Industry Voices - Open textbooks are key to skills training

0 272 Labour

by Jeff Skosnik last update:Sep 3, 2014

BCcampus is a publicly-funded organization that is mandated to serve B.C.'s post-secondary sector on our shared journey to the next generation of educational tools that will keep our workforce globally competitive.
Jeff Skosnik
Jeff Skosnik

In the post-secondary education world, online courses and open textbooks are now widely available.

An open textbook is a textbook licensed under an open copyright license, and made available online to be freely used by students, teachers and members of the public.

They significantly reduce student textbook costs, while giving instructors the flexibility to reformat and customize their course material.

They are an affordable and flexible alternative to traditionally-published textbooks.

BCcampus has made many such open educational resources available to B.C.’s higher education system.

The use of open textbooks is saving tens of thousands of dollars for the province’s university students this year.

When fully implemented, about 200,000 students per year could benefit from B.C.’s open textbooks.

A number of reviewed textbooks are already available at

Now, the B.C. government, through BCcampus, is providing funding for an additional 20 open textbooks for trades training in the areas aligned with the B.C. Jobs Plan.

The open textbook project is important because it saves money for students, but what is even more important is how it can affect the culture of learning in our colleges.

An open textbook can be much more than simply a book that students download, print and read.

For example, the online version of a text can contain online quizzes that give students immediate feedback on what they are reading, which makes for a more interactive learning environment.

Open educational resources, of which open textbooks are one aspect, can also be the basis for sophisticated online learning programs that, properly used, can create shared learning experiences around course content.

To this end, quality control for open textbooks is achieved by creating a community of educators, who use online tools to review, discuss and share open educational resources amongst themselves, their students and the industries they work with.

Another challenge identified in the first part of this series was the need for a more flexible training system that uses technology appropriately to open new pathways to learning and job credentials. To achieve this, we must re-vision how we are presently teaching the trades in B.C.

An example is Competency to Certification, which is a more efficient approach to trades training, that BCcampus is currently piloting with go2, the tourism and hospitality industry training organization.

Competency to Certification is for disciplines based on competency-based training such as health care and trades.

It is a collaborative approach to training delivery.

It uses educational technologies that link industry training competency databases to a library of learning materials that provide flexible, online delivery.

Competency to Certification gives students better access, efficient delivery, individualized learning and shorter times to complete their programs of study.

We must accept that the future is not likely to include lots of new trade schools made out of brick and mortar with expensive labs that heavily burden college budgets and merely replicate what is already in field.

Industry will provide more of the hands-on training. Schools will teach the theory, often using simulation and other advanced technologies that explain the theory behind the practical skills being learned in the field.

Open textbooks, competency-based training, and online training are next steps into the future of trades training. Leadership and co-operation from government, colleges, and industry is needed. The necessary changes ahead can bring new efficiencies to apprenticeship training that will help to spare us from increases to government spending on skilled work force development.

Jeff Skosnik is the CEO of the Line Contractors Association of B.C. Direct comments or questions to

last update:Sep 3, 2014

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