E-Learning in Social Work Education With Native Communities: How to Develop Collaboration in a Virtual Context?
Since 2013, University of Quebec in Chicoutimi’s First Nations Centre Nikanite defined an e-learning program for Social Work, aimed at students in the native communities and social workers intervening with natives living in urban environments. This program includes four compulsory courses and one optional course. The main focus is the development of intervention skills to help with deviant, dependant, and delinquent behaviors or offenders, and provide accurate social care for children, youth, and elderly people. For the design and development team, this was a real challenge. The program must be delivered in French -the second or third language of the target audience. Students are geographically distributed throughout Quebec where electronic services and equipment vary. Levels of experience are different, in the field of social work as well as in using technologies. Students are not available at the same time. The needs are enormous and a trained workforce is expected quickly. Since this program must help develop competencies in a social work context, students need to collaborate and interact in an authentic environment. These limitations required team members think in terms of optimizing learning within a virtual context, based on imagination, experience and reinvestment instead of interactive technology. The purpose of this communication is to present the learning methodologies and hypotheses on which were built a mixed learning approach based on cognitive psychology in a socio-constructivist environment. The student is invited to resolve native social issues and problems in an asynchronous, collaborative, virtual context including both imaginative characters and real people case studies. Students meet the characters, develop their knowledge in a flipped classroom approach and reinvest their newly acquired knowledge in the next learning experience. We believe this mixed approach can lead students to better intervene in their future profession.