An Update on Adult Basic Education ZTC Resources

It’s been a while since our last ABE Zero Textbook Cost update — we’ve been busy! We’re excited to share the tremendous progress made over the past few months.

Screen shot of text with 1 heading and 4 subheadings:  
Heading: Adult Basic Education Subheadings: Education and Career Planning; English; Math; Sciences.

First, an update on the available number of resources: there are currently 26 ABE open textbooks and resources available in our collection. These can be found in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection in the Adult Basic Education category and its sub-categories.

We also have organized the resources according to their ABE level. The Pathway to Adult Basic Education can be found on the BCcampus website.

But rest assured — we’re not done! We have seven incoming resources that are in their final stages of production and will be ready to be added to our collection soon. Further, there are eight additional books that are still being authored and will be available later this year.

Screenshot of book titled "Student Success: An Invaluable Resource for College and University Students"
Under that a heading that reads: "Get this book". Then "Select a file format". And under the options "Readable", "Editable" and "Buy hardcopy".

All ABE resources (except for the two full courses in our ABE collection) are available for purchase as hard copies via SFU Document Solutions’ print-on-demand service. You can order print books by clicking the “Buy Hardcopy” link on the right-hand side of each resource entry in the collection.

The completion of all of these resources will result in a ZTC pathway at each level of ABE.

We would like to take this opportunity to express how grateful we are for the work of the ABE Advisory Committee. They have been instrumental to this project as advisors, authors, editors, and advocates. Thank you to the following people for their contributions:

  • Leanne Caillier-Smith, College of the Rockies
  • Andrew Candela, Vancouver Community College
  • Allison Kilgannon, University of the Fraser Valley
  • Izabela Mazur, Thompson Rivers University
  • Mary Shier, College of the Rockies
  • Michelle Vandepol, University of the Fraser Valley

Stay tuned for more updates. We link new books weekly in the BCcampus Newsletter!

Meet FLO Facilitator: Alena Buis

Over the years individuals from institutions and organizations across British Columbia have taken Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) to the next level by participating in the Facilitator Development/Mentorship program and co-facilitating one or more of the FLO courses. If you are thinking about adopting FLO courses at your institution, these are the people who can help!

What got you started on this path to becoming a FLO facilitator and mentor?

Alena wears a pink and white cloth face mask

Shortly after the pandemic began, I realized that I was going to have to figure out very quickly how to teach online. Before snəw̓eyəɬ leləm̓ (Langara College) made the official announcement that we were going to pivot to remote learning, I shifted my first-year art history courses to be delivered primarily through Brightspace, our LMS. The transition was relatively smooth because I was already using a “flipped classroom” model and accessible open educational resources (OER). After the semester ended, I learned everything I could about facilitating learning online, completing a certificate in eLearning, participating in webinars, and even practicing using new tools like Zoom with friends and family. It was a steep learning curve, but when you spend an entire summer forced into teaching online, you learn quickly what works and what doesn’t. In the fall, a colleague recommended me to BCcampus, and I jumped at the chance to share what I had been trying to do in my classes with others.

What experience and expertise do you bring to this new support role of helping others to adopt and/or facilitate FLO courses?

For over ten years, I have taught art history at several post-secondary institutions in B.C. and throughout Canada. In 2018, I completed the Provincial Instructor Diploma Program at VCC, and during the program, I became fascinated with the scholarship of teaching and learning, especially how it can be applied to how we think about our work as art historians inside and outside the classroom. This interest in creating real change in the discipline made me curious about open educational practices, and shortly after, I joined the Open Education Group as a Research Fellow to study the impact of OER on the cost of education and student success outcomes, as well as the patterns of usage and perceptions of OER. At the same time, I co-founded Open Art Histories, a collective of Canadian art historians and museum studies scholars focused on building a generative and supportive national network for addressing the pressing pedagogical challenges facing our disciplines.

Additionally, another exciting pedagogy project I am working on looks at how the pandemic-driven pivot to remote teaching and learning provides the opportunity to consider how post-secondary education can be more innovative. The goal of this collaborative, critically reflective work is to get a clearer image of how students, faculty, and administrators and leadership have experienced the pivot, in order to improve pedagogical practices that encourage accessibility and inclusion. I am curious and always want to know more! I love to learn myself and hope to bring my passion for innovative practices and inclusive perspectives to FLO courses.

How can people contact you?

Email me at abuis@langara.cavisit my home page, or see my Instagram @buisalena or Twitter @alenabuis.

