Common Scenario for an Efficient Use of Online Learning: Some Guidelines for Pedagogical Digital Device Development

Common Scenario for an Efficient Use of Online Learning: Some Guidelines for Pedagogical Digital Device Development

Walter Nuninger (University of Lille, France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1851-8.ch015


Training efficiency required for Higher Education (quality, accessibility, bigger groups with heterogeneous prior experience, funding, competition…) encourages providers to find new ways to facilitate access to knowledge and enhance skills. In this scope, the use of digital pedagogical devices has increased with innovative solutions; the ones based on an LMS to support a blended course or MOOCS design for self-education. This evolution has impacted teaching practices, learning and organizations leading to a new paradigm for trainers and a new business model to be found for online and distance learning. The innovation mostly relies on the use of learner-centered digital learning solutions in a comprehensive way for the commitment of more active and independent learners and their skills recognition. Based on a 3-year experiment (hybridized course for CVT) and continuous improvement in the WIL, a common scenario is proposed to address the issue for distance training.
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Efficiency of Higher Education training relies upon many players at different levels in the multi-level organization of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) (Nuninger et al, 2016) but once in the classroom, the trainer is in charge (referring to the person leading the training; the teacher who will change role depending on the context and group) and, while respecting his personal workload, has to handle new constraints such as: time reduction for face to face learning, groups with large numbers of learners (referring to the students enrolled in Higher Education as trainees in Work Integrated Learning (WIL) and apprentices) with a heterogeneous level (knowledge) and prior experience (skills), and observed low involvement of the digital natives. In addition, the European Standards and Guidelines drawn up by the European Network of Quality Assurance (ENAQ, 2015) enhance Quality Assurance with an impact on the Pedagogical Team and the HEI's organization to meet new requirements. The aim is to develop a learning organization and Community of Practice (mixing talents) to adapt to the world evolution and citizens' needs through innovative learner-centered pedagogical tools. The HEIs have to imagine a new business model for funding and promotion of their added value in the scope of Lifelong Learning (LLL); high level trainings customizable for all, at any time and from (almost) anywhere (Davies, 2007; Yang et al., 2015). Such a concern is more demanding than the European Accessibility Act in 2015 by the European Community which is part of the challenge of distance learning, and complies with the European framework of “Europe 2020” (EC, 2010). Indeed, among the levers stressed by the European policy, note: innovation and knowledge, high-employment partly based on digital evolution, skill development throughout the life cycle and performance of the education systems. The huge developments of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) with cheaper materials to access the net and greater speed to connect to a large amount of information have given opportunities to HEIs to develop new pedagogical tools, giving access to validated knowledge. Despite the expected results, some discrepancies remain due to social class (Becker, 2000) and to a lack of basic skills and learning autonomy; and especially when digital devices are at play. Beyond such prior knowledge, such as the European Computer Driving License for instance, some learning skills are expected such as the ability to find and select the correct and validated information with respect to personal needs. Therefore, although Learning Management Systems (LMS) such as Moodle are useful tools to support the face-to-face course thanks to many pedagogical activities for huge groups, they are not sufficient for online learning with a concern for autonomy. In the same way, the MOOCs with free access and brief assessment that can motivate autonomous learning and sound like appealing solutions for mass learning, lack factual recognition to prove quality; even if some assessment by peers can be integrated and online examination performed, the business model is still to be found with respect to the necessity to share cost and benefits between parties. But, whatever the business model, once the resources are identified with respect to the expected learning outcomes for the target, the challenge is ultimately for the teachers to drive the behavior change of learners while they re-build the learning autonomously. This is why learner-centered pedagogical digital learning devices should be developed in order to guide learners through the knowledge, going further than just providing knowledge through the net with video-recorded lessons, for instance, with little guidance: the expected ramp up skills require a deep personal development and learning ability. It is important to note that the underlying outcome is also the change in the Project development team (pedagogical team and IT support) while re-building the learning environment in and outside the classroom (Biddix et al., 2014), and building up the pedagogical digital device based on new rules. This development has to be conducted too, and this is the responsibility of the Higher Education provider. As a consequence, some areas of freedom of action should be made possible for the trainer-teachers to innovate in pedagogy with the technical and financial support of the HEI, requiring first, a clear policy from the HEI and second, project good practices for the trainer, such as DMAIC approach (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) during the process of development of the innovative pedagogical device, but also of the use of it: the issue is to identify directions of improvement and prove efficiency before dissemination at an institutional level. One result is the autonomous buildup of the parties' Personal Learning Environment (Downes, 2012). Further, a formative and factual assessment should be performed for the recognition of skills in practice; unfortunately, not always carried out completely correctly today. As a consequence, the development of online learning in Higher Education should be rigorously developed based on continuous improvement to comply with efficiency criteria and allowing a personal act of learning. In this way, the aim is to develop reflexive learning to guide towards autonomy. Such orientation also requires a new behavior of the trainers in the pedagogical teams for the development of innovative solutions. Trainers should also be trained as ICT is not the original field of expertise of the teacher-researchers (Albion, 2001). The underlying requirements are for the HEIs to support the pedagogical teams thanks to IT support and resources: sharing learning outcomes and technology. The challenge is greater than just developing IT or pedagogy; it should be a global and shared vision of parties requiring a pre-requisite in IT and a new pedagogical culture. For the learners, online learning should be appealing, reassuring, facilitating, promising recognition for employment and, of course, at an acceptable cost: economically but also with respect to the training energy to spend (partly solved thanks to an ability in organization, collective intelligence and learning skills). With respect to the triangle of performances, the challenge is:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Rapid Application Development (RAD) and Agile approach: Is a software development approach that gives more importance to results than to planning tasks, focusing on continuous adjustment in reaction to progress and new information. In the same way as Agile Development Method, the client is involved at all steps and prototypes are quickly produced and tested to validate the functions. The spirit can be extended to other kinds of project to enhance the sharing of expertise with product focus.

