Back to University and the start of a hybrid academic year!

Within the University of Bordeaux, the “Support Mission for Education and Innovation” (Mission d’appui à la pédagogie et à l’innovation - MAPI) is a team dedicated to accompanying and training our teaching teams, as well as to producing digital resources, in order to ensure the continuous improvement of our educational offer.

  • 14/10/2020

Since March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on many aspects of university life, in particular, the organization and implementation of teaching. Right from the start of this crisis, the MAPI, along with other teams such as the IT department, has been strongly mobilized to help with the identification, implementation and training vis à vis new teaching platforms, methods and resources.

As the University of Bordeaux welcomes its students for what promises to be an exceptional academic year 2020-2021, Dr Serge Mouton, Director of the MAPI, shares his vision of the “Back to University” period and also of what lies ahead.

How would you describe these first few months of the academic year 2020-2021?

Along with the COVID-19 taskforce (created in March to organize the mobilization of the institution’s resources in the fight against the pandemic) and other departments, we have been preparing this “Back to University” period and the hybrid teaching model for some time now. Thanks to this preparation that involved much technical and teaching support, these first few months have gone better than expected. In record turnaround time, the University of Bordeaux has been able to adapt and thus maintain its teaching and educational offer. Although the conditions are obviously not ideal, we can still say that our students are “back to university”.

What are the main innovations to date?

As expected, since March 2020, our Learning Management System (MOODLE) has experienced a significant increase in the number of users, in terms of lecturers and students. During the lockdown period (March – May), the University of Bordeaux studied, compared and invested in the necessary IT solutions and already as of June, upgraded the Moodle platform in order to be able to offer new services such as online evaluations for the end of academic year examinations.

Since September, to support the hybrid teaching model, over 100 Zoom rooms and 400 Zoom boxes have been purchased and installed to allow lecturers to carry out their classes via web conference from their classroom. After a benchmark study of interactive platforms, we have also greatly increased our use of “Wooclap”. This tool allows students to connect with their mobile phones and participate live in classes, via question and answer sessions, etc. - a great way to boost interactions between lecturers and students.

From the start and throughout, the MAPI have prepared and published various online resources including around 30 tutorials and information flashes to guide the lecturers in their use of these new systems and in the new teaching methods required.

What are the main challenges?

Looking ahead, our main objectives will be the following:

  • Provide ongoing “on the job” training to lecturers, no matter their field of studies or type of teaching (theoretical and/or practical). This training must cover teaching methods (provided by our educational engineers), technical skills (provided by the IT department) and information requirements (provided by the possibility online to share best practices, study FAQ, etc.)
  • Encourage the development of “Agora”, our community of practices where lecturers may freely discuss and debate the many issues related to these rapid and urgent evolutions in teaching methods and systems.
  • Continue to support the ongoing pedagogical projects and the transformation of our educational offer.

The MAPI faces these challenges, always keeping in mind the importance of achieving “educational alignment”. This refers to the strong link between 1) learning objectives, 2) pedagogical activities and 3) evaluation strategies. Each must relate and support the other. For example, we have remarked that with these online evaluation methods, it may be necessary to modify how students are evaluated.

Today we can say that our students are adapting quickly and thus managing to continue their studies during these exceptional conditions, and that our lecturers are well equipped and guided, as they too, adapt to the hybrid teaching model provided by the University of Bordeaux.

Case study: EMN-Online (Prof. Marc Landry)

This 2 year Master program in Neurosciences and Biotechnology is delivered entirely online to 70 students from the various consortium universities in France, Spain, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Poland and Tunisia. A common Moodle platform is used to provide these students with video conferences, interactive teaching and learning formats (student teaching, flipped classroom, forums, chat sessions) as well as program resources (videos, articles, PowerPoint presentations, Internet links). This Moodle platform is supplemented by social media such as Facebook that the students use amongst themselves to communicate before, during and after the courses. In addition, plans are underway to introduce the tool Wooclap in order to further improve student interaction.

Now in its ninth year, this Master program shows the success of online teaching and learning, once lecturers and students are well prepared and equipped. A hybrid format is also available when possible, with certain kick-off lectures taking place in both formats: with face-to-face teaching whilst also being delivered online via video conference to student groups in other partner universities.

The EMN-Online program has been supported by the MAPI with the implementation of a MOOC (massive open online course) and recently with the ongoing development of a virtual course concerning practical/experimental work, that should be delivered in 2021.