Thursday, April 21, 2011


What OER means to Technical Workforce Programs at Bellingham Technical College
by Lesley Ann Wallace

We have a tight community of technical instructors whose heads are spinning just watching the amount of jargon building up in the open educational movement that has little or no value to their workforce initiatives. With academia touts like, “ try this tool… or this eBook…or our website…or…,” ahhhhhhhhhh, these technical instructors shrugg their shoulders and suggest that any movement regular academia is making into FREE, looks too time consuming and too irrelevant for them to even get involved.

Why should they when our technical instructors already have curriculum that works and much of it created on their own anyway. Most instructors in the technical fields rarely, if ever, rely on textbook knowledge for content delivery. Basically, their declarative information is around new field standards and regulations that arise, therefore, a great deal of technical program teaching is procedural information and for the most part instructors create their own materials through project based learning. As a group BTC technical program instructors took a frustrated, roll your eyes, look at all of the OER “stuff” coming in from academia, so useful and so free, then decided enough of this malarkey!

Through professional community conversations at BTC we came up with our own definition of OER-we figure that if the movement’s mission is to share with little or no cost and technical instructors throughout the state have self created learning objects/modules they are willing to share, then why don’t we just start there? Using Washington State's adopted LMS (ANGEL) to open up a few system wide repositories in automotive, diesel technologies, and welding, BTC instructors starting putting content up this Winter quarter so that this Spring we can share it out and ask other instructors in the state to join in.

What makes this such a simple idea is our shared state wide LMS. Technical instructors all over Washington are already using it to enhance program delivery, meaning this makes it simple for instructors in other colleges to see what we have shared, know how we have shared it becasue of ANGEL and then can jump on board if they like. Once BTC instructors jumped, it was easy to keep going, now they look forward to opening up the effort system wide. Instructor Russ Jones, in welding said, “Sure, I want to see other ideas. Why should I invent the wheel if it is already out there? This let's me improve it or adapt it or even share back my own design.”

Washington State Community and Technical Colleges are known front runners in the OER movement. BTC technical program instructors just figured out how to redefine OER in terms of their own teaching and learning efforts. So do you want to come with us?

For more information contact:
Lesley Ann Wallace, elearning,
Russell Jones, Welding Technology Instructor,
Dan Beeson, Automotive Technology Instructor,
Jeff Curtis, Diesel Technology Instructor,

1 comment:

  1. Leslie:

    This is wonderful progress. I also work for a technical college, and our technical instructors share the sentiments of yours (well duh!). I will find a way to share what you have done at BTC with our technical faculty, and see if we cannot get some of them to hop on the band-wagon.