BCcampus Open Education Print-on-Demand Guide: On-campus Printing: Faster and Cheaper

An excerpt from the Print-on-Demand Guide, by Lauri Aesoph

Print-on-demand options for open textbooks and other OER have been available as part of various collections and repositories for several years. Providing this same service at a student’s college or university offers two advantages over a service that is far away: it’s faster and cheaper. Martin Warkentin, Copyright Librarian at the University of the Fraser Valley, points out that savings include more than time and money.

“From a sustainability perspective,” says Martin, “it makes sense for printing to occur locally with minimal transportation requirements … (and to avoid) unnecessary generation of more packaging and fuel consumption.”

It’s faster because the purchaser doesn’t need to wait for an off-campus service to process the order, then print, bind, and ship the book. It has been observed, for example, that B.C. students and faculty ordering from the B.C. Open Textbook Collection store receive shipments sooner than customers in eastern Canada and across the border in the United States.

A campus-based print-on-demand service is cheaper because shipping is not part of the cost. Of course, the pricing structure for printed open textbooks and educational resources varies between institutions. A common topic among individuals interested in print on demand for OER is how to offer students an affordable printed alternative to traditional commercial textbooks.

Jason Wallace, Purchasing Manager for Print and Retail Services at North Island College, points out some of the problems observed on his campus among students seeking printed books.

“We have many students,” says Jason, “including remote students, with limited or no access to internet and electronic devices who find it unaffordable to photocopy materials through some place like Staples; others don’t even have access to a copy shop. Some people have trouble reading from screens. Some people don’t have a credit card to order a book online. So being able to go to their campus store and get what they need, often through funding — which they can’t use online — is not only convenient, but sometimes essential.”

Learn more:

BCcampus Open Education Print-on-Demand Guide: On-campus Printing: Faster and Cheaper

An excerpt from the Print-on-Demand Guide, by Lauri Aesoph

Print-on-demand options for open textbooks and other OER have been available as part of various collections and repositories for several years. Providing this same service at a student’s college or university offers two advantages over a service that is far away: it’s faster and cheaper. Martin Warkentin, Copyright Librarian at the University of the Fraser Valley, points out that savings include more than time and money.

“From a sustainability perspective,” says Martin, “it makes sense for printing to occur locally with minimal transportation requirements … (and to avoid) unnecessary generation of more packaging and fuel consumption.”

It’s faster because the purchaser doesn’t need to wait for an off-campus service to process the order, then print, bind, and ship the book. It has been observed, for example, that B.C. students and faculty ordering from the B.C. Open Textbook Collection store receive shipments sooner than customers in eastern Canada and across the border in the United States.

A campus-based print-on-demand service is cheaper because shipping is not part of the cost. Of course, the pricing structure for printed open textbooks and educational resources varies between institutions. A common topic among individuals interested in print on demand for OER is how to offer students an affordable printed alternative to traditional commercial textbooks.

Jason Wallace, Purchasing Manager for Print and Retail Services at North Island College, points out some of the problems observed on his campus among students seeking printed books.

“We have many students,” says Jason, “including remote students, with limited or no access to internet and electronic devices who find it unaffordable to photocopy materials through some place like Staples; others don’t even have access to a copy shop. Some people have trouble reading from screens. Some people don’t have a credit card to order a book online. So being able to go to their campus store and get what they need, often through funding — which they can’t use online — is not only convenient, but sometimes essential.”

Learn more:

Overcoming the Challenges of Online Proctoring

Many technologies gained unprecedented usage through the pivot to online learning caused by COVID-19, but few are as controversial as online proctoring.

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

Wanted or not, 2020 was a year of change. Many institutions and faculty embraced the change and looked at ways to improve the student experience delivered through a variety of online channels.

The mass conversion to online learning due to COVID-19 was fraught with technical issues, emotional turmoil, and uncertainty, and due to the momentum, some decisions were made hastily. Now that we have had some time to reflect on the choices made in the heat of the moment, we can be more critical and decide what tools and resources are best for learners.

Is There Value in Online Proctoring? 

An article published in January 2020, just ahead of the pandemic, offered 4 Popular Myths About Remotely Proctored Exams DebunkedWhile three of the myths share a self-serving analysis — downplaying concerns about student anxiety, suggesting video-capture is the primary concern, or implying that online exams aren’t legitimate or accreditable without online proctoring — one of them, Remote-Proctored exams fail to demonstrate student topic mastery, provides a fascinating, if a touch ironic, insight. Citing findings from a 2017 study from John A. Weiner and Gregory M. Hurtz, the article shared that “quantitative differences between online, remotely proctored exams and in-person, onsite-proctored exams are minimal, with remote vs. onsite test-taking and proctoring having virtually no relation to test performance.”

Which begs the question: what is the benefit of online proctoring?

