Co-modality: learning to combine presence and distance

What are the benefits of co-modality? What nuances does it make sense to consider when choosing this teaching format? How do you live it? Three education experts shared their thoughts on the topic in a panel discussion presented at Distance Learning Week in February 2022.

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By Fatimazzahra Benchekri

What are the benefits of co-modality? What nuances does it make sense to consider when choosing this teaching format? How do you live it? Three education experts shared their thoughts on the subject in a panel discussion presented at the Distance learning weekin February 2022.

During the panel Co-modality: a unique combination of presence and distanceSerge Gérin-lajoie, professor at TÉLUQ University and specialist in distance education, online training and higher education, Normand Roy, professor in the department of psychopedagogy and andragogy at the University of Montreal and France Lafleur, professor in the department of education sciences at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières, freely discussed co-modality, a way of teaching that has gained in popularity over the last two years.

What is co-modality?

According to the Office québécois de la langue française, co-modality refers to teaching or training that combines face-to-face and distance modes simultaneously. The two modes take place at the same time and distance students have the opportunity to interact live with the instructor and other students.          

As a reminder, there are four main types of training to date: face-to-face, distance, hybrid and co-modal.

Co-modal education presents both technical and pedagogical challenges. However, co-modality also has benefits for students and teachers, as well as for institutions. For example, it provides educational continuity for those students who are unable to attend class, whether due to health, weather or other reasons.

What are the advantages of co-modality?  

Co-modality primarily allows for more individualized experiences based on student needs. For university students, balancing family life, work and studies is facilitated. The time savings that students are able to make by avoiding commuting hours would be one of the main benefits.

France Lafleur states that since the democratization of co-modality (mainly linked to the pandemic), the rate of full-time enrolment has increased in Quebec universities. It is not for nothing that the number of distance education courses offered has reached record levels, as is the case at the Université du Québec à Montréal, as recently reported in Le Devoir.

On the teachers' side, co-modality appears as a new feedback tool, which allows them to establish and maintain a link with students at a distance, while several technological features are available. These would give co-modality an interactive aspect that is, in some cases, absent even in face-to-face courses. France Lafleur refers to interactivity as the "diamond of distance education".

For educational institutions, co-modality allows them to target a varied and diverse clientele, sometimes located in distant geographical areas (cities, regions, or even countries).

Even for the youngest

The panelists did not just talk about university students. They also mentioned that for some elementary and high school students, especially those with special needs or other health conditions (anxiety, mental health, atypical background, etc.), co-modal education can be relevant, useful and supportive.

In fact, it allows these young people to follow the course live, like their other peers, while being physically in a comfort zone (their home). Thus, co-modality would respond to the multiplication of pathways among young people.

Pedagogical coherence

During the webinar, the modalities to reinforce pedagogical coherence in distance learning were discussed through an action research-training. The modalities are as follows:

  1. Make technology and digital resources accessible to both learners and teachers.
  2. Use a digital learning environment to centralize teacher practice.
  3. Putting the learner at the heart of reflections, choices and decisions in the act of co-modal teaching.

Moreover, this close link between pedagogy and digital gives a pedagogical-digital coherence where 4 elements are in perpetual interaction:

  1. The terms of the ADF
  2. Teaching strategies
  3. Learning targets
  4. Evaluation activities

While implementing these practices, it is important to ensure that the distance will not alter the quality of a course and, on the contrary, will facilitate its implementation. In addition, the management of equipment is of crucial importance when using technological tools and must be taken seriously and constantly checked to ensure that it is working properly for everyone.

The panel discussion can be reviewed here: Comodality: a unique combination of presence and distance.  

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About the Author

Fatimazzahra Benchekri
Fatimazzahra is a master's student in educational technology at Laval University. Passionate about reading and writing, she has decided to devote her time to writing in a field in which she feels she is growing, education. With a background in journalism and political science, Fatimazzahra sees education as an ever-changing field where anyone is welcome to share their ideas and motivations.

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