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Since its inception, distance education in universities has evolved a lot. This practice is expanding each year and many teachers are called upon to create courses in this form. In this first issue of the year of the  Le Tableau newsletter , Josianne Basque and Marilyn Baillargeon offer concrete avenues for orientation in the design of a distance course.

Justine is a professor of human resources management (HRM). This year, he was given a new challenge: to design a distance learning course. However, can the workings of HRM and the related skills really be learned from a distance? Skeptical of this idea, the meaning of this formula remained to be demonstrated!

With such a class on her schedule, however, she thought it would be possible for her to save time planning and attending class. All they need to do is post their texts, presentations and references on the course website. This would allow him to concentrate more on his research activities!

Her class now over, she realizes that her perceptions were far removed from reality. The latter asked him as much (if not more!) Of effort and work than a class in attendance.

Although unsettling, she liked this experience very much: even virtual, the exchanges with the students were particularly rich and guided her in the teaching of this course. There were many opportunities to explain certain key concepts, as well as its expectations and requirements.

His biggest challenge? The mediatization! With the resources at her disposal and the expertise of her collaborators, she is certain that she made the choices that best corresponded to the objectives of the course, her teaching style and the profile of the students. Among other things, she has built interactive tests and audio-video capsules of which she is very proud.

Enthusiastic, Justine already has in mind new interesting cases to study, resources to share, activities to develop, etc. And this, not to mention the design of the new distance learning course that she wishes to develop next year!

FOUR CHALLENGES TO MEET IN THE DESIGN OF DISTANCE LESSONS

The challenge of student autonomy. Taking a course partially or entirely from a distance requires a lot of autonomy on the part of the students. It is therefore important to clearly define their learner profiles on the cognitive and socio-emotional level, in order to anticipate their possible difficulties and to provide them with resources aimed at making them more autonomous and persevering.

The challenge of an explicit pedagogy. So that the student can walk by himself, the pedagogical scenario must be explicit. Particular attention must be paid to the formulation of learning targets as well as to the proposed learning approach, while leaving the student the opportunity to make choices and contextualize their learning process, depending on their interests, needs and goals.

The challenge of collaborative design. The design of such a course requires mobilizing a variety of skills. Even if he remains solely responsible for his course, the teacher benefits from benefiting from the expertise and experience of other actors (tutors, educational professionals, programmers, computer graphics, multimedia specialists, etc.).

The challenge of media coverage of the course. The options available to the teacher today as to the media format to be given to the course and the activities that can be carried out remotely are numerous. We must therefore make an informed choice in terms of media coverage, motivated above all by educational concerns.

A DISTANCE COURSE: WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?

For Deschênes et al. (1996, in Deschênes and Maltais, 2006, p. 16), distance training is an “educational practice favoring a learning process that brings knowledge closer to the learner”. In a distance course , we thus seek to reduce the spatial and / or temporal distance separating the two but, according to these authors, this distance can also be of a technological, psychosocial and socio-economic nature.

A distance course is not necessarily an online course , that is, one delivered on the web. Distance education existed long before the Internet … But distance education is increasingly taking advantage of the potential offered by network technology to the point where, for many, the two concepts merge.

In fact, distance learning models are evolving rapidly today. They can be offered entirely at a distance or partially at a distance (they are then called hybrid or mixed courses ).

The courses offered remotely in asynchronous mode allow students to carry out the learning approaches offered there at the times that suit them, whether it is to consult the learning resources made available to them or to interact with the teacher or the teachers. other students. As for the synchronous modality , it refers to courses offered at a distance, but at specific times by using videoconferencing or web conferencing. The two modalities can also be combined in the same course.