Providing student choice for effective learning at Collège Boréal
When Collège Boréal, established in 1995, moved to its main campus in Sudbury in 1997, it used videoconferencing to serve students spread across northern Ontario. Some first year courses, for the programs in its northern campuses, were transmitted through videoconferencing and then students would come to the Sudbury campus for subsequent years for most diploma programs. In 1999, technology improvements were made to address issues of time lag and quality. In 2010, another large investment was made to upgrade the videoconferencing system which continues to be used extensively for course delivery throughout northern, southern, and southwestern Ontario.
Collège Boréal campuses and access centres throughout Ontario
Videoconferencing is not the only technology that Boréal has adopted. Responding to student needs and technological possibilities, Boréal continues to develop an innovative blend of educational options, offering face-to-face classes and a wide choice of learning through videoconferencing and online courses, as well online resources for classroom and distance learning. All post-secondary credit programs are offered in French.
The use of technology for learning encompasses all aspects of teaching and learning:
Technology Training for Students: The vast majority of programs require that students take an online course that teaches them how to use common software, such as Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, and social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, for learning. A modular approach to online testing allows students to take a challenge exam rather than completing each component.
Faculty Training: The Centre d’appui pour la personnel (CAP) offers a wide range of support for all faculty, specifically in pedagogy, technology, and linguistic learning. This support is formalized in a 30 week, 240 hour intensive program, which all new full-time faculty members must complete in their first year. Modules include information on the college, the programs, the courses, and the students, including teaching, learning, and evaluation strategies. Starting in September 2013, faculty will have two years to complete the program, giving them more time to work closely with a teaching consultant to fully integrate new teaching and learning strategies into their practice. New part-time faculty are required to complete one of three introductory courses. Each three-module course is tailored to a style of teaching – face-to-face, videoconferencing, or online, with modules on topics such as teaching plans and strategies, student evaluation, videoconferencing tools, and the learning management system. In addition, all faculty members have access to the centre’s services for on-going professional development and support.
Videoconference and Online Courses and Programs: Nine complete programs are offered through videoconferencing, some of them supplemented with Smart Boards and online modules. The videoconference originates in a live classroom which can be in any one of the main sites of the college. This ensures that students can have the experience of being at both an originating and a receiving site – and so understand both sides of the process and the strategies that best facilitate learning. Students can participate in the online videoconferences at home, but most prefer the collegiality of the shared classroom.
Five apprenticeship programs are available online – in Technical Support Agent, Customer Service Agent, Educational Assistant, Early Childhood Educator, and Parts Technician – as well as complete upgrading programs for college entrance and high school equivalence. Courses in other programs are also available online. Continuing Education offers a number of part-time programs in early childhood education, community services, health, and technology online. The use of online resources and learning tools has also been integrated into numerous programs, including the trades. Innovation is found in the use of the myriad of materials already available and ensuring pedagogical effectiveness.
Open Educational Resources (OERs): Videos have been made available through YouTube to illustrate specific aspects of programs such as Massage Therapy, Forestry and Wildlife Management, and Fish and Wildlife Management. These videos also act as marketing tools, as they demonstrate areas of faculty expertise. The materials have been accepted by iTunesU to be available in September 2012. More curriculum materials are to be made available through these portals.
Integration of iPads: Each full-time student enrolling in fall 2012 will be given an iPad to facilitate and encourage self-directed, technology-based learning. The iPads are funded through a student bursary from the Collège Boréal Foundation. Thirty-five projects, across the various schools of arts, heath, trades, as well as adult upgrading and apprenticeship, are under development by faculty to integrate online resources and learning into courses. Faculty usage of the iPad is optional and interested professors submitted project ideas for approval. The applications include technical support, learning support, management (managing e-mails, meetings, communication tools), content delivery, e-books, marking (annotating), the creation of teaching videos, and tools for communicating with students).
Collège Boréal is working with two institutions in Québec, Cégep de Trois-Rivières and Collège Édouard-Montpetit, to benefit from their extensive experience in application of technologies, best practices, and student engagement strategies.
Starting in September 2012, Collège Boréal will be offering an e-book option for their students through a pilot project as a next step in the application of the iPads giving the students a wider choice of learning tools, easier access, and lower prices. Collège Boréal has also developed its own application allowing students easier access to information and tools.
Outcomes and Benefits
The implementation of iPads, OERs, online learning, and the training to support these innovations are grounded in the idea of making learning better, more relevant, engaging, accessible, and immediate for the students and for faculty. Technologies and applications are being integrated into broad educational packages, as tools for present and future learning and critical and informed access to information.
Faculty members are given time to adapt to technology applications and subsequently progress to creating and adopting new resources and more creative tools for learning both in and outside the classroom.
Challenges and Enhancements
One of the greatest challenges is the lack of applications, e-books, and other learning resources in French, especially Canadian French. The Network of Francophone Cégeps and Colleges of Canada (Réseau des cégeps et des colleges francophones du Canada - CNDRPFC), of which Boréal is an active member, has projects that facilitate the sharing of existing resources and the translation of educational materials into French.
The iPad will be an integral part of the educational experience offered at Collège Boréal, with its innovative use across the college seen a distinctive and influential feature of its identity. Research will be ongoing on the use and effectiveness of the iPad, e-books, and other online learning tools and resources.
Daniel Giroux, the Vice President Academic, describes part-time and flexible learning as the major growth areas, especially in working with employers for training in industries such as mining. As employers approach the college with specific training needs, online learning can respond to needs for location-specific learning that is accessible at any time. Linked to quality, targeted learning outcomes, and credentials, outline learning can meet the needs for flexibility and immediacy.
As their technological and pedagogical developments are always linked with research and continuous improvement to ensure effectiveness and student mobility, management and faculty at Boréal are very open to sharing their experience, both positive and negative, with other educators in Ontario. They have also established partnerships with specific colleges to share curriculum and best practices.
For Further Information
Vice President Academic