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The Role of Problem-Based Learning in Managing People and Cultural Challenges in Mergers and Acquisitions Essay

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All organizations in the world have to face problems at some level in company's life. By preparing for the problems in advance the company can survive a long time in the industry. The company can use problem-based learning methods to solve the threats logically. In this essay, the roles of practitioners are drawn in managing people when challenges are looking at the company (as cited in Savery, 2015). The case of mergers and acquisitions failure provides knowledge between the companies is discussed in this essay. The essay mainly focuses on problem-based learning practices of a company's failures in mergers and acquisitions. The Microsoft and Nokia acquisition is considered a case, for problem-based learning knowledge. The case can be solved with the help of a problem-based learning (PBL) matrix. The key issues of failures in mergers and acquisitions are extracted from the concepts and arguments between companies. At last, to find the issues between the merged and acquired company, both companies’ cultural differences will be studied in the essay (Kokotsaki, Menzies and Wiggins, 2016).

Managerial Implications

There are many types of practitioners such as legal, theatre, health, justice and public safety, medical, mental health, etc. Practitioner means any person or individual engaged in continuous practicing to become professional and gain good occupation. As a good practitioner, the person thinks about how current work is going on and evaluates how that work can improve in practice. Practitioners play different roles in different domains. In the case of merged and acquired companies, practitioners are the managers of both companies to collaborate. If the managers of one company do not accept the work culture of another company then it may create conflicts between the staff of the merged and acquired company. In managing people in an organization, the main role is played by human resource practitioners. HR practitioners are liable to develop a different strategy to manage the employees in an organization. HR specialists provide services to the internal customers of a company. Employees are the greatest asset of the company, so every company has HR practitioners to manage all the people of a company. The HR specialists have to perform different roles like health and safety management, human resource planning, employee development, recruitment and selection, employee relations, welfare, and employee reward. The challenges faced by HR practitioners in managing people are such as conflicts, employee strikes, labor turnover, etc. To overcome the challenges HR specialists have to develop HR strategies for the company's employees. One of the roles of HR practitioners is guidance and advice to the management of the company. Innovation and new development is the proactive role of HR practitioners in an organization (Warter and Warter, 2017). Not only HR practitioners are responsible for managing the company's people but organization development practitioners are also equally responsible. The practitioner has to arrange some sessions to play the organizational development role. To manage the people of a company practitioners also make policies in which the employees feel safe in the company and become potential towards the work of the company. The specialists also have the personal qualities to generate a good environment in the company. Personal qualities of practitioners include a caring and funny nature towards the company's people, good listening skills, patience, and understanding level. All these qualities in the practitioners will ensure the company's employees potentially performances while getting internally motivated for achieving the target of an organization. The good performance of all practitioners in a company will turn the vehicle of conflicts and misunderstanding into the great achievement of the company's goal, on time (as cited in Pedaste, Mäeots, , Siiman, De Jong, Van Riesen, Kamp, and Tsourlidaki, 2015).

Evidence of a case

To go upstairs in the level of growth, the company always makes sure that the role of practitioners is always appreciable in managing people, especially in the merged and acquired company. Many companies adopted the way to give entrance to practitioners in an organization like IBM. The employee reviews matter for the practitioners in IBM Company and by reviewing and encouraging the practitioner works, IBM becomes the top priority of the hardware and software purchasers (cited in Birgili, 2015). Coming up to problem-based learning, any company can use the PBL matrix to find out a reliable solution. The successful vertical merger between eBay and PayPal in 2002, shows the best use of a problem-based learning matrix by both the company to solve the organizational problems between the two companies. Both eBay and PayPal HR practitioners easily handle all the problems related to managing people while combining the company. The maintenance of work culture planned targets, and understanding between merged companies eBay and PayPal lead to the merger of the companies into today's existence in the market.

eBay and PayPal's growth volume of total payments increased 40% every year from $25 billion to $311 billion approximately. eBay found results and showed its volume under 4%, on the other hand, PayPal grew its total revenue by 32% offset by the other areas.

