"Profiles in PBL" is a web database where PBL engineering programs from around the world share the details of their PBL programs. Our goal is to showcase more than 100 PBL profiles. The profiles will serve as inspiration for PBL programs to learn from one another and for engineering educators world-wide who are considering PBL. This database has been developed in collaboration between The Aalborg UNESCO Centre and Iron Range Engineering, Itasca Community College.

Iron Range Engineering-Minnesota State University, Mankato

Iron Range Engineering


Virginia, Minnesota, USA



Christine Kennedy


How would you describe your PBL?


What is most important to your PBL?

How is PBL implemented?

central to all learning

How do students acquire principles of discipline?

Technical learning is designed to integrate with the project. Near the beginning of the project, students acquire fundamental knowledge. As the project progresses, students acquire more advanced knowledge that is necessary to complete the project. Students acquire technical knowledge in “learning conversations” rather than in lectures. Students perform the first acquisition of knowledge prior to the learning conversation with their instructor and peers. They do this through watching short (Khan-Academy style) videos prepared by their instructor or through reading assignments. Then in the class session, through a question and answer session, conversation is held to assist the student develop her own conceptual model of the engineering principles.

How is student learning facilitated within PBL?

Academic staff consists of a core of academicians supported by a network of professional engineers. This integration of professors and experienced engineers provides a synergy whereby the professors gain an appreciation for the needs of engineering practice, and the engineering professionals gain skills in understanding pedagogy, motivation, and learn to give valuable formative feedback. Each semester, the professors facilitate approximately half of the student teams and the engineering professionals facilitate the other half. Occasionally, final semester students will take the role of facilitator. The professors provide approximately 90% of the learning guidance in the technical domain with adjunct engineers providing the other 10%. The facilitation of professional learning happens at many levels. First, the culture of the program is one of open feedback. Therefore, all members of the community are encouraged to provide guidance to one another in professional action. Second, the project facilitator takes an active role in monitoring the professional action and development of each team member. Third, clients are encouraged to provide developmental feedback on professionalism. Finally, the team members themselves take ownership in providing feedback to one another.

Program Overview

Institution Type:


Degree Type:

ISCED 4: Post-secondary non-tertiary education

Program Length:

Two Years

Semesters in which PBL is Used:


Hours per week on Project:


PBL Overview

Problem structure:

Very unstructured

Formulation of problems:

authentic from professional practice

Team composition selection:

Academic staff with student input

Projects assigned by:

Academic staff with student input

How is space dedicated to student teams for problem/project completion?

Rooms owned by team for semester

Degree of Interdisciplinarity:


Role of instructor:


Unique Features

Facilitation by practicing engineers

Highly self-directed

Reflection central to student learning

Transversal skill development highly emphasized

Assessment Methods

Written Exams

Oral Exams

Classroom Presentations


Performance Tasks





How assessment is implemented :

mixture of individual and group