Embracing Technology

2014-2015 Issue 1

tech

Jean-Paul Remillieux became the School’s Director of Instructor Services and Educational Technologies four years ago, and since then there have been a number of technical innovations. Major changes include new state-of-the-art equipment, an increase in online course offerings, as well as new programs aimed at preparing students for careers in the digital workforce.

“We’re not so much focused on the technology as we are focused on learning, and that’s what’s really new,” says Remillieux. “We have a lot of adult learners, and they’re busy. So when they come here, we want to give them real value.”

As a result, the new computer labs were designed specifically to encourage student engagement. Laptops, rolling podiums, and wireless keyboards encourage both learners and instructors to collaborate and engage in active learning as much as possible. “We’d like to avoid people coming here just to listen to someone,” says Remillieux, “because you can do that on a screen.”

Yet even that simple premise is getting more sophisticated. While instructor lectures are often the focus of online learning, Remillieux admits “it can be pretty dull.” As a result, traditional content is being complemented with interactive videos, multiple-choice quizzes and live audio recordings. One course was set up as a graphic novel, allowing viewers to flip the pages on the screen. Despite their diversity, all have the same objective: what’s the best way to help students learn?

Remillieux is applying that method to a number of current projects: he’s producing online material for Language
and Intercultural Education’s Health Canada project, providing complementary content for an upcoming PACE (Personal and Cultural Enrichment) session, as well as creating online courses for Career and Professional Development. Dr. Carmen Sicilia, the unit’s Director, is launching several new online programs simply because “students love it! They get to study from the comfort of their home or office, they save travel time, and they can see the instructor right there on the kitchen table.”

And the instructors are equally enthusiastic. “The comment we often get is, ‘I didn’t think it would be so interactive!’ They can assign group work, provide instruction through video or chat, and can even see someone put their virtual ‘hand’ up.” As a result, the School will soon be launching an online course in project management, and is currently offering online business courses targeting James Bay’s Cree community, who would otherwise be unable to attend McGill courses due to their remote location.

These new technologies are not only impacting the School’s delivery models, they’re also inspiring brand new content. In September, the School launched a new professional development certificate in Digital Content and Community Management. Introduced as a result of the emerging digital media job market, the five-course program covers social media trends and strategies, as well as content creation, management and architecture. Other examples include the McGill Writing Centre’s course on Writing for Digital Media, and a Translation & Written Communication course in computer-assisted translation.

Despite these innovations, Remillieux predicts that “nothing will ever replace human interaction. Computers are just a tool we can use. But if it helps our students learn better, remember better, and improve their careers, we’re getting it right.”

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