May 26, 2022

Intercollegiate Collaboration To Create Immersive Educational Resources for the New Pharmacy Technology Program

This real-life story is the translation of a text first published in Eductive’s French edition.

To produce immersive pedagogical material (virtual reality, 360-degree videos) for the new Pharmacy Technology program, actors from many CEGEPs are pooling their expertise and sharing their creations. See how, together, they improved the education of the students of all the colleges involved in this project.

A new program; starting from scratch

The Pharmacy Technology program is new in the Quebec college network. 10 colleges earned the right to offer it starting fall 2021.

For this program, everything is to be done. The teachers are new, the textbooks do not exist… A colossal work has been started and continues to be done by the teams of the institutions.

But, a new program is also the opportunity to start “on the right foot”. Julie McCann, then pedagogical advisor and IT rep at Cégep Limoilou, saw in the implantation of that program the opportunity to create pedagogical material in virtual reality. In fact, virtual reality is very interesting to make students experience situations that are normally inaccessible in a classroom.

Intercollegiate networking

Julie McCann was a member of the working group on immersive technologies of the Network of ICT respondents (ITREP Network – Réseau REPTIC). During a meeting, she discussed her project of developing material for the Pharmacy Technology program with Éric Cloutier, pedagogical advisor at Cégep de Thetford and a member of the working group. Cégep de Thetford is another institution offering the new program. Éric and Julie were on the same wavelength. They agreed to share the material they would develop in their respective college, to pool their efforts.

Then, Éric met Étienne Boulanger and Martin Maltais from Collège d’Alma for a reason unrelated to the project. Through their conversation, Éric realized that Collège d’Alma, as well, would offer the Pharmacy Technology program… and that Étienne and Martin, both passionate about immersive technologies, had planned to offer the future teachers of that program to integrate this technology into their teaching.

Together and through the intermediary of the REPTIC Network, they rallied the actors of other colleges to their sharing group.

The sharing group on the use of immersive technologies in Pharmacy Technology is currently made of:

  • Éric Cloutier, pedagogical advisor and IT rep at Cégep de Thetford
  • Annie Bergeron, pedagogical advisor and IT rep at Cégep Limoilou (Annie replaced Julie McCann), as well as Richard Bergeron and Mathieu Brisson, multimedia technicians at Cégep Limoilou
  • Martin Maltais et Étienne Boulanger, teachers and researchers at Collège d’Alma
  • Sébastien Hamel, pedagogical advisor and IT rep at Cégep de Drummondville
  • Daniel Cardin, pedagogical advisor and IT rep at Cégep de Baie-Comeau

Actors from other colleges will be able to join this group in the future!

Éric Cloutier has shared a 1st production created at Thetford and used with the 1st cohort of students in fall 2021.

A view of the pharmacy laboratory of Thetford’s hospital. (Screenshot of the immersive simulation developed with the Uptale software by Cégep de Thetford.)

Another view of the pharmacy laboratory of Thetford’s hospital. (Screenshot of the immersive simulation developed with the Uptale software by Cégep de Thetford.)

Other members of the group are finishing their creations or planning their future projects.

Others still are participating in the group knowing that they will not be able to create anything of their own for now but wish to learn from the discussions with other members. They will share later!

The advantages of collaborating and sharing

The advantages of sharing the virtual reality or 360-degree video creations this way are numerous.

A larger number of simulations

Obviously, the number of simulations the students have access to is larger if colleges pool together their pedagogical material (which is particularly relevant for this new program where they are starting from scratch).

Prepared for realities from all across Quebec

The simulations, filmed all across Quebec, will allow students to access locations that would be inaccessible to them otherwise. For example, thanks to the simulation produced by Cégep Limoilou at Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumonologie de Québec, the students located far from the big cities will be able to familiarize themselves with the reality of working in the pharmacy of a highly specialized health facility.

Each CEGEP trains its students according to the needs of the local Integrated Health and Social Services Centres (CISSS). The training is based on local equipment, with machines of the same brands as that of the local CISSS. This prepares the students well to the job market of their region. However, it is certain that some students will move one day and be called to work elsewhere. Thanks to the shared simulations, those students will be more confident on arrival at a new location.

-Éric Cloutier, pedagogical advisor and IT rep at Cégep de Thetford

Trying out different approaches to virtual reality

The actors of the different institutions have a distinct approach to the use of immersive technologies and the production of virtual reality or 360-degree video material. This is part of the strengths of the group. In the end, the members of the group and the teachers of the program will have access to a larger quantity of content, but also a larger variety.

If I ask a teacher what their favourite book is, they can choose from the hundreds of books they know. But, if I ask them what their favourite way to approach virtual reality is, they may have more difficulty answering, because they may only know 1 way of making virtual reality…

Seeing the material created by the different members of the group gives us ideas, it pushes us to question our way of doing things. We can identify what we like in every approach and ask for help on how to reproduce a specific result.

-Éric Cloutier, pedagogical advisor and IT rep at Cégep de Thetford

A healthy management of public funds

For the members of the group, the pooling of the resources is simply the result of a basic practice for a healthy management of public funds.

At Collège d’Alma, Étienne and Martin managed to obtain grants to develop pedagogical material. They judge that their creations therefore belong to the whole community, and that it is only normal for them to share their resources.

What we make belongs to everyone. It is created with public funds.

-Martin Maltais, teacher and researcher at Collège d’Alma

The spirit of sharing is beginning to blossom. Our work is a step in the right direction. Our group may inspire others!

-Étienne Boulanger, teacher and researcher at Collège d’Alma

Sharing expertise

Besides, the strength of the sharing group does not only come from the pedagogical material developed.

Members give each other technical advice (equipment to buy, settings to choose during a recording, mistakes to avoid while filming…).

They also discuss pedagogy lengthily. How can you guarantee that a simulation meets the targeted pedagogical need? What are the contexts where immersive technologies truly offer an added value on the pedagogical level?

Immersive technologies are useful to have students experience situations that would otherwise be inaccessible to them during their education. For example, we can put the student in front of a patient who is unhappy not to get the medication for a prescription they have not gotten renewed. With a virtual reality headset, the student truly feels like they are with the patient. They feel their anger and must manage their emotions.

The future pharmacy technicians will be on the front line of access to healthcare. Virtual reality can help them prepare to what that involves.

Moreover, the fact that the group is made up of pedagogical advisors, teachers, and technicians contribute to its strength. The expertise of the different members complements one another!

Thanks to all the members of the working group, and especially to:

  • Éric Cloutier, pedagogical advisor and IT rep at Cégep de Thetford
  • Annie Bergeron, pedagogical advisor and IT rep at Cégep Limoilou
  • Richard Bergeron, multimedia technician at Cégep Limoilou
  • Martin Maltais and Étienne Boulanger, teachers and researchers at Collège d’Alma

who have generously taken the time to discuss their project with us for the writing of this article!

About the authors

Marie-Christine Joseph

Marie-Christine Joseph has been project manager for the Network of ICT Respondents (REPTIC Network) since February 2020. Before, she worked as a pedagogical advisor for 9 years, in addition to teaching literature at the college level for some years.

Catherine Rhéaume

Catherine Rhéaume is an editor and writer for Eductive (previously Profweb) since 2013. She also teaches physics at Cégep Limoilou. Her work for Eductive fosters her interest for technopedagogy and encourages her to try innovative teaching practices.

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