Innovative e-Learning Methodology for Tutors in Multi-cultural, Collaborative and Synchronous Context (e-Tutor)
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The e-Tutor project aims to highlight guidelines useful for tutors during launching of educational programmes using fully the capabilities offered by Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). These guidelines will enable tutors to conduct courses in multi-cultural, collaborative and synchronous (MCCS) situations. Tutors will be able to integrate the new dimensions of their skills (expert, author, tutor …). The building of these guidelines within a methodological framework would provide tutors with the optimal conditions for the success of distance learning. This methodological framework will help tutors in performing a tutoring sessions in MCCS context. Therefore we focus on the research and experimentation of both various pedagogical paradigms (types of interventions, animations, scenarios, working with several free degrees, etc.) and cognitive approaches (necessity of reorganisation of knowledge, diversity of cognitive representation).
This Project has been carried out with the support of the European Commission in the framework of e-learning Initiative of DG Education and Culture. The project has started at the beginning of 2004, and will finished at the end of 2005.
This project, essentially a train-the-trainer proposal, therefore aims to take the use of e-Learning forward to the point where the e-tutor can learn to be effective at e-Learning to a high standard quickly and thereby maintain their mental focus on the technical subject matter being taught rather than to be forced to focus on the methods of teaching, especially in a complex MCCS situation.
MCCS is an acronym that we propose for MultiCultural, Collaborative, Synchronous pedagogical situations. MCCS situations are then situations where these three aspects are present. It induces a high complexity and generates new problems for the tutor. This is the reason why the tutor must be trained to be able to handle those situations. We believe that this kind of MCCS situations will be generalized in the future, especially in the context of higher education and of scientific domains. Indeed, the internationalisation of distance learning, the requirement of on-line collaboration and the needs for synchronous communication between learners/tutors lead to these new pedagogical situations.
1. A Multicultural situation is a situation where a heterogeneous population (according to language and/or country of origin) is trained. The learners and the teachers can have different origin countries, different culture in their origin country, different languages (mother tongues and non verbal languages), different work habits, different pedagogical approach and different learner/tutor/author relationships. This type of situation implies new problems at the levels of organisation, tutors and ICT tools, like for example: choice of a working language, holydays, work hours, shared knowledge, cultural background, common analogies, multimedia illustrations, layout of screen, use of colours, etc.
2. A Collaborative situation is a situation where learners are working together through ICT tools. One class of learners can be split in several parallel subgroups, each subgroup working on a specific task. Specific tools can be used like whiteboard, application sharing, shared web browsing, etc. One situation can be for example that a group of distant learners communicate with a chat tool and a whiteboard. Three different aspects are usually distinguished in collaborative situations: the communication (dialogue), the coordination (roles and task attribution) and the production (the task itself).
3. A Synchronous situation is a situation where the actors (learners, tutors) are communicating at the same time. Synchronous tools are for example telephone, videoconferencing, chat, whiteboard ... Asynchronous tools are for example mail, discussion groups, ...Synchronous and Asynchronous situations are closely interrelated and must be both be present for a successful distance training. Synchronous situations bring to learners more human contacts while asynchronous situations bring them more time to reflect on the knowledge domain. In this proposal, we focus more on synchronous situations but we take also into account asynchronous situations.
However, the framework we propose to evaluate experiences of MCCS e-learning considers more parameters and will be the result of a benchmarking on both e-learning experiences of members of consortium and some other European projects. It consists on best-practises and improvement of several pedagogical e-learning models. To compare experiences we will build this framework with several parameters influencing the MCCS situations and consequently leading to various pedagogical models. The framework organise many interesting aspects related to complex situations such as:
· diversity of actors including several parameters which can influence tutoring and sessions (age, gender, motives, disabilities, abilities to collaborate, background, etc);
· multi-cultural parameter which include, mother language, origin culture, social rules, etc. This parameter must be considered whenever tutors have to teach students from different countries;
· collaborative parameter which imposes to use techniques to allow students to collaborate between them or with tutor;
· synchronous and/or asynchronous parameter related to a e-learning session;
· pedagogical approach used during a course;
· curriculum which influence other parameters and particularly pedagogical model (teaching literacy if different from teaching computer science);
· location of students and/or tutors.
This first work leads to propose first guidelines which allow identifying and choosing some appropriate e-learning models for e-tutor experimentation. They are considered as a tool to identify Invariants for model Classes, necessary for pedagogical situation. They would offer tutor abilities to transfer in the best way Knowledge and organise student’s evaluations. However these guidelines can not be too general and must take into account pedagogical goals and constraints.
In our approach the guidelines are placed at the centre of the development process. The main tasks of the e-tutor project are:
· Identification and investigation of current and recent past experiences of e-Learning and teaching
· Extraction of sets of guidelines and best practices
· Elaboration of MCCS e-learning models. This elaboration consists of adapting existing one with regard to first guidelines.
· Collaborative development of a teaching module that can be used to validate the guidelines
· Identification of a trial set of tutors and learners
· Train-the trainer session for new tutors
· Experimentation with new learners
· Evaluation of efficiency of guidelines and iteration
At each phase of the e-tutor process (Figure 1), guidelines are enriched. In order to prove that these kinds of recommendations can be interesting, experimentation will be based on the principle of coupled sessions leaded by tutors who have been trained with guidelines and sessions directed by tutors without guidelines.
Concerning the first phase, the partners of the consortium will investigate existing pedagogical approaches of relevance to the project. Experiences of course practices, methodologies adopted, successes and failures will be documented and used to build a body of knowledge and experience.
To continue the process, this body of knowledge and experience will then be analysed and methodological invariants, best practice exemplars and common pitfalls will be extracted. The whole body of knowledge will be used as the basis for sets of e-tutor guidelines for content preparation, delivery and assessment.
1. Benchmarking of several experiences of MCCS e-learning.
2. MCCS e-learning models.
3. e-Learning objects/module.
4. Results of experimentation: these results will be qualitative and measure how MCCS e-learning are adaptable.