Girl putting her hands up for success

Using problem-based learning in a remote learning environment helps keep students engaged with their work. PBL is made for these extraordinary times. Starting with a Question of Import, or essential question, allows students to choose among multiple ways of answering the inquiry. It is a rewarding practice that your students will enjoy. In PBL, students set personal goals which increases their engagement and motivation in learning tasks.

Before starting on PBL tasks, here are a few success tips you may want to consider:

  • When creating your PBL assignments, embed plenty of choice for students. Allow students to choose their method of showing what they have learned. Accept low-tech options for students who have limited access or who like to create three-dimensional models.
  • Engage parents in the tasks. Let them know what the student is planning to undertake, and ask if this is possible at this time. Are the parents able to assist in the learning? Are materials available? What level of access will the student have on the internet?
  • Develop a relationship with the student before assigning major tasks. Students need care and compassion as they learn to organize, make connections, and reflect on their work. Provide opportunities for students to access their friends in discussion about their projects. Be clear about your expectations, but be flexible when you can.
  • Have manageable deadlines and celebrate milestones. Encourage risk-taking, but be a soft place to land if ideas do not work. Celebrate small steps and accomplishments, particularly when it comes to meeting the project’s goals. Some great ways to do this are Flipgrid and Padlet. Print work and hang it behind your desk (if working from home) so students can see it.
  • Give your students plenty of brain breaks and rest. Plan these breaks so they don’t get missed! Don’t forget to have virtual office hours and for your students to be able to see you.
  • Reflect on the learning, the process, and these Covid times. Have students create their own stories about how they learned during Covid-19. Remind them that they are flexible human beings with the capacity to meet change head-on.

School becomes more engaging when students are given opportunities to ask questions about topics that are interesting to them. Engaging in world topics, school issues, and matters that are important to students opens up what learning is truly about. Students are more likely to invest their time and energy and produce quality work when engaged in meaningful learning.

To learn more about project-based and inquiry-based learning, check out the “Inquiry-Based Learning” module available under the Instructional Strategies topic in EdHub.

For more ideas on remote learning strategies, read our previous blogs on using power standards and student goal-setting.


The Network for Educator Effectiveness (NEE) is a simple yet powerful comprehensive system for educator evaluation that helps educators grow, students learn, and schools improve. Developed by preK-12 practitioners and experts at the University of Missouri, NEE brings together classroom observation, student feedback, teacher curriculum planning, and professional development as measures of effectiveness in a secure online portal designed to promote educator growth and development.