation of students forced into distance learning was significantly affected. In both countries, the intrinsic motivation of the students, which is fed by motives such as interest, meaningfulness, and enthusiasm, was significantly affected. Some of the reasons behind this were the increased workload and decreased interaction and socialization with the other students. The extrinsic motivation such as fear of poor results increased, which negatively affects the learning experience. Both motivation aspects are considered to be important for sustainable learning success and psychological well-being. According to the study, the main challenge of distance learning is to preserve students’ intrinsic motivation and improve the socialization and information exchange between students.

2.3. Social Dimensions of Online Teaching

The social dimensions of online teaching play another important role. It is essential to support students in structuring the working time for their independent acquisition of knowledge and skills. The following aspects need to be considered [3]:
  • Inputs to time management;
  • Working/learning time—guidance for expected working time;
  • Forming learning groups in the virtual space;
  • Emphasis on the most important learning materials;
  • Organizational information on teaching content;
  • Submission/feedback—set date, calculate effort for feedback.
The inputs to time management and required working/learning time include telling the students how much time they usually need to spend to complete a task or sub-task of project work or assignment. The goal of this is to help students understand the level of work expected from them so they do not have to experience negative extrinsic motivations such as pressure or fear of poor performance. The formation of learning groups in virtual spaces should help students with the intrinsic motivation based on their socialization and support with other students. The students can also receive feedback from their peers, which should also decrease the level of extrinsic motivations.

2.4. Learning Activity—Elements to Support the Acquisition of Knowledge

In the course of the learning activity, the four main key elements to support the acquisition of knowledge are as follows: (1) building up motivation; (2) providing orientation; (3) indicating goal orientation; and (4) activating the students [3].
The structuring of the course in the e-learning platform is essential. Welcoming students at the accessing stage can build up motivation. The presentation of the activities to be expected can provide useful orientation for the students and help explicitly define what is expected of them. Goal orientation covers aspects such as the description of learning outcomes, not only for the whole course but also for each course unit. The continuous activation and provision of stimuli for the students is also of high importance for online lectures and dynamical scripts. To name a few examples, students can be activated by giving exercises, assignments to the respective course units, discussion groups, etc. The activity and motivation of students can also be increased with the introduction of cooperative learning including different forms of communication, collaborative text works, online formats, etc. It is very important to encourage students to form learning groups themselves.
Communication with students can be distinguished into two forms, i.e., synchronous and asynchronous communication [3]. Synchronous communication encompasses communication where information is exchanged in real-time, while asynchronous communication happens irrespective of time. Table 3 highlights the main differences between these two forms of teacher-to-student communication. As can be seen, office hours can also be held in an online setting via video conferencing (VC) tools while news forums can be established in the e-learning platform. Thereby, it is essential that these forums are well-maintained by the teacher. Furthermore, student forums implemented by the students themselves need to be supported and mentored. In this respect, the teacher needs to pay attention to his/her time and personnel costs.
Concerning the teacher to student communication, it is often said by psychologists and pedagogic experts that ‘you can talk about everything, but not more than 20 min’, which corresponds to the possible attention span. The authors of this contribution and most of their colleagues have a differing opinion to this statement arising from the usual face-to-face lecturing, where the duration of lessons is usually one or one-and-a-half hours. Teachers are used to lecturing over such a duration with minimal teacher-to-student interaction. In [5], the maximum period of 15 to 20 min of attention is cited as well. They also report that students recalled the first 5 min of the lecture the best. Just like the authors of this paper, authors of [5] also noted that the usual lectures are far longer than the attention span of the students and they proposed introducing a ‘change up’ (i.e., periodic activity) to reset the students’ attention span back to the beginning. Similar challenges are encountered in an online setting. In that case, an example of the periodic activity could be an activity that involves smaller groups of students in break-out rooms, where students are given tasks such as recapitalization (summarizing a take-home message in three to five central statements) or paraphrasing parts of the lecture. Another example of the periodic activity could be quizzes on the topic of the day or finding an answer to a question not answered during the lecture.

2.5. Role of the Teacher as a Moderator

Moderation requires online support at a high frequency. Typical tasks may include discussions moderation through a collection of answers or asking questions in return. The teachers also help the moderation by maintaining the forums well, keeping to their schedule, announcing new tasks personally, and providing feedback to students.
In an online setting, the moderating teachers’ role should ideally lead to so-called e-moderating. Figure 2 presents the stage model of e-moderating developed by Gilly Salmon, as shown in [6]. This model consists of five stages, which are:
  • Stage 1: Access and Motivation—the e-moderators role is to welcome and encourage participants to interact;
  • Stage 2: Online Socialization—familiarizing and providing bridges between cultural, social, and learning environments;
  • Stage 3: Information Exchange—facilitating tasks and supporting the use of learning materials;
  • Stage 4: Knowledge Construction—facilitating the process, the moderator provides guides and integrates the different construction elements and helps in leading participants toward completion of their project;
  • Stage 5: Development—supporting and responding; a student is a confident online learner and develops his/her new knowledge to demonstrate achievements in assessment.
For online learning to be successful, participants need to be supported through a structured developmental process. The five-stage model provides a framework for a structured and paced program of activities referred to as e-tivities by [6]. The five-stage model offers essential support and development to participants at each stage as they build up expertise in learning/teaching online.
The essential role of the e-moderator is promoting human interaction and communication through the modeling, conveying, and building of knowledge and skills. An e-moderator undertakes this feat through using the mediation of online environments designed for interaction and collaboration. The e-moderator has an invaluable role to play in the successful implementation of the five-stage model of learning.

2.6. Communication with Students during the Lecture

The behavior of students as passive listeners can reach a level as high as up to 90%. As aforementioned, this can lead to very high drop-out rates. If no questions are asked by the students, it is recommended that the teacher starts a survey to check whether the material has been understood. In an online setting, it is also important to remind students that there is the possibility to ask questions in the chat or Q&A tool if the used video conference system provides these functionalities. The possibility of asking questions in the chat or Q&A tool might be more approachable to students and make it easier for them instead of asking and speaking in front of everyone, especially if the lecture is being recorded. This possibility for asking questions might be a challenge for teachers because of the necessity that they always observe the chat or the Q&A section during the lecture.
In addition, the teacher can start polls to encourage students to be more active during class. Classroom response systems facilitate the handling of the interaction of an audience with the lecturer during web conferences. They enable questions from the audience, intermediate questions, feedback, as well as evaluation issues.
Response systems may be based on multiple choice and open questions, the creation of word clouds, etc. For an online survey, QR codes can be used to provide links for answering polls, as it is done in the example of using the platform OnlineTED® (, accessed on 30 December 2021) for teacher-to-student interaction. With this tool, live or multi-day voting (OnlineTED® Homework) can be integrated into the (online) classroom, enabling the teacher to interact with their students. The tool is optimized for use with Zoom® or Microsoft Teams® in video conferencing in online settings. Images, sound or video files can be attached to the voting questions. The response options appear automatically on the internet-enabled devices of the participants and can be selected here. The result is displayed in real-time as a bar chart or keyword cloud. By using such tools, teaching can be more interactive, attracting students’ attention.

2.7. Learning Materials for Students

Apart from conventional lecture notes, scripts, and/or presentation slides, the novel communication means of media-supported teaching offer opportunities that can include (but are not limited to) short learning videos; references; webinars from external experts or target group analysis; interactive learning material; self-assessment possibilities; examples for the expected appearance of the final result; feedback; news and discussion forums; organization of possibilities for collaboration of students; inputs for time management according to required effort; virtual office hours through video conferences, etc. [3].
Elements for designing learning tasks should be communicated in writing to students and include answers to the following questions and key points:
  • What is to be done?
  • Which work equipment is to be used?
  • How are the tasks scheduled and what is the social form?
  • How is the monitoring and advice services to be organized?
  • What should the final product look like?
  • How is the feedback organized?
  • How is the performance review assessed?
It is recommended to ask the students for intermediate task (i.e., assignment) submissions during the project, such as starting with the result of the literature study, intermediate steps, and intermediate results to be submitted. Thus, it is essential to provide sub-tasks. Moreover, students can organize discussion groups with a changing leading person. Some teachers at TUW (and many other universities) introduced a peer-review system for tasks, where classmates of the same course review the work of the other students in return. The students receive feedback from their peers, which creates an opportunity for their socialization and collaboration. In the case of a peer-review process between students, deadlines must be strictly kept so that the students can progress with their tasks.

