A traditional approach to teaching the functionality of computer software (computer aided drafting, desktop publishing, geographic information systems) is to give learners step-by-step or prescriptive instructions for laboratory or homework exercises. A less traditional way of expanding the learners' capabilities is to provide a problem-based exercise that requires them to recall from lectures or demonstrations and/or explore the usage of new software functionality. This paper reports on two approaches to applying GIS functionality and collects student perceptions on each approach using a structured and learner centered reflection process. Through the problem-based framework exercise, there are more opportunities for learners to engage each other in collaborative learning. Both and instructor teaching objectives and learner aspirations following the course. The learners indicated through reflection that the problem-based exercise involving the project conceptualization into multiple sub-problems has helped them learn better than through prescriptive exercises.
GIS, geographic information systems course, problem-based exercises