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Moroccan teacher trainers acquire tech skills to design online courses

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Professors and trainers who prepare primary school teachers in Morocco are steadily building a collection of e-learning resources to train more teachers more flexibly. At the same time, they are gaining skills in leveraging technology to make training more accessible to teachers and students. 

The initiative to integrate technology into the training of primary school teachers is part of the Higher Education Partnership-Morocco (HEP-M), a program funded by USAID and implemented in cooperation with the Moroccan government. Teacher trainers gathered at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Ben Guerir in November for a two-day e-learning workshop organized as part of the program. They noted that while creating an enduring collection of technology-powered training resources, they are also gaining high-tech skills that they will use for the rest of their careers.

“I learned the different steps for creating courses, something that I didn’t know before. Now I also know strategies for making short videos for students who are planning to become teachers,”  said Fatima Zahra Soubhi, an adjunct professor at Hassan I University’s Higher School of Education and Training in Berrechid. “Distance education is not just a tool to be used in the case of unforeseen events like the pandemic. It’s also a tool that keeps the student actively engaged in their learning. They can learn at their own pace, they can be more aware of their progress in learning, and they can learn according to their needs.”

Soubhi is among hundreds of Moroccan teacher trainers creating distance education courses to train future primary school teachers and provide continuing education for experienced teachers aligned with evidence-based best practices. She is part of a research and development group working on a distance course that will teach educators how to use technology to create instructional tools and improve their teaching. That course is one of 13 Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) that will be completed by the program in 2024 to train teachers in topics such as lesson planning, evaluating students’ progress, and ensuring that lessons are inclusive for different types of learners. The workshop in Ben Guerir was the fourth time the groups met in person, having also met virtually more than a dozen times.

The effort to create a leading-edge collection of MOOCs is one important element of HEP-M, which was launched in 2019 by USAID, the Moroccan Ministry of National Education, Preschool, and Sports, and the Moroccan Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research, and Innovation. Moroccan education stakeholders set the strategy to reflect local needs and since then have assumed leadership of the project’s activities with technical assistance provided by Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

As it enters its final year, the HEP-M collaboration has so far strengthened the capacities of 470 Moroccan educators, including faculty members from universities where future teachers earn their degrees and instructors from government teacher-training centers where teachers receive pre-service and in-service training. Previously, universities and training centers worked separately, which led to both redundancies and gaps in training. HEP-M brings together the different types of educators along with technology experts to create a community of practice with expertise in creating MOOCs and other online training resources. 

The opportunity for collaboration is appreciated by participants like Amine Toumi, an  audiovisual and digital media production specialist at Hassan II University in Casablanca. As a HEP-M participant, Toumi has taken on a leadership role, guiding professors in creating MOOCs. But he said he gained knowledge as well.

“I’ve had the honor of collaborating with immensely experienced individuals,” Toumi said. “Throughout our meetings and workshops, there were countless invaluable moments of exchange where I received mentorship and guidance.”

This approach – bolstering Moroccan leadership of the program, basing its strategy on local priorities, and drawing upon local resources and networks – reflects USAID’s emphasis on localizing development. Promoting Moroccan ownership of the program in this way increases the likelihood that the efforts and benefits will be sustained after project financing concludes.

A representative of the Ministry of Higher Education noted that HEP-M supports Morocco’s national strategy to accelerate the digital transformation of higher education. “These workshops are the culmination of the fruitful cooperation between all the stakeholders driving the project, which has continued to mature and develop,” said Ilham Morino, head of the Division of Non-University Higher Education Institutions within the Ministry of Higher Education.

“It’s certain that they will use these techniques, expertise, and skills later in their future work,” added Tawfik Al-Harouti, head of the Ministry of National Education’s Central Unit for Teacher Training. 

Abdellatif Fergoug, e-learning project manager at the National Center for Teaching Innovation and Research (CNIPE), leads a workshop session in creating online courses November 12, 2023, at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Ben Guerir, Morocco. (Photo by Daniel Lynx Bernard for ASU) 

One Moroccan education expert who has become a leader in the effort to create MOOCs is Abdellatif Fergoug, e-learning project manager at the Ministry of National Education’s National Center for Teaching Innovation and Research (CNIPE). During the workshop, Fergoug agreed that the effort to create MOOCs now, in the short term, was also laying the foundation for long-term benefits.

“It’s true, we are in the process of putting in place MOOCs. But, at the same time, we are developing skills among the teams who are involved in the project – the staff, the instructors, the trainers,” Fergoug said. “We’re also developing relationships – a network. And we’re developing the (teacher-training centers’) ability to develop their own MOOCs.”

“We now realize that distance learning is unavoidable. We cannot do it all in person because we have to optimize the time and volume necessary for the training of future teachers. So, institutionalizing distance learning is very important,” Fergoug continued. “But at the same time, trainers need to know how to teach remotely – how to develop a MOOC, how to make a script for a distance learning course, how to do instructional design, how to manage distance learning and evaluate students remotely. All those are skills that, thanks to this project, we are in the process of developing

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