2.8. Communication and Collaboration Recommendations

Based on the previous sections on students’ attention span, communication with students and the teacher’s role, as well as the students’ motivation, when holding an online course, the following recommendations are to be considered:
Learning outcomes for each course and course unit of the course should be explicitly communicated;
Start with motivating introductory words and work on increasing students’ intrinsic motivation and not adding to their extrinsic motivation (e.g., fear of failure):
Communicate the expected activities that students need to perform;
Provide ‘smaller bites’ to students to keep their attention;
Come up with periodic activities to reset the students’ attention span during the lectures;
Facilitate students’ socialization within smaller groups;
Use short learning videos and other digital resources instead and/or in addition to recorded lectures;
Dissolve the overall lecture contents into individual teaching topics;
Subdivide the course content into sensible sections;
Keep editing and reflecting on texts and videos used in the lectures based on the students’ feedback and response to the material;
Provide swift accompaniment and advisory services for the students.
These recommendations, however, mostly require a higher effort from the teacher, in comparison to the classical face-to-face teaching. The following needs to be realized in an online setting [3]:
  • Relationship level—Appreciating, motivating language in online instructions (oral and written);
  • Ways to ask questions and criticize—Comments to be made;
  • Organize opportunities for students—Collaboration.
For communication and collaboration between the teacher and students, a key message to be observed by the teacher is: Your time for the course is limited, but let your students with the teaching content not alone!
What can we, the teachers, do to achieve this? Attention must be paid to our time. Consider in advance what you can offer and estimate the amount of time you need to spend. Offers that do not last come off negatively with the students. It is better to not offer what cannot be fulfilled [3].

3. Problem-Based Learning (PBL) Pedagogy

PBL is a learner-centered educational method where learners are gradually given more and more responsibility in order to become independent life-long learners. Unlike traditional pedagogy methods (in person or distance teaching), which are teacher-centered and where teachers transfer knowledge directly to students, in PBL, teachers are there to facilitate learning and educational materials to students [7,8,9]. As defined in [10], PBL is “the learning that results from the process of working toward the understanding or resolution of a problem”. As such, learning must start from the problem [10].
PBL emphasizes learning activities that are student-centered, interdisciplinary, authentic, collaborative, and foster higher-order thinking [7]. That is why PBL is based on real-world problems that stimulate learning, integrating, and organizing learned information with the aim to ensure recall and future application [7,8,9]. In addition to learning, at the end of the PBL process, learners also acquire life-long soft skills, such as communication, cooperation, negotiation, decision making, and, most importantly, problem-solving skills [7]. It should be noted that PBL should not be equalized with doing projects in the traditional sense. The PBL problems are real-world problems that serve as trigger material for students to learn about a subject through the experience of solving the said problem. This will be further explained in Section 3.2.
The main goal of the PBL learning process is to learn by doing [11], with the assumption that “when we solve the many problems we face every day, learning occurs” [7]. Consequently, the primary goal of the PBL learning process is to enhance learning by requiring students (i.e., learners) to solve problems. The knowledge that is anchored in a specific context is more meaningful, more integrated, better retained, and more transferable [7].

3.1. PBL Cycle

PBL, as a learning method, needs to be implemented in several stages that make up a PBL cycle. Although this is not equally defined by all authors, the majority of the literature lists some common steps as shown in Figure 3. The steps in Figure 3 have been compiled based on [2,12,13].
The PBL process always starts with the problem. Consequently, the first step of the PBL process is the definition of the problem. In this step, learners are provided with a problem that is then analyzed, clarified, and all unknown terms are defined. In some literature, such as [12], it is said that the problem must never be imposed by the teacher. However, the students need to find a problem that is appropriate to the curriculum of the course. In other literature, such as in [13], a high-level problem is given by the teacher, which leaves some freedom for students to define it more explicitly. The former example requires more independence from the students than the latter. However, if students do not have sufficient knowledge of relevant real-world problems, the former may provide a better idea of what is expected.
Having defined the problem, the students can start with the second phase, which is brainstorming. In this instance, a priori knowledge of the students is crucial. The self-awareness of the students is necessary so that they are aware of their current state of knowledge and is an important part of independent learning. The students need to share ideas and see if they can solve the problem with the existing knowledge.
Based on the previous step, where the students defined the a priori knowledge available in the group, the students need to analyze the problem. The analysis is built on the collection of independent ideas within the group based on which different aspects of the problem can be defined and structured. Based on these discussions, the hypotheses can be defined [2].
In the fourth phase of the PBL cycle, students need to define learning objectives with the guidance of the teacher. When the students agree on the learning issues [12], they can define new knowledge that is necessary to solve a problem [13]. The teacher is not an active participant in the discussion but is helping students by asking questions, helping students to stay focused on the problem to be solved, and by supporting the discussion. The process of figuring out the new knowledge that needs to be acquired to solve a problem is another crucial element of the PBL that will lead the students to the goal of becoming lifelong learners. authors of [13] write that “the dilemma between what I know and what I am missing or need to learn, is the essence of PBL”.
One of the longer phases of the PBL cycle is the fifth phase, where students engage (individually or in a group) in self-guided study. To achieve the learning outcomes defined in the previous stage, students seek out the learning materials and resources and begin research [12]. In this phase, the teacher helps students to find different books, journal papers, lectures, conference papers, online courses, webinars, reports, experts in the field, etc. In this phase, the students can start developing their research skills [12] and further their independence. By nature of the self-guided study, the learning is personalized to the learner as they are free to choose any medium that will help them learn.
In the sixth phase, the students exchange and synthesize the newly acquired knowledge. Furthermore, the students solve the problem and report the solution back to the class. This phase should be the longest of the PBL process [12]. In addition to the other soft skills, such as presentation and writing skills, the research skills are further developed in this phase.
The seventh phase is an important part of the PBL process and further development of the self-awareness and independent learning skills for the students. In this phase, students and teachers assess the PBL process as well as themselves.

3.2. PBL vs. Classical Learning

Based on the previous sections, some differences between the classical teaching methods and the PBL are clear. Table 4 compares some of the characteristics of both teaching/ learning methods. The students’ mainly passive role in classical teaching is emphasized in Section 2.6. PBL requires an active role of the students and the students have a responsibility towards their assignments. As explained in Section 3.1, the students must come up with the problem, analyze it, come up with the outcomes, and solve the problem. Unlike PBL, in classical teaching, the students are given a problem that is created by the teacher, and concrete instructions are given on how to solve the problem. In PBL, this means that the interdisciplinary approach is taken as the students use all available resources they want to solve the problem. In classical teaching, giving concrete instructions commonly means that the students are limited to finding the solution by following the instructions that are limited to one discipline. Another important aspect of PBL is solving real-world problems that the students may encounter when they start their careers, compared to the classical methods, where the problems are often context-free. Lastly, classical learning often assesses the students on their ability to reproduce the told knowledge compared to PBL, where the assessment is based, in addition to knowledge, on more elements as detailed in Table 4. It should be noted that due to specific university rules and requirements, classical methods of assessment may have to be implemented, even for PBL courses.
Classical teaching and PBL learning processes are compared in [14], as shown in Figure 4. In classical teaching, the students are told what they need to know, and then they need to memorize it. A problem is then assigned to students that helps them illustrate how to use certain theoretical and practical concepts they learned previously. However, as explained in Section 3.1, in PBL, the students receive the problem or find a problem themselves, and they identify what they need to know. Then, with the guidance of the teacher, the students learn the theoretical background by applying it to solve a problem.
According to [7], PBL learners tend to outperform classical learners in long-term retention assessments, and they tend to remember more about principles (i.e., high-level concepts). As aimed by the PBL process, self-guided learning skills translate well into life-long learning, and PBL learners are superior at that. Furthermore, [7] states that PBL learners are able to transfer their problem-solving skills into their professional careers.
Some disadvantages are cited by [7], as well. PBL is often criticized for higher-order thinking and problem-solving at the cost of lower-level knowledge acquisition specific to classical teaching, where the students receive a lot of information. In some studies cited in [7], students believed that the content was inadequately covered when using the PBL methods. However, they understood content more thoroughly because they applied it during the problem solving and performed comparably to the classically taught students.

3.3. Role of the Teacher and the Student in PBL

The roles of the teacher and student change when the pedagogic method is changed from a teacher-centered to a learner-centered method. As indicated in the previous section, where classical and problem-based learning methods are compared, students are more active in PBL, and teachers do not transfer content knowledge directly to students.
Figure 5 demonstrates the teacher’s role in PBL process. As noted in [12], a teacher plays the role of facilitator or tutor in PBL that needs to guide the learners as they become more and more independent. As that happens, the teacher becomes less active in his or her role. The teacher needs to moderate discussions in a way that leads students towards the completion of their project. The teacher needs to lead by example and demonstrate good time management skills and transfer those skills to the students. In a way, the teacher has more work, as they need to connect with students personally and address their many different learning needs.
When adjusting from classical to problem-based learning, teachers can encounter some difficulties. They need to completely change the idea of their role from the knowledge transmitter to the learning facilitator [7]. This change is difficult for teachers that see knowledge as a body of information that must be transmitted. Teachers also must have patience in order not to start lecturing students when they have questions. If they start lecturing, they will actively participate in the learning process. These problems are often seen as disadvantages of the PBL process.
Contrary to teachers, students become active participants in their learning process. This is demonstrated in Figure 6 that was adapted based on the Teach and kids learn website (, accessed on 30 December 2021). The figure compares the students’ role in classical teaching and PBL and shows the level of activity and involvement required by students in PBL. This change can sometimes cause uneasiness as they are unsure how they will be graded and if the content will be adequately covered [7]. If the students are unfamiliar with PBL, they can also be confused about their roles. An introduction to the PBL process may be beneficial in that case, as it was done in [13], where the students first learned about PBL and their role was defined.

