Exploring Education: 2020–2021 Research Fellows

We’re bringing you the latest on the BCcampus Research Fellows program. This update features changes to the program to increase inclusivity, break down silos, and explore opportunities to improve teaching and learning in the post-secondary sector of British Columbia.

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

The BCcampus Research Fellows program has a history of success, enabling researchers to dive deep into their interests with the support and funding they need to investigate their inquiries. In previous years, funding and support has been spread across a variety of disciplines, including ed techscholarly teaching, and open education advocacy. Earlier this year, we decided to amalgamate the specialties and open the program up to a broader audience, including post-secondary educators and students across the province. Our goal is to support research in a variety of institutions across the B.C. post-secondary system.

Deliverables of the Program

Our research fellows will develop, conduct, and review their research topics, with a targeted completion date of January 31, 2022. The successful applicants will present their research outcomes at an upcoming BCcampus event or ETUG workshop, author a pair of blog posts about their research, and publish their results in an open format, acknowledging BCcampus as a funder.

All materials will be shared under a Creative Commons Attribution licence so that future research can build on the findings from today’s investigations and explorations.

2020–2021 Research Projects Made Possible via BCcampus

We’re excited to see what the following projects will reveal to our research fellows, as well as the opportunities they will create for teachers and learners in B.C.

Person with arms folded working at wooden desk with laptop and red coffee cups

Gripping the paddle with both hands: embedding Indigenous learning approaches into online education

Rob-Roy Douglas from Northern Lights College is looking at how Indigenous experiential and narrative learning can be integrated into the online education environment to improve student engagement and outcomes.

“This project will improve student comprehension of subjects that are challenging to deliver online,” shared Rob-Roy in his research proposal. “This will have obvious benefits to B.C. post-secondary education by increasing its effectiveness. As well, by explicitly incorporating Indigenous approaches to learning in cooperation with an instructor in the Aboriginal Education Department at Northern Lights College, this project will contribute to the Indigenization of post-secondary education in British Columbia.”

File of uncertainties: identifying themes and issues that act as barriers and supports when incorporating decolonizing and anti-racist knowledge into nursing practice with Indigenous clients

Leanne Kelly and Christina Chakanyuka from the School of Nursing at the University of Victoria are investigating the specific themes and issues that act as barriers and supports when incorporating decolonizing and anti-racist knowledge into nursing practice with Indigenous clients.

In their submission, Leanne and Christina explained, “As nurse educators, we know that student nurses are taking the necessary theory courses to learn culturally safe nursing practice. We are less knowledgeable about how students incorporate this knowledge and information and build it into their practical experience. The results of this project will assist in developing instructional strategies that enhance understanding and praxis of the knowledge for the benefit of both service providers and clients.”

Effectively moving away from traditional proctored exams in first-year physics courses

At the University of Northern British Columbia, Meghan Costello is researching how we can effectively move away from traditional proctored midterm and final exams in first-year physics courses in a way that will improve student motivation and understanding of the course material.

“I will be teaching a first-year, non-majors physics course fully online during both the summer and fall semesters at UNBC,” shared Meghan. “Rather than using predominantly textbook-style questions on assignments and exams, I am planning to incorporate a variety of question styles (i.e., project questions answered via video, interactive questions involving online simulations, and revised calculation questions with increased emphasis on explaining the underlying theory). I expect that these question styles will lead to more student questions during office hours, as well as increased student participation in tutorial sessions and increased student collaboration with peers.”

Pivoting to inclusion: Designing ancillary OER in a collaborative cross-institutional environment

Theresa Southam from Selkirk College with College of the Rockies will implement and measure the effect of Hockings (2010) Principles of Inclusion for 4–6 OER, asking:

  • What difference does the application of inclusion principles make to instructional design when instructors are designing and using ancillary OER in an online environment?
  • Do students perceive ancillary OER (e.g., videos, podcasts, formative assessments, collaborative peer-based learning, and homework) in an online environment as inclusive, and if so, how? If not, why not?
  • If staff are asked to make institutional changes to be more inclusive in the online environment, how do they react? What is their perception of the importance of the principles of inclusion?

