Vive l’entente cordiale! Oxford’s learning technologists meet their counterparts in Bordeaux

Learning Technologists Xavier and Steve from Academic IT have met with their counterparts at the University of Bordeaux to compare notes on the challenges and opportunities in supporting technology enhanced learning.

Bordeaux University

The original University of Bordeaux was established in a papal bull by Pope Eugene IV on 7 June 1441. It came into being in its current form on 1 January 2014 with the merger of former universities Bordeaux 1, Victor Segalen University (Bordeaux 2), and Montesquieu University (Bordeaux 4). The University of Bordeaux is part of the community of universities and higher education institutions of Aquitaine. It has about 60,000 students and 5,000 staff; this why they concentrate very much on learning technology to help with the high ratio of students to staff.

Learning Team (MAPI)

The learning technology team at Bordeaux is called MAPI (Mission d’appui à la pédagogie et à l’innovation) and comprises 22 people. It is attached to the equivalent of Oxford’s Learning Institute (OLI) and its main point of focus is pedagogy. Although the learning technologists (LTs) are attached to the central institution, each person is specially dedicated to one division. This means that the academics working in a specific division know exactly which LT to contact.

The LTs spend Mondays and Fridays together with the larger team in the same office. On Wednesdays and Thursdays they are based in the divisional offices. The LTs all have a different set of skills, and each one is paired with the academic responsible for the learning in each faculty.

We met with Marthe-Aline Jutand, Scientific Assistant Director of MAPI and Julie Lavoinne (Training officer and responsible for the IDEX project, a collaboration with research bodies and partner institutions). We spent the morning discussing the way we work in our respective universities, and the afternoon with an academic to exchange views on learning technology. By the end of our meeting we had identified some ideas for engaging academics:

How to wow academics?cafe-pedagogique

  • Run a monthly cafe pedagogique: an informal exchange during which everyone can give examples of learning situations in which they would like to innovate.
  • Propose a research output that will lead to publications. The aim is to highlight successful learning experiences, broadcasting the information and putting the experiences back in a conceptual framework. Specialists in pedagogy research will work with the academic to help to describe and analyse the situation and to publish in journals.
  • Work with academic developers to integrate technology enhanced learning into courses on academic practice for new teachinf staff.
  • Work on a project with a new academic who wishes to develop a new pedagogical strategy. A recommended period is six months.
  • Support the integration of doctoral students in the development of pedagogical innovations. The aim is to help them develop their pedagogical skills and improve their use of technologies. In return, we benefit from their closeness to students.

The politics of learning technology

  • Many academics perceive working with technology in teaching to be in conflict with their professional identity. In other words,  they are rewarded through their research outputs and so teaching can be a distraction.
  • Technology should not be seen in isolation; the whole context must be considered.
  • The University should follow teachers who are actively using technology and promote their work


A lecture using learning space at the university

Future collaboration

  • MAPI will report back to their management on our visit and will write a summary proposal for each university: e.g. to compare our strategies with other services (academic development, human resources…) for each university.
  • Members of MAPI plan to take part in our next LT away day with Oxford Brookes University.

We thank Marthe and Julie for their hospitality in the beautiful city of Bordeaux and we look forward to future collaborations.

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