3.4. Bloom’s Taxonomy for PBL

Learning objectives can be assigned to different taxonomy levels. Taxonomies serve the ordering of learning objectives. They help to structure the diversity of learning objectives hierarchically according to logical criteria. They are useful for controlling learning goals. The best-known taxonomy is that of Bloom. Back in 1956, Benjamin S. Bloom developed, with a group of psychologists [16], a classification of levels of intellectual behavior important in learning. Bloom intended to develop a method of classification for thinking behaviors that were believed to be important in the processes of learning [17]. Eventually, this framework became a taxonomy of three domains:
  • The cognitive—knowledge-based domain, consisting of six levels;
  • The affective—attitudinal-based domain, consisting of five levels;
  • The psychomotor—skills-based domain, consisting of six levels.
According to six cognitive levels of complexity, Bloom’s taxonomy is a multi-tiered model of classifying thinking. Throughout the years, the levels have often been depicted as a stairway, leading many teachers to encourage their students to climb to a higher level of thought. The lowest three levels are knowledge (L1), comprehension (L2), and application (L3). The highest three levels are analysis (L4), synthesis (L5), and evaluation (L6). The taxonomy is hierarchical, and each level is contained in the next level. This order means that the student has already mastered the previous level. One can easily see how this arrangement led to natural divisions of lower- and higher-level thinking [17]. Table 5 explains these six different levels (L1–6) in detail and assigns them a selection of verbs that facilitate the description of learning objectives. Each level builds on and incorporates the previous level. The main nouns (i.e., taxonomy levels), as given by Bloom et al. in [16] and shown in Table 5 and Figure 7, are: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. These nouns are in coincidence with the updated taxonomy reflecting relevance to 21st century work developed during the 1990s by a new group of cognitive psychologists, led by Lorin Anderson [18], who is a former student of Bloom’s. The graphics in Figure 7 and Figure 8 are a representation of the new verbiage associated with the familiar Bloom’s Taxonomy. Note the change from nouns to verbs to describe the different levels of the taxonomy. They are applied to achieve the six levels of thinking and reflect the active nature of learning.
The six levels, with their associated questions, are summarized in the following. The questions also enable the teachers to check the learning progress of the students [20]:
Remembering—Can the student recall or remember the information?
Understanding—Can the student explain ideas or concepts?
Applying—Can the student use information in a new way?
Analyzing—Can the student distinguish between the different parts?
Evaluating—Can the student justify a stand or decision?
Creating—Can the student create a new product or point of view?
The authors of the revised taxonomy suggest a multi-layered answer to the question ‘Why use Bloom’s taxonomy?’, to which Armstrong [19], as the author of a teaching guide, has added some clarifying points (directly quoted from [19]):
Objectives (learning goals) are important to establish in a pedagogical interchange so that teachers and students alike understand the purpose of that interchange;
Teachers can benefit from using frameworks to organize objectives;
Organizing objectives helps to clarify objectives for themselves and for students;
Having an organized set of objectives helps teachers to:
  • “plan and deliver appropriate instruction” [18];
  • “design valid assessment tasks and strategies” [18];
  • “ensure that instruction and assessment are aligned with the objectives” [18].
With reference to the LBS2ITS project, Bloom’s verbiage-described taxonomy builds a central theme of modern university education development. The LBS2ITS project provides the opportunity to test PBL to a wider extent for its further development enhancing educational outcomes not only in Sri Lanka but also in European universities and worldwide. Quality assurance practices will focus on creating the right kinds of assessments and associated rubrics to ensure that all levels of Bloom’s taxonomy are integrated into the assessments. Especially those relevant verbs associated with active learning and thinking are used. Teaching with an emphasis on learning outcomes will be a central theme in our approach.

3.5. PBL Courses in Geomatics

The suitability of implementing PBL in engineering was analyzed in [21]. They noted many benefits to implementing PBL in engineering education for cognitive and motivational reasons. One of the notable benefits is the improved application and integration of theoretical and practical knowledge. Nevertheless, [21] concluded that it seems that, unlike PBL in medicine, PBL in engineering needs to be implemented with separate lectures and practical assignments. This need stems from the fact that engineering knowledge is hierarchical in its structure and not learning about certain principles or concepts may lead to failure of the whole PBL process [21]. For that reason, many examples of PBL implementation in engineering education include additional theoretical lectures or practical assignments (e.g., how to work with specific software).
The available literature on using PBL in geomatics engineering is limited. This section will discuss two examples from the existing literature and two examples of how PBL is used by two LBS2ITS project universities—TUW and NTUA.

3.5.1. Examples of PBL Courses in the Existing Literature

The experience of implementing PBL to teach a first year master’s course on Adjustment Calculation is shown in [13]. The course is taught at the University of Belgrade, and it was developed as part of another Erasmus+ CBHE project—GEOBIZ (, accessed on 30 December 2021). As mentioned earlier, authors of [13] presented their students with a problem. This is a departure from a textbook PBL, where the problem has to be found by the students. Nevertheless, the problem was fairly vague and left room for students to define the problem within the context of a real-world problem. The given problem was: “It is necessary to set up a free geodetic network on a 2 km × 3 km area, for the construction and deformation monitoring of an engineering structure. Measures of accuracy and reliability in the geodetic network need to be in accordance with the known object deformation allowance”. In groups of 7 to 8, students followed the steps of the PBL cycle as defined in Section 3.1. The teachers did not combine PBL principles with some classical teaching (e.g., theoretical lectures), although the problem requires a lot of knowledge on the theoretical background. Presumably, this is due to the level of independence of master’s course students who already possess a good level of a priori knowledge.
The second example from literature are two courses held at the University of Leon for a bachelor’s degree. The first course is Geographic Information Systems (GIS), held in the second semester of the first year, and the second course is Cartography, held in the second semester of the second year [11]. Unlike in the previous example, these courses are held for undergraduate students, and that seems to have reflected on the level of PBL implementation. Due to the lack of a priori knowledge of students in the GIS course, students first had to have tasks such as “Can you read spatial information?” and six additional tasks to teach them about different GIS software. Active learning made up 70% of the GIS course (including the non-PBL tasks). After the initial tasks, just like in the [13], students were given a problem to solve instead of finding the problem themselves. Nevertheless, the students had to conduct a self-guided study with only the support of the teacher. Cartography course students also received the project “Mapping reference and thematic maps” at the beginning of the course. Similarly to the GIS course, students again had some smaller tasks to introduce them to the course content and improve their a priori knowledge. In this case, presumably, because the students were second-year students, 90% of the course required active learning.

3.5.2. Examples of PBL Courses at TUW and NTUA

TUW applies PBL throughout their International Masters Program for Cartography M.Sc. This is especially true for classes related to different applications and programming. One example is the course on LBS, where the students choose their problem (as PBL suggests) that is based within the context of the real world. The students work the whole semester to find the solution to this problem and develop good collaboration and communication skills. Uncharacteristic for PBL, students received eight theoretical lectures that introduce them to the LBS. To solve the chosen problem, students follow similar PBL steps as defined in Section 3.1. This course has been held for 10 years in that form, and over that time, more than 80 projects were finalized by groups of students. The students are free to choose any real-world topic related to an LBS aspect such as topics related to positioning, spatial data modeling, communication, and application areas such as ITS. Some examples of chosen topics are real-time traffic map using floating car data; tracking road conditions with smartphones on bicycles; and monitoring behavior pattern changes due to COVID-19 via Twitter data.
A typical example of the course of the project-based teaching at NTUA are topographic/geodetic camp courses. In project-based teaching, the teachers do not implement PBL but give students a small-scale project to work on. The typical tasks in these courses include projects such as the topographic surveying of a mixed open/constructed area; geodetic network densification; traversing; detail surveying; leveling; and setting out and mapping of utilities. The students work independently of teachers who are there to support the students. These camp courses are a great introduction to the fieldwork that will be required by the students when they enter the work force. Furthermore, it allows them the opportunity to apply the knowledge acquired in previously taught geodesy courses.
Project theme courses are another type of courses at NTUA that apply PBL methods, even more so than in the previous example. These courses require students to be engaged to solve a real-world problem. One of such courses is Study, Design and Operation of Road Works. This course requires students to complete a road design study for which the students have to take an interdisciplinary approach and apply their knowledge from different fields of geomatics and engineering such as surveying, photogrammetry, cartography, geometric road design, transport engineering, and hydraulics. The teachers are there to support the students in their self-guided study and while they define exactly what will be the goal of their road design study. During the development of their study, the students will encounter many problems for which they will have to acquire new knowledge in order to solve them.
The different approaches taken by the NTUA in applying PBL stem mainly from the level of the a priori knowledge of the students. In the first NTUA example, the students are in the second year of their studies, and they do not possess sufficient a priori knowledge for teachers to fully implement the PBL method. Nevertheless, independence in learning is facilitated as much as possible.
The successful work in the courses highlighted above builds the foundation for the development of the pilot courses to be thought in the third year of the LBS2ITS project at each of the four Sri Lankan partner universities.