Theresa shared, “Students utilizing the open educational resources (OER) in this research project will be asked to reflect on the inclusive nature of OER in their course (e.g., the original intention and their perception of the success of inclusivity or the lack thereof) so that the research pays attention not only to principles of inclusion from the research, but to the voices of students.”

The pivot to online, on the front lines: measuring the real impact of alternative assessment in remote learning

At Vancouver Community College, Elle Ting will be studying the modes of alternative assessment implemented by VCC instructors and how successful they feel these have been in supporting academic integrity. She’ll also work to discover what makes the deployment of an alternative assessment tool/method successful versus unsuccessful, in real terms, and which educational technology supports can help facilitate effective implementations.

Elle explained, “This study will evaluate, using qualitative and quantitative metrics, what the pivot to online actually means to individual instructors, students, and disciplines in terms of the development and adoption of alternative assessment, and what the most appropriate alternative assessment solutions would be for VCC and other small to mid-size post-secondary institutions.”

Creating impact through community-based co-design projects within curriculum

Caylee Raber at Emily Carr University of Art + Design is investigating how community-based co-design projects with marginalized populations (both in-person and online) impact student learning when embedded within a course context.

“This research project will seek to evaluate the impact and value of community-based co-design projects on student learning, as well as student success post-graduation,” said Caylee. “Data will be collected from a range of participants through surveys and interviews, then analyzed and synthesized to determine key themes. A final report will summarize the findings and will suggest strategies for the continued development of such projects, which can be shared openly within Emily Carr and other institutions.”

Learn More:

The FLO Bootcamp Experience

Post by Helena Prins, advisor, Learning + Teaching at BCcampus

This has been a very busy summer for educators and those who support them. With many having made an emergency “pivot” to online delivery in the spring, there was a need to do some rethinking and preparation before courses ran again in the fall. At BCcampus, the Facilitating Online Learning (FLO) “family” of offerings has been a big part of our response to this critical moment. Since June, we have offered 17 FLO events, and about 700 educators have shown up to hone their skills!

Some new FLO offerings have emerged, too. FLO Fridays invite talented practitioners to share strategies, skills, and tools to engage students online. This summer, FLO Fridays featured hands-on technical training sessions for the most used web-conferencing tools, as well as sandbox sessions to give faculty time to try things out in a safe and supportive environment.

Another new offering we rapidly developed and deployed in response to the COVID crisis is FLO Bootcamp. The goal was to provide focused, flexible support to help faculty work through and adjust only a few key elements of courses that proved most problematic during the pivot in March, including:

  • overuse of synchronous sessions
  • online proctored exams 
  • establishing and maintaining instructor presence
  • assignment and assessment design

We assembled an instructional design “dream team” of colleagues who have worked in B.C. post-secondary institutions (PSIs) for years, some of whom were also on the front line hosting webinars during the first days of the mad “pivot” to online. BJ Eib, Krista Lambert, and Tracy Roberts collaborated on the design of this short, intense “bootcamp” experience, with early feedback and input from Anne Sommerfeld, Paula Hayden, Tannis Morgan, Ross McKerlich, Clint Lalonde, and Melanie Meyers.

Registration for the first offering of Bootcamp in July filled up in just a few hours. We ran it three times from July to August 2020, working with a total of 75 faculty from all over B.C. on their fall course preparation. This intensive (and fun) four-day course starts with a “Scan and Plan” challenge that invites each participant to take a deep dive into their course as it currently stands and plan on how they will be spending the rest of their time in Bootcamp. Day 2 activities focus on lectures and alternatives, while Day 3 tackles the challenging topic of adapting your assessment approach. Day 4 covers online presence and student engagement. In addition, we hosted two daily drop-in sessions with guests who were ready to answer questions and problem-solve challenges brought forward by participants.

When asked about some of the highlights of facilitating FLO Bootcamp, Terri Bateman from North Island College said that “seeing the connections that were made across institutions and disciplines — the sharing and the empathy” and reading several times that participants felt “less alone” made this a memorable experience for her.

