A More “Open” Post-Secondary Experience

| Chantelle Spicer | Advocates of open education gathered together at the Cascadia Open Education Summit in Vancouver April 17-18.

Open education resources are freely available, downloadable, and shareable. In many cases, they are also reusable, adaptable learning resources that are made accessible via the internet. However, the conversation moved well beyond the resources themselves – and the costs of textbooks – including issues of pedagogy, social justice issues, accessibility for different learning styles, and digital literacy.

The days included not only presenters and participatory workshops on the realities of open education on campuses, but also a surprise announcement during opening remarks from Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. Attendees cheered the investment of $3.26 million into BC Campus.

The advocacy of students on this issue was highlighted during the announcement.

“Students have long been advocating for greater investments in open textbooks as they’re a great way to level the playing field,” stated Mark. “I’m proud to be part of a government that is listening to students and is working with them as we make record investments in post-secondary education, including open textbooks, as for too long, students were left behind.”

“Students asked for more investments in open textbooks to make post-secondary education more accessible and affordable,” stated Bob D’Eith, MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission and chair of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. D’Eith acknowledged that students unions were present, advocating for investments in OERs at every stop of the Standing Committee that provided recommendations to the 2019 Budget.

Students continued to be the centre of conversations within presentations and key note addresses, including multiple sessions being led by students.

Keynote speaker Karen Cangialosi directly addressed many of these issues as well as the role that open education has in empowering students within their education.

“We need to really work on empowering students to communicate with faculty, and remind students of the power that they actually have to help change the system. Students are more powerful then they realize – faculty champions should help with this.”

Karen Cangialosi uses their presentation to connect larger student issues to open education

Despite the optimism expressed by attendees and presenters, the reality is that Selkirk College has one of the lowest adoption rates of OERs in the province. This is due to many reasons including lack of resources or understanding and pressures on faculty workload.

The College’s Chief Librarian Gregg Currie explains why increasing the number and access to open textbooks is important for student success and their role as an academic library.

“My budget for acquiring new materials has been flat since 2011, though prices go up 7% each year, every year so we are essentially buying 30% fewer resources than I was previously.”

Many academic libraries across the province are increasingly relying on open access journals and resources given tightening institutional budgets.

Rhys Andrews of the Selkirk College’s Teaching and Learning Institute states that “using open text books provides students with a more affordable choice.  It would be great to see more instructors find suitable open text resources at Selkirk College.”

The role of the Teaching and Learning Institute is to support the faculty in development of teaching excellence and the creation of relevant and inspiring learning environments and experiences at Selkirk.