4. Enhancement of PBL by e-Learning PBeL

In the course of the LBS2ITS workshop (see Section 5.6), we created a new acronym for integrated learning. The complementarity of distance learning and PBL was observed after they were presented, as in Section 2 and Section 3, during the workshop. Consequently, in this paper, we introduce the new form of PBL in e-learning and media-supported teaching with the term PBeL. The abbreviation PBeL stands for Problem-Based e-Learning and combines the two concepts and procedures for modern student-centered education. In this section, the concept as well as its major advantages while integrating online teaching and PBL are presented. In addition, the application of Bloom’s taxonomy for course development and the modernization of LBS-related teaching is discussed. This section also details a new course to be offered to geodesy students at the TUW. This will be the first course based on the PBeL method that is proposed in this paper.

4.1. The PBeL Concept

As the importance of e-learning and PBL grows separately, there is an opportunity to combine the two approaches into the proposed PBeL. This need was particularly pushed forward due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All courses, no matter the pedagogy method, had to be delivered online. LBS2ITS project universities, including the TUW and NTUA, also had to switch to fully online classes. Although the majority of universities already used e-learning in some form, this was mostly conducted for administrative purposes. The teachers’ materials and teaching styles were not adapted to teaching online. Nevertheless, the teaching during these challenging times was pushed forward, and many learned lessons will remain in practice in the future.
PBL is often seen through the lens of in-person teaching. With the assumption of learning partially happening in-person and online in the future, we believe that even PBL in engineering can utilize some lessons learned in e-learning. The complementarity of PBL and distance learning is detailed in Table 6.
As mentioned earlier and in [21], PBL in engineering requires lectures and some practical assignments. Distance learning can complement this need through short learning videos (due to the attention span of the students) and software tutorials. We believe this would eliminate the need for theoretical lectures in in-person classes and it could become part of the students’ ability to self-assess if they need to further their theoretical knowledge. In case this is necessary, lectures would be available to them on demand. Furthermore, distance learning can aid students in their search for a real-world problem. This can be achieved through organized webinars from experts and researchers around the globe. These would normally be challenging to organize in terms of travel and time. Distance learning does not constrain the organization of different seminars. Furthermore, instead of teaching just from the perspective of one discipline, as it is often done in classical teaching, distance learning can open up the opportunity for students to learn about points of view from different disciplines. Interdisciplinarity is one of the assumptions of PBL, and students are encouraged to find solutions based on an interdisciplinary approach. As noted earlier, students can often view the PBL process negatively because of the fear of poor results and not knowing what to expect from the process and how they will be assessed. An e-learning platform can complement PBL in that sense, as it opens up the opportunity to detail the PBL process, learning outcomes, goals, expectations, etc. As detailed in Section 2, distance learning requires a more active role from students compared to in-person teaching, and they start sharing the co-responsibility for the learning process. In both the distance and in-person teaching cases, we refer to the classical teaching methods where knowledge is transferred to students. Another challenge of distance learning is also maintaining students’ intrinsic motivation. As Table 6 suggests, PBL compliments distance learning in this regard, as the activity of students is intrinsic to the PBL method. Furthermore, the students are intrinsically more motivated, which was one of the very reasons for the development of PBL in the first place. The authors of [21] also stated that PBL improved the motivation of the engineering students. The use of an e-learning platform can also complement in-person communication well. E-learning enables discussions between students, groups, and the teacher without having a pre-set time. The satisfaction of students can also be checked through different polls and discussion forums. Online discussions can ease the need to organize in-person meetings with students for something that can be resolved online, but it can also burden the teacher with additional communication.
Both distance learning and PBL have the same disadvantage in terms of the higher demands on the teacher related to increased administrative work, preparation of online materials, and involvement with students. However, with years of practice and using the existing materials, the workload will decrease, and the teacher will be more experienced, which will ease the process.
Table 7 tries to offer some answers to the question How can e-learning enhance the PBL experience? It will demonstrate how certain PBL cycle steps can be enhanced by e-learning, with the main aim being at keeping the students’ intrinsic motivation.
As previously stated in Table 6 and now in Table 7, e-learning opens up the opportunity for students to easily have contact with relevant experts from the field in question. The students can hear from more than just their teacher, which can provide them with even more context that is necessary to find a real-world problem. These can be experts from academia or even the industry that the students will be a part of in the future. This can improve students’ attention, and hearing from different people they look up to can motivate them to complete their course.
Step 1 of the PBL cycle in Figure 3 requires clarification and understanding of the problem that the students will have to solve. Although this clarification can be performed in person, many e-learning tools can be utilized as well. For example, moderation tools such as forums can be utilized. Here, students can try to collaboratively clarify certain aspects of the problems. The teacher can monitor the discussion remotely and guide the students in their task. If necessary, online group sessions can be organized as well.
As demonstrated in Section 3.5, many current courses that use PBL as a pedagogic method still have some theoretical lessons so that students either acquire or update their a priori knowledge. Not all students have the same level of a priori knowledge, and listening to lectures in person may be demotivating to the ones that already hold that knowledge. E-learning can mitigate this issue. As explained previously, self-awareness of students is important for PBL, as it leads to students’ independence and life-long learning goals.
In step 5 of the PBL cycle shown in Figure 3, the students have to engage in self-guided study that can be performed individually or in groups. Online group sessions can be organized so that the students can exchange knowledge and resources. Teachers can share different resources with students either by uploading them directly to the e-learning platform, by organizing webinars with different experts, or by communicating with students in forums and leading them to different resources available to them. This opens up an opportunity for teachers to be passive in students’ self-guided study but remain involved and familiar with the stage that they are in.
Lastly, e-learning opens an opportunity for students to present their research results to a wider audience at the university and for assessment to be performed on the e-learning platform. These online sessions also open opportunities for students to receive immediate feedback on their presentation skills from their peers using the polls or forums. Assessment can be conducted in multiple ways, including the online forms that are automatically analyzed. These methods of assessment are already applied at many universities.
These were some examples of how PBL can be enhanced using e-learning. Teachers using PBL in teaching report that their students are more motivated than in the classical learning courses [13]. On the other hand, one of the main difficulties of e-learning is the preservation of students’ intrinsic motivation (see Section 2.2). Thus, when combining PBL and e-learning (i.e., implementing PBeL), the teacher needs to keep special attention to the motivation of their students. E-learning can be integrated throughout the course with aim of further motivating students.

4.2. Application of Bloom’s Taxonomy for the Courses’ Development

One of the basic questions that teachers face was raised by Houghton (cited in [17]): “Where do we begin in seeking to improve human thinking?”. In [17], it is emphasized that we do not have to begin from scratch in searching for answers to this complicated question. Houghton recommended beginning with defining the nature of thinking before we can start to make it better. Benjamin S. Bloom extensively contemplated the nature of thinking, as reviewed previously in Section 3.4.
A search of the World Wide Web will yield clear evidence that Bloom’s taxonomy has been applied to a variety of situations. Current results include a broad spectrum of applications represented by articles and websites describing everything from corrosion training to medical preparation. In almost all circumstances, when an instructor desires to move a group of students through a learning process utilizing an organized framework, Bloom’s taxonomy can prove helpful. Yet, the educational setting remains where Bloom’s taxonomy is used the most often [17]. Below, an attempt is made to apply the taxonomy verbiage to an example related to surveying.
The educational journal Theory into Practice published an entire issue on the revised Bloom’s taxonomy. The use of the revised taxonomy to plan and deliver an integrated English and history course entitled Western Culture is described in [22]. The taxonomy provided the team-teachers with a common language with which to translate and discuss state standards from two different subject areas. Moreover, it helped them to understand how their subjects overlapped and how they could develop conceptual and procedural knowledge concurrently. Furthermore, the taxonomy table in the revised taxonomy provided the history and English teachers with a new outlook on assessment and enabled them to create assignments and projects that required students to operate at more complex levels of thinking.
Throughout the years, Bloom’s taxonomy has given rise to educational concepts including terms such as high- and low-level thinking (Section 3.4). It has also been closely linked with multiple intelligence [23] problem-solving skills, creative and critical thinking, and, more recently, technology integration.
Using the revised taxonomy (Figure 8 in Section 3.4), an example of a lesson objective based on setting up a tripod on a measuring point is presented for each of the six levels of the cognitive process:
Remembering—describe the procedure for setting up and leveling a tripod on a measuring point;
Understanding—summarize what the main steps are;
Applying—try it out in the field;
Analyzing—differentiate between centering and leveling;
Evaluating—assess the right procedure;
Creating—create a list of steps to be followed on.
Although this is a very simple example of the application of Bloom’s taxonomy, the authors believe that it demonstrates both the ease and the usefulness of Bloom’s taxonomy in its revised form.
A major task of the LBS2ITS project includes designing the new curriculum course modules. A curriculum development workshop will be held to define competencies needed by the industry and labor market. Accordingly, the core curriculum course modules with a list of courses will be developed. The workshop will also discuss the course syllabus, including a complete list of lesson topics and learning outcomes. For the latter, we will use the active verbs used in the updated Bloom’s taxonomy. The curriculum course modules’ development includes:
The course modules with competency descriptions;
The syllabus for each course, including a complete list of lesson topics and learning outcomes;
The complete updated program.
Starting with pilot courses offered at all four Sri Lankan partner universities on applied subject topics relating to LBS depending on the Higher Education Institutes’ (HEI) specialization, the LBS2ITS project will introduce PBeL based on the principle of applying Bloom’s taxonomy. Section 4.4 provides further details on the implementation strategy. The concrete PBeL teaching application example will be developed together with the partner universities in the course of the project.

