Our Special Projects Coordinator, Carley McDougall, recently attended the OpenEd18 conference in Niagara Falls, New York. In its 15th year, the conference brings together open education stakeholders and advocates for three days of learning, inspiration and action.
Open education is a worldwide movement that seeks to increase access to, improve the quality of, and reduce costs of education. It is driven by the belief that everyone has the right to be educated. Yet currently, only the fortunate few have access to formal learning.
We caught up with Carley to find out what most inspired her, what she learned, and what changes she hopes will come from the event.
Q: Who did you most enjoy hearing from at OpenEd18?
C: Jess Mitchell – a proud member of the LGBTQIA2S community and someone who is passionate about diversity and diversity of thought. In her keynote presentation, she challenged attendees to actively seek out other points of view, and to do so with a spirit of kindness and compassion.
Mitchell said the education industry’s awareness of ethics, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in learning has come a long way, but we still have a lot further to go. Open educational resources (OERs) are susceptible to the same biases and limitations as traditional textbooks, and therefore large subsections of people are not represented in the learning materials.
We have the ability to change that fact.
“Diversity is a number; inclusion is a process; equity is an outcome.”
– Jess Mitchell, quoting Barbara Chow
All OERs have an open licence, which gives others permission to retain, reuse, remix, revise, or redistribute the materials. We need to actively seek out the points of view of people from different races, abilities, and identities when creating OERs.
I left Mitchell’s keynote feeling excited about the future – what will our world look like when open education is common practice among institutions? What will our textbooks look like when they are written by co-creators from different backgrounds? Campus Manitoba is helping to answer those questions in our province, and we have a lot of important work to do.
Q: What was one thing you learned?
C: From my standpoint in Manitoba, Open Education is gaining momentum. Interest is starting to build, and institutions are coming to us for more information on the initiative. When you take a global perspective, however, existing momentum has already led to some exciting developments.
At some institutions, students can complete an entire degree program with open textbooks. At others, instructors are required to complete a training course on OERs and to incorporate them in the classroom.
In Canada, BCcampus is at the leading edge of the open education movement. It has saved students $9.2 million in education expenses and has launched Canada’s first Zed Cred program, which uses open educational resources to eliminate the cost of textbooks. Futhermore, another leader in the open education movement in Canada, eCampus Ontario has shown savings of $2.2 million in its second year of operation.
We appreciate the openness with which BCcampus and eCampus Ontario operate. Through collaboration, we have been able to expand our reach and understanding on how to move open education forward within our own province.
Q: What was one thing that surprised you?
C: I am new to the field, as I joined the Campus Manitoba team in the spring of 2018 (five months ago at the time of publishing). Therefore, I was surprised to learn about the role that librarians played in open education. After talking to several librarians at the event, I learned that they are often the ones sourcing the texts. A faculty member may come and request an Indigenous open resource, and they invest the time to research available options.
SPARCopen.org is one group of librarians that offers mentorship and guidance in this area. They share leadership training, resources, and impact stories on open education.
Other provinces are collaborating with these groups, and we have started to do the same.
Q: What was one thing that moved you?
C: Since open textbooks are published under an open licence, teachers can freely adapt the material for their course. Statistical evidence shows that students and teachers are more engaged in the education process when adapted content is used. A fact made clear at OpenEd18.
The teachers I spoke to shared stories of their efforts to create or adapt these open resources; there was an altruism evident in the work they were doing. They have a sincere desire to improve education and make it more accessible.
Q: What is one thing you hope to see going forward?
C: We sometimes face the perception that open textbooks are low-quality resources because they are free. That is not the case. The resources in the repository are peer-reviewed and written by the same authors who are publishing traditional textbooks. I want to see this stigma change so more people, whether they are faculty, librarians, teachers, or learning centres, can support the initiative.
OpenEd18 showed me that there is a large, collaborative community behind open education. More people are seeing its merit each year.
We aren’t alone in this journey to make higher education more accessible. We’re part of a movement, and it has many champions who are committed to the preservation and dissemination of knowledge.
Campus Manitoba is a consortium of Manitoba’s public post-secondary institutions. Through collaborative projects and shared services, we facilitate student mobility and expand access to post-secondary programs for students in Manitoba. In addition to campusmanitoba.ca, our websites include ecoursesmb.ca, setyourcourse.ca, and openedmb.ca.