REFAD 2014 conference report: Distance education innovations and responsible management

Greenhouse gases compensation attestationMontréal, September 22, 2014 – May 29th and 30th, Cégep à distance hosted the Réseau d’enseignement francophone à distance du Canada (REFAD) conference for the very first time.  This conference explored themes like the practices and challenges of various distance education models (Diversité des modèles de cours à distance : pratiques et défis). Over a hundred participants attended, most of them with a keen interest in distance education. A hundred others from French-speaking countries around the world registered to watch it live online.

“The REFAD is very proud to have provided a forum for experts who are usually separated by thousands of kilometres, to give them the opportunity to speak to us and each other, in French, about their realities and initiatives, for the benefit of the conference participants onsite and around the French-speaking world,” said REFAD president Martel.

“We feel very fortunate to have been able to welcome Canada’s Francophone distance education community, who share our dedication to advancing distance education. For Cégep à distance and the other institutions in attendance, the discussions held here definitely expanded our understanding of current issues in the field,” added Louis-René Dessureault, director of Cégep à distance.

The topic of the opening lecture – online education: toward massively personalized learning – set the stage for the rest of the conference and was very timely for Cégep à distance. Christine Vaufrey (Thot Cursus) spoke about MOOCs (massive open online courses) just as Cégep à distance was preparing to launch the very first college-level MOOC in Québec. Ms. Vaufrey’s lecture was repeated at the end of the conference for the benefit of the online participants.

The conference continued with discussions of different sub-themes, such as advances in distance education, the importance of choosing a course model that suits the target clientele, collaborative and interactive online learning and the challenges for designers and tutors in many course models.

The conference archives can be found at
http://www.refad.ca/publications-et-rapports-de-recherche/publications/colloque/colloque-2014/.

The lectures and roundtables can be viewed at:
May 29, 2014, afternoon only: http://conf.teluq.ca/p70110b0c1l/
May 30, 2014: http://conf.teluq.ca/p2zeke9civ7/

To plan the conference, Cégep à distance and the REFAD got help from the Centre d’étude en responsabilité sociale et écocitoyenneté (CÉRSÉ) to apply the principles of responsible management. For example, local suppliers were chosen for the food and drinks, reusable dishes were used, and all waste products were sorted, weighed and recovered. The ecological footprint of the participants’ transportation was calculated and Cégep à distance purchased carbon credits to compensate for the greenhouse gases: 125 trees will be planted by the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi’s Carbone boréal. “It felt right for Cégep à distance to hold an environmentally responsible event, to reflect our values, which include eco-citizenship,” explained Mr. Dessureault.

“Cégep à distance would like to thank the REFAD for their confidence in us, and congratulate them for holding another fantastic annual gathering for distance education buffs in the Francophonie,” he added.

“The 2015 conference, on the theme of essential learner competencies in distance education, is already in the works. Put it on your calendar: May 28 and 29, 2015, in Vancouver, hosted by the Collège Éducacentre!” concluded Éric Martel.