4.3. Modernization of Education as Part of the LBS2ITS Project

The three main pillars of education in the LBS domain for the teachers in the LBS2ITS project are: (1) Geomatics/Geodesy dealing with Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) and sensors; (2) LBS, including cartography and GIS; and (3) smart transportation and mobility. The key points and topics for the courses developed as part of the LBS2ITS project are as follows [24]:
  • Personal mobility—part of understanding travel behavior;
  • Sustainable transport—part of mobility concepts and evaluation;
  • Public transport—part of mobility concepts and evaluation;
  • Transportation in smart cities—part of mobility concepts and evaluation;
  • Transportation management—part of traffic engineering (safety and traffic quality management);
  • Traffic flow monitoring and guidance—part of traffic engineering;
  • Traveler information systems—part of traffic engineering/transport demand management;
  • Crowd monitoring and guidance—part of understanding travel behavior, might also be part of traffic engineering/transport demand management;
  • Ubiquitous PNT for LBS—part of geomatics/geodesy;
  • GNSS and its augmentation—part of geomatics/geodesy;
  • Pedestrian localization in challenging environments—part of geomatics/geodesy, as well as LBS;
  • Smartphone localization—part of LBS;
  • Cooperative solutions—part of geomatics/geodesy, might also be part of LBS;
  • Sensor fusion and estimation techniques—part of geomatics/geodesy;
  • Multimedia cartography and GIS—part of cartography;
  • Spatial data handling—part of cartography and GIS, etc.

4.4. Pilot Course Implementation Strategy

In the final year of the LBS2ITS project, i.e., starting in early 2023, pilot courses on certain LBS subject topics have to be implemented and taught to geomatics and transportation engineering students at all four Sri Lankan partner universities. To build and implement PBeL modules, a workshop on core curriculum development will be held after six train-the-teachers courses. In this workshop, the work plan for the PBeL implementation will be developed, and the contents of the pilot courses at the lesson level will be defined. Competencies gained after the pilot courses are required to correspond to the needs of the industry and labor market. Accordingly, the core curriculum course modules with a list of courses will be developed. The workshop will also discuss the course syllabus, including a complete list of lesson topics and learning outcomes. For the latter, we will use the active verbs used in Bloom’s taxonomy (i.e., remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating), which emphasize the six levels of thinking and the active nature of learning. Teaching materials for major subject areas will be developed and e-published as open access following a review and revision process. The outcome of this course of action can be summarized as in Section 4.2—competency descriptions for the course modules, a complete list of lesson topics and learning outcomes for all courses, as well as the complete updated program.
The results expected from the completion of the project comply with the objectives of the action of the Erasmus+ CBHE program. The results and outcomes concerning knowledge-gain and teaching skills in the partner country are given in [24]. One of the outcomes is new/improved teaching skills in PBeL acquired through continuing practicing at the HEI level.
Results and outcomes concerning the educational curriculum/teaching material and equipment can be summarized as described in [24]:
  • Training material, such as lectures, practicals, e-learning, etc., for six intensive courses in LBS and transportation prepared to train a limited number of the teaching staff from the participating HEIs;
  • A portfolio of teaching material for six fully modernized subject areas that focus on LBS and transportation;
  • A portfolio of teaching material for newly developed core course modules on LBS/ geomatics and transportation/smart mobility;
  • A portfolio of workshop material, including material on core curriculum course modules development, e-learning and PBL, QA in teaching;
  • Digital resource kits for e-learning and student interaction (e.g., Moodle web server, App-based course evaluation) and video recording tools for archiving lectures, practical training, etc.;
  • A wide range of fully tested and functioning scientific equipment ranging from low-cost localization/data transfer systems (e.g., smartphones and/or PDAs) to high-grade positioning units (e.g., GNSS receivers) to act as the core infrastructure for LBS and for validating low-cost ones.

4.5. Introducing PBeL to TUW

TUW plans to offer a new course, “Positioning in indoor and GNSS challenged environments”, in the winter semester of 2022. This course will be offered in the third semester of masters’ studies. This course aims to introduce students to the field of positioning in GNSS challenged and denied environments. As a consequence, students will acquire knowledge of current problems that the wider scientific community is working on. Students will work on topics about indoor positioning, positioning in urban canyons, sensor fusion, cooperative positioning, indoor/outdoor seamless transition, integrity monitoring methods for safety-critical applications, etc. Students will work in groups of three to four. The end product of their work at the end of the semester will be a seminar and a presentation.
This course also aims for students to further develop their soft skills: independent learning, life-long learning, self-awareness, problem-solving skills, presentation skills, writing skills, critical thinking, and working in groups. Additionally, students will work on their research skills, and they will learn about technical writing and the peer-review process. This course will be excellent preparation for their master’s thesis in the following semester. To achieve these goals, PBeL methods will be used. This pedagogy through the idea of learning by doing leads to these outcomes. The course timeline is given in Table 8. The given example demonstrates how PBeL can be implemented in a geomatics course.
In line with the PBeL as detailed in Section 4.1, to account for the difference of students’ a priori knowledge, there will be theoretical lectures made available to students on the distance learning platform. These lectures will be available to students “on-demand”. The topics of these lectures will range from GNSS basics, basics about other sensors, estimation theory, sensor fusion to more application-based topics such as Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), or systems for indoor navigation. Consequently, PBeL fulfills the need for lectures when PBL is implemented for engineering [21], without the need to give in-person lectures to all students. Section 2.4 cites 20 min as the maximum duration of students’ attention span, which means that the teachers have to break down their content into smaller bites for students. Unlike, classic in-person or online lectures, these “on-demand” lectures open up the opportunity to offer students brief lectures that are no longer than 20 min. Furthermore, experts from the entire world will be invited to give talks related to different applications such as ITS, indoor navigation, and LBS. This will open up the opportunity for students to meet other experts other than the teacher and to hear many different perspectives.

4.6. Summary

LBS2ITS aims to address interactive learning tools and introduce new pedagogy to Sri Lankan partner universities in order to improve the quality of learning. All the measures described in this section will be beneficial for other countries in the region and at a global scale, as well.
Firstly, e-learning as a tool for active learning by students will be updated in the project. It provides teachers and students opportunities to easily access learning materials and to have interactive dialogues, discussions, comments, and feedback. It also makes the administration of learning activities, and especially assessment, more efficient. The introduction of PBL and the enhancement of PBL pedagogy to PBeL is mostly completely new in the partner countries’ institutions. Webinars and virtual experiences facilitate and support real-world PBeL scenarios. The outcome will be an innovative digital learning environment supporting synthetic and real-world learning experiences. Self-paced learning modules are established for both teachers and students, leading to continuous assessment and two-way feedback.

5. The LBS2ITS Project

As already stated, the key findings of this study are supported from the realization of a multi-national EU education project led by the authors, named LBS2ITS. It is an Erasmus+ Capacity Building in Higher Education (CBHE) project funded by the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) for the partner country Sri Lanka. LBS2ITS stands for ’Curricula Enrichment delivered through the Application of Location-based Services to Intelligent Transport Systems’. In this section, the projects’ background and major aims are presented, demonstrating the importance of LBS education in HEIs for students in Geomatics and transportation sciences. As this paper deals with the education of students in Geomatics, more emphasis in the theory and examples are given for them than for the students in transportation engineering and urban planning.

