This past year was not without its challenges and opportunities. In warm appreciation of your support and dedication to the B.C. post-secondary sector, the team at BCcampus wishes you a safe and happy holiday season! See you in 2021!
We are proud to present this month’s BCcampus Award for Excellence in Open Education to Jim Maxwell-Campagna, access advisor, University of Northern British Columbia. Jim has used open access content to create incredibly functional and engaging online orientation content on a very limited budget. The support this has brought to students at UNBC has been incredible.
Nominated by Amelia Kaiser, Director, Student Services, University of Northern British Columbia.
Jim began work on an online orientation for UNBC in January 2020, fortuitous timing with the forced pivot to online occurring only a few months later. He began by converting UNBC’s laundry list of concepts and ideas to manageable, key learning outcomes for new students. Jim then researched the essential frameworks and theories associated with orientation and the transition to university for new students and used open content to create or adapt all of the modules to UNBC’s specifications.
He leaned on the creativity across Canada to ensure his time was spent contextualizing and directing the content to UNBC’s learning outcomes. Thanks to the amount of open content available, he did not have to spend his limited capacity researching and creating content from scratch. In doing this, Jim was able to significantly extend his project goals and outcomes. UNBC was able to launch a multi-module online orientation, a COVID-19 orientation, as well as an orientation specifically for international students, all within 10 months. Jim’s dedication, resourcefulness, and creativity helped UNBC better support their students during these unprecedented times.
Below are key documents Jim drew from in the creation of the COVID-19 module and the work integrated learning (WIL) modules (these are not publicly available but are accessible to all students at UNBC). For the WIL modules, Jim used open resources to make all the pre-employment content and ensured that it aligns with UNBC’s learning goals and desired outcomes. His ability to source open content has been a game changer for UNBC to be able to offer resources to students, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Jim was instrumental in creating and posting the UNBC Co-op Pre-Employment Workshops. As a one-person office, I was struggling to determine what material to use for the workshops, how to put them together, and how to make them accessible to our students. Jim found the open-source material from the WIL Open Module Initiative through Niagara College. This open-source material had multiple modules that delivered exactly the type of training that I was hoping for. Because it was already put together, Jim was able to edit the modules to make them a bit more ‘UNBC-themed’ and post them faster, more completely, and for far less money than I ever thought possible. Because Jim found and was able to use this open-source material, UNBC’s co-op program has a much more robust pre-employment training program than I could have ever built on my own.”
—Jennifer Cole, co-operative education coordinator, University of Northern British Columbia
BCcampus is partnering with Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses to host a well-being summit titled We Belong to Each Other: Cultivating Campus Communities for Mutual Well-Being from February 22 to 25, 2021. Campus stakeholders and community partners are invited to submit their proposals and attend the summit. There will be plenty of opportunities for co-learning and collaboration to build collective momentum to strengthen campus communities in British Columbia.
Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses (HM|HC) is a province-wide community of practice, learning and working together to promote mental wellness and healthier relationships with substances within B.C. post-secondary institutions. This campus-based initiative engages students, staff, faculty, and administrators in a collaborative and innovative endeavour to build capacity and sustained mechanisms to advance well-being. To learn more about HM|HC, visit the Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses website.
This year’s summit will strive to dive deep into the questions “Who is in our campus communities?” and “What are the implications and benefits of mutual well-being?” as we learn how to come together to build and strengthen our campus communities. From domestic to international students, from full-time to part-time and mature students, from health promotion teams to administrative staff, from disability services to financial services, we all belong to our campuses, and we can all contribute to creating a sense of belonging within our communities.
As COVID-19 has dispersed us from our physical campuses, let’s talk about what it means to care for one another and be responsible to each other as we go about our day-to-day lives — even if it means from one Zoom meeting to the next.
