ERG SES C 01, ICT and Education
The changes produced by information and communication technology (ICT) have given a new direction to society, culture, and human behaviour. In education, ICT offers greater possibilities for knowledge generation and allows constant communication and the creation of environments and resources to facilitate the teaching-learning process (García Aretio, 2014).
The changes that occur on a daily basis as a result of technological advances instigate a review of traditional teaching-learning processes in the education sector, with the aim of introducing new methods and thus avoiding falling into obsolete education systems (Millán, 2001). In this sense, teachers play a central role in the new cultural and educational settings that are being created, and which must be created, with the support of ICT-based resources.
Consequently, new methodologies are required for continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers (Torrecilla, Olmos, Rodríguez, & Martínez, 2016). One example is the recent implementation of online continuing education for teachers. The online mode of delivery has emerged as a response to the need to adapt to teachers’ busy timetables, provide resources that are sometimes unavailable locally, and support classroom work (Dede, 2006). One of the aims of this mode of instruction is to broaden teachers’ learning communities beyond geographical boundaries and create a network of teachers for their own personal and professional growth (Countryman & Dede, 2007).
In this mode, CPD programmes are designed with technological resources and are web-supported. They are distinguished by the fact that they provide interactive experiences, as they combine text, video and sound. Communication is generally asynchronous, meaning that participants are not required to be connected at the same time (National Research Council, 2007). One of their most significant advantages is that they allow a wide group of teachers to participate, contributing to knowledge generation through constant discussion and the use of diverse digital strategies (Dede, Ketelhut, Whitehouse, Breit, & McCloskey, 2009).
As with any pedagogical resource that involves technology, the success or quality of a CPD programme does not depend solely on the technology used. Aspects relating to context must also be taken into account in the instructional design, such as the participants, their environment, and the duration (Fishman, 2016).
One example of online CPD having been introduced for teachers can be found in the Open University in the United Kingdom (MacDonald & Poniatowska, 2011). This type of training is also provided by private entities (for example, TES Institute and STEM Learning).
In wide-ranging, diverse education systems such as in Mexico, where there are approximately 600,000 primary teachers, online continuing education is a viable pathway to encouraging CPD (INEE, 2015). In the last three years, the Mexican education policy has established that CPD must be provided online, and has assigned this task to public and private universities. These institutions have mimicked international models in this field.
This research project seeks to describe and analyse the institutional context, the instructional design process, the implementation and achievements of online CPD programmes for primary teachers in two of the most prominent Mexican universities that exert the greatest influence on other Latin American institutions and have most benefitted from international know-how in this field, in order to acknowledge the achievements and limitations of the Mexican experience.
This is a qualitative methodological approach study. In an attempt to better understand the phenomenon, the research project was carried out following the case study method. According to Tójar (2006), a case study means descriptive, exhaustive and thorough research on a case, which attempts to describe and identify any underlying problems and causes. In this particular situation, two case studies were performed, one in each university chosen. As the aim was to distinguish four specific points in the operation of online continuing education programmes for basic-level teachers, a model was developed to analyse the programmes based on theoretical proposals by various authors. The analysis model is made up of four dimensions: Context, Design, Implementation, and Achievements. These aspects are based on the CIPP model put forward by Stufflebeam in the seventies. These dimensions are in turn made up of categories based on the characteristics outlined by Moreno (2015). They also include the factors associated with online course quality proposed by McClary (2013). Lastly, environmental aspects that favour teachers’ online professional development, as proposed by Duffy et al. (2006), are considered. The participants in the research projects are two Mexican universities with international prominence that currently offer online continuing education programmes for teachers of basic-level education: the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM) and the National Pedagogical University (UPN). The ITESM is a private, not-for-profit institution. It has a virtual platform called TecVirtual, which offers postgraduate degrees and courses for teachers. TecVirtual has 23 years’ experience in distance education, and has provided education for 145,678 participants of continuing education programmes (Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, 2017). The UPN is a public, higher education university, which seeks to train professionals in education at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The UPN has an Information Technology and Alternative Models area, which is geared towards developing teaching, research and dissemination projects with the educational purpose of introducing technology to contribute to progress in education (Universidad Pedagógica Nacional, 2017). The information gathered in the study was obtained through semi-structured interviews conducted on university premises. Access was negotiated with the school’s heads of department. Faculty members with different roles in the design and delivery of online CPD programmes and more than 10 years of experience were selected to be interviewed.
A partial report of the study results is presented below. The data collected in 7 interviews conducted as visiting researcher at the ITESM is currently being analysed. The following faculty members were interviewed: • The institution’s head of online continuing education programmes for teachers of basic-level education. • The coordinators of online continuing education programmes for teachers. • An expert in content design. • Facilitators. • The instructional designer of online programmes. Within the institutional context dimension, the purpose is to describe the characteristics, needs, problems, and opportunities that define the setting in which basic-level education CPD programmes are created. In the design dimension, the university work plans, strategic programmes and instructional designs oriented towards the implementation of CPD programmes will be described. In the implementation dimension, the processes by which universities deliver CPD programmes will be described. Lastly, the achievements dimension will describe the results obtained, according to evaluations conducted by these universities. The second stage of the fieldwork – visiting the UPN – will be carried out in the coming months. Once the information has been gathered from the interviews, the aim is to compare the results with those from the ITESM. This study is relevant in defining the most appropriate avenues for online CPD specially adapted by universities with international prominence that design their programmes based on the characteristics of Mexican teachers, but which follow the best international practices in this field of education to improve the quality of CPD.
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