e-Apprenticeship: Establishing Viability of Modern Technology in Traditional Practice

In the book Teaching Naked by Jose Bowen he presents an interesting point. With the lower costs of online delivery, there will be pressure to meet more often online and less often on campus, so it will be crucial that we make the best use of more expensive face-to-face instruction. The best courses of the future will combine both online and physical instruction, but in different amounts. …. Higher education will need to morph from a locally delivered product to a hybrid model that includes both online resources and classroom interaction. (p. 241-242)


To elicit my reflective thoughts I would like to reference e-Apprenticeship: Establishing Viability of Modern Technology in Traditional Practice by Bradley D. Hartwig.

“It could be argued that apprenticeship is the original educational system. While today the word “apprenticeship” is used to describe a number of different educational ideas, in this paper it is used exclusively to mean the training of skilled trades workers. Originally based upon transfer of skills and knowledge within a family, or in a legally binding agreement whereby the apprentice exchanged labour for food; shelter; clothing; and training with a master artisan, apprenticeship has evolved into a sophisticated mechanism of training in Canada.”

Teachers at BCIT that have evolved into cognitive apprenticeship trainers are considered to be highly effective teachers already. Their teaching methodology is sought after by academic instructors and corporate trainers that models the best of both worlds, both academic and vocational (real-world) training.  The following excerpt from Designing Effective Learning Environments: Cognitive Apprenticeship Model by Sue E. Berryman and Table 1 from

Journal of Industrial Teacher Education by Cash, J. R., Behrmann, M. B., Stadt, R. W., and McDaniels, H. respectively provides further insight into this recognition.

“1. Models for Integrating Academic and Vocational Education (as cited in Grubb and Plihal, 1990)

The curricular (what) and pedagogic (how) principles of cognitive apprenticeship are not only consistent with integration ideas. They in fact rigorously define what a vocationally and academically integrated learning environment looks like. The best of vocational education reflects several of the pedagogic principles of cognitive apprenticeship; the best of academic education, its content principles. Thus, cognitive apprenticeship can function as the model for integrating academic and vocational education – the model for what to teach and for how to teach it.”


“Good vocational education is more apt than academic education to use some of the methods of cognitive apprenticeship (such as modeling and coaching) and contextualized and cooperative learning. However, it is generally weaker on the content side – in academic knowledge and the higher-order cognitive skills. The principles of cognitive apprenticeship systematically preserve and integrate the best of academic and vocational education into a single model that can be used to teach either academic subjects like mathematics or vocational subjects like interior design.”


“We now see elements of cognitive apprenticeship in integrated programs, but these elements are often implicit or accidental; they are rarely the result of explicit design, and they are not routinely found.”

Table 1
Differences Between Traditional Apprenticeship and Cognitive Apprenticeship
Traditional Apprenticeship Cognitive Apprenticeship
Simple tasks Complex tasks
Physical skills and processes Cognitive and metacognitive processes
One-on-one learning in the workplace Learning with several students set
in the classroom and laboratory
Tasks performed by observation Tasks and processes performed by
Learning by doing physical tasks Learning by externalizing thought
processes in diagnosing problems
Learning from modeling, coaching,
and fading of performance
Learning from modeling, coaching,
fading, articulation, reflection, and
exploration of ideas
Job determined by tasks Learning determined by goals

To embrace the future of learning however technology has paved the way for vocational trainers to become even more effective educators. Since Vancouver Community College has become the source of training vocational instructors, through the PIDP program, we have the opportunity to learn and to collaborate with other teachers, and to explore integration of these new technologies. It is apparent to me that effecting change will come from the bottom up, until administration finds the resources to cover the funding referenced in, e-Apprenticeship: Establishing Viability of Modern Technology in Traditional Practice by Bradley D. Hartwig, required for retooling the system for institutions that are already currently receiving significant cutbacks.

“There is a substantial cost involved: “The development of online courses and programs can be quite costly because it is not enough to simply put a faculty member’s course notes online” (as cited in Industry Canada, Advisory Committee for Online Learning, 2001, p. 52). Course development costs for courses that utilized all of the benefits of e-Learning were estimated by Industry Canada, Advisory Committee for Online Learning (2001) on the order of $470,00.00 to $1 million USD.”

I also see these changes as becoming a necessity to facilitate the way to resolve students, employers and key stakeholders requirements for more flexibility in the apprentices training in a progressively competitive market.


In the e-journal e-Apprenticeship: Establishing Viability of Modern Technology in Traditional Practice by Bradley D. Hartwig the paper speaks about these issues facing the transformation process.

 “It is imperative that administrators recognize the effort that faculty exert to make online education successful. This includes helping resisting faculty ease into their new roles as well as recognizing the amount of work that they are undertaking.”

 “Fullan (2003) takes great pains to attempt to articulate that bottom up (instructor driven) transformation of the educational system will not succeed because there is insufficient resources or power to make a meaningful change. Top-down reform is often rejected because change is difficult for people:”

 “Here is the paradox. You need ownership for fundamental change, but you can’t get it on a large scale by relying on bottom up strategies. If you base a strategy on investing only in local development, what happens is: (a) not much of the bottom moves, or (b) some of it moves in the wrong way, or (c) some of it moves productively but the good ideas don’t get around, nor do they persist for very long. This is another way of saying that “the top” matters – the larger infrastructure really is crucial for system change. Let us also remember that mandated change has a very poor track record, and even if England’s literacy and numeracy strategy has been successful it is a rare exception.” (pp. 32, 33)

 “The Devil is in the details, but so is salvation” ― Hyman G. Rickover. I think this quote is quite befitting the fore mentioned paradox because instructors stand to gain so much from the use of technology, yet the plethora of tools available for us, are a lot like the other types of progressive methodologies and pedagogy, so overwhelming in choices without having a shared direction.


