How to teach PBL Online

Add Project Based Learning to your online classroom (without the stress) using SOLE

If you have made a sudden transition to online learning in the last few weeks, you may be feeling like you just fell of a cliff, and now you are holding on for dear life. We hope this introduction to Project Based Learning (PBL) online will give you a better grip on easy and effective ways to start Project Based Learning in your online classroom.

Here’s the reality: Project Based Learning in your online classroom is not the same as using PBL in your real world classroom (The good news: Less clean up!) (The bad news: It’s a whole new world of learning tools and methods). 

Before you dive into the rabbit hole of online tools and resources, checkout out these 7 Big Ideas to Help You Shift to Online Teaching from project-based learning guru, John Spencer.  

Collaborative and creative projects are still possible online. So… where do we start? We suggest starting with inquiry based projects like SOLEs. A Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) is an easy way to start  Project Based Learning into your online classroom. Learn more about SOLEs below, and share your online PBL ideas with us on Facebook

~ The TomTod Adventure Curators

What is a Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE)?

SOLEs are created when educators encourage students to work as a community (online or in person) to answer BIG questions using the Internet. It’s a simple but powerful tool for deep learning. 

Sugata Mitra, founder of SOLE, challenges teachers to become the ultimate facilitators of learning and to reimagine classrooms as spaces for discovery where students are given the tools to succeed as we stand back and “watch the learning happen.”  Learn more with the SOLE Toolkit



How does SOLE work?

ASK A BIG QUESTION – The educator introduces the Big Question and shares some background or a short story around the question.

INVESTIGATE – In groups, students explore the big question, jumping on a shared doc or slide, and searching for answers. In some cases, open and supportive questions may help, and very important, offer encouragement.

REVIEW – Each group presents their discoveries (using video or online tools). Add comments and ask the groups how they found their answers and what they think went well – as well as what they could do differently next time.


How does SOLE work with online learning?

A SOLE is a great tool for online learning because its is inquiry based and student lead. A SOLE is easy to plan, educationally rigorous, and works with every subject. SOLEs encourages students to be creative, to collaborate, and to practice communication skills. The best part about adding a SOLE to your daily routine is that they empower students by giving them voice and choice in completing the assignment. 

Steps to set up an online SOLE

Start with SOLE Tool Kit

  1. Plan your SOLE- Start SOLE 
  2. Setup your SOLE in Google Classroom  – Learn how to Assign group work
  3. Use TomTod’s SOLE template – Google Slides for an Online SOLE
  4. Assess student learning – Use Flipgrid to record students presentations


Have questions or ideas! We are here to help and listen. Contact us!

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