My first interview for the Open Sustainability Project was with grant recipient Brian Coey. Brian teaches in Trades, in Sheet Metal/Metal Fabrication and Welding. Brian’s project was to create new and updated course materials, including student and instructor resources, as while he has used many “in-house” created worksheets and resources, they needed to be updated. There are also no textbooks which meet the needs of the program, nor is there ITA or BC provincial resources, even though 4 BC institutions in BC have Sheet Metal programs. In addition to receiving funding from Camosun, Brian was also received support from BCcampus to work on program materials with Okanagan College.
There are four Levels for Sheet Metal apprentice training, and Brian decided to take on a small chunk: starting with Level 1, and concentrating on the module for Layout, otherwise known as pattern development – “it’s our modelling of a 3D object, but shows what it looks like two-dimensionally, to start with. And that’s where sheet metal workers start, with two-dimensional shape, before working with three-dimensional objects.”
Since starting work on his project last October, Brian has completed work on the three different main processes: parallel line, radial line, and triangulation. “I’ve gone through the main common fittings in each of those three processes and completed three steps for all of them: I videotaped myself drawing on our whiteboard, and then added a written description of it to graphical animations.” Brian had initially started out working in WORD, but eventually moved all his work into Pressbooks, one of the main tools used to create open textbooks. Brian says “At the beginning of the project, I found [Pressbooks] fairly confusing, so I just stepped away from it completely and just focused on the outline. And once I was ready … within a couple hours of playing around with [Pressbooks] seriously, I got quite comfortable with it, and it was a piece of cake after that.”
In addition, Brian worked with a Graphic Designer at Camosun to create drawing animations, and also created videos of himself performing some of the various tasks he was writing about to support students who sometimes struggle with following textbook instructions. “There’s nothing like watching someone physically do something … If I try and read about [how to do something], it’s pretty difficult to follow the steps. But if I if I can watch a video … no problem… I think a lot of tradespeople are like that – we’re more visual, we’re hands-on.”
Creating materials in general was one of Brian’s goals for this project, but he was also looking to make them open for a few reasons. First, “to keep it open was really a savings of money for the students,” but also recalling “I was the type of journeyman when I was out working …[my old textbooks] were never too far away from me. So if I was at work and … got stumped on something, I had a resource to look at. Now we use YouTube videos … but you don’t know if they contain accurate information. But when you go to something that’s been vetted …, even journeymen can look it up and find the resource that can get them through a hurdle. Because it’s everybody runs across hurdles, not just our students – anyone in our trade will potentially need some help, or need a reference.”
Brian has already seen some of the rewards from his hard work. The videos he has put up on YouTube have been viewed by people from all over the world. But back in his shop, he has seen first-hand the benefits for his students. Aside from getting closer to the end goal of students not having to purchase a textbook, students now have the opportunity to watch his videos and animations in advance of coming to class, and can then go home and practice it more on their own until they feel comfortable. So much better than just trying to follow a textbook. “That’s why we teach…that’s why I do it. I want to see that light bulb in their eyes go … click!”
When I asked Brian if he had any advice for people looking to develop open course materials, he told me “I think it was really beneficial for me to have a good outline, a good plan of what I wanted to accomplish, and then I tackled that in small pieces…I would worry about just that one chapter, so I wasn’t worried about Chapter 12 yet, I focused on Chapter 1. And I got 1 exactly to where I wanted it and then I worked on 2. So, break it down and look at those little chunks. To me in at the beginning,…it just looked too big and daunting… I knew I needed the outline for the whole, but I left that as the skeleton, and then focused on the chapters individually.”
As Brian looks forward to launching his completed work so far, he is already looking ahead to doing more. Whether it’s utilizing materials already in the open, like the open Math text he integrated recently, or finding or creating more YouTube videos to support shop demonstrations, he definitely wants to keep working on, implementing, and sharing open materials.