Anne Sommerfeld, interim director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology at UNBC and one of the facilitators for FLO Bootcamp, is impressed with the resiliency faculty show during these storms and as they support each other.

Participants experienced both detailed course design support and collegial support. During one of the final drop-in sessions, a Bootcamp participant said, “I got something that I didn’t know I needed — that sense of community.”

Another wrote, “Prior to COVID-19, I was 100 per cent classroom-based. The only online delivery method I used was email (not kidding). I hadn’t even taken an online class. I thought Zoom was an aerobics class from the ’80s. Yikes! FLO Bootcamp was rich with information. The asynchronous activities were so well written. I could learn the basics, then go deeper when ready. I LOVED the synchronous sessions. I watched how they used Zoom and employed interactive tools. I learned from other participants. I also saw the importance of building a community for our students.”

And it doesn’t end here! Because FLO Bootcamp was created and shared as an open educational resource (OER), anyone can adopt it and offer it locally — and they are! Tracy Roberts, director of Learning and Teaching at BCcampus, said, “We are thrilled that two B.C. PSIs — UNBC and CNC — have already adopted FLO Bootcamp and will be offering it locally for their faculty before the fall semester. We would love to see more B.C. PSIs adopt all our FLO courses and build local capacity to support faculty on their ongoing learning journey, and to promote well designed and well supported online learning experiences for all students.”

On adopting FLO Bootcamp, Anne Sommerfeld says, “What a great open resource for small institutions to adopt! The ‘heavy lifting’ is done for you, and the resources are ready to go. I am also adapting this model for a teaching assistant workshop, as they need some similar skills.”

A final word from a faculty participant, Dana P., who took FLO Bootcamp not once, but twice this summer: “From the bottom of my heart, thank you FLO team (Anne, BJ, Helena, Krista, and Tracy). You rallied and gave us structure, information, and much-needed support. I am deeply grateful.”

Join us for an upcoming FLO course to discover the difference it can make to your students’ and your own online experience!

BCcampus Award for Excellence in Open Education: Sally Vinden

This August, we are awarding the BCcampus Award for Excellence in Open Education to Dr. Sally Vinden of Vancouver Island University.

Post by Tim Carson, open education advisor, Trades Representative

Sally Vinden

Through her role as a fellow at the Centre of Innovation and Excellence in Learning at Vancouver Island University, Sally has worked on a number of significant educational projects, both locally and internationally. Within those projects, she has helped trades faculty from differing backgrounds learn the importance of having the right pedagogical mindset when approaching curriculum development. This became the driving theme within her successful doctoral dissertation, titled “An exploration of British Columbia’s TVET instructors’ perceptions that influence their curriculum choices.”

When it comes to the open educational resource (OER) development space, Sally has been at the forefront in her trade of hairstyling. She has been active on her trade’s articulation committee as it begins the process of developing OER for the hairstylist apprentices in the province. Her ability to tailor collaborative approaches to the complexity of navigating the apprenticeship system will be the cornerstone of future curriculum development not just in her trade, but in others as well. Since COVID-19 struck, Sally has been capturing the innovative pedagogies that have emerged in the trades on the newly created VIU trades faculty blog Life is an Apprenticeship: Teaching and Learning in a Digital World.

Sally has also been active as a guest on the podcast Praxis Pedagogy, where she talks about trades pedagogy. Listen to her chat with Tim Carson in the episodes Apprenticeship and ConstructivismExperiential Learning – Sally and ChadAuthentic Learning in the TradesTrades Faculty Development – Jesse Chalmers, and Authentic Assessment – The Return of Jesse Chalmers.

Get in touch with Sally by following her on Twitter @sallyvinden

Notable quote:

“To say that Sally Vinden has been an instrumental force in the advocacy and creation of open educational resources in trades education would be an understatement. Her extensive background in her trade, as well as her passion for helping other trades faculty, is a hallmark and extension of her passion to bridge the gap between being in industry and transitioning to the classroom. It is my absolute honour and pleasure to nominate her as the recipient of this month’s award.”


—Tim Carson

Previous honourees

Jennifer Kirkey, Rajiv JhangianiCindy UnderhillMichael PaskeviciusMaja KrzicGrant PotterIrwin DeVriesTara RobertsonChristina HendricksTannis MorganInba KehoeDiane PurveyErin Fields, Arley CruthersChad Flinn, Aran ArmutluTerry BergWill EngleFlorence DaddeyBrenda SmithLindsay TrippMary ShierBrad BellDebra Flewelling and Michelle Harrison

The Faculty Experience During a Pandemic: Survey Results

One positive thing we noticed during the COVID-19 pandemic was how quickly and effectively everyone came together to support teaching and learning across the province. In a survey conducted in May–June 2020, we asked B.C. faculty to share their approaches to the pivot to online learning.

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

To help shape our immediate and ongoing responses, the teams at BCcampus wanted to get a better sense of what B.C. post-secondary educators were doing about conversion to and creation of online learning environments. With a phenomenal response, representing 22 of the 25 post-secondary institutions in B.C., we compiled this snapshot of where we were at during that stage of the pandemic and what’s in store for the months to come.

The Data

Of the 209 people who submitted responses to our survey, 91 per cent identified as a faculty member, associate faculty member, instructor, sessional instructor, or teaching assistant. Librarians made up 2 per cent of the respondents, and those working as an educational developer, instructional designer, faculty developer, or learning designer comprised another 2 per cent.

Here are some quick facts from the survey:

  • 63 per cent of respondents had never taught online before the pivot.
  • 78 per cent described the changes made to their course as several and/or significant.
  • 46 per cent tried to make their course as similar as possible to their F2F model, and 39 per cent stripped the course back to the bare minimum, removing some readings and assignments.
  • 44 per cent leaned heavily on their learning management systems (LMS) to conduct their courses, and 32 per cent said they relied primarily on web conferencing tools — such as Zoom, BlueJeans, Teams, and Big Blue Button — to continue their teachings.
  • 68 per cent believe that, over the next 12–18 months, they’ll be teaching the same course they pivoted to in the pandemic. 65 per cent expect they’ll be teaching a different course that will need to change for online delivery.

Preparing for the Future

Moving forward, respondents shared what future courses could — or should — look like:

  • 79 per cent said that the types of assignments used will need to change before the course can run.
    • 63 per cent believe that the technology needs to change.
    • 46 per cent feel that there will be higher expectations of students to participate in live online sessions.
    • 37 per cent expect changes in the distribution of grades.
    • 32 per cent see changes in the course learning outcomes or objectives.
    • 30 per cent foresee the addition of online proctored exams.
    • 18 per cent think exams need to be removed.
    • 6 per cent believe that no changes are required — courses can run as is.
  • Web conferencing, LMS, email, and narrated presentations were all tagged as technologies that will be used in future online courses, as were online proctored exams and phone/text options.
  • 57 per cent of respondents believe that more access to instructional/learning design support and more access to educational technology support will be most helpful for those teaching online courses in B.C.
    • 56 per cent would like more release time for teaching.
    • 49 per cent would like more help integrating free and open educational resources into their courses.
    • 48 per cent would like access to free professional development for teaching online.
    • 33 per cent want teaching assistance or other instructional support.

Better Together

“We’re all in the same storm, just in different ships,” explained Anne Sommerfeld, co-chair of the B.C. Teaching & Learning Council (BCTLC). “In the early days of the pivot to online learning, many of us felt that we were failing our students and educators, but through sharing, collaborating, and conversing with each other, we learned that we’re not doing so bad in our boats, and together, we can weather the storm. For faculty, the anxiety of not knowing, not being sure, is the hardest part. As leadership at the BCTLC, we are facilitating conversations to find out how each group is handling the obstacles, so we can bring consistency to the message and share it throughout the teaching and learning community.”

“As we made the pivot,” shared Paula Hayden, co-chair for BCTLC, “every teaching and learning centre across B.C. was tapped into in a very deliberate and high demand kind of way, especially around technology. Generally, our people are comfortable with their approach to teaching, but the urgency to make the pivot and use technology was a big, big deal. Students are always the ultimate focus, so we do whatever we can to make accessing learning easy and effective for students.”

Notable Quotes

“One great resource for our educators and institutions was BCNET — they support many of the tech solutions while doing the legwork around privacy concerns and connectivity issues.”


Paula Hayden, co-chair, British Columbia Teaching & Learning Council

“Some of the transition to online has been very positive […] It has encouraged us to think about how to be more flexible and inclusive in our delivery. We’re really looking to reduce barriers to learning — something we didn’t focus on as much before. It sometimes takes a big change like this to re-envision our curriculum and really think about what it could be.”


BCcampus survey respondent

Check out this infographic on the faculty pivot to online teaching for a visual representation of the survey’s findings.

Learn More:

BCcampus Open Education Working Group Guide: Creating Resources

An excerpt from the Working Group Guide, by Krista Lambert and Lucas Wright.

Working together to develop resources can help bring open working groups together and provides a way to share resources and showcase open practice at an interaction. For some working groups, the shared work of developing an open resource can provide a sense of purpose and increase connection.

Types of resources

There are a number of different resources that open working groups have collaboratively developed. These range from extensive resources such as websites supporting open to brief guides about different elements of open practice.

Open web spaces/portals

Institutions such as the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) have developed websites to showcase and support open at their institutions. These sites often highlight examples of open practice at the institution. These examples are explored using interviews, videos, and databases of examples from practice. On the UBC Open site, the group has a growing inventory of open practices ranging from examples of open textbooks to students participating in open projects to open data and science examples. There is also a form so that instructors can submit an open resource or example of an open practice. The BCIT open site has an inventory of open textbooks that have been created or adapted at BCIT. Open sites also might include information about aspects of open practices, including creation, licensing and adapting open resources. They can also be a space to share upcoming events and workshops.

In Practice: Open Education Sites in B.C.

Here are examples of B.C. open education sites that showcase and support open education:

  • BCIT Open Website. This website includes an inventory of open textbooks used and adapted at BCIT, a collection of open related resources, a description of the open working group, and open education grants.
  • KPU Open Website. This is a web page that has been created on the main KPU site. It includes information about open education, programs at KPU, and available grants.
  • UBC Open Website. This is a comprehensive website that includes an inventory of open education examples; an overview of open practices, open resources, and open pedagogy; a listing of open education-related events; and regular news updates.

Open reports

As we discussed in the previous chapter of the guide, creating inventories of open practices is a good way for open working groups to support and advocate for open. A couple of open working groups have collaborated to produce annual or monthly reports about open practices at their institutions. The BCIT Open Working Group published the Open Education Report, 2018, which discusses grants that have been awarded and events. The Open Pack at UBC develops Open Snapshots each term that report on open activity. Completing reports can be a way of sharing and celebrating open work at an institution and provide the open working group with a sense of purpose and direction in collaboratively developing them.

How to create open resources

When you are ready to create open resources for your institution, you will want to review existing open resources to adapt and use open processes in your creation.

Adapt existing open resources

A great aspect of open education is that there are lots of open resources that you can adapt and reuse, so you do not want to reinvent the wheel. Instead, you should look into adapting open resources from other working groups, institutions, and organizations. Here are some places to start looking:

  • Creative Commons search. Search Creative Commons licensed media, images, and audio.
  • The Support Resources category of the B.C. Open Textbook Collection. A collection of support resources with information about open education, institutional policy, and adopting, adapting, and creating OER.
  • B.C. Open Education Library Guides. A collection of openly licensed guides created by the BCOEL.
  • Open UBC. UBC’s open site that includes resources about all aspects of open education. All of the resources are openly licensed.

Use open processes

As you adapt or create these resources within the open working group, it is worth considering open processes and open approaches to resources creation. Doing this can provide the members of the group with the opportunity to become more familiar with both open tools and aspects of creating open resources like licensing and creating accessible content. There are a number of ways that you can incorporate open processes into your resource development process:

  • Use open tools for resources development. Examples include MediaWiki, WordPress, or Pressbooks for resource creation and Etherpad or Mattermost for collaboration. Many institutions have access to these tools. You may also want to check out the OpenETC group.
  • License and share resources that you develop using Creative Commons licences.

Questions to Consider

Take stock of resources focused on open education at your institution:

  1. Are there resources dedicated to open education?
  2. What resources can your group adapt or develop?
  3. How will the resources that you create be designed, developed, and maintained?

Learn more:

Indigenization Guide: Taking Back Control

An excerpt from Pulling Together: Foundations Guide by Kory Wilson

… [A] man cannot be educated unless he lives and works in a community which is culturally and socially vibrant. He needs his traditional way of life as a backdrop and as a basis upon which to grow. Combined with this is the need for other tools, such as Native languages and traditional institutions, which are essential for proper development and growth.


– Billy Diamond, “The Cree experience”

As we have seen, in the past the Government of Canada has unilaterally enacted laws and policies that have adversely affected Indigenous Peoples. This continues to happen. However, Indigenous Peoples have been pursuing recognition of their “rights and title” and self-government. Some have done this through treaties, the courts, and negotiations. Increasingly, Indigenous Peoples are taking back control over the decisions that affect them.

Indigenous resistance

Although they have had serious consequences, the laws and policies stemming from the Indian Act did not succeed in destroying all Indigenous traditions. Indigenous Peoples have always fought against the Indian Act and for their rights.

Indigenous Peoples have continued to practice their culture underground and have found new ways to avoid persecution. They organized against residential schools and won court victories and an official apology from the Government of Canada.

Indigenous Peoples have continued to raise their children to be proud of their cultures and identities and to resist assimilation in their everyday lives.

Idle No More

A well-known recent response to colonization was the Idle No More movement. The movement began in November 2012 when four Saskatchewan women, Jessica Gordon (Cree), Sylvia McAdam (Cree), Nina Wilson (Nakota/Plains Cree), and Sheelah McLean (Canadian) responded to the government’s omnibus Bill C-45, which challenged First Nations sovereignty and weakened environmental protections throughout Canada. Using Facebook and Twitter, #IdleNoMore was created to promote a series of “teach-ins” on the impacts of Bill C-45.

The Idle No More movement inspired more than 100 protests, flash mobs, and round dances in shopping malls and in the streets. Support for Idle No More spread outside of Canada, with solidarity protests in the U.S., Sweden, U.K., Germany, New Zealand, and Egypt.

Indigenous rights, title, self-determination, and government

Key terms:

Indigenous rights are collective rights that flow from the fact that Indigenous Peoples continuously occupied the land that is now called Canada. They are inherent rights, which Indigenous peoples have practised and enjoyed since before settler contact. In Canadian law, Indigenous title and rights are different from the rights of non-Indigenous Canadian citizens. Indigenous title and rights do not come from the Canadian government, although they are recognized by it. They are rights that come from Indigenous Peoples’ relationships with their territories and land, even before Canada became a country, and from Indigenous social, political, economic, and legal systems that have been in place for a long time.

Aboriginal title is the inherent right of Indigenous Peoples to their lands and waters. It is recognized by common law. This inherent right comes from the long history Indigenous Peoples have had with the land. Inherent means nobody can take the right away.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples includes the right to self-determination. The Assembly of First Nations describes self-determination as a Nation’s right to choose its own government and decide on its own economic, social, and cultural development. Today, Indigenous Peoples are exercising their Indigenous rights and title for self-determination and benefiting from the wealth and resources of this land that is now called Canada.

Self-government means First Nations can take control of and responsibility for decisions affecting them. Self-government can take many forms. It can include making laws and deciding how to spend money or raise money through taxation, deliver programs, and build economic opportunities. First Nations governed themselves for thousands of years before the arrival of settlers. Their governments were organized to meet their economic, social, and geographic conditions and needs, and were shaped by their cultures and beliefs. First Nations governments were weakened by policies that imposed settler laws and forms of government. Under the Indian Act, the Canadian government created Indian Bands and Councils to administer and provide services to their memberships and made aspects of traditional Indigenous government illegal. First Nations are in the process of nation-rebuilding and asserting self-government.

Learn more: