Evolution of practices in educational technology and distance learning

Int
1The framing text first led me to look back on my years of experience in educational technology. It was in the early 90s that I discovered this area, which has been filling my schedule ever since. The systematic and systemic planning of learning systems was a discovery for me even though I had just completed a bachelor’s degree in teaching. I told myself at the time that educational technology, and more particularly the basics of instructional design, should be part of any university education in teaching. I still think so today and I am also convinced that these basics should be part of the induction training of any new teacher. I was particularly fascinated by the potential contribution of cognitive sciences to training planning (Brien, 1990) and by a transformation of roles that seemed urgent to me at the time: from the teacher transmitting knowledge to the teacher guide or mentor, which supports the active student in his learning.

2At the time, there was a lot of talk about individualizing the learning process, meeting the individual needs of learners. This responsibility rested primarily with the teacher, placed in the position of the instructional designer or, more rarely, with an instructional designer who worked in concert with the teacher. In this line of thought, I remembered that in 1995, Philipe Marton, one of the teachers who marked my career, had announced to us that the three words that would characterize the years to come in educational technology would be: miniaturization, power and instantaneity. Years later, we can say that he was not wrong. You can see this by reading the very recent special issue of ETRD on the evolution of technologies and learning environments (Martin, Dennen, and Bonk, 2020). It made me wonder what three words could characterize the next few years in educational technology. I will come back to that.

Educational technology
Educational technology

3A little later during this decade, a great need to stabilize or standardize practices, to define the field of educational technology (again!), To define our identity as educational designers persisted.

4I must admit that I was very scared at the time of finding myself at the “MacDo of training”. The trend towards standardization worried me. The latter seemed to me to be in total contradiction with the practices of individualization, so highly valued during my training. However, “standardization” promised to compensate for the variability in the quality of the training courses developed. It, therefore, presented certain advantages, which could only be unanimous.

5Without going into the details of my memories, I would like to emphasize here that, to my knowledge, the quest for identity has always characterized practitioners of educational technology. From my point of view, I have the impression that the individualization/standardization, flexibility/rigor paradoxes have preoccupied instructional designers for at least 30 years. Indeed, the questions and the ways of approaching the problems have changed over the years, but I believe that these two paradoxical and fundamental challenges have always remained in the background.

6Moreover, Peraya and Peltier (2020) recall the many questioning of the foundations of educational engineering and the recurrence of certain questions.

7Certain principles have remained essential over the years. For example, still today and with good reason, Henri (2019, p. 233) reminds us that “[educational engineering] applies the fundamental principles which are those of coherence and systematicity”.

8Villot-Leclercq (2020, § 19), for her part, speaks of “educational engineering of adjustment for a cuisine spiced up with questioning at the time of assessments”. This made me wonder: have we done enough reviews? Or have we, in recent years, been so busy defining ourselves and our methods and technologies that we have overlooked the balance sheets?

9Fortunately, we can note an increase in research based on design (or “ Design-Based Research ”) (Collective DBR, 2003; Sandoval and Bell, 2004) which allows us to hope that such research will allow us to draw up well-documented assessments. , in collaboration with practitioners, and thus establish principles and guidelines based on good and less good practice. At the time of revising this text, I have the pleasure of reading Reeves and Lin (2020) who make a similar observation and develop it in an article entitled ” The research we have is not the research we need “. They point out that educational technology research has focused a lot on the “things” [often the technologies] and not enough on the “[real] problems” that teachers and learners face. In this issue, Bonfils (2020) also underlines the importance of sharing approaches between teaching teams “to learn from good practices and respect quality processes”. Baron (2020) also says that it is imperative to carry out research, in particular about the models of design and production of resources and “the psychic dynamics at work in the use of environments managing distance”.

10I was invited to contribute to this issue before the pandemic. The reflection I have just mentioned had started at that time. Like other colleagues who have already participated in the debate, my contribution will now be tinged with this remarkable experience of helping colleagues (many of whom were against distance training (FAD) to take the turn towards FAD imposed by pandemic and also, by necessity, to take a more concrete interest in pedagogical design.I can no longer detach myself from this experience which taught me a lot and made me think.

11I, therefore, allow me, by answering a few questions from the reframing text, to share thoughts and experiences in connection with the evolution of educational engineering practices. These reflections are mainly influenced by my role as director of programs in educational technology and distance training at TELUQ University as well as by this temporary role of “trainer-guide” in the shift towards ADF imposed by the pandemic.

