From problem-based to challenge-based learning – motives, examples, outcomes and success factors

From problem-based to challenge-based learning – motives, examples, outcomes and success factors

J. Malmqvist, K. Rådberg, U. Lundqvist (2015).  From problem-based to challenge-based learning – motives, examples, outcomes and success factors. 13.

It is increasingly popular in the academic world to state research & innovation problems as “challenges”. Examples include the DARPA Grand challenge (autonomous vehicles), Grand challenges in Global Health ( and the Swedish National Agency for Innovation’s (VINNOVA) program in Challenge-driven innovation.

It follows that “challenge-based learning experiences” are being included already in bachelor and master-level education. Examples include "Global Challenges in Engineering" at the University of Western Australia and the "Green Challenges" student competition arranged by the Technical University of Denmark.

Challenge-based learning experiences have had pre-cursors in the form of problem-based learning, where students (teams) are posed with a design, research or diagnostic “problem”, and the learning takes place through the process or working out the solution. However, challenge-based learning experiences raise the level of difficulty of the problem (addressing “societal challenges”), are inherently multidisciplinary but without knowing what disciplines are needed prior to project start, and often have the stated aim that solutions should not only be proposed, but also implemented. High ambitions concerning results are combined with compressed time frames.

However, challenge-based learning is a relatively new concept, with few (if any) comparative studies done so far. There are many aspects that require further investigation, including to understand how to design such learning experiences and their effects on student learning, design appropriate learning spaces, develop needed faculty competence, cost-effectiveness and scalability.

The aims of this paper are thus to: • Provide a survey of examples of challenge-based learning experiences across the world • Describe in some more detail one particular challenge-based learning experience, i.e., the Challenge Lab at Chalmers University of Technology. • Identify common and unique characteristics of the surveyed challenge-based learning experiences as well as success factors for their execution.

Proceedings of the 11th International CDIO Conference, Chengdu, China, June 8-11 2015

Authors (New): 
Johan Malmqvist
Kamilla Kohn Rådberg
Ulrika Lundqvist
Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden
Challenge-based learning
Social Responsibility
CDIO Standard 1
CDIO standard 4
CDIO Standard 5
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