By Gabriela Faz

On June 14, 2019, Tec de Monterrey celebrates the beginning of the activities that gave rise to what we know today as e-learning. Beatriz Palacios, director of Educational Innovation, shares her experience and vision of the use of technology and the transcendental role it has played in the country’s education.

Reflecting on the progress made during these 30 years of e-learning, Palacios commented that this educational modality could be considered the perfect pretext for Tec to strengthen and formalize actions to take advantage of technology as a means of enriching educational models.

“Tec was born 75 years ago and throughout the years, it has been a pioneer in the use of technology and in the creation of programs to prepare professionals in this area. What we are celebrating today are 30 years of having found a very meaningful use of technology for education and the experience of students; the emergence of distance education was the beginning of a great journey of the institution to grow in educational experiences taking advantage of technology and focused on offering the best to our students,” she explained.

“During this time, distance education has expanded into diverse experiences and this, combined with the growth in the use of technology in all contexts, has allowed barriers between distance education programs and face-to-face programs to be erased gradually. Both modalities converge in what today we call digital education, which includes distance, hybrid, and enriched face-to-face programs; all of these programs are focused on digital experiences and interactions, and it is where we take advantage of all technological advances to offer the best to the students,” she emphasized.

Digital education throughout time

Conoce la línea del tiempo con la evolución de la educación a distancia en el Tec de Monterrey

Learn about the timeline of the evolution of distance education at Tec de Monterrey

It was in 1989 when the first distance education effort began with the Interactive Satellite Education System (SEIS for its initials in Spanish), which had the objective of offering postgraduate studies to teachers of all campuses through a satellite network from Monterrey and Mexico City.

This initiative was what later gave rise, in 1996, to the Virtual University, which emerged after five years of the first efforts and projects that used remote technology to meet the particular needs of various departments or traditional academic programs through telecommunications and multimedia resources distributed in compact disks.

“Using technology for education back then was still not as simple as it is today!”, Palacios said, recalling that in those years they wanted to find the best technological practices available in educational methods and create new projects, such as bachelor’s and master’s degree courses, as well as teacher training programs, all of them via satellite.

“This is how distance education began to emerge organically in Tec, as something to begin to structure and focus our vocation to take advantage of technology in something more than what was being done so far.”

From there the formalization of this type of education began, with goals already established to have complete academic programs that could reach specific markets, teachers focused on this modality, and a whole team developing new models and technologies to exploit it.

“The distance modality was so successful and grew so much that the boundaries of the university were crossed and a link emerged with universities and companies that sought to introduce the world of distance education in their training programs and that relied on the experience we had at Tec to support them in their objectives,” added Palacios.

Some historical numbers of students who have been part of this modality are:

– 120,000 high school and undergraduate students

– 32,200 master’s and doctoral graduates

– 243,000 diploma and Continuing Education courses

– 800,000 Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

– 250,000 exclusive business courses

What happened at Tec while the virtual went beyond the established limits?

As already mentioned, it was thanks to distance education that Tec had the opportunity to promote the vocation to innovate based on technology.

In 2014, after nearly 20 years of success in distance education through the Virtual University, this disappeared as such, a situation that led to a decrease in the number of students enrolled in programs entirely online. This, far from representing a setback, helped Tec to rethink the established methods and practices to retake the commitment not only to promote digital education for distance models but also to increase the scope towards all modalities in the Institution.

In her reflection, Beatriz Palacios mentions that after an in-depth analysis, they concluded that digital education had not decreased, but rather had changed. “We realized that all of a sudden we had reached a world where extremes, that is, face-to-face education and distance education, began to converge, this is our great learning.”

She also explained that in recent times, it is no longer possible to say that Tec offers classes in the traditional 100% attendance model, as the Institution has transformed its educational model and the offer increasingly includes all the advantages of the digital world: through a digital platform, with interactions with distance students, videoconferences with an international expert, by introducing virtual reality technologies, etc. As for the 100% distance modality, it also began to take advantage of the benefits of offering blended courses.

“These last 5 years of educational practices with the use of technology have allowed us to see that at Tec, the world of digital education continues to grow by leaps and bounds and also gives us the opportunity to understand that in education, the classroom and distance models are not separate worlds but have become a continuum, and the best thing is to bet on programs that can take advantage of the benefits of both modalities”.

The core and most complex part of our learning history is to be aware that the first thing you notice when you innovate in an educational model is the form, that is, the tools, technology, the learning context; but behind that and what is more important, is discovering that without a fundamental redesign in the structure of academic content, methodology and didactics, there can be no successful teaching models.

“Over the years, we have learned how to give an effective form to educational practice and it is something we must continue to consider in all implementations.”

In the new Tec 21 model, the goal is for students to have flexibility in their processes, and digital courses and modules will be offered for this purpose.

Among the new projects, aligned to this educational model, there is a chatbot that answers students’ doubts immediately; the Art3D application, which integrates augmented reality in certain educational contents; and the telepresence of the teacher through holograms.

“This is our vocation, we must continue to promote our innovative DNA and use of technology, but always with the aim of translating this vocation into impact projects that really transform education and offer the best experiences to our students,” Palacios concluded.

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