Has the capacity of learners to demonstrate autonomy in learning become more essential today than yesterday? (Peraya and Peltier, 2020, §2)
12In my opinion, the ability of learners to demonstrate autonomy in learning is not “more essential” but rather different. Indeed, I have the impression that yesterday, when we spoke of learner autonomy, we were referring to an isolated learner who had to be able to follow along what the teacher (in his position as a designer) had meticulously put on stage for him. At the time, this concept, therefore, referred to the ability to impose a rhythm and a discipline that made it possible to follow the course and arrive at the end of the course. Today, I believe that autonomy refers more directly to the skill level of the student as a learner. Indeed, to become an effective learner, it is necessary to develop certain skills. Certainly, the profile of the skills needed to conduct studies has evolved over the years. For example, it is true, as Henri (2019) points out, that the abundance of information makes it necessary to master new skills related to the use of digital technology and the selection of information. But autonomy as such was and remains a key to successful learning. Nowadays, it often refers to the ability of the learner to take part in planning their learning journey. The latter is sometimes even led to specify his learning targets, to choose educational activities that could enable him to reach them, to self-evaluate and to take stock of his course. Reflective practice is widely exploited. Short, the learner slowly becomes a co-designer of his training path (Maina and González, 2016). This path, which was limited to initial training yesterday, continues today during the various stages of life, in particular through continuing training and by considering emerging learning, as defined by Williams, Karousou and Mackness (2011 ). This is in line with the words of Henri (2019, p.231) who says that “the learner asserts himself rather as an actor capable of defining his project and of interpreting different roles during his apprenticeship. Its aim is to achieve autonomy, which makes it capable of lifelong learning and thus prepares itself to contribute to society ”.continues today during the different stages of life, in particular through continuing education and the consideration of emerging learning, as defined by Williams, Karousou and Mackness (2011). This is in line with the words of Henri (2019, p.231) who says that “the learner asserts himself rather as an actor capable of defining his project and of interpreting different roles during his apprenticeship. Its aim is to achieve autonomy, which makes it capable of lifelong learning and thus prepares itself to contribute to society ”.continues today during the different stages of life, in particular through continuing education and the consideration of emerging learning, as defined by Williams, Karousou and Mackness (2011). This is in line with the words of Henri (2019, p.231) who says that “the learner asserts himself rather as an actor capable of defining his project and of interpreting different roles during his apprenticeship. Its aim is to achieve autonomy, which makes it capable of lifelong learning and thus prepares itself to contribute to society ”.231) which says that “the learner asserts himself rather as an actor capable of defining his project and of interpreting different roles during his learning. Its aim is to achieve autonomy, which makes it capable of lifelong learning and thus prepares itself to contribute to society ”.231) which says that “the learner asserts himself rather as an actor capable of defining his project and of interpreting different roles during his learning. Its aim is to achieve autonomy, which makes it capable of lifelong learning and thus prepares itself to contribute to society ”.

13Following this logic, at the TELUQ Education Department, we are revising our programs in educational technology and distance training. As was the case with other training programs, particularly in the health sciences, we have made the shift towards programs aimed at developing skills. These revisions have led us to ask ourselves various questions: what skills need to be developed to practice educational technology and distance education in 2019-2020? What are students missing when they complete their program? Do our programs have strengths recognized in practice settings? How can we promote inclusive practices and flexibility within our programs? It was important for us to stay abreast of the needs of the practice environments and the skills that are sought there, but also to allow more independent learners to personalize their courses, among other things by offering continuous registration, through choices of targeted skills and courses adapted to their needs. among other things by offering continuous registration, by choosing the targeted skills and courses adapted to their needs. among other things, by offering continuous registration, by choosing the skills targeted and courses adapted to their needs.

14These revisions first led us to draw up a repository of skills in educational technology and distance training, which will also be the subject of a publication in the coming months. This repository serves as a basis for the development of exit skills profiles specific to the various programs. We have retained the vision adopted by Boucher and Ste-Marie (2013) which makes it possible to distinguish roles, skills and tasks. Indeed, in the exercise of a profession, we can be called upon to play different roles which require skills allowing the execution of tasks. Thus, in the exercise of his profession, the professional educational designer may be called upon to play, in addition to the role of designer, the roles of educational advisor, manager or researcher, for example. The roles retained in our framework are as follows: professional, educational advisor, educational designer, manager /leader, researcher and facilitator. For each role, a competency statement was formulated, components and subcomponents of competencies were also specified. Table 1 presents the roles and associated competency statements. Of course, this repository is called upon to evolve and the descriptions and statements could change during the first years of use.

Table 1. Roles and skills of the educational technology and distance learning skills framework developed by Savard, Contamines, Plante, Gérin-Lajoie and Umbriaco (2019)

Table 1. Roles and skills of the educational technology and distance learning skills framework developed by Savard, Contamines, Plante, Gérin-Lajoie and Umbriaco (2019)
Zoom Original (png, 175k)
15A work of mapping the courses of our programs was then carried out, in order to identify if the course allows the initiation, the development or the integration of the various components of competencies. The objective of this step was also to list all the learning, teaching and learning assessment activities. Ultimately, this mapping work will certainly allow us to identify certain gaps and strengths in our programs and improve our courses accordingly. But it also has two goals, closely linked to a question posed in the framework text: “How to reconcile the prescriptive rigour of educational engineering with the need to adjust to the specificities of learners and their uses?” (Peraya and Peltier, 2020, p.21) ”. First, for the sake of rigour, It is essential to ensure the completeness of our training programs, with regard to the different output skill profiles, and the adequacy between the skill components and the educational activities offered. Our second goal is flexibility and aims to allow the learner to choose courses and activities according to the skills profile he wishes to develop. We, therefore, offer “standard courses”, intended for learners who wish to be guided and supported towards a predetermined output skills profile, and “adaptable courses”, within which learners can adjust the skills profiles according to the specificities of their work. their ambitions. and the adequacy between the competency components and the educational activities offered. Our second goal is flexibility and aims to allow the learner to choose courses and activities according to the skills profile he wishes to develop. We, therefore, offer “standard courses”, intended for learners who wish to be guided and supported towards a predetermined output skills profile, and “adaptable courses”, within which learners can adjust the skills profiles according to the specificities of their work. their ambitions. and the adequacy between the competency components and the educational activities offered. Our second goal is flexibility and aims to allow the learner to choose courses and activities according to the skills profile he wishes to develop. We, therefore, offer “standard courses”, intended for learners who wish to be guided and supported towards a predetermined output skills profile, and “adaptable courses”, within which learners can adjust the skills profiles according to the specificities of their work. their ambitions.We, therefore, offer “standard courses”, intended for learners who wish to be guided and supported towards a predetermined output skills profile, and “adaptable courses”, within which learners can adjust the skills profiles according to the specificities of their work. their ambitions. We, therefore, offer “standard courses”, intended for learners who wish to be guided and supported towards a predetermined output skills profile, and “adaptable courses”, within which learners can adjust the skills profiles according to the specificities of their work. their ambitions.

16We are currently working on targeting the skills needed as a learner so that we can develop educational resources and activities that will help students move towards independence. Also, each student registered in our programs is associated with a professor who acts as a “tutor-program”, throughout the duration of the program, and whose essential role is to promote this path towards autonomy.

Who are the players in engineering today and how can they be trained for tomorrow?
17Table 1 shows a program team consensus (Program Committee in Educational Technology and Distance Learning of the Education Department of TELUQ University) on the roles and skills that are essential today for those involved in educational engineering and distance education. The importance given to the development of management and collaboration skills should be emphasized since it seems to be growing rapidly.

18First of all, the analysis of job offers posted in recent years (mainly in Canada) and the interviews conducted with collaborators from different practice environments led us to realize the importance that skills are taking today. in management in educational engineering practices. Indeed, we have noticed that when we seek to recruit professional instructional designers, we often specify that the candidate must be able to play the role of project manager. Likewise, when seeking to recruit educational technology project managers, it is often expected that they can take part in instructional design tasks.

