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Collaborative Learning

Virtual Team Teaching in Quebec: Past, Present, and Future

By Gabriel Flacks. The 28 February 2017

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By now, it may be a cliché to note that the Internet and networked devices provide an extraordinary and indefinite range of potential new curricula and pedagogical strategies for teachers. Yet while this may be common knowledge, the impact of technological development on education is difficult to measure. Experimentation done at the interface between technology and teaching remains ongoing, and the appropriation of technology by innovative teachers is creating a fluid and ever-evolving system; one that is difficult to ascertain fully and the impacts of which are hard to gauge accurately. However, over the last decade, semi-static communities of teachers have begun to emerge, converging around shared approaches to “digital pedagogy”. These emerging communities shed light on the well-traveled paths to success for the integration of technology into higher education.

“Virtual Team Teaching” (VTT) and the associated “Virtual Team Teaching Network/ Réseau d'Enseignement Virtuel en Équipe” (VTTN/REVE) provides a CEGEP-specific example of a naturally occurring community of practice. This approach to teaching has been adopted in many CEGEP classrooms over the last decade, n some instances with the organizational support of Entente-Canada Quebec. Over the years, the network has expanded from two teachers to dozens. Within the network itself, different educators have taken advantage of a variety of tools and approaches to collaborative teaching. As the VTTN has coalesced around its practitioners, the positive impact of the method has become clear as its impact reverberates throughout the CEGEP network.

What is VTT?

VTT involves structured collaboration between groups of students from different campuses that often makes use of synchronous online tools. The community itself shares ideas and finds collaborative partners through informal Facebook groups and, where feasible, at conferences that support the method

To synchronously connect groups during class time,  teachers have incorporated technology such as Skype, Zoom and Google hangouts and asynchronous collaboration tools such as Google docs and News Activist to enable students to participate in written interactive activities. Many eventually choose to use a mix of both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration.  With VTT, technology is a mean of offering an experience and not an end goal unto itself.

Some case studies

  • CEGEP Jonquière involves students in international collaborations with teachers from the US in both synchronous and asynchronous formats to increase student-engagement, and enhance the outcomes of language learning.
  • ESL students from College Laflèche collaborate in written form with native Anglophone students at Champlain College Saint-Lambert and with international partners.
  • English Literary Genre classes at Cégep de Sept-Îles collaborate with Sociology courses from Vanier College.
  • Vanier College is a global member in the SUNY Coil Nodal network, (http://coil.suny.edu) which enables teachers to access to a collaborative online international learning experience. This semester, Vanier students are engaging in collaborations with a partner school in Mexico.
  • Centennial College is involved in intraprovincial, interprovincial and international VTT work in asynchronous activities.
  • Teachers from Champlain Saint-Lambert in multiples disciplines collaborate with teachers in Ontario and New York.
  • An instructor at Champlain is also participating in the Soliya Connect Program (https://www.soliya.net).
  • Marianopolis students are publishing work for an audience of CEGEP students from across the CEGEP network at newsactivist.com.

Future

In the coming months, thanks to the support of CCDMD, a VTT handbook written by Sharon Coyle will be published. This text shares proven strategies for the integration of Virtual Team Teaching and detail the variety of teaching experiences the VTTN project has hosted over the last decade. Further resources are listed below.

As resources, tools and shared best practices enable smoother transitions from traditional to VTT courses, and as students and teachers clamor for engaging ways to move education forward, we will likely see an increase in the adoption of this style of pedagogy across the CEGEP network in the coming years. As an instructor who rarely teaches a course without some form of integrated collaborative teaching and learning, I would certainly not be surprised to see this approach rapidly increase in adoption—for the benefit of both learners and instructors. 

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