One of the key things I learned when I was becoming a Journeyman Electrician is when you have an issue with a particular aspect of a task, to take my supervisor to the location/task in question to resolve it.  This is true in the reversed scenario as well if I am the supervisor. It is my experience that some issues cannot be predicted or resolved without being physically, mentally and emotionally present in task-based situational learning. Most instructors at BCIT like myself having 25+ years of experience in most aspects of the electrical industry have gained invaluable insight that simulations alone would not be able to recreate. Although instructors should not be threatened by this new blended approach to teaching and embrace the fact that it will free up class time to develop further skills training with their students on a daily basis. The hybrid blended learning concept has been developed and integrated elsewhere in the world such as http://www.e-apprentice.ca/ and http://www.njatc.org/training/online.aspx , so I trust that either the administration in institutions will take the initiative to implement it or a critical mass of skilled instructors model an effective program.  I am looking forward to continuing my research and participating in this initiative.

Apprenticeship and Pre-Apprenticeship Training: A History of Postsecondary Education in British Columbia by Bob Cowi makes reference to a hybrid/blended learning program that was suspended;


E-PPRENTICE was announced by the ITA in 2009 as a $6 million project for more flexible options in delivering technical training, using some of BC‟s federal labour market funding. Influenced in part by developments in Australia, it was envisaged as combining traditional classroom and shop experience with online or distributed learning (the combination of face-to-face and online learning is sometimes known as hybrid or blended learning.) The intent was to provide apprentices with more flexibility as to when and where they could pursue technical training, representing an alternative to time-based models used by institutions.

The ITA suspended E-PPRENTICE program development in April 2010 as it was determined that it was not a good match for funding under the Canada-BC Labour Market Agreement. Nevertheless, the ITA said it is committed to refining the business plan and moving this initiative forward when new funding is identified.” (p. 37)

At the forefront of electrical training is the ownership of responsibility and accountability regarding electrical safety, there is no room for error when being exposed to or coming into contact with electricity. This too was addressed in the e-journal e-Apprenticeship: Establishing Viability of Modern Technology in Traditional Practice by Bradley D. Hartwig in his following statements;

“What about the practical experience to reinforce the theoretical knowledge? Resolution of the issues surrounding practical experience becomes a complex undertaking. Earlier it was identified that the model of apprenticeship adopted in the 1960’s was purpose built to include realistic work-like environments in which students could have the opportunity to experience all aspects of their selected trade, regardless of their work situation, to ensure that they were able to work in any environment in the future.”


“Dilution exists when unskilled or semi-skilled workers are provided opportunities to perform work that would otherwise be done by trained, skilled professionals. This has been a problem in the skilled trades since the 17th century (as cited in Snell, 1996), perhaps longer. In Snell’s dissertation, the Guilds protested dilution because it was economically disadvantageous; in today’s world it is considered a risk to public safety! In some cases proposals for training “specialized” workers, to do individual jobs, is considered necessary to fill immediate shortages. The difficulty here is that it provides a very narrow skill set that is quickly found of little utility after the particular boom that has caused its creation. There is a very real potential to lead to high numbers of skilled unemployed: “It is our view that there is a danger in confining one’s self to a particular skill, in training ‘for a job’ rather than laying a foundation in general knowledge and ability to organize one’s work assignments” (as cited in Scott, 1965, p. 53).

I would like to conclude by referencing The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom, Second Edition, by Stephen D. Brookfield.

“Passion, hope, doubt, fear, exhilaration, weariness, colleagueship, loneliness, glorious defeats, hollow victories, and, above all, the certainties of surprise and ambiguity—how on earth can a single word or phrase begin to capture the multilayered complexity of what it feels like to teach? This rhetorical question holds as much power for me now as it did when I first explored it fifteen years ago. And I still feel that the answer to it is that no single term or descriptor can possibly capture the full reality of teaching. Personally, I would mistrust anyone who dared to sum up the experience in a simple homily or set of rules. There are no seven habits of effective teaching, no five rules for pedagogic success, and if someone tries to tell you there is, you should steer clear of them as fast as you can! For the truth is (and now I’m going sum up in the way I just criticized!) teaching is frequently a gloriously messy pursuit in which shock, contradiction, and risk are endemic. Our lives as teachers often boil down to our best attempts to muddle through the complex contexts and configurations that our classrooms represent.” (p. 1)


Berryman, S. E., (1991). Designing Effective Learning Environments: Cognitive Apprenticeship Model.

Institution on Education and the Economy, IEE Brief No. 1, September 1991. Retrieved April 4, 2014, from http://www.tc.columbia.edu/iee/BRIEFS/Brief01.htm

Bowen, J.  (2012). Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of The Classroom Will Improve

Student Learning. San Fransisco, California: Jossey-Bass

Brookfield, S. A., (2nd ed. 1993). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the


Cash, J. R., Behrmann, M. B., Stadt, R. W., & McDaniels, H. (1996). Effectiveness of Cognitive

Apprenticeship Instructional Methods in College Automotive Technology Classrooms. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 34(2), 29-49. Retrieved April 4, 2014, from


Cowin, B. (2012). Apprenticeship and Pre-Apprenticeship Training: A History of Postsecondary

Education in British Columbia. Douglas College, Made In B.C. – Volume V, March 2012 (p. 37)

Retrieved April 4, 2014, from

Apprenticeship & PreApprenticeship Training History in BC

Hartwig, B. D., (2007). e-Apprenticeship: Establishing Viability of Modern Technology in Traditional

Practice. e-Journal of Instructional Science and Technology (e-JIST) Vol. 10 No. 1, October 2007.  Retrieved April 4, 2014, from


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