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Published February 26, 2007 | Multidisciplinary

Virtually Discovering the Real World Which Awaits on the Other End of the River

Since September 2006, Vanier College and the Cégep de Sept-Îles have been involved in a unique team-teaching experiment that has already produced innovative and enriching results. The idea behind this initiative was to enhance the learning experience of students from both cegeps by giving them a chance to meet in the virtual world. 

Two teachers from the Humanities departments (Sophie Jacmin for Vanier and Sharon Coyle for Sept-Iles) adapted their respective Knowledge courses to design common classroom activities. Students met online once a week to discuss what they had learned in class. Discussion groups were created within the new Decclic II platform and students debated such questions as ‘Who am I’, ‘What are the philosophical issues raised in the film The Matrix’, ‘Do we acquire knowledge through fiction, and if so, what kind of knowledge?’. 

Lively discussions ensued as students got to know each other and felt more comfortable within the unique format of the course. By early November, new technology allowed students to see each other through the use of web cams and the internet phone system Skype. Exchanges in real time now became even more real since students ‘truly’ met and responded to each other as though they were in one big classroom. 

The very format of the course became a topic of interesting intellectual exploration. The internet, chat rooms, discussion groups and virtual live meetings through web cams were analyzed under the lens of our traditional definitions of what constitutes knowledge. Without having found definitive answers, students nonetheless realized they were involved in a pedagogical experiment that itself shook some of the certainties we all had about knowledge in general, and classroom learning in particular. 

The Winter 2007 semester promises to be even more interesting since both teachers will be offering a common Worldviews course entitled Worldviews of Town and City:  Sept-Iles, Montreal and Beyond. Supported by newly acquired technology such as a video-conferencing system called ‘Fenêtre de téléprésence’ as well as a ‘Smart Board’, teachers and students alike will venture into discovering each other’s worldviews somewhere between Montreal and Sept-Iles, in the mysterious digital world!

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