This article from Vice Magazine about exam surveillance tools is rife with examples of questionable methodologies being used by educators relying on the datapoints collected by such software.

Success Through Learning Design

These days, many educators are using evidence-based approaches to assessment that eliminate the need for academic surveillance software. 

“What is the purpose of a final exam?” asked Tracy Roberts, director of learning + teaching at BCcampus. “If it’s to support and assess learning, there are other approaches — even in online courses — that don’t require academic surveillance software. Many educators are finding alternatives to a traditional big online final exam. For example: several shorter quizzes throughout a course, online or media presentations, individual or team projects, annotated bibliographies, open book exams — there are lots of alternative and authentic possibilities. One move — removing an online proctored exam — can do so much good: we protect students’ privacy and dignity, and we provide a learning environment based on respect, trust, and above all, LEARNING. Assessment shouldn’t be a game of ‘gotcha.’ It should be about setting students up so they can best show what they now know (and don’t know!) at this point in time.”

Dr. Maureen Wideman*, associate vice president of teaching and learning at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), shared that, for courses taught during the pandemic, nearly 40 per cent of UFV faculty opted to either replace their final exam with another option or drop the final exam requirement altogether.

“UFV is a regional university, and many of our students are outside of urban areas, on a reserve, or outside of the province,” said Dr. Wideman. “When we switched to online learning, we recognized that there would be connection issues for many learners. Some had to share a computer and connection at home with the rest of the family, while others had to find a way to get online, whether that was driving to the campus parking lot or a community centre to use the Wi-Fi or going to a local coffee shop to work from there. UFV spent time carefully examining the possibility of using online proctoring tools, then decided not to move in that direction. The decision was based on research data available, including feedback from students, questions around privacy, potential implications of the system based on actions due to cultural difference or disability, and of course, the requirement for increased bandwidth.

“We asked our faculty to look at alternative assessment options, such as final projects, portfolios, oral exams, video presentations, and other evaluations. And some of the faculty that chose to proceed with a final exam offered flexible options, such as take-home exams or essays. We know that this change isn’t permanent, and some faculty would prefer to have a final exam, but it was a move made to minimize academic stress during this especially challenging experience.”

Mary Burgess, executive director at BCcampus, shared her thoughts in the article Exams: Who are we leaving out?in which she explores concepts such as trauma-informed education, formative and summative assessments, applied learning, and student reflection.

“Unfortunately,” says the article, “exams instead often assess memory and the ability to regurgitate information without actually having learned it deeply in a way that enables application at a later date. In addition, the nature of exam season means that students will likely have several exams over a short period of time, thus rendering their performance a matter of stamina rather than a reflection of what they have actually learned.”

*In previous articles on BCcampus.ca, we have mentioned honorifics when introducing a speaker, and then switched to the speaker’s first name for the rest of the article to match the friendly and supportive tone we aim for. Given recent conversations in which some outspoken individuals have denigrated the value of a PhD, we are choosing to emphasize this distinction and will endeavour to promote this achievement as much as possible.

Resources for Change

  • If you’re interested in learning about different ways to assess student learning, check out our Bootcamp Challenge to rethink exams.
  • Paul Hibbitts, founder and interaction designer at Hibbitts Design, assembled this guide to help educators deliver a final exam online.
  • The University of Victoria has published a how-to guide for invigilating online exams. This statement from the guide is quite telling: “While technology alone may seem like a solution for academic integrity, it is best to use multiple strategies to support academic integrity, as described in the [UVic] Academic Integrity Framework. You might be interested to know there is no consistent evidence in the literature that academic misconduct is more likely to occur in the online environment.”
  • North Island College has created a page of ideas to assess learning through digital formats.
  • Here at BCcampus, we’ve brought back popular programs, like the FLO Bootcamp, to help instructors refine their courses for online instruction. The bootcamps are four-day, high-speed sessions to optimize existing courses for online design. We’ll be announcing new bootcamp dates soon, so stay tuned!

Notable Quote

“Constant surveillance quite literally harms our brains, and yet it is becoming normalized for students to have their work monitored by algorithms.”

—John Warner, “Stop Surveilling Students,” InsideHigherEd.com

Learn More:

Overcoming the Challenges of Online Proctoring

Many technologies gained unprecedented usage through the pivot to online learning caused by COVID-19, but few are as controversial as online proctoring.

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

Wanted or not, 2020 was a year of change. Many institutions and faculty embraced the change and looked at ways to improve the student experience delivered through a variety of online channels.

The mass conversion to online learning due to COVID-19 was fraught with technical issues, emotional turmoil, and uncertainty, and due to the momentum, some decisions were made hastily. Now that we have had some time to reflect on the choices made in the heat of the moment, we can be more critical and decide what tools and resources are best for learners.

