May 18, 2010

CCDMD’s Online Learning Center Learns from the Community

As part of an overall plan to develop the CCDMD Online English-Language Learning Centre, CCDMD has been actively seeking input from a variety of Cegep professionals about their interest in and use of their resources. Being able to establish a clearer picture of who currently uses their resources and which ones, is critical to their future planning and development.

As part of an initial effort, thirty professionals were interviewed using an informal seven-question questionnaire to learn more about how the Learning Center is being used, what respondents’ needs were and what, if any, were barriers and challenges to using the Centre. In addition, discussion focused on what other resources to support English-language skills development would be most valued and appreciated.

Those interviewed included learning professionals, English teachers and department co-odinators from John Abbott, Dawson, Vanier, Centennial, Marianopolis, Champlain’s St-Lambert campus and Heritage plus an assortment of ESL teachers from French Colleges.

A compilation of the interview data was summarized into five different themes that covered a broad range of issues. The themes included:

  1. Overall impression of Cegep student English skills,
  2. Users of Cegep learning and academic centres,
  3. Categories of potential users segmented by needs,
  4. Perception of the CCDMD and the utility of the future website and
  5. Resources that would be valuable.

CCDMD is taking into account two trends that could impact how and what educational materials they develop in the near future.

  • Concern about the variation in ability and the gaps in student knowledge and skills of students entering Cegep in September 2010. These are the first cohort of high school students who were part of the reform and it’s not known for example, if students have written more than a 600 hundred-word essay or have done a literary analysis.
  • The steady growth of mother-tongue-French students and Allophone students attending English Cegeps.

Exciting New Directions and Resources from Survey Results

Over the summer holiday, the first wave of changes will appear! These changes will focus first on re-organizing the Learning Centre so that teachers and students can more easily access and find information. For example, the English Exit Exam section will allow students preparing for the exam to more easily find readings and exercises.

Revision is now a key objective, mandated by the Ministry, in both first language and ESL. The CCDMD is developing a brand new section on Revision Strategies, with a focus on proofreading and editing. A variety of checklists and tutorials will support these processes.

In addition, the 4th edition of the online directory for the improvement of English language will be launched as well as the online version.

New graphic design, new text and layout, easy access to menu items and new screen links will all help to brighten up the Learning Centre.

A number of suggestions were made regarding the types of resources that teachers might want to use in the classroom or assign as homework. One idea that came out of the survey was an expressed interest in being able to track student performance on an assignment or to have a diagnostic that would provide instant feedback to a student about their specific strengths and weaknesses. Others were interested in having a bank of good readings across disciplines or samples of what “good” looks like, with respect to writing and analysis.

What everyone wants are resources that are easy to find and use. Professionals in the Learning Centres want resources that they can use with students.

Meeting New Challenges

CCDMD is continuing its investigation and discussion around how to best meet the needs of its target audience and to specify the benefits of using the site in clear terms. A strategy to promote and gain awareness about their resources is also being put into place.

The CCDMD is looking to validate needs and is open to input, suggestions and feedback. The key message here is that there is a serious effort being made in trying to establish priorities. The evolving Learning Center is an ongoing response to its target users’ real needs. Prepared to change orientation and direction, the CCDMD is waiting for your comments below to continue its evaluation of its online learning center. What do you think of the suggestions discussed in this column?

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