How have campus stakeholders — staff, faculty, administration, and students — forged partnerships within their post-secondary institutions and with outside organizations to strengthen the impact of efforts to enhance well-being? Campus life continues to evolve due to COVID-19, and over the past few months, we have heard many examples of the rapid virtualization of campus initiatives. Now, we would like to come together to learn from each other and further our efforts to promote collective well-being. The 2021 summit touches upon the following three streams that cultivate conversations for mutual well-being in our current reality:
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion on Campus
This stream reflects the richness that fills our campuses: the diversity in cultures, the variety in thought, and the uniqueness of each campus member. As we learn how COVID-19 has magnified the discrimination and racism faced by our campus members and discover the various barriers encountered by our friends and colleagues, we cannot be collectively well until everyone is well. Before we can dismantle barriers, we must listen to and learn from our community members most affected. In this stream, we seek to amplify the voices of community members affected the most and search for solutions that align with EDI principles.
Communities without Borders
Empty campuses do not mean empty communities. As our reality continues to be largely virtual and physically distant, campuses are still fostering social connection and creating a sense of belonging and opportunities for engagement under these circumstances. This stream highlights those initiatives that have evolved beyond the confines of physical campuses and welcomes conversation on the strengths and challenges of building virtual communities.
Response to COVID-19
As we approach the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, we would like to reflect on the response to COVID-19 and how we have adapted thus far to our new normal. While we have all had to face different realities and experiences, one thing is clear: the pandemic has posed enormous challenges. In light of these challenges, what lessons learned can be of benefit to us moving forward? In this stream, we want to highlight efforts in fostering resiliency and creating conditions for well-being for campus members in view of COVID-19.
Call for Proposals
HM|HC is inviting all members of the B.C. post-secondary community to submit proposals (500 words max.) that build on the theme of this year’s summit and connect with one of its three streams:
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion on Campus
Communities without Borders
Response to COVID-19
Deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. PST on December 31, 2020.
The Pulling Together Fall Indigenous Series was a six-week BCcampus workshop that took place from October 1 to November 5. Facilitators Jewell Gillies and Marlene Erickson led this journey, which was deeply rooted in traditional Indigenous knowledge transfer: the power of storytelling. The series invited participants to take up the paddle and travel along with Chetwood, Kahkah, Leloo, and Sammon: four modules found in the Leaders and Administrators Guide of the Pulling Together handbook, which was a guiding resource for this workshop series. During the sessions, participants were encouraged to embrace reconciliation and create equitable space for Indigenous peoples in educational institutions by examining their own roles in the post-secondary sphere and particular ways of gathering knowledge and sharing it within their communities.
Post by Jaime Caldwell, coordinator, marketing and communications at BCcampus
Michelle Buchholz, a graphic recorder of Wet’suwet’en heritage, was brought in to witness the synchronous sessions and capture visually the key concepts, themes, and challenges that stood out week to week. The resulting images are equally stunning, engaging, and thought provoking. The illustrations were well received by participants, who described the artwork as “enlightening,” “reflective learning at its best,” and “invaluable, as it allowed me to see our discussions in a different way, especially when reflecting on conversations from the previous week.” Each recording tells its own story, pulling the viewer in, and connecting them on a deeper level with the emotion felt during the series.
“We wanted to really draw people’s hearts and minds into a conversation, a dialogue,” said Marlene Erickson. “The participants’ willingness to put aside traditional notions of education systems and immerse themselves in Indigenous history, ways of knowing, and learning was heartwarming and exceptional. Michelle’s illustrations were beautiful and one of the best examples of Indigenous methodologies.”
The connection between the head and the heart is touched on in Jewell Gillies’ takeaway on the series.
“I was absolutely blown away by the response from our participants in this series,” Jewell said, “the number of folx who were interested in attending and the level of engagement we had during the six weeks was unexpected. Historically, the Indigenous perspective … has never been properly acknowledged or respected. When we look at colonial systems of education, we think of colonial validation systems — can it be objectively critiqued and analyzed and proven true by a colonial framework?
“With this series, we moved entirely away from that system of knowledge transfer. Instead, we stepped into ceremony, and with no objection, each participant stepped into that ceremony with us. It was with deep emotions that we concluded our series: there were more than a few tears shed by many folx in our last session, and conversations had already begun amongst the participants on how to keep this momentum going, how to collaborate as a community to move the needle on the Indigenization scale in the right direction for all of their respective institutions.”