Is There Value in Online Proctoring? 

An article published in January 2020, just ahead of the pandemic, offered 4 Popular Myths About Remotely Proctored Exams DebunkedWhile three of the myths share a self-serving analysis — downplaying concerns about student anxiety, suggesting video-capture is the primary concern, or implying that online exams aren’t legitimate or accreditable without online proctoring — one of them, Remote-Proctored exams fail to demonstrate student topic mastery, provides a fascinating, if a touch ironic, insight. Citing findings from a 2017 study from John A. Weiner and Gregory M. Hurtz, the article shared that “quantitative differences between online, remotely proctored exams and in-person, onsite-proctored exams are minimal, with remote vs. onsite test-taking and proctoring having virtually no relation to test performance.”

Which begs the question: what is the benefit of online proctoring?

This article from Vice Magazine about exam surveillance tools is rife with examples of questionable methodologies being used by educators relying on the datapoints collected by such software.

Success Through Learning Design

These days, many educators are using evidence-based approaches to assessment that eliminate the need for academic surveillance software. 

“What is the purpose of a final exam?” asked Tracy Roberts, director of learning + teaching at BCcampus. “If it’s to support and assess learning, there are other approaches — even in online courses — that don’t require academic surveillance software. Many educators are finding alternatives to a traditional big online final exam. For example: several shorter quizzes throughout a course, online or media presentations, individual or team projects, annotated bibliographies, open book exams — there are lots of alternative and authentic possibilities. One move — removing an online proctored exam — can do so much good: we protect students’ privacy and dignity, and we provide a learning environment based on respect, trust, and above all, LEARNING. Assessment shouldn’t be a game of ‘gotcha.’ It should be about setting students up so they can best show what they now know (and don’t know!) at this point in time.”

Dr. Maureen Wideman*, associate vice president of teaching and learning at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), shared that, for courses taught during the pandemic, nearly 40 per cent of UFV faculty opted to either replace their final exam with another option or drop the final exam requirement altogether.

“UFV is a regional university, and many of our students are outside of urban areas, on a reserve, or outside of the province,” said Dr. Wideman. “When we switched to online learning, we recognized that there would be connection issues for many learners. Some had to share a computer and connection at home with the rest of the family, while others had to find a way to get online, whether that was driving to the campus parking lot or a community centre to use the Wi-Fi or going to a local coffee shop to work from there. UFV spent time carefully examining the possibility of using online proctoring tools, then decided not to move in that direction. The decision was based on research data available, including feedback from students, questions around privacy, potential implications of the system based on actions due to cultural difference or disability, and of course, the requirement for increased bandwidth.

“We asked our faculty to look at alternative assessment options, such as final projects, portfolios, oral exams, video presentations, and other evaluations. And some of the faculty that chose to proceed with a final exam offered flexible options, such as take-home exams or essays. We know that this change isn’t permanent, and some faculty would prefer to have a final exam, but it was a move made to minimize academic stress during this especially challenging experience.”

Mary Burgess, executive director at BCcampus, shared her thoughts in the article Exams: Who are we leaving out?in which she explores concepts such as trauma-informed education, formative and summative assessments, applied learning, and student reflection.

“Unfortunately,” says the article, “exams instead often assess memory and the ability to regurgitate information without actually having learned it deeply in a way that enables application at a later date. In addition, the nature of exam season means that students will likely have several exams over a short period of time, thus rendering their performance a matter of stamina rather than a reflection of what they have actually learned.”

*In previous articles on BCcampus.ca, we have mentioned honorifics when introducing a speaker, and then switched to the speaker’s first name for the rest of the article to match the friendly and supportive tone we aim for. Given recent conversations in which some outspoken individuals have denigrated the value of a PhD, we are choosing to emphasize this distinction and will endeavour to promote this achievement as much as possible.

Resources for Change

  • If you’re interested in learning about different ways to assess student learning, check out our Bootcamp Challenge to rethink exams.
  • Paul Hibbitts, founder and interaction designer at Hibbitts Design, assembled this guide to help educators deliver a final exam online.
  • The University of Victoria has published a how-to guide for invigilating online exams. This statement from the guide is quite telling: “While technology alone may seem like a solution for academic integrity, it is best to use multiple strategies to support academic integrity, as described in the [UVic] Academic Integrity Framework. You might be interested to know there is no consistent evidence in the literature that academic misconduct is more likely to occur in the online environment.”
  • North Island College has created a page of ideas to assess learning through digital formats.
  • Here at BCcampus, we’ve brought back popular programs, like the FLO Bootcamp, to help instructors refine their courses for online instruction. The bootcamps are four-day, high-speed sessions to optimize existing courses for online design. We’ll be announcing new bootcamp dates soon, so stay tuned!

