lundi 20 mai 2013

Turning the competencies corner with the MOOCs

The current MOOCs have a fragmented vision of training with courses « à la carte », very punctual and the lack of program or long-term training. This is probably due to their youth, since very little content has been published on these platforms for now. In addition, MOOCs would provide little guidance nor any educational support to less motivated or less autonomous students [ROSENTHAL 2013]. Many of the disciplines taught at the university such as medicine, dentistry, engineering, biology, chemistry, physics and arts require practical training with internships, studios or laboratories which are not provided by the current MOOCs.

Most importantly, MOOCs are confined in the transmission of knowledge, as we called xMOOC, and neglect the much needed shift towards competencies as urged by Thomas L. Friedman, the celebrated New York Times columnist, in an article evocatively titled « The Professor's Big Stage » whose we highlight few passages [FRIEDMAN 2013].

The world only cares, and will only pay for, what you can do with what you know. … We’re moving to a more competency-based world where there will be less interest in how you acquired the competency — in an online course, at a four-year-college or in a company-administered class — and more demand to prove that you mastered the competency. - Thomas L. Friedman, New-York Times – 6 mars 2013

Friedman shares this point of view with Gilbert Paquette, researcher at Téluq and former minister of sciebce who enjoined Quebecers in 2002 « to meet the challenge of the knowledge society » by developing learning platforms to improve skills [PAQUETTE 2002b].

What is a competency-based approach?

The competency-based approach of learning which is born from the encounter between the pragmatism of business and the teaching by objectives is a logical step towards training customization, student's empowerment and self-reflection. In that vision, the competency-based learning approach also includes the project-based approach and the internships monitoring.

First conceived in a behavioural approach, the competency is now understood in a more systemic and global approach. We will draw on the definition of « competency » as articulated by Jacques Tardif, a renowned Québec's expert of the competency-based approach [TARDIF 2006].

A competency is a complex set of « knowing how to act » bearing on the effective mobilization and combination of a variety of internal and external resources within a family of situations.

We find that the phrase « knowing how to act » has replaced the term « know-how », the word « resource » has replaced the word « knowledge » and we acknowledge that external resources may be crucial in mobilization of expertise.

The competency-based approach also meets the growing needs upon « professionalization » of academic training by the professional associations which often deliver accreditation to the university training programs.

Another aspect relates to the acquisition of competencies and maintaining these competencies through a program of lifelong learning or continuous education [PAQUETTE 2002a].

Turning the competencies corner

With the increasing demand for diversification of learning means by digital natives, the mobility of labor and the competition from emerging internet superpowers such as MOOCs, Google, LinkedIn and other digital badges givers, competencies development is becoming a major strategic challenge for traditional universities that should establish clearly the « value of the diplomas » issued [COULOMBE 2013a]. Some even argue that competency-based learning will be the catalyst for change in the economic model of higher education [MORRISON 2012].

Furthermore, in a world where multiply plagiarisms, misrepresentations, digital badges and certificates of dubious value, recruiters will build their confidence on the results of activities that demonstrate the actual competencies of candidates [COULOMBE 2012].

Assessment at the heart of the competency-based approach

At the heart of the competency-based approach are found a practice of frequent assesments in order to track, monitor and document the learning process of competencies [TARDIF 2006]. We can even see the importance given to the "measurement" in competency-based learning as a characteristic of the transition from pedagogical crafting to a true pedagogical engineering.

The competency-based approach is also a logical step towards student performance support, the accreditation (or certification) of operational knowledge and / or competencies and the accreditation of courses and programs by professional associations. This is an opportunity for recognized educational institutions to distinguish themselves by the certification in using electronic signatures, not only for diplomas but also to a more granular level for each competency.

Competency-based learning requires monitoring and control framework that is rather unpopular in the academic context, but may be supported by appropriate technological solutions.

In a future post we will present software tools to be added to the MOOCs in order to better support the competency-based approach.

Le billet original en français

[ROSENTHAL 2013] Rosenthal, A. The Trouble With Online College, Article de journal, The New York Times, 18 février 2013, sec. Opinion. - consulté en 2013
[FRIEDMAN 2013] Friedman, T. L., The Professors’ Big Stage, Article de journal, New York Times, 6 mars 2013. - consulté en 2013
[PAQUETTE 2002b] Paquette, G.. Modélisation des connaissances et des compétences. Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2002. Québec, Québec, p. 66
[TARDIF 2006] Tardif, J. L’évaluation des compétences. Chenelière Éducation, 2006, p.
[COULOMBE 2013a] Coulombe, C. Réinventer l’université québécoise à l’Âge du numérique Blogue. La rhétorique de l’Homme de Java, 12 janvier 2013. - consulté en 2013
[MORRISON 2012] Morrison, Debbie. The Next Big Disruptor - Competency-based Learning. Blog. Online Learning Insights, June 12, 2012. - consulté en 2013
[COULOMBE 2012] Coulombe C., L'infonuagique éducative : promesses et défis!, Colloque international sur les TIC en éducation, 3 et 4 mai 2012, Montréal, Québec.
[PAQUETTE 2002a]Paquette, G., L’ingénierie pédagogique. Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2002, Québec, Québec, p. 62

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