Using an Open Textbook and a Learning Management System in Trades Courses: A (Possible) Case Study
Moira is an instructor in a Trades program at a college in B.C. Since she started working at the college, she has taught all of her courses face-to-face, both in a classroom and on the shop floor. Over the years, Moira has designed and taught her classes around a framework that includes the following:
- Course pack.
Each term, Moira photocopies dozens of articles and excerpts from assorted textbooks and works with the college’s printing services to assemble the readings into a course pack for her students. Moira’s students are responsible for purchasing a copy of this course pack at the college bookstore at the beginning of term. Moira assigns readings from the course pack each week with the expectation students will have completed them before the week’s lecture and gained some grounding in the topic well before they spend hands-on time in the shop.
- In-class lectures & discussions.
Moira uses the 6 hours of in-class time she has with her students each day to expand on that week’s topic and to supplement any areas not addressed in enough detail – or covered at all – by the readings in the course pack. She creates PowerPoint presentations to use in her lectures; her PowerPoint slides are full of Trades images and photos Moira finds online and downloads to use in her course to help illustrate Trades practices for her students. Sometimes other Trades instructors come to class to demonstrate to students how the course theory is applied in practice.
- In-class “self-assessment” quizzes.
Moira also uses some in-class time to give her students quizzes (paper handouts) and she marks these quizzes that same day. These quizzes are not part of the students’ formal grade in the course but Moira does require that students achieve a score of 70% or more; the quizzes are intended to give students an opportunity to confirm their comprehension of the theory and their readiness to apply the theory in the shop.
In summary: Moira’s students acquire their course theory during class lectures and from the course pack. They then go on to have hands-on time in the shop to apply the theory they learned in class and from the course pack readings.
Recently, Moira has been reviewing her course. She has developed a list of recurring issues she wants to address through some course revisions:
- Course pack:
Moira has a few significant concerns about her course pack of photocopied readings.
- Several students have told Moira that they chose not to buy the course pack. Some explained that their decision was based on their own budget restraints, while others gave her a variety of reasons why they have difficulty using it (e.g. font size is too small, or the quality of the photocopies is too poor to read, or the course pack is heavy and too cumbersome to be easily portable to bring to-and-from campus).
- After attending a workshop at her college, Moira is now also concerned that she may have been unintentionally violating copyright laws by creating copies of some articles and textbook chapters and republishing them without permission in the course pack.
- There have been times when Moira has felt like she is constantly photocopying readings and working with the college’s printing services to prepare yet another version of the course pack. This is a time-consuming task and Moira is frustrated that after all the time she spends on it, the course pack still isn’t the resource her students really need.
- In-class lectures and demonstrations:
Moira also has a couple of concerns with the in-class lecture time she has with her students.
- The in-class, practical demonstrations give students a chance to see how the concepts they learn in class are applied in the shop. However, there is no way for students to review demonstrations again, and if students miss a class, they miss the demonstration altogether.
- After what she learned at the copyright workshop, Moira also has concerns about all of the images and photos she has downloaded. She does not want to inadvertently infringe on copyright and she has not kept track of the source sites she collected them from.
- Quizzes (& Grade Management):
Moira does not feel that her current practice of giving students the “self-assessment” quizzes via paper-handouts in class is sustainable for her or even particularly helpful for her students.
- Moira is concerned that between tracking which student is ready to move on to the hands-on time in the shop and scheduling time for students to re-take a quiz in order to achieve the passing score, she is wasting opportunities to spend meaningful contact time with her students. Similarly, Moira worries that in her rush to mark the quizzes and help get students into the shop more quickly, she is missing opportunities to give the students more meaningful feedback and specific guidance on course concepts they may be struggling with.
- Further to these concerns, since many of her students have acknowledged they don’t have the course pack, Moira realizes that many of her students must also be completing the self-assessment quizzes without having read the foundational materials. Moira is concerned that they are missing out on learning opportunities and are just trying to achieve the minimum score they need in order to get into the shop.