New ways of learning to fight fires? Learning processes and contradictions in distance and on-campus firefighter training in Sweden

Robert Holmgren


This article reports on findings from a comparative study on firefighter students' learning processes in a technology-supported distance training course and a traditional campus training course in Sweden. Based on student interviews and observations of exercises, the article aims to describe and analyse the impact on learning processes when exercise-oriented teaching takes place in a technology-supported learning environment instead of face to face on campus. Drawing on the concept of contradiction in activity theory, the findings indicate that distance students encounter several dilemmas and conflicts related to low instructor presence, ambiguities regarding learning requirements and division of labor, as well as shortcomings in the technologies offered. However, the distance students tend to develop strategies for dealing with these contradictions, resulting in the development of self-directed learning and more learner-centered approaches, while the campus students rely to a greater extent on traditional, instructor-centered teaching. During the 2-year training course, however, it appears the established norms and conventions of teaching and learning which characterise the campus mode, counteract changes in the distance mode. The technology-supported learning process with its focus on exercise preparation is thus gradually normalised in the direction of the campus mode, and its face -to-face, instructor-led and exercise-oriented learning process.


Firefighter training; Technology-supported distance training; Learning processes; Contradictions

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