NEW TECHNOLOGIES FOR EDUCATION AT UNIVERSITY OF PORTO: EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES
The aim of this work is to give a brief account of an ongoing work at the University of Porto (U.Porto) which aims to promote and disseminate the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) inside all the educational activities and also encourage the development and use of innovational services.
Based on this innovation goal through its unit for New Technologies in Education (NTE) the University adopted in 2003 a pilot-project to develop pedagogical contents for Learning Management System (LMS). The main idea was to complement face-to-face classes with a online teaching/learning component - in this paper the online courses should intended a blended-learning support for presential courses. The most important and more common pedagogical support gave by the office to those teachers interested in blended-learning methodology are the personal work meetings with them, usually followed by presentations of the platform to the students on theirs first presential class. After a few years with more than 774 online courses the NTE office, composed of a multidisciplinary team of eight persons, gives not only technical and pedagogical support to the academic community that is using the institutional e-learning platform – Moodle U.PORTO – but also makes available other services, encourages and supports their use.
Despite all the obstacles inherent in the implementation of a Computer-Based Assessment (CBA) strategy in a traditional and large university like U.Porto, the office is engaged in supporting e-assessment. Although the online assessments that have been taking place are individual experiences, they are of major importance since they allow the identification of problems and definition of the necessary improvements. All the online assessments have been performed in Moodle.
Aware of the importance of e-contents as a way to enhance students’ knowledge the office provides a service of educational multimedia objects development for teachers that have online courses. The objects are developed by a small sub-team and the most common types of multimedia contents requested are videos sessions, animations, graphic works, and some simulations.
A free of charge videoconference studio and a telepresence room, both managed by NTE, are also available to the academic community. The persons from the office who are responsible for those infrastructures also provide technical support for EDUcast – software for web broadcast – and Colibri – software that allows web conference.
In the last few years the office have presented and is trying motivate more discussion on pedagogical issues like digital accessibility or the viability of e-portfolios as an instrument to meet the changing needs of teaching and learning. So to improve the knowledge and performance of teachers and students in ICT issues – and therefore promote the NTE services described above – the office has conducted continuing education courses, workshops and small events some of them with guest speakers experts in areas such as comparative judgement assessment, e-assessment or e-portfolios.
The feedback obtained over the years has shown that the existence of an office that works so closely to the academic community facilitates not only the implementation of projects like these but also allows create foundations for more innovation.