This text is part of the special notebook of TÉLUQ University
Long before the introduction of video conferencing courses, TÉLUQ University experimented with distance learning. Its programs and methods have evolved greatly in 50 years, but its desire to democratize knowledge has remained intact.
The birth of TÉLUQ University is rooted in the desire of those involved in the Quiet Revolution to democratize access to higher education in Quebec. All means had to be considered. When the Université du Québec (UQ) was founded in 1968, Jean Lesage – leader of the opposition at the time – pointed to institutions that would need to use the most modern techniques, particularly audiovisual media, television and possibly computers, “to provide training at the time and at the ‘student’ rhythm.
“Even with the creation of the Université du Québec and its deployment to the regions, the state clearly saw that certain locations would not be served and several areas of knowledge would not be widely available, so distance learning became a means of ‘increasing the accessibility of higher education,'” stresses Michel Umbriaco, one of the founders of the university, who still teaches there.
In 1972, the Télé-université – which later became Université TÉLUQ – was officially established as the UQ Commission. Its task is the development and dissemination of distance learning courses at universities.
“Initially it was not seen as a university, but rather as a service box intended to support the offer of distance learning courses from the components of the UQ,” recalls historian Éric Bédard, who has taught there since 2005. However, when few projects in this direction came from UQ, they quickly started to give courses of their own. »
The first, offered in 1974, was entitled “Initiation to Cooperation”. Desjardins Group had collaborated on its development. Two years later, TÉLUQ University presents a first certificate program titled “Knowledge of Man and the Environment” and starts building its faculty. Michel Umbriaco remembers this bubbly time well.
“We have developed courses on Québec history and economics, with the support of Denis Vaugeois and Jacques Parizeau in particular, or on the environment with the participation of Pierre Dansereau,” he says. The goal was to fill a lack of culture in Quebec’s population so that people could better understand their environment and build a more modern Quebec. »
Several enthusiasts kept this launch at bay, including Fernand Grenier, general manager from 1973 to 1980, and Francine McKenzie, who served as program and research director from 1972 to 1981. A sociologist who knew Quebec very well and understood what was missing, remembers Michel Umbriaco. For example, she had identified the lack of scientific culture in Quebec, which led to the creation of our first science and technology program. »
A moving story
For all its strengths, TÉLUQ University was far from unanimous when it started, and its history has not been smooth. In a more recent anthology entitled The transition from classroom study to distance learning at the university. didactic and political questions, Michel Umbriaco, in a chapter on the establishment, listed no fewer than eight institutional crises that threatened its survival.
Initially, some principals saw her as a competitor risking stealing students from her territories, while others questioned the quality of teaching that was not based on the traditional face-to-face teaching paradigm.
Only in 1992, two years after the creation of its first bachelor’s degree (in communication), TÉLUQ University received its patent and was confirmed as a superior school. This status sealed her teaching and research assignments and her independence.
In 2005, an agreement to join the University of Quebec in Montreal came very close to launching it onto an entirely new trajectory. But it will end in failure and a return to full autonomy in 2012. The UQAM was then in a political and financial storm due to the aborted project of student residences and offices on Voyageur Island and the principal, Roch Denis, was being challenged internally. The professors’ unions of UQAM did not like this agreement, which they saw as being imposed by management, and deplored the degree of autonomy granted to TÉLUQ University. In short, the transplant did not last.
“Even though TÉLUQ University is doing well today, I still think it’s a missed opportunity,” says Éric Bédard, but admits that his point of view is not unanimous among his colleagues. “Quebec would have benefited from closer collaboration between these two institutions. »
From LP to Zoom
The way of giving correspondence courses has also evolved significantly over the past 50 years. “In the beginning we used all the means at our disposal to give our lessons,” says Michel Umbriaco. Training was offered on television, recorded on LPs, or recorded on VHS tapes that were mailed to students. All of this cost a fortune to make. »
Éric Bédard recalls that when he joined in 2005, the courses were in a transition to electronic media. The videos were burned onto DVDs which were sent to the students. The online platforms were cumbersome and required constant support from the facility’s technicians. “Today it’s much more user-friendly and I can easily change my courses online, unless there are major changes,” specifies Éric Bédard.
Pedagogy has also evolved significantly. One of TÉLUQ University’s great achievements is showing that a distance learning course is not just a replica of a course offered in the classroom. Éric Bédard, for example, no longer uses video. He gives his lessons in audio, like a podcast. The one who confides in being inspired by the show Remarkably forgotten, of the late Serge Bouchard, does not hesitate to include musical interludes or interviews with guests in his classes. “Students aren’t in front of us in the classroom, so we have to find other ways to keep them interested,” he says.
For Michel Umbriaco, one of TÉLUQ University’s greatest contributions was to challenge accepted notions of what university education is and to develop critical thinking about the notions of courses and schools. “Above all, its existence has increased access to knowledge, which has made it possible to build a Quebec capable of taking charge of itself,” he believes.
This special content was created by the Special Publications team at Have to, Marketing related. The elaboration of Have to did not participate.