Monday, 3 October 2011

Plenary Speech at the 18th International Conference on Learning

Training of In-Service Educators through Online Activity-based Learning

The speech described the concept of activity-based learning and how it is being implemented in online teacher training courses at the University of Mauritius. 

In 2001, for the University of Mauritius to catch the eLearning bandwagon, the Virtual Centre for Innovative Learning Technologies (VCILT) was created in bid to modernize the distance education concept by fully utilizing the possibilities offered by IT-enabled networked systems and the Internet. Since its establishment the centre has brought in some non-negligible innovations in the teaching and learning landscape. Inevitably, as any innovative practices, it has also brought its share of disruption in the traditional university setting, what we term as ‘’constructive disruption’’ especially with respect to the conception of pedagogy and educational practice in teacher training.

The February 2010 issue of the Commonwealth of Learning “Connections” magazine has a few sections fully dedicated to the teacher training issue. Incidentally the articles all adopt a highly critical perspective of current teacher training courses especially within developing COL countries. While most of those articles on the topic focus on the more general issue of using ODL for teacher training and capacity building, in the article “Time for Radical Change in Teacher Education”, Bob Moon, Professor at the Open University of the UK argues that it is time to implement new technologies in teacher training courses so as to focus on the continuous professional development of educators. The very essence of the article is the belief that “education and training should be an entitlement for all teachers at all stages in their careers” and that research has demonstrated that when “this entitlement is honored, learners achieve more and schools improve”. Adopting a very critical view of the so-called brick and mortar institutions for teacher training, Moon (2010) highlights “there is absolutely no way the ‘bricks and mortar’ institutions of teacher training created in the last century will be adequate for the 21st century needs”.

The VCILT has always invested in efforts to bring about a change in mindset in the way teachers in Mauritius perceive education especially with respect to the information revolution that we witnessed in Mauritius from the year 2000 and up. 

A number of initiatives in the form of online workshops were undertaken to initiate teachers to new technologies and innovative ways of teaching and learning. Fully concurring with Bob Moon’s perspective the VCILT has always adopted a divergent, innovative and disruptive approach from the traditional ones in terms of capacity-building of teachers and educators. The top-up and Masters level programmes in Educational and Instructional technologies have been supplemented with an online continuous professional development programme for teachers on contemporary education issues and technologies from OERs obtained from the Open University of the UK.