"Theory repositories" via the web for problem-based learning

Jan van der Veen, Maarten van Riemsdijk, Val Jones, Betty Collis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper describes a series of experiments conducted at the School of Management Studies at the University of Twente designed to improve students' concentration on the theoretical study materials in a particular course. In 1997 a problem-based learning approach was introduced into a course on organization theory. After the first year it was apparent that acquisition and application of the theoretical principles of the course by student groups was below expectation. In an attempt to remedy this problem, a Web-based collaborative work environment was introduced in 1998 with the intention of encouraging students to read relevant theoretical material and also to reflect more on what they had read, via writing notes about the materials and making these available to others in their group. The collection of reflective documents is called a "theory repository" (King & Star, 1990). In addition to hosting a theory repository, the collaborative work environment was designed to control the flow of work and to enforce rules for groups' access to the output of other groups, based on their own performance. Further changes were made after the evaluation of the 1998 cycle and a third version of the course was run and evaluated in 1999. A description of the educational setting and of the Web-based collaborative work environment and its theory repository is presented. The three editions of the course are described and the evaluation results over the period 1997-1999 are presented and discussed. The extent to which the discipline of reading improved is evaluated, as are the effects on insight into theory. The evaluation shows that the technical realization works well, but uptake of the instructional tasks for reflection only takes place if these tasks are perceived by the students as being pertinent to their performance in terms of assessment in the course.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-277
Number of pages21
JournalInteractive learning environments
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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