The expectation of trust and emotional vulnerability afforded by the facilitators resonated with several participants. One participant reflected, “I loved that we were able to learn from one another, make mistakes, and really share. The vulnerable leadership of Jewell and Marlene was exceptional.”
While participants received weekly pre-readings and resources, it was in the synchronous sessions that this vulnerability really came into play.
“The introductory speakers at each session were informative, relevant, and engaging,” said one participant. “The break-out sessions — while terrifying because there was no way to ‘hide in the crowd’ — were, in the end, very valuable. I was so impressed with the input from my student colleagues. In fact, their insights gave me specific ideas for action in my position to bring Indigenization efforts forward. I initially thought, ‘What can I do? I have no authority or leadership role,’ but the full-group sessions and the break-out sessions gave me ideas for opportunities where I myself could have an impact. Very empowering.”
A sense of community inevitably developed during the sessions, which one participant described as “crucial” for a course with content such as this. The deep dive into the Pulling Together handbook, described as a “beautifully structured metaphorical journey” by one participant, was welcomed, even by those who had become familiar with the content beforehand.
Said one participant, “The difference between reading these guides on my own — which I had done when they originally came out — and now has been a night and day experience. When I originally went through them, I approached it like an academic paper and skimmed, looking for noteworthy, quotable pieces, but not actually distilling the information or adding my own experiences to it. Having weekly sessions with real stories and shared experiences on the content from the chapters really help to ground the learning. One thing that I have taken out is the vulnerability and emotional labour, as it takes time to process, and I usually have a tissue in hand five minutes into each session. Turning off all the notifications and being fully and authentically present each week is really hard for me when I’m so used to multitasking and keeping all the plates spinning, but it is so worth it.”
BCcampus recently held a follow-up session with attendees of the series. A strong desire emerged in the meeting for the group to continue to exchange knowledge and resources on how they can work to develop Indigenized structures at their institutions from the qualities they had gained in the community of trust established over the series. BCcampus is currently exploring what a community with this group would look like and what our role will be going forward.
Introduce participants to the Pulling Together guides published by BCcampus
Exchange views of what constitutes decolonization within disciplines
Explore and actively engage with practical examples of Indigenization
BCcampus is committed to the ongoing journey of having Indigenization be at the core of what we do.
“The Fall Indigenous Series showed thoughtful implementation of an Indigenous process, which provoked insight to Indigenous ways of knowing and being. We were able to create rapport and build a community using an online platform, which shows that it is possible to not only stay connected online, but to also generate meaningful pathways for Indigenous involvement within movements across universities. The facilitators were knowledgeable and inspiring, and the support team was excellent. The initiative was properly resourced, which showed in the way that participants also enjoyed the experience.”
—Michelle Buchholz, graphic recorder and principal owner, Cassyex Consulting
“I am grateful for all the people who chose to journey with Chetwood, Kahkah, Leloo, Sammon, Jewell, and me. Thank you to the BCcampus team — all your hard work to support our work was excellent and made the facilitation so much richer, because we could focus on the teachings without worrying about the next slide or about getting folx into the break-out rooms! Nenachalhya — you (all) have honoured us.”
—Marlene Erickson, executive director, Aboriginal Education, College of New Caledonia
Post-secondary education is evolving and emerging. Sometimes, new concepts and ideas need to be understood before they can be applied in practice. Micro-certification is one such idea. Even though it was first introduced in the modern sense in 2010 by Mozilla, it has been on the edge of innovation for some time. Our first FLO MicroCourse on micro-certification was designed to start this process by helping participants to fully understand micro-certification and apply it to our British Columbia context.
Connecting through FLO
Over five days, 50 post-secondary professionals and students learnt the basics of micro-certification, built community, and put forth ideas about how micro-certification can be applied in our province. Two synchronous sessions were held: one by senior leaders at the BC Council on Admissions and Transfer, and then a wrap-up session where small groups discussed and recorded next steps. In the middle of this week, there was also a robust discussion on the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) of micro-certification from different stakeholder perspectives. The result was a week of rich learning and community building.
