The Canada OER Group: Saving students money from coast to coast
To combat the inflated prices of textbooks across Canada, many provinces are working together towards a common goal – to save students money.
Starting in 2016, BCcampus initiated the Canada OER Group, which is comprised of members representing various open education initiatives across Canada. The primary driver for this group is to ensure that provinces are openly and actively sharing ideas, supporting each other in similar projects, and ensuring that initiatives do not re-invent the wheel by duplicating efforts on the same projects.
The main goal from province to province is to make higher education more accessible by reducing student cost through the use of free or low-cost open educational resources (OER).
What are OER?
OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, open textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.
Driving the open road
Since 2012, the B.C. Open Textbook Project has saved students across B.C. over $1.8 million dollars and the number of textbooks in the collection keeps growing, as does the number of students using them. As a result of the success in B.C., there are now five provinces who have implemented or are just are starting their own open education initiatives.
“It is really important to BCcampus to be able to connect with other open education initiatives across Canada. We want to be able to actively collaborate with others, share our resources, and learn from each other. BCcampus has been successful in building our open textbook collection with over 150 titles and we want to continue the growth of our open library and extend what we have learned to others in the country. We see open education as vital to the national agenda as an opportunity to save students money and transform teaching and learning practices across Canada.” – Amanda Coolidge, Senior Manager, Open Education, BCcampus
The Canadian organizations working towards the open movement include BCcampus, eCampusAlberta, Alberta OER, University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina, Campus Manitoba, and eCampusOntario. Each open education initiative is unique, with their own distinct mandates and goals.
BCcampus is contributing to the development of an open future for teaching practices and educational resources. We encourage educators to develop and share educational resources and expertise by promoting open and accessible networks and educational practice models. Wherever possible the use of OER and open applications are encouraged, particularly through our major collaborative project in open textbook adoption, adaptation, and creation: the B.C. Open Textbook Project.
“BCcampus is leading the way in open textbooks and OERs in Canada and eCampusAlberta is delighted to partner with BCcampus to help raise awareness of open textbooks in Alberta. Working with our provincial consortia counterparts enables us to expedite system solutions.” – Tricia Donovan (Executive Director, eCampusAlberta)
eCampusAlberta has now established an open textbook collection in Alberta, based on the B.C. Open Textbook Project.
“This new eCampusAlberta Open Textbook Initiative provides an excellent opportunity for Albertans to benefit from the work that BCcampus and Campus Manitoba have already accomplished in raising awareness of open textbooks.”
“It is through working together and our mutual support for the open movement that we are able to expand these kinds of initiatives across our Canadian consortia partners. ” – Jesal Odedra (Operations Manager, eCampusAlberta)
The purpose of Alberta OER to provide publicly funded post-secondary institutions in Alberta the opportunity to apply for funding to support the assembly, use, development, implementation and evaluation of open educational resources (OERs) to support teaching, learning and research. There will be an expectation that projects be available or deposited into a provincial repository and available for broad viewing and use.
“I’m really excited about the current level of engagement in Alberta with our OER project. Through the leadership of BCcampus, the ‘how to’ conversations are now happening across Canada. Through formal and informal networks, educators are coming together to work on the ‘open’ movement. The collaboration and sharing of knowledge is unlike anything I have ever seen in post-secondary. There is a growing feeling that providing resources to our students that are open, accessible and in multiple formats is the logical way forward.” – Janet Welch (Assistant Dean and Director, Technologies in Education: Support and Solutions, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta)
University of Saskatchewan
“There is a strong and growing interest in the integration of OER at the U of S, and it’s very exciting to see this happening. We currently have open textbooks being used in the College of Arts and Science, College of Agriculture and Bioresources, and the Edwards School of Business, plus we have several adaptations/creations of open textbooks in the works. We’re also starting to see instructors integrating open pedagogy into their course to have students collaborating to create course content.
The province has a real interest in open textbooks particularly and is providing support to the major post-secondary institutions in the province to advance this work.
As for my role in all of this, I’m really enjoying all of the opportunities to help spread the word about OER and open pedagogy and support instructors adopt these resources and practices throughout the U of S, as well as connecting and sharing ideas and materials with my counterparts at the U of R, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, and throughout Western Canada.” – Heather M. Ross (Instructional Design Specialist, Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness, University of Saskatchewan)
Campus Manitoba has established an Open Textbook Collection, based on the BCcampus B.C. Open Textbook Project.
“Long before Campus Manitoba was exposed to open education, the organization had embraced ‘access’ and ‘collaboration’ as common themes in our role in Manitoba,” said Kat Fehr, Special Projects Coordinator. “Open educational resources embrace and embody both access and collaboration in a variety of ways. Our belief in those values led us to be a natural fit with the open movement. But even more than that straightforward alliance, we think that post-secondary institutions have a lot to gain by getting involved, and it’s our role to empower and connect those early adopters.”
“Campus Manitoba continues to look for opportunities to raise awareness of open educational resources at our partner institutions. We are currently creating a provisional strategy for how to accomplish this goal. A few of the possibilities include adaptation and adoption pilot grants, an OER event for members of the Manitoba post-secondary community, and a collaboration with an emerging online course development unit.” Kathleen Fehr (Special Projects Coordinator, Campus Manitoba)
“eCampusOntario is about to launch three new calls for proposals to Ontario publicly-assisted colleges and universities, with about $21M to distribute over the next two years. Our areas of focus in the current calls are Open Content Initiatives, New Program Development, and New Course Development. We are looking to learn from our colleagues at BCcampus, for example, who have great experience in open textbook initiatives. We’re very new as an organization, and very new participants in the Canada OER conversation, but my experience in online education is that we’re a collegial group! I’m anticipating learning lots from colleagues in Canada OER as we launch our strategic project to support accessible, quality online learning for students.” – Cathy Newell Kelly (Director, Centre for Extended Learning at University of Waterloo)
If you have an open education project happening in your province, the Canada OER Group would love to hear from you. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.