Notable Quote

“Constant surveillance quite literally harms our brains, and yet it is becoming normalized for students to have their work monitored by algorithms.”

—John Warner, “Stop Surveilling Students,” InsideHigherEd.com

Learn More:

Meet FLO Facilitator: Carmen Rodriguez de France

Over the years individuals from institutions and organizations across British Columbia have taken Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) to the next level by participating in the Facilitator Development/Mentorship program and co-facilitating one or more of the FLO courses. If you are thinking about adopting FLO courses at your institution, these are the people who can help!

What got you started on this path to becoming a FLO facilitator and mentor?

Carmen smiling and standing in front of greenery, wearing sunglasses on their head, long light blue earrings and a black high necked shirt.

You know the George Santayana quote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”? Well, in 2013, I taught my first online course, which was asynchronous. I made many mistakes because I did not know how to do the work. I was excited, as I always am when it comes to learning and teaching, but I naively thought that a face-to-face environment could be easily transferred into an online space. I soon discovered that I could not have been more wrong. Since then, and as much as I can, I have taken the time and the opportunities to learn more about skills, activities, strategies, and pedagogical approaches to teaching as well as learning to help me assess in a fairly and timely manner my students’ learning. I have become very passionate about this work, and I hope I can support new learners, even though many of them are already “digital citizens.”

What experience and expertise do you bring to this new support role of helping others to adopt and/or facilitate FLO courses?

As a lifelong learner, I am very passionate about this work, and I take what others might see as challenges as opportunities to learn something new, and in the process, hopefully grow as an individual and as an academic. I think my enthusiasm and my thirst for learning can encourage growth in others. I now have seven years of accumulated experience to share with my students and colleagues.

Besides learning the technical aspects of diverse platforms, I love being able to develop strategies and approaches for student engagement, participation, and reflective practice. I have tried to attend the BCcampus seminars as often as I can. There is so much to learn!

I have also been working as an independent consultant with educators and diverse organizations and have recently moved to online facilitation, which has proven to be yet one more opportunity to advance my skills and practice.

How can people contact you?

For better or worse, I do not use social media, so the best way to contact me is via email. I would be happy to receive your message at mdcr@uvic.ca

You can also visit my website Arrow to the Moon for learning opportunities.

Upcoming FLO offerings

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

Adding Perspective: Incorporating Indigenous Voices at BCcampus

The BCcampus Research Fellows program is designed to pursue our central goal of improving students’ learning and experiences. Our research framework guides our activities and has four priority areas: Indigenous engagement; open educational practices; student access, accessibility and engagement; and learning and teaching online.

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

In December, we launched a call for research fellows that required projects to have an Indigenous lead and/or be designed around equitable and reciprocal partnerships with Indigenous peoples or communities.

“This call for Indigenous researchers came about because we saw a lack of Indigenous researchers applying for and being accepted to the program,” explained Rebecca Shortt, coordinator on the learning + teaching team at BCcampus. “We looked at our previous research fellows and saw that some of the voices we knew about weren’t being represented. We wanted Indigenous researchers, academics, and students to be the ones writing and researching about topics they were experiencing, including decolonization and decolonizing the curriculum, but we also wanted to hear about Indigenous people working on open textbooks, open ed, educational technologies, online courses, and other topics we work on every day.”

“We know that the way to achieve our best work is to bring more people and perspectives together,” said Tracy Roberts, director of learning + teaching at BCcampus. “Through this call, our goal is to fund Indigenous researchers to advance knowledge around teaching and learning in B.C. higher education.”

Who Are We Missing?

“In the creation of our research framework, we didn’t know who we were leaving out,” shared Rebecca. “Once we recognized the lack of Indigenous researchers or projects about — or with — Indigenous peoples in the first set of proposals for our research fellows, we decided to do another call with a specific requirement: Indigenous involvement. We acknowledge that we’ll need to come back regularly to adapt the framework to reflect our learnings. We don’t know what we don’t know, and as we learn, we have to take action. It’s all about being prepared to react.”

“We always want to be asking questions that help educators learn about learning for all students,” said Tracy. “Our fellows program supports educators who want to explore theories, ideas, and approaches to teaching and learning or open education through research. By taking an iterative approach to our research framework, we can consistently improve our knowledge and understanding, then proactively attract people who can help the teaching and learning community of B.C. thrive and grow.”

The deadline for the call is February 14, 2021.

Notable Quote

Through this call, our goal is to fund Indigenous researchers to advance knowledge around teaching and learning in B.C. higher education.”

—Tracy Roberts, director, learning + teaching, BCcampus

Learn More:

Co-creating OER with Students in the Trades

In this post, Chad Flinn, dean of the School of Trades and Technology at Medicine Hat College, relates the findings of his research conducted as a 2019 BCcampus Open Education Advocacy and Research Fellow. During the course of his research, Chad was an electrical and entrepreneurship instructor at BCIT.

Vocational education is a fast-moving and quickly changing discipline. It often feels challenging to keep up with the current changes in technology and safety. Textbooks and materials can be obsolete before they are even in the hands of the students. This disconnect can result in students learning information that is — at best — not current, and at worst, dangerous and unreliable. The use of open educational resources (OER) has the potential to help programs and their instructors keep up with the changes that occur in curriculum and contexts as needed.

As open education continues to grow and expand, trades education and its students could find value in adopting the use of OER. As vocational education programs struggle to keep up with those aspects of the trades that are rapidly shifting, OER can help the curriculum stay current. Collaborating with fellow students, creating resources that can contribute to the discipline, and having the ability to revise documents and resources as the industry changes would all offer much-needed help in a vocational educational context. In addition, trades could add a distinct voice to the conversation surrounding OER and open educational practices. This study investigated electrical trades students’ experiences as they used and co-created open educational resources.

What Happened?

This study involved two separate cohorts. The first cohort ran in 2018/2019 with 16 students, and the second cohort ran in 2019/2020 with 15 students. The classroom setting was a mixture of theory-based and hands-on training, focusing on giving the students a foundation in both theory and in practical skills, to help them acquire an apprenticeship in the electrical trades. Before the first project, there was a class discussion on group work in which it was decided that the instructor would ensure that the groups were collaborating and that the work was not left to one or two members. A session was devoted to instructing the students on using collaborative tools, such as Google Slides and Slack. There were daily check-ins to make sure that the students were on task and on track.

The resources produced during the course were online textbooks created in Google Slides by the students. Students were educated on Creative Commons licences at the beginning of the course and shown where to find OER for their research. When the projects were completed, students were asked if they were comfortable sharing their resources under a CC BY licence.

The students also created explainer videos using the Flipgrid platform. These videos contained student explanations of topics and provided detailed walkthroughs on how they would solve problems. The videos were shared openly with the class through the Flipgrid platform. Students were made aware that it was possible to upload these videos to YouTube and share them with a Creative Commons licence instead of the standard YouTube license.

Research Questions

The research questions that guided this study consisted of one primary question and three secondary questions.

The primary research question that framed the study was “What is the experience of electrical trades students as they co-create and use OER during their own vocational education?”

The secondary questions consisted of the following:

  1. What are some barriers that students may encounter when co-creating OER?
  2. What strategies might be used to assess the contribution of co-creating OER to the student experience?
  3. What does it mean to co-create and use OER as a trades student?

Findings

Six themes emerged in this research:

  1. Accessibility
  2. Value of co-creation
  3. Engagement
  4. Lack of digital literacy skills
  5. Value of peer and self-assessment
  6. Student agency

Accessibility

Many of the commercial textbooks required in the trades program are not written in a manner that is easy to understand for typical trades students. The language is more skewed toward engineering students and can frustrate many trades students. This disconnect in language can also be a strong barrier for first-generation Canadians, as it can be prohibitively difficult to try to learn a new subject written in technical jargon in an unfamiliar language.

Having access at any time to the co-created resource is a benefit that many participants mentioned, as was having resources that were written in a language and style that they could understand. Both these aspects of co-created resources made it easier for the participants to find and understand the information. 

Value of Co-creation

Students stated in interviews that they had an easier time retaining the course’s information when they co-created resources with their peers. Having to research, investigate, collaborate, and write the information in their own words caused them to engage with the course material on a deeper level. Participants noted that these self-directed and collaborative tasks helped them understand the information better than if they had just read a textbook or memorized certain facts for a test. One of the participants stated, “We didn’t just remember the information: we understood it.”

Engagement

Students appeared to engage with the content and enjoy the process of co-creating OER with their peers. This enjoyment was not something that many of the participants expected. A few participants noted that it was difficult at the beginning of the course because they were shy and did not know anyone. However, as the students started to get more comfortable, it was noted that the school days became more enjoyable. They found that they would converse and work on the projects even outside of the classroom with little resistance.

Lack of Digital Literacy Skills

The research found that participants were proficient at using social media. Setting up WhatsApp or Snapchat groups for discussion came easily to many of the participants. This use of chat software is a common practice in current students’ experience of education: many classes will have backchannel group chats set up to discuss class issues. While proficient with social media, many participants struggled with how to begin their research. Many of the students did not know where to start or how to use even basic internet search skills. Those that did have an understanding of the necessary search skills still cited feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information that was available on specific topics.

It is of interest to note that many of the participants stated a distrust in Wikipedia as a source. These responses were unprompted, as Wikipedia was never mentioned in the survey or the interview questions. Some of the participants questioned the validity of information on Wikipedia and how to identify a credible source. The findings emerging from this research are consistent with research that shows that students’ use and knowledge of technology are much more complicated than Prensky’s concept of the “digital native” would suggest.

Value of Peer and Self-assessment

From the interview data, it would appear that the peer and self-assessment used in the course was a positive experience for the students. After the completion of each unit, the students would assess themselves and their peers on their participation in the projects. These assessments provided a resource for in-depth discussion around the purpose of assessment and constructive criticism in vocational education.

Student Agency

The data collected in this study suggests that this course was a change from how the participants had previously experienced education. Most of the participants had experienced a classroom setting in which the instructor shared their information from the front of the classroom to the students. This “banking model” — wherein an instructor has the information and knowledge and then deposits that knowledge into the students — is something that many participants had felt comfortable with. As the course progressed, many found the experience of co-creating educational resources enjoyable and that it changed how they viewed education as a practice. 

Far from a Conclusion

The integration of co-creation exercises in trades education has the potential to spur some much-needed changes in the current model, which often favours multiple-choice exams when it comes to assessing trades theory. Note that this may not necessarily be a bad thing — most trades licensing exams are multiple choice. However, there is much more to experience in the trades classroom: collaboration, problem-solving, troubleshooting, and communication skills are all valuable skills in industry, and co-creation exercises can help teach and practice those skills.

While our trades students must learn the foundations of their trades, we also have an opportunity to provide a richer and deeper understanding of how the industry works. Co-creation can help vocational students become better in their trades, and those students in turn can work toward making the trades better.

Notable Quotes

“I always knew that involving the students in the creation of their own learning resources was beneficial. Finally having the research and data showed that this was a much more engaging and important process than I initially had thought.”

—Chad Finn, dean, School of Trades and Technology, Medicine Hat College

“Chad’s research is vital in transforming teaching in the trades, with concrete examples on how students were more engaged with the curriculum through co-creation of learning materials and peer and self-assessment strategies. Giving students agency over their own learning, the curriculum, and engagement builds student confidence as well as enhances their potential in and outside of the classroom.”

– Amanda Coolidge, director, open education, BCcampus

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Learners Navigating Open Spaces

In this post, Michelle Harrison, senior instructional designer at Thompson Rivers University, relates the findings of her research conducted as a 2019/20 BCcampus Open Education Advocacy and Research Fellow.

As a learning designer and educator, I have been working and learning in online spaces, both in closed spaces such as the LMS and in more open, networked spaces supported by participatory technologies. I’ve noticed that — as in face-to-face learning environments — the way we communicate, share, and actively collaborate online is shaped by our technologically supported spaces. As many educators and scholars, such as Chris Gilliard, have noted, technologies are not neutral, and hierarchies, roles, and biases that can introduce barriers to participatory practices and inclusion can be built into the design.

Open pedagogy challenges the traditional roles of learners and teachers, often by using networked and digital technologies to promote more collaborative and participatory engagement of learners. As highlighted by DeRosa and Robinson (2017), open pedagogy can use “OER as a jumping-off point for remaking our courses so that they become not just repositories for content, but platforms for learning, collaboration, and engagement with the world outside the classroom” (p. 118). But what does “engaging with openness” look like in practice? How do we design spaces that might help meet this potential?

One way is to design learning engagements framed by open platforms and tools, thereby helping learners develop critical technological literacies while adopting open pedagogical and learning strategies. How are learners engaging critically with these spaces, and how do they consider their own relationship with openness? I am curious about how the structures of these spaces influence the open teaching practices we are using, both in how they may make our spaces permeable and in how they might make them more impenetrable. It has been suggested that we need to examine the idealized version of “technologically mediated openness” (Oliver, 2015) that is often associated with online networked learning space, to consider what kinds of exclusions and closedness can also be inadvertently introduced.

For me, this points to a need to consider these open spaces in a learner context by examining learner perceptions of the use of open spaces and how I could more effectively incorporate them into my own teaching and design practice. If we want our learners to be able to explore what we might see as the benefits of open practices — such as co-creation and the sharing of knowledge — then I want to know more about learners’ perceptions and to observe their direct learning experiences.