The SWOT discussion was divided into educator, industry, and student perspectives, and each participant contributed according to the role they most identified with. The responses were collected into a shared document (see Micro-credential SWOT document), and in many respects, are a reflection of the composition of the group, with many falling under the umbrella of educator and fewer holding industry or student perspectives.
Nonetheless, there were some shared themes that emerged. All three groups noted a strength of micro-certifications is efficiency for the student. The shared weakness was the degree to which micro-certifications would be applicable or recognizable. A noted opportunity across all three groups was the degree of accessibility that micro-certifications could bring to students.
In all perspectives, there were both practical and philosophical considerations raised. The practical considerations included the question of how micro-certifications could be implemented, and who at an institution could implement them. On the administrative side, how do you make micro-certifications sustainable financially? Philosophical considerations included a discussion of whether micro-credentials reduce people to descriptions of skills and whether that is desirable.
In our conversation that followed, we acknowledged a unique opportunity for post-secondary educators, institutions, and students to work together.
“We are looking forward to continuing to build our micro-certification community in British Columbia and working together with stakeholders from the diverse fabric of our province to create an environment where micro-certifications can be strategically applied and embraced.”
—Ross McKerlich, open education advisor, regional representative, Interior, BCcampus
“The course provided a valuable opportunity for educators (and students) from B.C. and beyond to come together around a topic that is evidently top of mind. It’s clear that there would be benefit in an ongoing conversation and community of practice to allow us to navigate this emerging field of interest and application and to leverage the expertise of these participants and to support each other as we move forward.”
—Tannis Morgan, researcher, open education, BCcampus
Good news! If you missed this course, but are still eager to dig deeper into micro-certifications in the B.C. context, we will be offering the course again this spring from March 1 to 12. Note that this will be the same content again, but now over a two-week span. We would love to have student and industry partners join us in this conversation, so please invite those in your network who might like to explore micro-certifications with us! To ensure you get the latest information on this event and other happenings at BCcampus, subscribe to our newsletter.
Last month, BCcampus ran a five-week Open Education Challenge Series, which was created for B.C. post-secondary faculty and staff to generate awareness about open education and provide opportunities to apply some of the concepts. Each week, the Challenge Series hosts — Leva Lee and Tannis Morgan — released two challenges, or mini activities, that were designed to be completed in 10 minutes or less and, as such, were OER “nibbles.” This was a chance for us to experiment with a microlearning format for professional development using an email list. We had 128 registrants from 18 B.C. institutions and 33 organizations and institutions from outside of B.C. Over the course of five weeks, the OE Challenge Series gained over 3000 views and 331 responses.
Blog post by Tannis Morgan, researcher, Open Education, at BCcampus
In order to provide a bit of excitement and motivation during a difficult year, prizes were awarded for all participants who completed at least one challenge over the five weeks. There were also weekly draws for challenge completers.
The series was designed to be email-based professional development, inspired by the popularity of mailing list–based training programs outside of post-secondary education. We recognized that we needed a friction-free way of getting the challenges and communication to a busy audience and believed that email was a well-understood way of doing this.
The survey forms were created using Gravity Forms within WordPress.
BCcampus established the look and feel for both the website and the email templates.
The Open Education Challenge Series is licensed for adaptation and reuse with a CC BY licence.
If you found it helpful and want to adapt it, here’s our recipe:
We used Mailchimp as our primary delivery platform for this series, but all of the challenges and recaps that were communicated via Mailchimp are on the Open Education Challenge Series website and can be cut and pasted into a new format or mode of delivery. You can sort them using the Challenge and Challenge Recap categories.
Alternatively, if you are a member of a B.C. post-secondary institution, you can set up a WordPress space on OpenETC, and with one click, you can clone the OE Challenge website. Once you’ve cloned it, you can make changes and edits as you like.
The video walkthroughs on how to do the challenges are hosted on the BCcampus Kaltura site and can be linked to or downloaded from there. However, the best way to find the videos is via the dedicated challenge itself.
