Spotlight on: Alexandre Biotteau
Spotlight on Alexandre Biotteau
- Hello Alexandre, so what brought you to Singapore?
I have been willing to live in Asia for a while, and in 2011, I learnt about the exceptional environment that Singapore had to offer, both from an academic and a social point of view. My wife and I kept this idea in mind and a few years after, she had the opportunity to be relocated there. I took a leave from my job and I moved along with my wife and our two kids. I lived the life of a house-husband for a year before joining INSEAD in Singapore then NUS-ALSET, the Institute for Applied Learning Sciences and Educational Technology.
- Can you explain your research topic(s) in a few words?
ALSET is a university-level research institute established to support interdisciplinary research and innovation in the learning sciences and educational technology. “The learning sciences” refer to a collection of fields – such as cognitive science, computer science, educational psychology, economics and sociology – that all contribute to increasing our understanding of learning. While each discipline maintains its own questions, expertise and methods, the learning sciences provides the opportunity for researchers to assemble into interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary teams as they look at learning from multiple perspectives.
We also build and manage a big dataset on NUS students for research purposes and the benefit of the broader NUS community. This “Data lake” brings together anonymous data on 170,000 students and former students and give researchers the opportunity to study learners’ behaviours and academic performance.
- What types of application(s) do your research activities lead to?
First, we want to understand how people learn, the impact studies have on their life, and how they can improve their strategy. We also consider the future of universities and other learning institutions: Artificial Intelligence and automation are bringing much change in our society, and this “4th industrial revolution” also impacts higher education. We don’t study in university like we did 20 years ago! Online courses and flipped classrooms are the new norms, while students use dedicated app, online journals, learning management systems, and interactive polls every day.
We want to identify the added value of these new pedagogies and so called “Educational technology” (or EdTech). We are also concerned by the application of such findings, and we implement some interventions in the classrooms. For instance, some psychologists explain students how to grow their skills in other disciplines, some others encourage them to use pedagogical resources, while computer scientists develop algorithm to help students’ discussion in online forums, and a team of neuroscientist advocates for starting class later in the morning…
Our scope of research goes even beyond universities. We all need to upgrade our skills to get adjusted to the new economy, and in this fast-paced environment, we may have several careers over our life. Education is not for children and young adults only, everyone needs to embrace lifelong learning! This is a major challenge for each of us and for the society as a whole.
As I hold a PhD in Political Science and a Master in Sociology, I am especially interested in Public policies on adult learning and integration in the labour market. I am currently conducting a comparison of the SkillsFuture programme and the French reform of the sector.
- Are you currently collaborating with French and/or Singaporean institutes?
Our Institute has established collaboration with French partners. We have established a partnership with the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research (CRI) in Paris, and we are currently working on a joint project on lifelong learning. We have even won a Merlion grant, from the French Embassy, to support this collaboration and research recommendation systems for adult learners.
Some ALSET affiliates also collaborate with a few researchers from Université de Paris, to offer a course on Learning to Learn better and assess the impact of sleep pattern on learning performance.
Earlier this year, we also visited Sorbonne Université and received some of their staff, to discuss Learning analytics and exchange on our respective approaches of educational data.
- What would be your advice for a young researcher coming to Singapore?
Be humble, patient, and persevere. Humble because Singapore is ahead in many scientific domains. Singaporean institutions are well ranked among world-class universities and they haven’t waited for us to achieve such great results. Therefore, if you want to find a position and success here, you need to stay modest and to show what your added value is. Then, be patient: you need to meet people, build your network, and convince them of the value of your project. As a foreigner, we are outsiders and it takes time to get known and integrated. Even the legal procedures of hiring, reviewing your project and receiving funding can seem slow. Getting your visa approved can take months and receiving tenure takes years. But persevere: if you do things rights, if you can demonstrate the relevance of your ideas, and if you can deliver results, you will receive support and get resources. And it’s worth it, because Singapore can be a great place to live as a scientist!
Thank you very much Alexandre for taking the time to answer my questions and see you soon!
Credits : Department for Culture, Education and Science, Embassy of France in Singapore and Henriette Cornet