On February 18, 2015, I participated in a web conference with my learning partner for PIDP 3100, Joel Feenstra. Joel is currently an instructor within the University of Fraser Valley’s (UFV) Trades and Technology Centre. In addition to instructing, Joel also holds responsibility for program development and advancement at the University.
Prior to our web conference, Joel and I selected a topic of mutual interest to explore in depth. The topic we chose to focus on is “hybrid learning & delivery systems in adult education.”
In the NMC Horizon Report 2015 Higher Education Edition experts agreed “on two long-term trends: advancing learning environments that are flexible and drive innovation, as well as increasing the collaboration that takes place between higher education institutions.”
We feel that the development of hybrid learning and delivery will play an important part these trends, and in advancing flexible learning in particular.
Many of Joel’s electrical students come from all over the Province of BC to become certified electricians; as such, UFV is in the process of exploring digital or online options for it’s curriculum in order to develop a program that can be completed without the need to travel to the campus for teaching & testing.
Personally, I currently teach both online and face-to-face courses within British Columbia Institute of Technology’s (BCIT) School of Business, Marketing Management program, so the use of technology and distance learning is of great interest to me.
I completed my Bachelor’s Degree at Royal Roads University in a hybrid delivery experience that included two three-week residencies and 22 months of online courses. I am currently taking the Provincial Instructor’s Diploma program (PIDP) which also offers many courses online.
I see the distributed learning model growing and evolving, and more adults choosing this flexible learning option that allows them to work and learn at the same time, and in a manner conducive to their busy lives. I am interested in expanding my knowledge in this area and pursuing future employment as an online instructor.
As an instructor of Public Relations and Marketing, I wondered how our conversation would unfold, given Joel’s very different area of expertise.
I quickly found out that Joel and I have a lot in common. In addition to being post-secondary instructors, we’re both proud parents of toddler boys. We are both married, and have many similar duties and experiences outside of work. We are around the same age and have the same amount of practical and teaching experience.
Early on in our conversation, I was quickly impressed with Joel’s instructional knowledge, and desire to learn about hybrid delivery and how to implement these learnings at UFV.
Following our conversation, I found myself excited and energized about the future of hybrid learning delivery for business-related programs, and in the trades, which I had not previously considered.
One important thing I learned from Joel was the importance of defining the overall “role” of the instructor when looking to adapt a face-to-face learning model in to a hybrid-delivery model, whereby students can take some (or all) content online.
In trades-based learning, there is very little flexibility or freedom when it comes to learning outcomes and objectives. Students must know how to properly and safely complete tasks related to the learning. There is a right way, and a wrong way, and not much room for interpretation in between.
In BC, trades and apprenticeship training is regulated by the Provincial Government; and instructors deliver mandated courses. Instructors have several key roles in the delivery of the training in both the face-to-face and online learning environment.
First, they must act as “facilitators and time keepers” as the programs must be completed within a certain amount of time.
Second, they are “questioners.” They must ask students “why?” and probe for details on the process a student takes to get to an outcome.
Third, they are “organizers” of content and learning opportunities. In trades education in an online environment, the instructors don’t play much of a “social role” but they do offer some programs through a LinkedIn learning program, which they are asked to promote.
As someone trying to “modernize” trades training, Joel has experienced resistance from seasoned instructors who don’t always embrace change, and prefer to stick with the “overhead” projectors over new technologies such as SMART screens and document cameras.
So while many cling to the ways of the past, Joel explained the need to advance learning systems to meet the current and future need for electricians in the province. As it stands, the government has set aside considerable funding for apprenticeship programs and jobs which will be needed for planned (future) liquified natural gas and other resource-based projects the government wants to embark on.
In order to keep up with this influx, they must move online to a hybrid-based delivery system. Developing an online-delivery system poses many challenges such as how to address potential plagiarism and cheating during quizzes being taken remotely or online assessment.
Another issue for trades training here in BC (that translates to the online environment) is our multicultural population and the increase in ESL (non-native speakers who are learning in an English language environment) students.
My discussion with Joel allowed me to see the challenges faced by other industries in relation to moving or adapting to the hybrid delivery systems many students want and need to obtain a post-secondary education.
It’s important for Joel, and all hybrid-delivery education program developers, to explore, understand, and define the “roles of the instructor” in order to understand how to develop appropriate teaching opportunities, and delivery channels, for their programs.
Many institutions may wish to consider offering online courses in languages other than English (or French) to meet the demand and need of the students. Alternatively, there are some safety elements in the trades that will most certainly require a fluency with the English language. This is a real challenge that must be explored.
As I have explored the hybrid-delivery system topic, I have wondered how my role will change with the offering of online instruction. In the classroom, I see myself as a role-model, lecturer, facilitator, organizer and leader. In the online environment, I see my role more as a facilitator of information, connector of people, and organizer of content.
The potential for online cheating may need to be dealt with by giving assignments that don’t allow a lot of room for this behaviour such as real-time discussions via video conference. This may lead to the development of additional software and security systems that can scan and monitor online materials for plagiarism and cheating.
“NMC Horizon Report 2015 Higher Education Edition.” The New Media Consortium. 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.