“I really like the structure of this program. Ten minutes twice a week is brilliant. The activities are purposeful and engaging, even simple activities. Very well designed!”
—Stephen Doubt, TRU
“Thanks for this fantastic course. I learned a lot, and the format kept it from being overwhelming (a bonus these days).”
—Nadja Matheson, Capilano University
The Open Education Challenge Series website shows all of the challenges and weekly recaps, and you can also view participant responses there.
If you adapt this series in your workplace, we’d love to hear how it goes!
Being an international student during COVID-19 restrictions comes with a whole set of unique challenges and adds a new level of stress to academic life. To better understand an international student’s perspective, I thought it was only appropriate to ask one. Meet Leona Khong, an international student currently enrolled in a full online course load at UBC Vancouver while living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Post by Katheryna Khong, assistant, marketing & communications at BCcampus
The challenges facing an international student are unique and universal at the same time. For Leona, major adjustments were needed on her end, and it was difficult during the first few months.
“The lack of variety activity-wise was draining, as the days blended and merged,” said Leona.
Leona elaborated that, pre-pandemic, there were aspects of physically attending school that she enjoyed indulging in while on campus, such as walking between classes and interacting with classmates in person. Now, the once sensory-rich university experience is confined to the four walls of her bedroom, where she spends six to eight hours a day in front of her laptop, existing in a mere two dimensions.
Many students working from the comfort of their homes feel guilty for not doing more. When university was a physical place they could go, it was easier to schedule time for work and time for play. Since there is no longer this separation, there is pressure to constantly do homework or assignments. Leona and many others feel pressure to study whenever they have free time.
On the other hand, Leona has been surprised by how engaged students are with each other, despite the limitations of online learning. She finds that other students actively reach out to join or create online discussions.
“To me,” said Leona, “people in discussion groups have generally been helpful, and even non-school-related one-on-one online conversations are often easily sparked, and connections beyond those for school purposes are still easily made. I do not feel like I’m ploughing through these courses all on my own, so I’m grateful for that.”
The Beauty of Asynchronous Learning
“On one hand,” said Leona, “it’s tiring for my body and eyes and brain to go through such long screen hours. But on the other, I find myself absorbing course content more thoroughly, and so have reason to hope my overall grades reflect this.”
Leona isn’t the only one feeling this way: better absorption of material is a strong argument for making more room in institutions for conversation about asynchronous learning, which allows students to take breaks when needed. In Business as Unusual: The New Normal for Online Learning, Dr. Tony Bates, research associate at Contact North, mentioned that one-hour lectures are not the optimal method of teaching.
“Students don’t have the cognitive load to focus for more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time without being distracted,” said Dr. Bates. “There’s a huge amount of research into online learning and what happens when students have access to online learning whenever they want it. And just like in real life, you have to know how to do both synchronous and asynchronous interactions well.”
A Wish from International Students
“I wish there were more alternative exam times for international students, and more office hours that catered to students abroad,” said Leona. “I would also suggest for professors to have repeat lectures, which gives the opportunity to participate in live breakout room discussions. I personally find those more engaging and motivating.”
Leona’s Tips and Tricks for Online Learning:
Playback Speed is your best friend
Leona explains that increasing the playback of her lectures forces her to pay close attention and not miss a beat. With online lectures, it’s easy for the mind to drift off, or pick up your phone, or open a new tab to endlessly scroll.
Handwritten summary notes
She also mentions handwriting notes has been extremely helpful for memory retention. Having a single page with the week’s overarching theme makes it easier to review when the end of term approaches. A cheat sheet is a great way to have information ready when you need it the most.
“I suggest taking part whenever possible,” said Leona. “Trying to participate in lectures, over email, among classmates — the options are endless. Asking questions is a great way to break the ice and allows connection in a time that is so isolating.”
Separate time and space for various activities
Make sure to work from anywhere but your bed. With repetition, the separate places will trick your mind into being productive in one space and allow rest in the other.
