Applying the Counseling-Learning approach to the #eTourismMOOC. Speaker at TEFI9 conference in Kamloops, Canada

I have recently presented an abstract to the Tourism Education Futures Initiative Conference – TEFI9 in Kamloops, Canada at the Thompson Rivers University.
The paper in collaboration with prof. Lorenzo Cantoni was about:
“Applying the Counseling-Learning Approach to a Tourism-related Massive Open Online Course”.

Here myself presenting:

and here below the Abstract:

In the Counseling-Learning approach proposed by Charles A. Curran (1952) the concept of caring can be intended as the characteristic of the teacher (counsellor) to actively support the learner (client) in order to make his/her learning experience a meaningful one. Curran took principles from the humanistic psychology of Carl Rogers, who proposed a person-centered learning approach. With the concept of “counseling-learning”, Curran integrated both counseling and learning in a unified concept of educational process. In 1970, Curran focused on the learning of foreign languages, designing the Community Language Learning approach in which the concepts of counseling-learning were applied: students, supported by the teacher, collaborate together to develop what aspects of a language they are keen to learn. In this teaching approach the peer interactions among learners play an important role in the knowledge acquisition and fulfillment of being part of a community. This “caring-based” approach can be seen not only as a pedagogical method, but as a philosophy of learning, which provides thoughtful considerations on the role of the teacher in encouraging a student’s holistic learning /growth as a person. As proposed by Curran, forcing the English language structure itself: “learning is persons”.

In this paper, it is argued that Curran’s approach can be particularly relevant in teaching tourism-related subjects. Indeed, tourism education might be approached considering the ultimate virtue of the subject itself: e.g. through the tourism subject it is possible to teach how to encourage good actions (in tourism), ethical aspects in tourism-related decision making, achieving sustainable and responsible (tourism) behaviors, mutual respect, etc. Moreover, several characteristics of Curran’s approach to learn a second language can be associated to a tourism learning experience. Students might perceive a learning experience as a threatening situation due to a lack of knowledge, inadequacy, personal background, or competition against peers, all aspects that Curran’s approach removes through the active counseling role of the teacher.

However, Curran’s approach can be perceived as difficult to adopt due to the greater “caring” efforts required from a teacher, and a presence of small groups of students in order to favor a sense of community among them. Nevertheless, a valid aid in the adoption of the Counseling-Learning approach is represented by the use of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the knowledge transfer and in supporting teaching activities. Indeed, ICTs are particularly key in tourism education: students need to learn how to deal with the online domain as the tourism industry is more and more driven by the digital environment; and, at the same time, technologies represent a valuable aid for teachers to support their activities in class- as well as in distance-learning situations.

The recent phenomenon of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) sheds new light at the role of teacher and students’ learning processes. For example, as in the community learning approach, a MOOC allows for peer support/evaluation, and a teacher can act as a facilitator/counselor in students learning process. Therefore, this paper explores the current phenomenon of MOOC proposing an application of the Counseling-Learning approach to support such a particular eLearning experience.
The recent MOOC: “eTourism: Communication Perspectives” (which has been launched from the MOOC platform from October to November 2015) will be presented as a case study on applying Counseling-Learning principles in a massive online open course learning experience. In particular, learners’ peer interactions and interactions between instructors and students, which happened on the MOOC platform and in a dedicated Facebook page, are investigated in order to identify effective caring patterns in achieving learning-related goals (i.e.: “I have learned this…”), and being part of a community according to the Counseling-Learning principles.

Finally, this study provides reflections for tourism instructional designers when planning a computer mediated tourism learning offer, while at the same time reflecting on how to care about students’ holistic learning and personal growth through the use of information and communication technologies.