This study focuses on students’ perceptions of openness in education, exploring their identities as open educational practitioners and how they negotiate their open educational spaces. In particular, it investigates their uses of open educational tools and how they consider private and public spaces, and how the inherent openness of the platforms may both enable or inhibit their learning practices. The initial phase was primarily situated in multiple courses in an online graduate program that embraces open educational practices (including the use of open platforms and open educational resources) and is designed to encourage learners to examine critical digital pedagogical practices. This program specifically uses Commons In A Box, a WordPress-based platform that includes various tools for creating social connections and allows for different levels of privacy. I am also expanding the scope to include a project in which students are co-creating open resources dedicated to undergraduate research learning journeys. In this project, they are using open tools (such as H5P) and collaborative processes to create content, engage in peer review, and become leaders and mentors in developing research skills.

The data was collected using a combination of online surveys, interviews, and systematic analysis of online communications. A detailed examination of the course spaces (available with learner consent) and linked social media spaces is continuing in the fall of 2020 and winter of 2021. I am excited to continue to analyze the data and have discovered some early themes.

Benefits of Open Practice

  • Increased understanding of use and benefits of Creative Commons licences and how they can be used in their own context, as well as an increased awareness of the benefits of using and sharing OER (among both their own students and professional networks).
  • Flexibility of adapting and re-using resources and content was illustrated in the course design and use of an open platform.
  • Connectedness as a principle was evident and reinforced. It opens up ideas about building networks using open platforms that can be transferred to participants’ own contexts. Particularly during COVID restrictions, there were demonstrable benefits to using open platforms for creating connections across different groups, including distant colleagues, and reaching out beyond classrooms. This was different from the possibilities offered when working inside the LMS, where one participant highlighted that it feels as if there is a “blanket around the course.” In an open platform, there is more “reaching across the aisle.”
  • Increased ownership of work. Participants highlighted the importance of their work always being available to revisit and re-use.
  • Peer review and collaborative opportunities were valuable. One example is that learners developed shared teaching resources across disciplines that they could then use in their own context and share with their personal and professional networks.
  • Value and emphasis are placed on the skills and attributes of a good digital citizen. One participant noted that this helped her shift toward embracing and using technology, not just using it for entertainment.

Tensions Explored

  • Working in the open can be both “terrifying and exciting.” Moving from the relative comfort and privacy of a more traditional closed space to a more open one can be scary, but participants recognized the opportunities it provides. There is a tension in navigating this balance, and the following questions and ideas emerged:
    • Is my work good enough? When should I share? How do I determine my comfort with quality? 
    • Digital identity and privacy need to be critically examined. What boundaries are needed, and which ones may be worth crossing considering the perceived risks (of being surveilled, opening yourself up for criticism)? You have to move outside your comfort zone to interact with those with shared values, but where is the line? 
  • Navigating the open course space was at times challenging in the following ways:
    • There were many different spaces and places to interact and find content. Navigation was not always easy, and where best to share and collaborate was not always evident.
    • Privacy and levels of disclosure needed to be carefully considered.
    • Time had to be dedicated to figuring out the technologies. 
    • The open platform design required more self-direction and the need to forge connections. This is a challenge and takes time.

These early themes highlight that learners are experiencing openness in ways that challenge their own approaches and ideas; embracing elements of open platforms for collaboration, peer review, and networking; and seeing the possibilities for making connections beyond their formal learning spaces. At the same time, they encountered challenges, such as navigation, a steeper learning curve, and critical questions around privacy, surveillance, and digital identity. As the project progresses, I look forward to building on the results through further examination of the learning spaces and connecting with students in different learning contexts.

Notable Quote

“Michelle’s research is vital for helping open education practitioners to better understand the role of open practices in learning and teaching. Michelle’s research is a first of its kind, as she examines the student perspective as well as critical pedagogy and how it relates to students’ digital literacy and digital footprint and expands into the areas of openness and privacy.”

—Amanda Coolidge, director, open education, BCcampus

References

DeRosa, R., & Robinson, S. (2017). From OER to Open Pedagogy: Harnessing the Power of Open. Open: The Philosophy and Practices That Are Revolutionizing Education and Science, 115–124. https://doi.org/10.5334/bbc.i

DeRosa, R., & Robinson, S. (2017). From OER to open pedagogy: Harnessing the power of open. In R. S. Jhangiani & R. Biswas-Diener (Eds.),  Open: The philosophy and practices that are revolutionizing education and science (pp. 115–224). Ubiquity Press. https://doi.org/10.5334/bbc.i

Oliver, M. (2015). From openness to permeability: Reframing open education in terms of positive liberty in the enactment of academic practices. Learning, Media and Technology, 40(3), 365–384. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2015.1029940

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