19Collaborative design is identified by Basque and Baillargeon (2013) as a challenge in the design of distance learning courses. Indeed, the authors underline that “even if he remains the sole person responsible for the course, the professor benefits from benefiting from the expertise and experience of other professionals (tutors, educational professionals, programmers, computer graphics specialists, multimedia, etc.) ”. The International Board of Standards for training, performance and instruction(IBSTIPI) (Koszalka, Russ-Eft & Reiser, 2013) also highlighted the importance of collaborative skills in current practices. We can therefore say without too much risk of being contradicted that today’s engineering players must develop skills for inter-professional collaboration. Fortunately, the development of these skills has already been the subject of much research, particularly in the health sciences (Careau et al ., 2014; D’amour and Oandasan, 2005), on which it is possible to base our work. . Savard, Richard, Carreau, Perreault and Pinard (in press) have documented an educational design process to equip the assessment, teaching and learning of interprofessional collaboration in an authentic situation.

20In 2018, in collaboration with my colleague Josiane Basque, I conducted a survey aimed at collecting the point of view of practitioners regarding the improvement of training planning practices. This survey was motivated by the preparation of a chapter in a collective work (to be published) on the renewal of educational engineering for digital learning environments. A short online survey, shared among different communities of Canadian and European practitioners, allowed us to collect the point of view of 69 French-speaking practitioners and 9 English-speaking practitioners. The majority of them had more than 13 years of experience but some were just starting out in practice. This variety contributed to the richness of the responses.The qualitative analysis of the responses to an open question (“In your opinion, how could training design practices be improved? Provide two or three avenues in this perspective by justifying them”) led us to identify avenues for improvement of the following emerging [design practices]:

show more flexibility;

  • give more time and value (to the trade or to instructional design tasks);
  • develop continuing education tools and activities to guide practice;
  • work in collaboration… intra and inter-professional;
  • be closer to the field, collaborate with people from the field;
  • involve the learner;
  • improve the analysis (learning targets, context, problem identification);
  • vary methods and media;
  • use technology in the service of pedagogy (and not the other way around);
  • develop management skills;
  • evaluate training and learn, to improve.

21A chapter (Basque and Savard, in press) of the book on the renewal of educational engineering presents a more detailed analysis of the results of this research. I will therefore not go into details here, but it should, all the same, be underlined that some of these tracks, like the 7 and the 10, give an impression of “déjà vu”. The fact that they are still identified as avenues for improvement suggests that there is still room for improvement. Other tracks bring a breath of freshness. The 1 (“Show more flexibility”), for example, emphasizes the consideration of emerging learning (Williams et al., 2011), the integration of the principles of universal design (Rose and Meyer, 2002), the adoption of agile and iterative approaches (Larman, 2004), which all constitute interesting avenues of research and renewal of engineering.

22The brief presentation of this work provides some answers to the question posed in the reframing text: today’s engineering players come from diverse backgrounds and professions and they must develop skills leading them to power. perform different roles. This diversity of actors and of the roles that they must be able to play brings its share of complexifications to the planning of their training. As I explained in answering the previous question, our program review work is punctuated as much by the concern for prescriptive rigour as by that of developing a flexible offer adapted to the needs of learners.

How are we today in a dynamic that calls for an unavoidable renewal of practices?
23This question asked before the pandemic now takes on a meaning that may seem obvious. The shift towards distance training, accelerated by the Covid19, means that we are effectively in a dynamic which calls for an essential renewal of practices. The first emergency manoeuvres brought to light a sometimes approximate and questionable turn (some even spoke of a ” balancing act. ») But they nevertheless forced teachers and learners to come together to end, at a distance, the academic year already well advanced. While waiting for the second wave, the teachers, many of whom were very reluctant towards FAD before the pandemic, planned a hybrid or remote fall (should I say hybrid AND remote?). They made some great discoveries and many of them are now talking about an impossible turnback. This is in line with what Henri (2019, p. 229) said: “… [the changes observed] open the way to a possibility that remains to be specified, operationalized and implemented from an institutional perspective”. … “… It is above all not a question of instrumenting educational systems with the new tools of the digital age while maintaining the dominant model”.I have the impression that the pandemic has shattered the dominant model. It remains to be seen whether there will be a real transformation of practices and whether it will be sustainable. Indeed, we must not neglect the harmful effects that could have recourse to ADF in an emergency, out of spite and without great efforts to adapt. We have observed two types of recourse to ADF in times of pandemic: 1) that which is made by saying to oneself that it is necessary to have a bad time while waiting for the return to normal and while adapting as little as possible or 2) one made by those who saw the crisis as an opportunity, an opportunity to question themselves and to transform practices in a sustainable way. On this subject, Bonfils (2020) underlines that it is “essential to review the evaluation methods in a sustainable manner”.