According to Demirel and Da?yar, (2016) the HR and Autonomy failed to work in a combined workplace, as the HR practitioners of both companies fail to handle the employees of the company and less use of problem-based learning also affected the notorious failure of this acquisition

Knowledge transfer (PBL Matrix and M&A)

The most common way to modify or restructure the cooperation is through mergers and acquisitions of the company (as cited in Ghufron and Ermawati, 2018). Sometimes businesses grow by merging and acquiring the other company but sometimes this strategy may go wrong. Both terms have different meanings, merger means the combination of two companies with the concern of both companies' board of directors and members. There are many reasons for the failure of mergers and acquisitions of companies such as misunderstanding of the targets, lack of strategic plans, lack of cultural fit, some external factors, insufficient due diligence, and many more. The company's management practice can lead to the long survival of the merged and acquired companies. Problem-based learning (PBL) refers to the part of a tradition of experiential or meaningful learning. PBL has a dual significance which leads the learners to construct knowledge and develop strategies. A timely review of PBL creates lifelong learning and flexible thinking on the issues of an organization. There are seven steps in problem-based learning such as problem scenario, identification of key facts, Brainstorming missing information, self-directed learning, appreciation of new knowledge, applying the information, and analysis of the results. The models which are being used in the PBL are Savin-Baden's modes of problem-based learning, and Barrow's Taxonomy. According to Andresen, Boud, and Cohen, (2020). Every field has a different problem in medicine the problem is related to diagnosis, in engineering problems are related to physics and mathematics, and in merger and acquired organizations, the problems are created on the culture, targets, understanding level, etc. There is one type of problem which is known as Jonassen’s problem type, in this type Jonassen propose a typology problem. Problem-based learning is an easy method to maintain the culture of two different companies through a PBL matrix. According to Jonassen and Hung, (2015), Problem-based learning matrix is created by X-axis and Y-axis, in which Jonassen’s problem type and Barrow's taxonomy are used respectively. The use of the PBL matrix represents real-world problems related to organization, student learning, and many more. The PBL curriculum matrix design is suggested by Barrett, who reflects the intended learning outcome against the problems of the field and area.

The problem-based learning matrix is very helpful for mergers and acquisitions to evaluate the problems and their solutions for the successful management of the business. In mergers and acquisitions, the PBL matrix helps define the problems related to both the organization’s internal mismatch (as cited in Simamora, Sidabutar and Surya, 2017). Before merging and acquiring any company, the problem-based learning tutors of an organization prepare the problems and the solution chart for the new merger and Acquisition Company in the future. The main problems of the merger and Acquisition Company reflect on the human touch, building the framework, planning the project, track of the work. When the two companies combined to complete the project and achieve higher profits, the company has to prepare their employees first to accept and become adjustable for establishing a new business. The PBL is the easiest way to show the favorable and unfavorable position of a company in the future, after acquiring another business or merging with another company.

Learning issues

When an organization adapts problem-based learning there are various challenges that the organization has to face. Problem-based learning requires more senior-level employees to actively guide and act as a facilitator in group discussions. It requires more resources to train small groups, sometimes it results in the wastage of organizations' resources. Some of the key issues in using concepts of problem-based learning are listed down:

Problem-based learning is time taking

One of the main issues in implementing problem-based learning is it takes a lot of time to assess the performance of employees. It includes an assessment of tasks completed by individual employees, the efficiency of all the employees, tasks completed by the team as a whole, and communication between the members of the group. The PBL is also time taking for employees because they have to find the solution on their own (as cited in Jackson, 2015).

Skilled instructor

In problem-based learning, every employee tries to find the solution to a problem which is provided by the instructor, so the instructor must have all the relevant skills to guide the employees in finding the solution to the problem. In PBL, instructors use modern techniques in finding solutions to problems rather than traditional techniques. Modern techniques include only giving hints and asking questions, all other research work is performed by employees.

Dysfunctional group

In the PBL small groups are prepared, and the success of the group depends upon the communication and coordination among the group members. A dysfunctional group means the group members do not listen or respond to the other group members. Interaction between all members is very important in the smooth functioning of PLB. There is a problem when some employees have more participation and others do not.

