Through my studies as a designer, I've been taught to solve problems using a design methodology. Now I'm being tasked to design problems to solve.
My task is to create problems that have features that guide the user (solver/learner/student) to experience certain things. Like an interface for a car radio must be designed so it is instantly intuitive, the problems within the learning resources must naturally and effortlessly guide the learner through certain actions, thought processes, discussions, dilemmas and internal dialogues inorder to teach them what is necessary to complete the task (and more).
From a PBL standpoint, the problems must aid learners to learn the subject knowledge so the information is concise and flexible so they can retrieve it when the opportunities come about.
They must stretch the learner's capabilities to solve problems and develop similar self-directed learning skills so they are applicable throughout their life.
They must induce natural collaboration inorder to find all the answers and most importantly (in my mind), they must cause the learner to be intrinsically motivated to learn - ie, when they work on the problem they are motivated by their own interestes, challenges or self satisfaction.
Due to the vast diversity in possible students, designing a problem is a huge task. Two encourage these characteristics from everyone who approaches the problems requires a lot of scaffolding that is strong yet flexible so that it can be added or removed depending on the abilities of the individual students. But ultimately, it will be up to the facilitating teacher or lecturer to decide where scaffolding is required/not required*.
*Can problems have built-in fluidity in regard to the supportive scaffolding? Can an activity itself judge the abilities of its solver and change its course to address skills that are lacking? Eg, Like a book that lets you choose the outcome based on your own choices, a problem could test a learner after a certain stage, but instead of saying "go back and learn that chapter again", it sets the next task in a way that addresses the lacking skills for a second time, but maybe from a different direction or within a different context.