24The fact remains that the efforts to familiarize themselves with the ADF were massive and observed on an international scale. On our side of the Atlantic, the vast majority of the team of professors of the Education Department of TELUQ was mobilized throughout the summer by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education of the Government of Quebec to develop, in collaboration with professionals from TÉLUQ, school boards and various CEGEPs, the training aimed at familiarizing all teachers in Quebec with FAD. This training is called “I teach at a distance”. It brings together four microprograms: Adapt, Disseminate, Support and Evaluate, which are themselves adapted to the particularities of the different levels of education: preschool and elementary, secondary, college and university. In all, nearly fifty people worked, in an emergency and without counting the hours, on the development of this “survival kit” on the basic principles of educational design (part of which I was in charge), the distribution of remote content, remote support and the evaluation of distance learning. As of August 30, 2020, the training has 130,000 learners in 134 countries. There are other similar initiatives elsewhere in the world. distance support and evaluation of distance learning. As of August 30, 2020, the training has 130,000 learners in 134 countries. There are other similar initiatives elsewhere in the world. distance support and evaluation of distance learning. As of August 30, 2020, the training has 130,000 learners in 134 countries. There are other similar initiatives elsewhere in the world.

25We are seeing a growing interest in distance education, educational technology and more particularly in instructional design (because a good distance course necessarily requires a good design). The latter, which at first glance seems heavy for ordinary teachers, seems to want to regain its letters of nobility. This interest remains fragile and for the moment very dependent on the context of the pandemic. We must undoubtedly propose changes in practices sparingly and adopt an iterative approach to support these new practitioners of educational design. For seasoned instructional engineers, this most likely means the need to embrace the simplification of processes and methods.

26I would bet that these new adopters of educational technology and distance learning will soon start to innovate and they will inspire us to push the boundaries. In addition, the learners who have been at the forefront of these “learning experiences” have often been consulted and have generously contributed to the development of ideas. Bonfils (2020) also underlines the interest in involving students in this collective reflection. Fall promises to be interesting and rewarding. Will we be able to make the necessary assessments to analyze these new practices so as to transform this “unavoidable renewal” into “sustainable renewal” of practices?

27As Henri mentions (2019, p. 234): “The designer will have to accept the uncertainty inherent in open pedagogy and freedom of choice. Institutional actors and political decision-makers will have to overcome the conservative tendencies recognized in educational and transformative circles ”. The need for flexibility in pedagogy, at all levels and in all fields, is always more glaring (Bates and Sangra, 2011; Collis and Moonen, 2012; Edmundson, 2007; Gros and Maina, 2015; Savard, 2014; Savard, Bourdeau and Paquette, 2020; Subramony, 2017).

Conclusion
28Mr. Marton was right: miniaturization, power and instantaneity have marked the practices of educational technology in recent decades. However, these three words mainly referred to the evolution of technological tools (which favoured individualization). Now we (teachers, designers and learners) need to become more proficient at using them for educational purposes. In this line of thought and on the basis of the reflections made within the framework of this contribution, I venture to suggest three words that could mark the next decade in educational technology: flexibility, diversity, intra and inter-professional collaboration. As others have pointed out, I believe that we have not yet learned to use technologies to their full educational potential. Above all, we have not deeply adjusted our practices or our behaviour.

29While exchanging about the basics of instructional design with fellow professors from other disciplines, to help them adapt to FAD, some told me that the pandemic had led them to realize that they were teaching their class. same way since the ’70s and that, as the cropping text suggests, they do not follow an explicit engineering method. These exchanges led me to wonder if the role changes had indeed taken place. Has the teacher really become a guide who accompanies the active learner in his learning? Blandin (2020) presents a good example of the application of active pedagogies in distance learning. Does today’s teacher still wish to move away from this role of transmitting knowledge? What do students like about a good teacher? Is it not precisely, in part, its ability to transmit its knowledge, its passions?

30These exchanges also led me to think that the “passage from craftsmanship to standardization” did not take place in universities. As I explained earlier, however, I believe that the pandemic offers us great opportunities for transformation. E. Villiot-Leclercq (2020, p.4) underlines “[that in times of pandemic] the rupture of practices is almost of the paradigmatic order as it is vast and massive and so surprising by its anthropological scope”. It is now up to us to seize these opportunities and transform practices, both at the application

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *