I spent a very interesting day at Camosun College’s professional development day last Tuesday. Camosun is a two year community college in Victoria, British Columbia. Our two year community colleges, at least here in British Columbia, do an excellent job in the area of university transfer programs, career, vocational and technical education.
I was giving a keynote on: Will Technology Replace the Campus? (a copy of the slides is available from my Dropbox on e-mail request to me; the pdf of the Powerpoint is too large for straight downloading- 12 Mbs). The full keynote is available as a video from here. (90 minutes with questions and discussion)
I gave two versions. The short one (10 seconds) was: NO. The longer one was, No, BUT… The main themes were as follows:
- the need to move away from the ‘one class fits all model’ to individualizing and personalizing learning through the use of technology, and particularly web 2.0 tools
- the need to think, now most learning can be delivered just as effectively online as in a classroom, about the best way to use the campus experience.
This was also an opportunity for me to go to some of the other sessions, to see the good work instructors and designers are doing at Camosun in using technology in their teaching.
Flexible training in the trades
I was particularly interested in a presentation by Gilbert Noussitou and Jennifer Stein on flexible learning for the professional cook apprentice. This was the first and last program developed under the province’s Industrial Training Authority’s e-Pprentice project. The Camosun program was aimed at working apprentices and involved trainee chefs from some of the leading hotels and restaurants in the region. It was partly delivered online into the workplace, and partly on campus. Of the 14 trainee chefs that started, 11 successfully completed the program (compared with 39% completion rates in the province’s on-campus programs). It was clear from the presentation that Gilbert and Jennifer had done an excellent job in the management, design and delivery of this very successful program
I was particularly interested because I was heavily involved in the design and development of a business plan for the e-Prentice program. As its web site states, the Industrial Training Authority is:
‘a provincial crown agency… responsible for managing BC’s industry training system to develop the skilled workforce needed to ensure the competitiveness and economic prosperity of our businesses and our province…..The ITA is governed by a nine-person Board of Directors, whose members come from diverse sectoral backgrounds and have broad expertise regarding industry needs and training approaches.’
The ITA Board accepted the business plan as well as several million dollars from the provincial government for the program, which was to cover apprenticeship training in 12 trades, to be delivered across the province through consortia of public colleges, working in partnership with provincial trade associations. In addition, matching funds were promised by the Canadian Federal government.
The Camosun cook program was the first program funded, at which point, the ITA cancelled the rest of the program (losing at the same time the federal funding) and used the provincial funds for another project. The rationale put forward by one Board member was that the private sector could offer the training at less cost. However, to date no private sector online apprentice training has been implemented within the province, and the Camosun cook program is the only one delivered under the e-Prentice program. Although the Camosun program has been successful in itself, it is limited in scope, as colleges in other regions have decided not to participate.
Another successful flexible trades training program has been developed for automotive collision repair apprentices by Vancouver Community College. Indeed, the design of the e-Pprentice program was strongly influenced by the VCC model. The VCC program still continues, but again now without support from the ITA.
So we have a sorry tale of dubious accountability from a private sector-dominated Crown agency, petty provincialism from some of the colleges, and a missed opportunity for a unique, innovative program that meets a real need in the province (there are over 40,000 unqualified tradespeople in BC who started a campus-based trades program but never completed it who would directly benefit from such a program). Compare this with the Australian Flexible Learning Network, that provides high quality online trades training throughout Australia.
None of this should take away from the achievement of Gilbert and Jennifer, who have done a great job in the Cook program.
I don’t want to end on a sour note, because I had a great day at Camosun and was impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the instructors and the supporting learning technology staff. But if you want to know why innovation in Canadian education is difficult, the e-Pprentice program would make a classic case study, and the fault in this case does not lie with the instructors or public institutions.