5.1. About LBS2ITS

LBS2ITS is based on a consortium of three EU and four Sri Lankan Universities. The project coordination is carried out by the Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation, TUW, Vienna, Austria. The other two European program country partners are NTUA, Greece, with the School of Rural, Surveying and Geoinformatics Engineering, and TUD, Germany, with the Chair of Integrated Transport Planning and Traffic Engineering. The Sri Lankan partner Universities and their respective departments are: (1) Faculty of Geomatics of Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka (SUSL); (2) Department of Town and Country Planning and Department of Civil Engineering of University of Moratuwa (UoM); (3) Faculty of Technology of University of Sri Jayewardenepura (USJ); and (4) Faculty of Computing of General Sir John Kotelawala Defense University (KDU). The three-year project started at the beginning of 2021.
Sri Lanka, which currently stands in middle-income category 2 with a GDP per capita of USD 4102 (2018) and a total population of 21.7 million, is focusing on long-term strategic and structural development challenges as it strives for the transition to an upper-middle-income country. The country faces many transportation problems in both urban and provisional areas. Timely access to modern technology and the lack of appropriately trained personnel cause an increase in social, economic, and environmental concerns around road/pedestrian safety, pollution, and transport inefficiencies. Therefore, the need for sustainable transportation solutions calls for new education and technology approaches and practices.
The project theme is to offer new educational tools and practices of Location-based Services (LBS) to Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). LBS can be defined as mobile computer applications (e.g., using smartphones, PDAs) that deliver information tailored to the location and context of a user and his/her surroundings and beyond. Nowadays, with the integration of mobile ICT (Information and Communication Technologies), new 4A (anytime, anywhere, for anyone and anything) ‘services’ are being developed [25]. Some examples of emerging mobility services that rely on positioning information span from travel and traffic, public transport, and emergency management to personal mobility and commercial vehicle operation, to road user charging and driver assistance systems. In short, LBS promotes more healthy, greener (lower CO 2 emission), and more active mobility behaviors through ITS, which aim at providing innovative services relating to different modes of transport and traffic management, enabling the user to be better informed and making safer, more coordinated, and ’smarter’ use of transport networks.
Concerning Sri Lanka, during the last decade, the rapid increase in the population (>27%) and the GDP share (>50%) of the western region of the country resulted in pressing mobility issues. The existing public transport system, which serves an important mode of travel, faces serious issues with respect to service quality, capacity, and its core operating mechanism. In response to these, the “The National Physical Planning Policy and the Plan 2050” was set into action since 2018. The plan expedites actions aligned into four ‘development corridors”, aiming to connect seaports, airports, and major depots by expressways and new high-speed railway lines that expected to serve at least 60% of the country’s population. In brief, the expansion and modernization of the country’s transportation system forms a national priority, in which ITS play a dominant role towards capacity increase and sustainability.
Particularly, the Colombo region has witnessed a rapid change in urban transport in recent years. The continual degradation of traffic congestion in urban roads and the deterioration in the quality of public transport services have escalated to such an extent, placing a major negative impact on the economic performance of the region, the environmental quality, and liveability. According to national reporting to UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), automobile transportation has been recognized as a critical issue contributing 20% of the carbon emissions in the country alone, especially in the Colombo region (50%) (7th National Symposium Management in Sri Lanka, 2018). Moreover, the need for rapid adoption of contemporary LBS solutions in support of ITS is becoming more pressing in the light of ongoing transport projects such as the “Colombo Light Rail Transit” and the “Colombo Suburban Railway” projects , as well as other transportation infrastructure projects that form part of the “Port City Development” project.
The urban policy directives of Sri Lanka support the introduction of state-of-the-art technology (e.g., satellite and wireless positioning) to improve efficiency, safety, and reliability through electronic ticketing, inter-modal integration, and the adoption of rail-based freight transport solutions. At the same time, the continuously increasing use of mobile phones and contemporary smartphones (63% and 47% of the Sri Lankan population, respectively) facilitates the expansion of LBS while it provides non-personalized data for crowdsourcing analyses to the benefit of all.

5.2. Current Situation in Higher Education in Sri Lanka

Higher education in LBS is still in its infancy in Sri Lanka. Specific LBS elements are taught individually by the respective group specialists and irrespective of the transportation problems encountered in the country. Analysis has identified the following problems:
Sri Lankan Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) do not have enough teachers that are proficient in modern technologies and LBS courses in particular to teach about those topics.
Teaching methods rely on traditional didactic methods, while teaching staff is still used to teacher-centered pedagogy models.
Due to limited government funding, many universities in Sri Lanka lack modern equipment and software.
LBS and transportation curriculum are not adapted to the current needs of the national and global labor market environment.
HEIs are state institutions that share a common development model and culture. However, there is no close and formalized cooperation among technical oriented HEIs in LBS/transportation education.
The links between academia and industry in the project theme are minimal with low direct transfer of knowledge and innovation.
Based on the aforementioned findings, there is evidence that, at the country level, Sri Lanka’s LBS and transportation education faces a clear need towards modernization of the teaching methods, training of teachers, upgrading technical equipment, strengthening the university to industry interaction cells in technology transfer, and encouraging cooperation among Universities in Sri Lanka and internationally.

5.3. Major Project Goals and Links to PBL Pedagogy

The project aims at enhancing the higher education curriculum in four Sri Lankan universities to produce professionals skillful in LBS technologies for urban mobility and transportation applications. In addition, but to a lesser extent, LBS education tasks expand to other application areas (e.g., GIS, environmental monitoring, and ICT) to fulfill the educational needs of all participants. This will be achieved through delivering an enhanced curriculum and new didactic practices on the project topics. Accordingly, the project will be able to contribute one of the key goals present in the “National Physical Development Policy and the Plan 2050, 2018” declaration, namely, ’to update the Sri Lanka’s workforce through disseminating knowledge towards adopting state-of-the-art standards in smart transportation as practiced already by developed cities’. In effect, the project addresses through synergies, the knowledge gap among transport engineers and transport planners, town planners, surveying engineers, and ICT engineers.

5.4. The Role of LBS in ITS

As LBS deliver information based on the location of objects, they play a significant role in the development of modern ITS solutions. As defined by [25], LBS are applications (especially mobile computing applications) that deliver information tailored to the location and context of the device and the user. LBS in ITS also bring many opportunities (e.g., for traffic management and urban planning) but also challenges (e.g., privacy, ethical, and legal issues) to the environment and to society.
Nowadays, land vehicle navigation systems support probably the most popular LBS applications, which provide way-finding assistance for drivers in real-time. These systems are continuously improving thanks to new features, such as monitoring traffic and road information in real-time using crowdsourced data. LBS and tracking techniques are extensively used for vehicle management and logistics. Further applications include driver assistance and passenger guidance, on-street parking applications, safety warnings, as well as multi-modal routing services [24].
As listed in [25], additional examples of LBS applications to ITS include pedestrian navigation, mobile guidance, social networking, location-based gaming, fitness monitoring and healthcare services, and various types of assistive systems. These applications relate closely to the previous LBS applications. For example, as shown in [24], location-based gaming can be applied in transport such as the Wien zu Fuß-App (, accessed on 30 December 2021) and cycling apps (,,, all accesed on 30 December 2021). Another example is fitness monitoring, which is connected to transport considering that activities such as walking, running, and cycling are being monitored.
Given the role of LBS in ITS, the LBS2ITS project suggests the following seven categories in positioning and transport engineering education (as previously listed in [24]):
“Understanding travel behavior”: LBS has the potential to collect big and more diverse and less-costly data compared to traditional data collection methods;
“Modelling”: LBS opens the opportunity of big data collection in real- time, giving rise to many opportunities for the development of new transport models;
“Navigation and mobile guides”: LBS in navigation provides the basis for new services towards critical-safety and liability/ethical-critical applications for transport;
“Assistive systems”: These LBS applications refer to non-navigation applications relating to assist road users. Examples include warnings issued to drivers when a cyclist approaches, lane departure warnings, as well as adaptive cruise control tools;
“Optimization of traffic flows/transport demand management”: These LBS applications aim at maximizing the efficiency of a transport system (e.g., parking management);
“Location based gaming”: Usually, they refer to “urban gaming” or “street games”. Typically, they are multi-player location-based games played out on city streets and built up urban environments;
Other: These may include marketing, education, logistics, and goods transportation.

5.5. LBS Education

Academic curriculum modernization in the frame of LBS implies training the next generation of teachers and professionals and modernizing of the pedagogy methods used. In this regard, six major aims for new teaching modules have been proposed in [24]. These include: immersive LBS teaching and learning applied to ITS; digital learning environments supporting learning experiences; self-paced learning modules for both the teachers and the learners; digital resources for interaction with modern equipment; continuous two-way assessment; and webinars and other virtual experiences that support real-world problems related to the LBS and ITS.
The LBS2ITS CBHE project supports Sri Lankan partner universities in achieving the stated six aims when new courses are developed or old courses are updated. This also includes introducing new pedagogic methods, such as PBL and improving digital resources that support e-learning.
Accordingly, one of the first LBS2ITS workshops was held on the topic of e-learning and PBL. More details of the outcomes of the workshop are given in the following section.

5.6. The LBS2ITS Project Workshop on e-Learning and PBL Pedagogy and the Main Takeaway

Considering that LBS2ITS project is fully committed to modern pedagogy approaches, except technical workshops, dedicated sessions were planned focusing on quality in education. To this effect, a workshop on e-learning and PBL pedagogy was undertaken at an early stage of the project to ensure that the fundamental tools on quality are made available to participants for the six train-the-teachers LBS courses to follow. These six courses are:
Transportation system planning for smart cities;
Alternative PNT (Positioning, Navigation and Timing) technologies;
Estimation theory and processing of spatial data;
Data and models in transportation;
Smartphone positioning techniques for in- and outdoor localization;
LBS and multi-media cartography.
The distance learning and PBL workshop was held on purpose before the train-the-teachers courses. Therefore, the Sri Lankan partners could build on the results and insights gained from the pedagogy workshop on the technical courses to follow. By extension, this knowledge will be applied further on the pilot courses to be developed in the following stages of the educational project.
In preparation of the workshop on e-learning (i.e., media-supported teaching) and PBL pedagogy, some complementary features were noticed, which resulted in the idea of combining e-learning and PBL—referred to here as PBeL. By effect, the proposed PBeL strategy will make use of both approaches in order to facilitate the optimum learning experience for learners. Section 2 and Section 3 have presented both approaches separately, followed by Section 4, in which the integrated (PBeL) is realized. In conclusion, as already stated, all partner universities will be expected to adopt PBeL as the pedagogy method when teaching the pilot courses to students.

