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Dans cet article, on s'attache a decrire une expeience d'enseignement a distance biculturelle franco-americaine pendant l'annee universitaire 1997/ 98. Les etudiants d'une classe de [2.sup.e] annee du departement GEA (option GAPMO internationale) de I'IUT de Poitiers ont ete associes a des etudiants americains de Advanced Technical Studies de l'Universite d'Illinois Carbondale. Deux projets tres differents (un par semestre) ont ete proposes a ces equipes binationales, le point commun restant l'utilisation du courrier electronique et de la Toile. Au premier semestre, l'objectif fixe par les deux enseignants etait la discussion et la resolution en commun d'une etude de cas (a dominante ethique). Le deuxieme projet etait plus complexe: il s'agissait d'etudier une veritable petite entreprise des environs de Carbondale et d'analyser ses opportunites d'exportation vers l'Europe. Un site a ete construit (Poitidale, nom-valise pour Poitiers + Carbondale) ou les etudiants des deux bords de l'Atlantique pouvaient se retrouver virtuellement et ecrire tous leurs commentaires et propositions. Le site offrait meme la possibilite theorique de dialoguer en direct, possibilite qui, compte tenu du decalage horaire et des contraintes de l'emploi du temps, n'a jamais ete utilise. Les difficultes rencontrees pour cette experience, les reflexions suscitees par les profondes differences culturelles entre les deux populations etudiantes, sont riches d'enseignement et ouvrent des perspectives interessantes pour d'autres types de collaboration.
In the academic year 1995-1996, I had the honor and fortune to be invited as a professeur associe (under a French law enabling short-term foreign professorships) to the IUT/GEA (University Institute of Technology, Department of Administration and Management) at the University of Poitiers.
Located in a historic building in the town center rather than on the suburban campus, GEA Internet users had to dial-up the U.P. server rather than connect directly. In the following year, Internet access at the GEA dramatically improved. By the next fall (1997), myself and my GEA colleague, Jean-Charles Khalifa, who had invited, hosted, and ultimately befriended me, decided to experiment with Distance Learning collaborative projects with their students. The French students were 14th and 15th year students from a college-track secondary school background while my American students were 15th and 16th year students from a much wider variety of academic backgrounds.
My program at Southern Illinois University is called Advanced Technical Studies and is an entry level supervisory management program for AAS (technical school) graduates. Thus the most common cohort in the ATS van are holders of two-year technical degrees, followed by alternative students with some college (but mostly military training certificates), while the third most common cohort consists of students who gravitate to ATS because they cannot do the generally more demanding work found elsewhere in the University. There was neither sequence nor prerequisites to the courses at the time and students need only a 2.00 GPA in their previous work to enter, which at most community colleges can be earned by attendance.
Part One: Fall Semester, 1997
Our first attempt was between Khalifa's intensive English-learning cohort and my ATS 364 class in Work-Center Management. This project occupied only a small part of the semester and consisted of an ethics case involving a suspected bribery attempt. The case relates the story of an American salesperson for a Brazilian commuter jet manufacturer trying to close a sale to a newly privatized Hungarian power company and who found a mysterious deposit in his bank account. Students were paired up into Franco-American teams and asked to decide what course of action to take, showing their reasoning in writing.
This project was based on simple asynchronous e-mail. Both classes had access to a departmental computer lab where each computer was connected to the Net and had e-mail programs installed. Both classes were given both class rosters with all their e-mail addresses.
The problems on the American end were several. One was that some SIUC students were in the habit of adopting names for e-mail addresses, such as email@example.com, that could not easily be correlated to real names, creating confusion for the French students, all of whom could easily be so correlated, as they were more likely to have been led by the hand in creating their e-mail addresses.
Another problem, which shows up in both semesters, is that SIUC students may drop a class up until half-way through the semester which, of course, plays havoc with group or team projects, both from the points of view of logistics and morale. The notion of dropping a course does not exist in the GEA program. Indeed, they do not have courses as such--as JC insists, they have subjects.
Further, the range of abilities, cultures and attitudes was much wider over the American cadre than the French, creating serious problems. Illinois felons may pursue associate (two-year) degrees while in prison but these credentials are not quite what they seem because of both lower expectations and reasonable precautions. One can obtain a two-year degree in, say, refrigeration technology, but no warden is silly enough to let a felon near a screwdriver, let alone a chiller or compressor. So the degrees are not the same as those earned on the outside. At the same time, ATS must admit any student who has earned an associates degree with a 2.00 GPA into their baccalaureate program, Advanced Technical Studies. And thus, …