Let’s Hammer Out a Strategy for OER in the Trades in Ontario

In May 2017 at the ONCAT Student Pathways Conference, Tracie Marsh-Fior (Executive Director OntarioLearn) and I presented some ideas about open educational resource (OER) development for trades training. What we were pitching was the collaborative development of openly licensed instructional resources that could be used in classrooms or in more flexible arrangements through online delivery. Specifically, we were suggesting open resources to support the theory portions of technical and vocational programs in a way that benefits learners, employers and institutions. There are already some instances of these ideas happening in Canada and a few in Ontario, but it is not yet a widespread practice. We’d like to support further development of OER for trades training through eCampusOntario, and our strategic plan for 2018-2021 highlights this goal.

In 2015 UNESCO adopted a recommendation concerning Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and a strategy to support member states’ efforts in enhancing their TVET systems. The recommendation encouraged members to “exploit the potential of information and communication technologies in TVET” through “distance and online delivery, including through blended models and the development and use of open educational resources.” UNESCO followed up in 2017 with a global study of OER in TVET. A report on the results of the study by Robert Schuwer and Ben Janssen (2017) noted some key factors that argue for the adoption of OER in vocational training.

  • Technical education is relatively more expensive than other sectors of education. OER are one option to extend more equal access to TVET. Videos, in particular, are an important means to realize this equity
  • OER increase efficiency by sharing short courses among institutions
  • OER contribute to quality improvement when used by teachers: improvement of their own
    technical knowledge and provision of updated learning resources to learners
  • OER enable a more agile response to market needs
  • OER contribute to inclusion and increasing equity

The Schuwer and Janssen report also underscored specific barriers to providing an OER solution in the TVET sector. Most of their observations dealt with capacity issues within the community, and the continued need for ICT training for instructors. And, while there was a relatively straightforward path to making the theory portions of technical trades open and reusable, the important skills focus of technical and vocational training would require more creative and innovative solutions.

At eCampusOntario we are committed to supporting and incenting innovative solutions for learning and teaching, including support for extending instructor skills with information and communications technologies (ICT). We believe that technical and vocational programs could benefit from collaborative initiatives to provide shared and customizable open resources, and one of our goals is to make this area a focal point for funding programs in 2018-19.

Schuwer, R. & Janssen, B. OER in TVET, an overview of the state of affairs and harnessing the potentialities of OER for TVET: summary of findings and recommendations. UNESCO. Available from http://www.unevoc.unesco.org/up/Summary_OER-in-TVET-study.pdf

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