Employee Evaluation

employee performance evaluation is difficult in problem-based learning. The instructor uses a combination of both written as well as practical examinations. The instructor has to update its performance evaluation methods with the changes in the environment. Employee evaluation is done based on the task performed, role in the group, time taken, efficiency, and quality of performance. All the parameters of performance evaluation make PBL a difficult activity.

Needs a lot of resources

Before implementing a problem-based learning program in the organization one needs to evaluate the cost involved and return from the PBL. The cost needs to be justified by the effectiveness and efficiency in the performance of the employees. The PBL requires big space and other resources like computers for small groups of people. According to Annan-Diab, and Molinari, (2017) this kind of training is costlier than the traditional training system.

Mental workload

The problem-based learning is an active problem-solving technique that involves the processing of more information in fewer periods. The PBL cannot be used in the training of new employees because it involves a high level of cognitive load. PBL is useful where the employees are experienced, more competent, and can deal with the mental workload.

Lack of employee engagement

In PBL tasks are performed by small groups, it's difficult to engage every employee in the learning process. In the group, some employees are not active in the group discussions and they are not engaged in learning as well.

Critical Reflection

Talking about the notorious failed mergers and acquisitions, the Microsoft and Nokia acquisition is considered for evaluating the problem-based learning of these two companies. Microsoft is an America-based multinational technology company, which provides personal computers, computer software, and consumer electronics. On the other hand, Nokia was established in 1865, which produces multinational telecommunications, consumer electronics, and information technology (as cited in Sipes, 2017).

Once Nokia was the leading manufacturer of mobile phones in the world, but the company failed to diversify its phones with the latest operating systems, this demerit increases the company's competitors like the IOS (Rigby) or the android. At that time, the acquisition and merging of companies are at their peak such as Google’s purchase of Motorola, and Samsung also announced that it was going to produce its operating system. Microsoft also acquires Nokia to operate its windows phone operating system.

Microsoft acquired Nokia's mobile phone division in April 2014 for $7.2 billion. In 2011, both companies first configured a strategic partnership; this partnership resulted in the windows phone operating system all Nokia smart phones were running. Nokia made very impressive windows phones but it was not that profitable for the Microsoft Company. One year before Microsoft acquire Nokia, Nokia was entertaining the work on android and planned to drop the windows work without the OEM support. After all this, Nokia covers approximately 90 percent market for windows phones. This acquisition lead positive impact as Microsoft becomes one of the main competitors in the mobile phone market.

The giant competition between Google, Apple and Microsoft creates the atmosphere of better products and lower prices in the market. According to Barbopoulos, Molyneux and Wilson, (2016). The challenges and problems were faced by both companies as Nokia is a hardware developer and Microsoft is software developer cooperation. The two companies cannot coexist as they failed to handle the same strove of functions. Nokia was allowed by Microsoft to continue its work as it was before along with some minor changes.

As Nokia's market share continuously declined, Microsoft desperately changes its way and opinion to break the acquisition with Nokia's cooperation. After acquiring Nokia, there was no change in the market share of windows phones which is only 3 percent, Instead of this android phones gained 79 percent market share. Two years later, in 2016 Microsoft break the acquisition and sold Nokia to HMD with a deal of $350 million (Mujumdar, Acharya, and Shirwaikar, 2020). Microsoft released approximately 25000 employees and also wrote off $7.6 billion on the acquisition deal.


The managers of a company need to understand the cultural differences to manage a diverse team for the problem based learning. There are four types of cultural differences at the company's workplace such as generational, religious, ethnic, and educational. It is obvious that the upper post is always open for that person who is educated and experienced, but some employees think that this is happening to them because of particular cultural appreciation. To manage all the different cultural differences at the workplace, the manager should adopt unique ways like similar dress codes for all employees, accepting feedback from the staff, continuous communication with all the team members, promote teamwork for different cultural backgrounds employees to align them in company's culture only, and so many ways that can be taken by an organization (Ashraf, Doytch and Uctum, 2020).


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