Brandmannautbildning på distans, en het fråga om utmaningar, motsättningar och förändringar vid implementering av distansutbildning
Sammanfattning: In recent years, distance courses combining online studies with physical meetings on campus have become increasingly common as an alternative to regular campus courses, even in vocational training programs with extensive practical skills components. This thesis is focused on the implementation of distance firefighter training in Sweden and the ways in which this intervention has affected training activities and participants, as well as on the impact that historical and contextual training aspects have had on the implementation process. Based on a sociocultural and activity theory framework, a longitudinal, comparative study was made of the distance and campus study modes, focusing on those challenges, contradictions and changes resulting from this intervention that have had the greatest impact on the students’ learning processes, the instructors’ teaching roles and the basic training program as a whole. Four data collections were made over a period of about five years. The data consisted of interviews with students and instructors, observations of practical exercises, logbook notes and general documents pertaining to the training programme. Three phases were identified in the implementation, viz. an introduction phase, an extension phase and a consolidation phase. The introduction phase was characterized by a focus on instructor-driven approaches where the instructors’ traditional one-way knowledge transfer approach to teaching was gradually re-assessed, which made possible the introduction of a technology-supported, more process-oriented and student-centered course design. This resulted in the distance students beginning to take greater individual responsibility for their studies than the campus students, who proved to be more dependent on the knowledge imparted by their instructors. The extension phase, during which other instructors, usually with little experience of technology-supported teaching, and additional student groups were included in the distance training, was characterized by a normalization of the changes brought about during the introduction phase, meaning that, to some extent, they tended to shift in the direction of the traditional knowledge transfer and practice-oriented approaches of the campus training mode. This tendency can be attributed to conflicts between the instructors’ conceptions of the online learning environment and their views of how vocational training should be conducted. The manner in which they dealt with these conflicts can be summarized as quiet resistance, manifested by reduced online presence, less support to the distance students and a continued focus on their commitments on the campus program. Over time, this appears to have resulted in the distance students adapting their study strategies to the dominating attitudes in the training program and spending less time interacting online. Although these patterns also occurred in the consolidation phase, it would appear that during this phase the distance students developed their own goal-oriented and self-directed learning strategies. An important conclusion of this thesis is that the traditional attitudes commonly found in the firefighter profession had less impact on the distance students’ learning processes than on those of the campus students. Furthermore, it was found that the implementation of the distance mode was a catalyst that brought to light conflicting views about the program’s goals and core content, and contributed to established attitudes to teaching and learning being challenged. However, it also contributed to some extent to changes in the approaches to teaching. Finally, the thesis demonstrates that the gradual changes in course design and the division of responsibility between instructors and students in the technology-supported distance mode resulted in the students becoming more goal-oriented, more focused on exercise preparations and better able to participate in exercises in a manner that deepened their understanding of the complexity of exercises.
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