6. Conclusions and Outlook

Visits of TUW staff at the Sri Lankan partner country institutions in 2018 and 2019 revealed the need for education in the LBS domain in geomatics as well as transportation-related curricula. The general opinion of staff members at all four partner universities was to introduce and offer new course modules on LBS education. The LBS2ITS project aims to improve educational quality by addressing and adapting the curriculum and syllabus for each institution. Our basic approach is as follows:
We will first define professional competences needed for graduates of geomatics and transportation science programs based on the needs of the related industries and stakeholders. These competences should enable graduates to be employable in the free labor market.
We will then define a list of course modules that will lead students to the defined and desirable competences.
We will ensure that students have learned what they are supposed to learn and that teaching and assessment activities focus on learning outcomes. For this purpose, we will define learning outcomes for every lesson in a course module.
When defining and describing learning outcomes, we will use the active verbs used in the revised Bloom’s taxonomy, i.e., remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating, in order to emphasize the six levels of thinking and the active nature of learning. We intend to develop core curricula modules, which amounts to 30 to 40% of the total program and which includes the most important courses (knowledge and competences) for modern geomatics and transportation-related programs. For each course of such a core curriculum, learning outcomes for each lesson will be defined clearly. The new core course modules will be introduced in all four universities in spring 2023. The pilot courses will be taught before the end of the projects’ lifetime and continued afterwards following refinement to guarantee the sustainability of the updated and developed curricula. This is when we will have the first results of the implementation of PBeL in LBS courses. We expect that utilization of PBeL pedagogy in newly developed pilot courses will stimulate students to obtain new knowledge and improve their problem-solving and other soft skills.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, G.R. and J.G.; methodology, G.R. and J.G.; investigation, G.R. and J.G.; resources, G.R. and J.G.; writing—original draft preparation, G.R., J.G., and V.G.; writing—review and editing, G.R., J.G., and V.G.; visualization, G.R. and J.G.; project administration, G.R.; funding acquisition, G.R. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


The authors acknowledge the funding for the project 618657-EPP-1-2020-1-AT-EPPKA2-CBHE-JP EU from the Erasmus+ Capacity Building in Higher Education program. This project has been funded with support from the European Commission (EC). This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the EC cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


The authors would like to thank the TU Wien Digital Teaching and Learning Center, where we want to mention in particular Mag. Ilona Renate Herbst. The first author attended the course ’Didactic aspects of media-supported teaching’ led by her, which helped a lot in preparation of the workshop on e-learning and PBL pedagogy in the LBS2ITS project and the writing of this paper.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


