Developing the Qualifications of the ICT Workforce through problem-based learning

Mayela Coto, Sonia Mora, Marianne Lykke

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


The ICT sector is having an important role in the development of Costa Rica. Multinational companies such as Intel, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Fujitsu, Sykes, Amazon, Oracle, Cisco, AvVenta, Amazon, Convergys, Dell, and IBM have established operations and offices in the country. In addition, a growing number of local companies have been established to provide ICT products and services worldwide. Such development requires a large qualified workforce related to computer science and informatics, with skills in the areas of problem solving, group work, mathematics, business administration, and foreign languages.

In computer engineering, teaching has traditionally been deductive, with lecturers presenting theories and general principles, illustrative examples, practical work, and at the course end tests of students’ ability to do the same kind of reasoning through exams. This approach is very common in Costa Rican universities. However, many studies show that problem-based, inductive teaching that present students to real-life questions and realistic case studies is a preferable alternative. Problem-based teaching prepares better the students to complex, real-life problems and work. When students analyze the data and try to solve the problems, they create and see a need to know the principles, facts, rules and procedures. This need has a strong impact on motivation for learning, because students can understand the purpose of what they are learning.

This chapter presents findings from a Costa Rican case study where the School of Informatics at the National University of Costa Rica tried out and studied how a problem-based learning approach (PBL) contributed in developing student skills to real-life problem solving. The combined development and research project took a design-based research methodology and introduce gradually the PBL principles in a sequence of five programming courses (Introduction to Programming, Programming I, Programming II, Programming III and Programming IV).

The results show that the process of implementing PBL is not straightforward. The alignment of current curricula with deductive teaching methods is very strong, and inductive approaches require significant changes in the mindset of teachers and students. In addition, student-centered approaches may imply a loss of certainty and be threatening for students who lack confidence in themselves and for teachers who are not willing to leave their comfort zone.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChanging Education Through ICT in Developing Countries
EditorsMarianne Georgsen, Pär-Ola Zander
Place of PublicationAalborg
PublisherAalborg Universitetsforlag
Publication date2013
ISBN (Print)978-87-7112-079-0
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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