Work Integrated Learning (WIL): Generic term for trainings that alternate learning at school and training in the workplace with Formative Work Situation (FWS), unifying educational and professional approaches for mutual benefit. Pedagogy is learner-centered, focuses on competences and puts the learner into a situation for personal change of behavior to enhance the “ learning by doing ” motto. WIL requires joint commitment of parties and develops collective and social intelligence.

ONAAG: Acronym of the innovative and learner-centered project “Outil Numérique d'Appui de l'Auto-Formation Guidée ” (Digital Support for Guided Self-Learning); in order to facilitate knowledge acquisition and autonomy, stressing the interest of collaborative work in a safe learning environment. The project was supported by the University of Lille in the framework of the development of new pedagogy integrating ICT from 2014-2016.

Hybridization: Refers to a voluntary act mixing in an integrated manner ICT and traditional pedagogical methods to achieve a specific learning outcome; knowledge, skills and transversal abilities (intercultural, collaborative); changing attitude and creating PLE.

Digital Hybrid Training (Or Learning): Is considered by the author as a full integration of the digital in the learning scenario with online interactive content, digital activities and increasing virtual interactions (in the group and with the trainer). Focus is put on increasing learning ability and the specific learning outcomes; both based on digital competence and social intelligence. It requires a new trainer's behavior and a commitment of the parties.

Continuous Vocational Training (CVT): Programs for employees coming back to the university to improve their skills financed by companies, State support or personal funds. By contrast, apprentices in Initial Vocational Training (IVT) are younger people.

Blended Courses (Hybrid Courses): Differ from traditional face to face lessons by mixing learning with synchronous and asynchronous activities to prepare face-to-face feedback and knowledge complements; both could be carried out online with ICT as LMS, virtual classroom or other means.

Trainer: Generic term for the ones who lead the courses; the expected involved teachers, teacher-researchers, experts and even instructors and tutors who will change attitude in the act of teaching depending on the context and group, guiding and supporting the learners (also referred to as students in Higher Education, apprentices or trainees in WIL) for a better reflexive learning process and autonomy; not just providing knowledge but giving keys to facilitate the personal evolution.

Learning Management System (LMS): The LMS is a digital tool focused on the trainer's expectation and therefore, dedicated to the distribution of training and especially distance-learning. The Content Management System it is based on allows a digital storage of the trainer's pedagogical material (manage and publish for a given group of users). An LMS is a way to create dynamic interaction in the group.

Lifelong Training: Learning throughout life; the aim is to give access to training at all age and at any time, whatever the personal experience is (previous work experience, grade, …) to achieve new goals with respect to qualifications for new opportunities.

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