  1. Freund, R.; Vrabl, O. Preparation of Learning Outcome-Oriented Descriptions for Modules and Courses—Guide for Course Leaders and Module Managers at TU Wien—Vienna University of Technology. (in German: Erstellung von Lernergebnisorientierten Beschreibungen für Module und Lehrveranstaltungen—Leitfaden* für Leiter_innen von Lehrveranstaltungen und Modulverantwortliche an der TU Wien). 2017. Available online: (accessed on 28 December 2021).
  2. Mc Tierna, K.; Leahy, M.; Walsh, I.; Sloane, P.; Smith, M. The ‘Triple Jump’ Assessment in Problem Based Learning: An Evaluative Method Used in the Appraisal of both Knowledge Acquisition and Problem Solving Skills. Case 19. In Case Studies of Good Practices in Assessment of Student Learning in Higher Education; O’Neill, G., Huntley-Moore, S., Race, P., Eds.; AISHE: Dublin, Ireland, 2007; pp. 116–119. Available online: (accessed on 30 December 2021).
  3. Herbst, I. Didactic Aspects of Media-Supported Teaching (in German: Didaktische Aspekte mediengestützter Lehre). 2021. Presented at the Didactic Aspects of Media-Supported Teaching Workshop Held at TU Wien. Available online: (accessed on 30 December 2021).
  4. David, L. Possible Formats of e-Learning (in German: Mögliche Formate des E Learning). 2021. Available online: (accessed on 28 December 2021).
  5. Middendorf, J.; Kalish, A. The “change-up” in lectures. Natl. Teach. Learn. Forum 1996, 5, 1–5. [Google Scholar]
  6. Salmon, G. E-Moderating Introduction. Available online: (accessed on 29 December 2021).
  7. Hung, W.; Jonassen, D.; Liu, R. Problem-Based Learning. In Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology, 3rd ed.; Jonassen, D., Spector, M.J., Driscoll, M., Merrill, M.D., Van Merrienboer, J., Driscoll, M.P., Eds.; Routledge: New York, NY, USA, 2007; Chapter 38; pp. 485–506. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  8. Fini, E.H.; Awadallah, F.; Parast, M.M.; Abu-Lebdeh, T. The impact of project-based learning on improving student learning outcomes of sustainability concepts in transportation engineering courses. Eur. J. Eng. Educ. 2018, 43, 473–488. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  9. Savery, J. Overview of Problem-based Learning: Definitions and Distinctions. Interdiscip. J. Probl.-Based Learn. 2006, 1, 9–20. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  10. Barrows, H.S.; Tamblyn, R.M. Problem-Based Learning: An Approach to Medical Education; Springer Publishing Company: New York, NY, USA, 1980. [Google Scholar]
  11. Taboada, M.F.Á.; Martínez, M.F.; Pérez, J.R.R.; Ablanedo, E.S. Problem Based Learning (PBL) and E-learning in geodetic engineering, cartography and surveying education in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) frame. A case study in the University of Leon (Spain): Experiences and results. In Proceedings of the XXIII International FIG Congress INTERGEO, Munich, Germany, 8–13 October 2006. [Google Scholar]
  12. Vázquez, V.N.; Aveleira, O.J.L.; Pérez, P.N.; Leyva, R.A.R. Project Based Learning to Enhance Environmental Education through Automobile Mechanics. J. Probl.-Based Learn. 2019, 6, 76–84. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  13. Božić, B.; Pejić, M.; Tucikešić, S. Project oriented problem based learning: The first experiances of using this approach at the study program of Geodesy and geoinformatics (in Serbian: Projektno orijentisan problemski zasnovan model učenja—Prva iskustva u primeni modela u okviru studijskog programa Geodezija i geoinformatika). Tehnika 2020, 75, 23–28. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  14. Abdullah, J.; Mohd-Isa, W.N.; Samsudin, M.A. Virtual reality to improve group work skill and self-directed learning in problem-based learning narratives. Virtual Real. 2019, 23, 461–471. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  15. Pasi, B.; Shinde, V.; Chavan, M. Teacher’s perception towards their role in Course Level Project-Based Learning environment. J. Eng. Educ. Transform. 2019, 33, 91–94. [Google Scholar]
  16. Bloom, B.S.; Engelhart, M.D.; Furst, E.J.; Hill, W.H.; Krathwohl, D.R. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals; David McKay Company: New York, NY, USA, 1956. [Google Scholar]
  17. Forehand, M. Bloom’s Taxonomy—From Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching and Technology. 2005. Available online: (accessed on 30 December 2021).
  18. Anderson, L.W.; Krathwohl, D.R.; Airasian, P.W.; Cruikshank, K.A.; Mayer, R.E.; Pintrich, P.R.; Raths, J.; Wittrock, M.C. A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives; Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.: Boston, MA, USA, 2001. [Google Scholar]
  19. Armstrong, P. Bloom’s Taxonomy. Available online: (accessed on 30 December 2021).
  20. Overbaugh, R.C.; Schultz, L. Bloom’s Taxonomy. 2014. Available online: (accessed on 30 December 2021).
  21. Perrenet, J.C.; Bouhuijs, P.A.J.; Smits, J.G.M.M. The Suitability of Problem-based Learning for Engineering Education: Theory and practice. Teach. High. Educ. 2000, 5, 345–358. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  22. Ferguson, C. Using the Revised Taxonomy to Plan and Deliver Team-Taught, Integrated, Thematic Units. Theory Pract. 2002, 41, 238–243. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  23. Noble, T. Integrating the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy with Multiple Intelligences: A planning tool for curriculum differentiation. Teach. Coll. Rec. 2004, 106, 193–211. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  24. Retscher, G.; Gikas, V.; Gerike, R. Curricula Enrichment for Sri Lankan Universities Delivered through the Application of Location-Based Services to Intelligent Transport Systems. In Proceedings of the FIG e-Working Week 2021, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, 20–25 June 2021; p. 10865. [Google Scholar]
  25. Huang, H.; Gartner, G.; Krisp, J.M.; Raubal, M.; De Weghe, N.V. Location based services: Ongoing evolution and research agenda. J. Locat. Based Serv. 2018, 12, 63–93. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
Figure 1. Four elements of media-supported teaching (as in [3]).
Figure 1. Four elements of media-supported teaching (as in [3]).
Geomatics 02 00006 g001
Figure 2. Five-stage model of e-moderating (after [6]).
Figure 2. Five-stage model of e-moderating (after [6]).
Geomatics 02 00006 g002
Figure 3. PBL cycle.
Figure 3. PBL cycle.
Geomatics 02 00006 g003
Figure 4. Learning process in classical teaching versus PBL. This figure was made as in [14].
Figure 4. Learning process in classical teaching versus PBL. This figure was made as in [14].
Geomatics 02 00006 g004
Figure 5. Teacher’s role in PBL (adapted from [15]).
Figure 5. Teacher’s role in PBL (adapted from [15]).
Geomatics 02 00006 g005
Figure 6. Students’ role in PBL compared to classical teaching.
Figure 6. Students’ role in PBL compared to classical teaching.
Geomatics 02 00006 g006
Figure 7. Bloom’s taxonomy versus the revised version according to [18].
Figure 7. Bloom’s taxonomy versus the revised version according to [18].
Geomatics 02 00006 g007
Figure 8. Updated Bloom’s taxonomy pyramid with explanations [18,19].
Figure 8. Updated Bloom’s taxonomy pyramid with explanations [18,19].
Geomatics 02 00006 g008
Table 1. Aspects on the way from presence teaching towards media-supported teaching (after [3]).
Table 1. Aspects on the way from presence teaching towards media-supported teaching (after [3]).
Online administration platform
such as TUW TISS *
Online administration platform
such as TUW TISS *
In classroom, teachers rely on established
services, such as spatial management, etc.
A virtual room has to be arranged and
organized by yourself
Control of what is happening
in the classroom
Instructional content must have
explanatory information supplemented
Educational material with low requirement
such as scripts or presentations
Requirements for digital material
are higher
Primary one-way communicationOrganizational costs including synchronous
and asynchronous communication
Discussion after the end of a lecture
with the teacher in person
Leaving virtual room open
for possible questions
Office hoursVirtual office hours
Examination: written, oral,
correction/approval, grading
Online exams: new methods,
audit culture
* TU Wien Information Systems and Services (TISS), (accessed on 30 December 2021).
Table 2. Changes to be made from classical teaching to e-learning (after [4]).
Table 2. Changes to be made from classical teaching to e-learning (after [4]).
ComponentClassical Approache-Learning Variants
Lecture ExplanationLecture in classroomAudiovisual and text-based
knowledge transfer
Appropriation of knowledgeLecture notes BooksAudiovisual and text-based
Depending of
knowledge, practice
Solving tasks, calculating
examples, completing orders
Quizzes, tutorials, online tasks,
and peer feedback
Produce somethingReports, posters, essaysCreate tasks digitally
Cooperative learningGroup work
Project assignments
Collaborative text work, forms
of communication, online
Table 3. Synchronous and asynchronous teacher-to-student communication (after [3]).
Table 3. Synchronous and asynchronous teacher-to-student communication (after [3]).
Office hours (via VC): setting time,
duration, organizational aspects
News forum: announcements,
organizational (one-way communication)
Online lecture (via VC): interaction, e.g., breaks,
discussions between students, chat questions
Support student forums: observe time
and personnel costs
Student forums
Table 4. Classical teaching vs. PBL.
Table 4. Classical teaching vs. PBL.
Classical TeachingPBL
Students learn content knowledge and
practice context-free problems
Embeds students learning processes
in real-life problems
Problem (project) is a creation of the teacher
with concrete instructions
Problem (project) is a creation of
a group of students
Assessment based on the student’s ability
to reproduce told knowledge
Assessment based on more elements:
creativity, active participation, leadership,
level of general and technical knowledge,
ability to find resources, etc.
Table 5. Original taxonomy steps after Bloom with six levels (L1–6), including their descriptions and conjugations to be applied *.
Table 5. Original taxonomy steps after Bloom with six levels (L1–6), including their descriptions and conjugations to be applied *.
Taxonomy Steps
Knowledge (L1)– knowledge of facts
– knowing
DescriptionThe learners repeat what they have learned before. The test material had
to be memorized or practiced.
Conjugationspecify, write down, enumerate, record, execute, name, describe,
designate, represent, reproduce, complete, draw, show, reproduce
Comprehension (L2)– understanding,
– justify with your own words
DescriptionThe learners explain e.g., a term, a formula, a fact or a device. Their
understanding is reflected in the fact that they also present what they have
learned in a context that is different from the context in which they have
learned. For example, learners can explain a situation in colloquial
language or present the context graphically.
Conjugationjustify, describe, interpret, classify, explain, interpret, arrange, specify,
describe, translate, transfer, rewrite, differentiate, clarify, compare, reproduce
Application (L3)– implementation of one-dimensional learning content
– examples from own practice
DescriptionThe learners apply something they have learned in a new situation. This
application situation has not yet occurred.
Conjugationassess, link, apply, set up, execute, justify, calculate, determine, prove,
perform, classify, create, develop, interpret, formulate, solve, modify,
quantify, realize, translate, differentiate, rewrite, clarify
Analysis (L4)– disassembly into individual parts
– case studies
DescriptionThe learners break down models, processes, etc. into their components.
In complex situations, they have to discover the principles of structure
or internal structures. They see connections.
Conjugationderive, analyze, dissolve, describe, present, circle, recognize, contrast, categorize,
identify, isolate, classify, prove, investigate, compare, capture, assign
Synthesis (L5)– networking and optimizing
– represent interdisciplinary
– project tasks
DescriptionThe learners show a constructive performance. They have to put together
different parts that they have not yet experienced or seen together. From
their point of view, they have to produce a creative output. However, the
new is not yet present in the experience or knowledge of the learners.
Conjugationwriting, building, setting up, elaborating, defining, designing,
developing, explaining, designing, combining, constructing, solving,
optimizing, organizing, planning, writing, assembling
Evaluation (L6) Corresponds to L4 with additional assessment by learners.
DescriptionThe learners assess a model, solution, approach, process or something
similar as a whole in terms of its appropriateness or internal structure. You
know, for example, the model, its components and, in addition, the quality
adequacy, the internal consistency or functionality. They must make a
judgment about this in order to solve the problem properly.
Conjugationexpress, select, evaluate, evaluate, evaluate, differentiate, decide, infer, weigh,
measure, test, qualify, judge, simplify, compare, represent, evaluate, refute
Table 6. Complementary attributes of distance learning and PBL in engineering education.
Table 6. Complementary attributes of distance learning and PBL in engineering education.
Distance LearningPBL
Ability to deliver short learning videos.Need for theoretical lectures and practical
Access to experts and researchers from
around the globe.
1. Finding real-world problems.
2. Inter-disciplinary approach.
Learning outcomes, goals, and expectations
can be well detailed and documented
on the e-learning platform.
Students not welcoming the concept due to
unfamiliarity with PBL and what is expected
of them.
1. Required more active role of students.Intrinsic active role of students.
2. Lack of students’ motivation.
Utilizing online tools for communication.In person communication.
Table 7. How can e-learning enhance the PBL experience?
Table 7. How can e-learning enhance the PBL experience?
PBL SegmentApplied e-Learning Concept
Problem definition
Step 1 in Figure 3
Online session from field experts.
Clarification and understanding of the problem
Step 1 in Figure 3
Moderation tools such as chats and forums.
Online group sessions.
A priori knowledge
Step 2 in Figure 3
Digital materials (e.g., videos).
Self-guided study
Step 5 in Figure 3
Digital materials (e.g., videos).
Access to different experts.
Online group sessions.
Presentation of the results
Step 6 in Figure 3
Online sessions.
Step 7 in Figure 3
Online sessions.
Polls during the semester.
Online form for assessment.
Table 8. Positioning in indoor and GNSS challenged environments course overview.
Table 8. Positioning in indoor and GNSS challenged environments course overview.
WeekActivity Description
1Lecture: PBeL. Introduction to the GNSS challenged and denied environments.
Practical: Providing students with materials to find a problem.
Outcome: Submission of the initial problem idea.
2Lecture: Going over all suggested topics and brainstorming on improvement.
Students cooperate in choosing the topics.
Practical: Students polish their problem that needs solving.
Outcome: Submission of the problem, initial plan, and motivation for the
choice of problem.
3Lecture: Defining all the terms necessary to understand the problems better.
Practical: Students attempt to solve the problems with their a priori knowledge.
Lecture and practical: Self-study with guidance of the teacher. Teacher helps students
to find the resources. Students exchange acquired knowledge. For example,
students may have to learn how Kalman Filter works and how to fuse Ultra Wide
Band (UWB) and Global Positioning System (GPS) data. In practicals, they may try
to program their KF and sensor-fusion.
Outcome: Students write a brief report about their literature review and
practical tasks they have performed.
Lecture and practical: Based on the acquired knowledge, students start solving the
problem they defined in the Week 2. Teacher guides them to a positive conclusion of
their problem solving. Students are encouraged to already start writing/documenting
their methodology and steps.
11Lecture and practical: Students write their final report. Previous submissions are used
as part of the report: problem and motivation definition become introduction, and
literature review becomes the background section.
Outcome: Written scientific report.
12Lecture and practicals Each group gives a presentation to other groups. Every
presentation is followed by a brief discussion. Other TUW staff members are invited
to participate and provide their input and opinion.
Outcome: Presentation
13Students assess themselves, their peers, PBL process, and the teacher at the end of
the semester.
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Share and Cite

MDPI and ACS Style

Retscher, G.; Gabela, J.; Gikas, V. PBeL—A Novel Problem-Based (e-)Learning for Geomatics Students. Geomatics 2022, 2, 76-106.

AMA Style

Retscher G, Gabela J, Gikas V. PBeL—A Novel Problem-Based (e-)Learning for Geomatics Students. Geomatics. 2022; 2(1):76-106.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Retscher, Guenther, Jelena Gabela, and Vassilis Gikas. 2022. "PBeL—A Novel Problem-Based (e-)Learning for Geomatics Students" Geomatics 2, no. 1: 76-106.

Article Metrics

Back to TopTop