Denise Gautreau recently joined New England Institute of Technology as an instructional designer, where she will help increase the school’s online presence by offering online learning experiences for students. Previously, Gautreau has researched subjects such as electrical engineering and biochemistry and has also worked as a scientist for Pfizer Global, researching pharmaceutical treatment for obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Gautreau holds a B.A. in biology from Rutgers University, an M.S. in zoology from the University of Rhode Island and an M.Ed in instructional design from the University of Massachusetts Boston.
PBN: Could you tell me more about the e-learning modules? GAUTREAU: Instead of focusing on e-learning modules, let me talk about e-learning in general. I think e-learning traditionally has been associated with stand-alone, self-paced “learning” used mainly in government and industry workplaces. Today, e-learning has a much broader definition and it can incorporate short, self-paced and interactive lessons to teach a specific concept, or it can be a series of longer, more cohesive lessons that include different types of learning activities. For our online courses at NEIT, it is important to us to build a “community of learning.” Each course is led by a faculty member who guides the students through activities such as real-world projects, online discussions and collaborative work.
PBN: Why do you feel it is important to design these modules for students?
GAUTREAU: Online learning can be another way for students to learn, but I believe it can really benefit the nontraditional student. Many people decide to further their education at different points in their lives; however, they often have work or family responsibilities that make it impossible to attend school full time, let alone during the day. Night classes may not be convenient for some students. Online learning gives the student flexibility of doing class work around their schedule. Plus since physical location is not a factor, a student has more options when choosing a school or program of study.
PBN: As someone with an extensive scientific background, how will you use your skills for this new position?
GAUTREAU: My approach includes stepping back and looking at potential “big picture” implications and then developing a step-by-step, multifaceted solution. I find creative ways to solve a problem and often use several different approaches in parallel. For instructional design, these skills help me conceive and design different methods to teach the same information. My science background has also helped me develop strong analytical skills, which is a benefit when learning new software or troubleshooting issues. Communication is also essential. In science you must be able to effectively communicate your work to a wide variety of audiences. Similarly in instructional design, I need to be able to clearly convey information to students and faculty whether it is teaching them new software, writing instructions for using online tools, or creating learning activities. •