Encouraging teachers and researchers to use more innovative teaching methods and tools, thanks to digital: this is what the University of Rouen has been doing. In 2015, a university fund for digital initiatives approved around thirty projects involving serious games, online quizzes, video-conferencing, digital anatomical tables – even drones. So far, feedback has been positive on the whole, with students more engaged and enthusiastic – but there are still some reservations on the teachers’ side…
Playing video games during a social sciences class may seem a bit wacky, but that’s exactly what psychology and social work students at Rouen University do. Using a serious game called Odyssée éthique, they can learn and work as a team to experience real-life professional situations via fictional scenarios.
Along with around thirty other initiatives this year, this serious game was funded by bonus qualité enseignement (BQE), a university fund that was set up in 2013 by Cafer Ozkul, Dean of the University. Designed to support “innovative educational actions with a view to improving the acquisition and assessment of knowledge,” it encourages teachers who are already involved in digital projects to continue their actions and get other teachers on-board. Tony Gheereart, Vice-Chairman in charge of digital at the university, is already sold on the idea:
“In the age of the Internet and Wikipedia, we have to think of different ways of teaching.”
€500,000 TO ROLL OUT 31 projeCts In 2015
Thanks to BQE, a number of investments have been made in technology (tablets, video-editing software, video-conferencing equipment, etc.). But perhaps the most unusual tool was acquired thanks to Idefi-Remis, which rewards innovative training initiatives: a life-size virtual dissection 3D anatomy table, one of the first of its kind in France. Students can see the human body – the skin, nervous system, organs, muscles, skeleton – in 3D and from every angle. Anatomy Lecturer Fabrice Duparc is very enthusiastic about it: as he told Paris.Normandie.com:
“I’ve taught people who are training in anaesthesia. They were able to simulate administering an epidural. Approaching the nervous system like that, with that degree of precision: there’s no textbook you can do that with!”
students convINCED, BUT TEACHERS MORE SCEPTICAL
Evaluation methods are also changing with digital tools. Biology students, for example, have to do regular online multiple choice exercises as part of the continuous assessment process. The method is very popular with students and motivates them to revise and test their memory more.
But what about the teaching staff? On the one hand, they’re appreciate the time saved on marking, but on the downside, the new methods require a lot more preparation work. Bruno Gugi, a biology researcher and lecturer, told website EducPros.fr that he spends “between twice and five times as much time preparing lessons with digital.”
BQE’s solution to this was to donate €20,000 to finance the time spent devising online biology multiple choice exercises. Yet despite these efforts, some teachers remain hostile to digital because, as Bruno Gugi says, “The time they spend on these time-consuming tasks won’t pay off later on in their career.”
Other teachers, meanwhile, see digital as technology not teaching, and therefore don’t want to get involved, explains Vincent Roy, a neuroscience lecturer and researcher. He isn’t one of them, however: for over ten years he’s been posting online revision exercises and contributes to the university’s eLearning platform. This allows teachers to identify more easily which areas students haven’t quite grasped. “The next stage would be the flipped classroom,” says Roy, “but not for first-year undergraduates: it requires a certain degree of maturity,”
So how to overcome teachers’ reticence? At Rouen University, the transition period was facilitated by training. In 2014, courses on ICT for education were introduced, and staff have access to a “digitals users’ service” website. The idea is incite teachers to adopt the tools, as opposed to forcing them upon them.
=> See our other articles on digital education: