Unit Profile: Instructor Services and Educational Technologies

2013-2014 Issue 1

It’s not unlike working in the theatre, actually. What the audience sees “on stage” (in this case, the computer screen) constitutes the culmination of many hours of behind-the-scenes work. Jean-Paul Rémillieux and his team in Instructor Services and Educational Technologies (ISET) devote untold hours to getting new courses up and running.

Overall, ISET provides administrative and instructional support to instructors and academic units throughout the School of Continuing Studies with two sub-units, Instructor Services and Educational Technologies, says Rémillieux. Instructor Services provides logistical and administrative support for classroom-based activities such as ordering textbooks, loaning computer and AV equipment, printing and photocopying exams. Educational Technologies, on the other hand, is responsible for designing and producing online courses as well as overseeing project coordination.

As more courses go online, this becomes an increasingly important part of ISET’s mandate. What’s involved in getting a new online course up and running? “The process starts,” says Rémillieux, “with a request, usually from an academic unit. First of all, we hold a brainstorming meeting. Our first job is to figure out what level of investment in resources is needed. We produce a project brief that spells out the rationale – why this course, why now? – as well as objectives, learning outcomes and teaching strategy. Of course, this differs from course to course and program to program.“One big decision is who does what. The big difference between a regular (classroom) course and an online course is that the production of the latter involves a ton of teamwork. Traditionally, the teacher, who’s the content expert, also deals with teaching strategies and assessments. That’s different online. The instructional designer steps in to help define strategies and to identify the most appropriate instructional technologies.”

There’s usually a large web component too. “We work a lot on defining templates that can be reused across courses. We work on ease of navigation for the students. Courses have to be designed in terms of the lowest common denominator when it comes to technical knowledge.” The first online course to be offered was Introduction to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “We learned a lot from that course,” Rémillieux recalls. “We have more grounds for deciding what works and what doesn’t now. Most people don’t realize the amount of work that’s involved. Each course is quite different. The preparation is a formal process, and it’s done by our educational technology people. You have to stick to discipline and respect timelines.”

On the teaching side, it’s a different relationship with students, Rémillieux points out. “The teacher needs to practice. The first time you go to teach in a classroom, it won’t be your best performance. Same thing with an online course. Some instructors are destabilized when they go online – they feel like they’ve lost all their reference points. This is no time to panic. You need to relax and be pragmatic. It’s going to be different, but once the ice is broken, it usually works pretty well.”

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