In the end, Leona mentions that she appreciates all the work her professors have done so far in making school life easier. Flexibility by way of multiple office hours and alternative grading schemes has helped make online learning easier and more accessible. The pivot to online has given us an opportunity to reassess our modes of learning and make improvements where possible.
Notable Quotes from Leona
“I appreciate the effort of professors providing multiple office hours and alternative course grading arrangements, but they fail to understand how draining it is to have a full online course load.”
“Through discussions with several fellow students, interestingly, we came to agree that the new all-screen nature of school psychologically pressures or motivates us to put in more working hours and focus than before.”
Land is central to the identities and ways of life of Indigenous Peoples, and relationships to the land should be at the core of Indigenous services and programs.
The phrase “We will always be here and we are not going anywhere,” demonstrates Indigenous Peoples’ resiliency and perseverance in the face of ongoing colonization and their deep connection to the physical and metaphysical worlds that are in relationship to land, sea, and sky. This relationship is commonly expressed as, “We belong to the land, the land doesn’t belong to us,” foregrounding the idea that our role is as stewards for coming generations. There are over 30 distinct First Nations of British Columbia [PDF] whose territories transcend Western geo-political borders.
It now a common practice at public and private institution events, important meetings, and in formal documentation, to acknowledge an institution’s relationship to traditional lands and territories in which the campuses were built, as appropriate to the specific location. A helpful resource is the Guide to Acknowledging First Peoples and Traditional Territory from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT, 2017). It includes the territory acknowledgements of post-secondary institutions across Canada and states:
While acknowledging territory is very welcome, it is only a small part of cultivating strong relationships with the First Peoples of Canada. Acknowledging territory and First Peoples should take place within the larger context of genuine and ongoing work to forge real understanding, and to challenge the legacies of colonialism. Territorial acknowledgements should not simply be a pro forma statement made before getting on with the “real business” of the meeting; they must be understood as a vital part of the business.
Elders are very important to Indigenous communities as they are central to keeping traditional wisdom and cultural knowledge alive and passing it forward. Their “credentials” are not determined by a university or other institution, but by their people and other knowledge holders, based on their lived experiences and their recognition as keepers of knowledge.
Elders are closely connected to land, language, and culture. Their insights and guidance shape the mission and programming of Indigenous units and departments, and institutions as a whole. Their involvement – and often, simply their presence – supports students, staff, and faculty, both in terms of the relationships they uphold and as role models of their cultural and emotional support and physical presence.
Ideally, Elders’ guidance touches all levels of the institution from the senior administration to the day-to-day experiences of students.
Languages contain and reflect unique and distinctive ways of understanding and relating to the world around us, and they are central to understanding expressions of Indigenous identity and community. In British Columbia, there are 34 distinct and diverse languages spoken across the province as well as the Métis languages Michif and Chinook jargon. To see the distribution of languages, please see the Museum of Anthropology BC First Nations Languages map [PDF](version 4, 2011).
Great harm was caused to Indigenous languages by the assimilative policies of residential schooling and other forms of colonialism. Decades of damaging policies resulted in a significant decline in speakers of many Indigenous languages, to the point that many languages in Canada currently have no living fluent speakers. Today many Indigenous communities are working to revitalize their languages. First Voices through the First Peoples’ Cultural Council supports language revitalization through an online archive and teaching resource.
The Learning Spirit
Learning for Indigenous people is not institution specific and goes beyond formal education; rather, it is lifelong, place-based, relational, experiential, communal, and purposeful. Indigenization of post-secondary institutions and systemic change means we create different spaces for these gifts to be shared and learned.
What guides our learning (beyond family, community, and Elders) is spirit, our own learning spirits who travel with us and guide us along our earth walks, offering us guidance, inspiration, and quiet unrealized potential to be who are. In Aboriginal thought, the Spirit enters this earth walk with a purpose for being here and with specific gifts for fulfilling that purpose … Our individual gifts for fulfilling our purpose are expressed in ourselves, in our growing talents, and in our emerging of shifting interests (p. 15).
As more and more Indigenous students enter post-secondary institutions, we need to examine processes of reclaiming culture and reframing identity and relationships through the services and supports offered across the institution to ensure transformation can occur and there is joy in learning.
We can’t help others improve equity, diversity, and inclusion in their institutions until we’ve learned how to do it for ourselves. We’re still in the early stages of our development, but we’re moving forward and documenting what we’re doing to help others as they start their journey into EDI.
Post by BCcampus’ editorial team
We want to preface this article by saying that we are not experts in matters of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), and we are not trying to be experts. We’re learning what we can do — what we should do — to help everyone in B.C. enjoy access to resources and knowledge in the ways that work best for them. To quote Sonya Renee Taylor in her book The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love, “When we liberate ourselves from the expectation that we must have all things figured out, we enter a sanctuary of empathy.”
Talking about equity, diversity, and inclusion as a primarily white organization is a challenge, but not talking about it is far worse. For change to happen, we need to get outside of our comfort zones, acknowledge that we have fragile egos and a lifetime of privilege, and take stock of where we are so we can see what needs to change.
“Our work in EDI began several years ago,” shared Mary Burgess, executive director at BCcampus. “When we started the Indigenization project, that was the first time that BCcampus had engaged in issues of racial injustice. It opened our eyes to the system, allowing us to see the inequalities and barriers preventing people from accessing the information and knowledge they need and want in the ways that work for them. Since then, we’ve learned much about Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous engagement, guiding us through the first steps of our EDI journey.”
“Our mandate at BCcampus,” explained Amanda Coolidge, director of Open Education, “is to ensure students throughout the province are successful in their learnings. We know that the majority of leadership positions across the post-secondary institutions of B.C. are held by cisgender people, primarily of white, European, colonial descent. Some much-needed diversity in leadership would bring more representation across faculty, staff, and students, enabling us to meet the needs of people across the province.”
Creating a Baseline
BCcampus engaged Cicely Blain Consulting to complete an equity, diversity and inclusion audit mid-2020. The report they delivered shows that, while BCcampus is EDI-aware in some areas, there is still much room for improvement. Unconscious biases, such as heteronormativity and cisnormativity, manifested in the report as they did in other areas. The report revealed that we are routinely, in our words and actions, creating an environment that is not as inclusive as it could be.
“The audit gave us much-needed perspective for practices we might not have identified on our own,” explained Amanda. “It brought attention to many things, such as our hiring practices, how we can craft our job descriptions to be more inclusive, and offered recommendations to improve our web and social media presence to engage better with everyone.”
“The report based on learnings from the audit revealed many opportunities for us to improve,” shared Amanda, “but it did highlight that much of our internal diversity stems from the people we’ve most recently hired. It’s essential to have a wide variety of perspectives and lived experiences to help us make informed decisions to share with the system, and the self-learning that has taken place — and continues to — is something we can be proud of.”
“We’ve created an EDI learning group, led by Amanda,” said Mary. “We invited whoever wanted to be part of the learning team to join us. It’s not an advisory group, as we don’t yet know where we’re going or what we’re doing, but we needed to start the process of unlearning, so we can find out how to do things in a better way.”
Who Are We Leaving Out?
“Every day, as educators, we make decisions that exclude some of the students we’re teaching,” shared Mary. “We strive to hit the ‘ideal learning settings,’ but in reality, they’re ideal for almost no one. We need to start asking the question, ‘Who are we leaving out, and am I okay with that?’ When we design an online course but neglect to include alt-tags on the images, we’re saying that it’s okay that students with visual disabilities don’t have access to them. When we hold an exam in a gym filled with 250 plus students, we’re saying to those who have anxieties in those settings that prevent their best work, that that doesn’t matter. At BCcampus, we need to rethink learning design and recognize individually that our lived experience as a middle-aged, highly educated white person is actually uncommon. We have to learn about the people in our communities, and design learning that works for everyone.”
“There is no endpoint for equity, diversity, and inclusion work, nor for other avenues of inclusion, such as decolonization or Universal Design for Learning. They’re all aspects and perspectives that must become part of the fabric of the post-secondary system.”