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Business as Unusual: The New Normal for Online Learning

A recent conversation with a pair of BCcampus Ed Tech Fellows highlighted some of the different responses to the current pandemic and led us to reach out to various voices in the world of online education to explore what’s working, what’s not, and what we can expect for the future.

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

Adapting to Glocal Influences

Sarah Van Borek, BCcampus EdTech fellow, Ph.D. candidate at Rhodes University, and instructor at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, shared her experience from Cape Town, South Africa.

“We went into a 21-day lockdown on March 26, and we’re not out of it yet,” said Sarah. “All universities closed for face-to-face instruction, including the residences, which caused numerous students to move back to their rural communities, many of which don’t have reliable access to the internet and several lacking cell service. There was an immediate response from Rhodes to improve online access, with people donating their old cellphones and laptops and the university providing a mobile data bundle for students.

“One of the most interesting changes that I saw in terms of online learning was the use of WhatsApp, a text and voice messaging app that is very popular in South Africa. Through the app’s group chat feature, instructors can moderate the discussion and students can leave voice notes, which gives them the ability to have their voices heard asynchronously. My research focus, as an EdTech Fellow, is on podcasting and sound storytelling to support diversity in online learning environments, so I found the choice to use this medium intriguing.

“For the past decade, as I’ve been moving between Canada and South Africa for my work and studies, I’ve imagined a north–south dialogue. Now, due to COVID-19, it’s happening organically, and I’m in the process of reimagining the course I would have been teaching in Vancouver this summer as an online course. I need to factor in which apps to use, how to prepare for students who only have cellphones, and the reality that many students come from other countries to study at Emily Carr, and now they’ll be learning remotely. It’s fascinating that the forced global aspect of the classroom will influence the way I design the educational technology for my program.”

A Crash Course in Open Education

“This pandemic has been a learning experience for many educators, introducing them to the world of open as they shift from traditional to online learning,” said Derek Turner, instructor at Douglas College and BCcampus EdTech fellow. “I spent a huge amount of time in March trying to digest all of the options available, my inbox full of articles about best practices for learning online. The info was coming from people who have much more experience in online learning than I do, but the lists and articles and blogs would often contradict each other. Moving forward, I’d like to see more organization of and for open educational resources. Not just experts saying, ‘this worked for me,’ but the ability for individuals to get together to come up with a cohesive framework for others to follow. Resources curated and available in one or two repositories so people know where to find them and the quality they can expect. These resources are available, but they’re discipline specific and not B.C. focused, and I think there’s an opportunity to improve. BCcampus is leading the charge and curating these resources for educators and students, and this will be very useful to prepare for fall programs.

“The focus on learners through this experience — for the most part — has given us the opportunity to focus on what’s best for students. The asynchronous options are exciting, and there’s an opportunity to rethink the structure of our classes. This whole situation has forced institutions to be more open to this type of change. In the past, some educators might have been excited to tear everything apart and build it back up with a goal of helping students learn in a better way, but the institutions wouldn’t be able to support it. Not because they didn’t want to, but because it was difficult for them to do it. Now there’s an opportunity for institutions to let the reins go and encourage creative and new approaches. It’s scary, but it’s also inspiring for educators to have that freedom. The research is available, the interest is there, and the resources are open, so now is the time to make it happen.”

Myths and Misconceptions

“Throughout the pandemic, everyone is talking about online learning, and everyone has an opinion,” shared Clint Lalonde, project manager at BCcampus and associate faculty, School of Education and Technology, Royal Roads University. “What surprised me was the resurgence of many of the zombie ideas about online learning creeping into the discussions, such as the idea that online learning isn’t as personal, or that you can’t have interactivity, or that it just doesn’t work. And while it is true you need to change how you think about your course — you can’t just replicate what you used to do in the classroom — there’s an opportunity to evolve your teaching practices and create a better learning experience for your students.”

Pivoting to Designing for Online Learning

“I always wonder about that word ‘pivot’: it suggests a rapid, neat, and tidy turn, from one thing to another, and implies you can turn back just as quickly and neatly,” shared Jesse Stommel, digital learning fellow and senior lecturer of digital studies at University of Mary Washington. “Instead, the pandemic has forced everyone to rethink what education is for, how they design their courses, and what kind of relationships they want to build with students. What’s happening now is going to reshape education for years, if not decades.

“There’s a lot of discussion about the return to face to face in the fall — I see a lot of unwillingness to let go of what the fall is going to look like. People want the old normal, not the new normal. We will, to some degree, get back to what we know and love, but it won’t ever look like it did before.”

“One of the things missing from the move to online education is the place for open source ed tech infrastructure, especially in the context of data privacy concerns around some of the proprietary ed tech we’ve come to rely on,” said Tannis Morgan, advisor for learning and teaching and researcher for open education at BCcampus. “Like your physical buildings on campus, you also have a somewhat invisible set of resources called your educational technology. If you don’t understand it well and don’t treat it as important infrastructure, your ability to move online sustainably will be challenged. Sometimes institutions see eLearning as a project, not a strategy. Online learning isn’t a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants project; it has to be integrated into your academic plan and institutional strategy. I hope that COVID-19 underlined that for institutions.”

“I hope that where we’re going with this, system-wide,” shared Clint, “is more resources devoted to well-resourced teaching and learning centres: bringing on more instructional designers, ed techs, and learning technologists — because that’s how we can create effective strategies to continuously improve teaching and learning online.”

Making Room for Asynchronous Learning

“There’s a lot wrong with synchronous teaching. We can do it better, whether that’s online or face to face,” shared Tony Bates, research associate at Contact North. “We’ve known for over 30 years now that one-hour lectures are not a great way to teach: you can have a good one-hour session, but can you have 13 over a semester? It’s about cognitive load, and students can’t focus for more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time without being distracted. There’s room for synchronous discussion, but we can do it better. 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.”

The Student Voice

“We need more emphasis on open pedagogy that puts students at the heart of their own education,” said Jesse. “Too much education software and resources are still far too institution- or teacher-focused, and what we need is more students involved in the construction of those tools and resources. We need to stop imagining as educators that we’re building education for students, and make room for students to have a much larger say in the future of their education. We need to make space for the voices of communities who haven’t traditionally been heard: non-traditional learners, students who are food or housing insecure, students who are neurodivergent, students of colour, and Indigenous students. We must think of all these populations and the degree to which our educational system — our technology, our platforms — has not been built for them. We do a lot of work to make our methods accessible, but at the core, our systems, institutions, and platforms aren’t really built for — or by — those students.”

Faculty Development

Dr. Bonnie Stewart, assistant professor at the University of Windsor, said, “Many educators haven’t paid a ton of attention to the value proposition of online learning over the last twenty years. But suddenly, here we all are, online. As challenging as it is, I’m seeing online pedagogy’s focus on equity and care resonating with many of those new to the medium. Folx I haven’t had the privilege of speaking with before are suddenly coming out to listen, joining how-to webinars and learning sessions, and being part of the conversation. I’m noticing new people connecting to the pedagogy and decision-makers who have traditionally treated online as marginal calling us up for more information. It’s an interesting moment.”

Academic Freedom vs. Student Capacity

“What we’ve been doing over the past two months is an emergency adaptation to remote learning,” explained Bonnie. “As we look down the road at the upcoming changes, we need clarity and consistency across all programs. I teach digital technology, and I have academic freedom to choose not just what I teach, but how I teach it. I’ve used really experimental styles over the past few years, but I won’t be doing that as much over the coming year because I shouldn’t. My classes are traditionally where students get to work with tools and platforms outside of the norm. If everyone moving online treats it that way, the cognitive load on the students will be absolutely overwhelming. My right to flex my academic freedom regarding platforms should be superseded by care and consideration for my students’ cognitive loads across a program. Navigating different platforms and tools is hard and distracting. In my program, students take ten courses at once. If you have ten teachers, that’s a lot to just replace sitting in a class or reading books or links.”

To learn more about the opportunities and possibilities available through educational technologies and open educational resources, visit this web page on open education on BCcampus.ca.

Notable Quotes:

“Online learning isn’t something we only do during COVID-19. It’ll be around all the time, and it’ll be even more important after we find the new normal.”

Tony Bates, research associate, Contact North | Contact Nord

“The question now is about the emphasis institutions will put on faculty development, with focused central support from an effective teaching and learning centre.”

Tannis Morgan, open education researcher, BCcampus

“If you read one book, you know how to read a book, but if you have Edsby and Zoom and WordPress from different instructors across different programs, those platforms are not interchangeable. We need to be mindful of our students’ cognitive loads.”

Dr. Bonnie Stewart, associate professor, University of Windsor

“One of the most vital tools and resources that I’ve seen people using is their human capacities for compassion and patience — the degree to which faculty are stepping up and approaching their students from a place of care, and a place of genuine desire for students to feel a sense of hope, safety, and flexibility.”

Jesse Stommel, digital learning fellow and senior lecturer of digital studies, University of Mary Washington

Learn More:

CMTN Students Test the Economic Impact of OER Adoption

What happens when the commons are not a tragedy, but a shared resource that keeps being added to, remixed, and shared amongst members of a community? Specifically, what happens in a small rural college? How do we measure the economic impact of open educational resources (OER) in the context of a small rural college? As one of the BCcampus Open Education Advocacy and Research Faculty Fellows for the 2019–2020 year, I have embarked on an action research project with first-year economics students to assess the economic impact of increased adoption of OER at Coast Mountain College (CMTN).

Post by Karen McMurray, Instructor in the Business Administration program, Coast Mountain College

As an educator of first-year students, I hope to light a fire of interest for the disciplines I teach, and tracking economic indicators in our institution was one way to light those fires for economics. My students were tasked with creating a survey tool to measure the economic impact of OER on our community at CMTN. It seemed like a big ask already, so what I did not expect was for my students to take the assignment and add more from other disciplines, thus creating opportunities for integrative learning for themselves through their curiosity about the impacts of OER in our community. While the intention of the project was to find out the economic impact of OER, as an educator, I have also realized something about pedagogy: co-curricular, integrative learning opportunities may be a valuable way forward with required first-year economics education.

Students designed surveys for stakeholders impacted by the adoption of OER — including students, faculty, and staff at CMTN — to capture the economic picture. Some of the questions they wanted answers to were: Where did students save money? Where did they spend it? Did this spending multiply in our community the same way bookstore spending would? Did the savings students experienced in book costs translate to ensuring they had shelter, food, clothing, and transportation?

Students wanted to know the stories behind the data and incorporated survey questions around feelings, well-being, and trust of their community. It was clear that the marriage between data and personal narrative was driving students’ curiosity and excitement for the project, which is something that data alone could not achieve. From an educator’s perspective, I was challenged to let go of some of my expectations around diving into economic data and encouraged my students to continue to design surveys that also revealed the story of OER. Adding questions about feelings and social impact felt risky: it felt time-consuming and too far off-track from the learning outcomes of our course, but we kept going with it. How can you say no to following student curiosities? I couldn’t. Did my students want to measure the economic multiplier of OER on our community as I had assigned them? Yes, but they most certainly wanted our college to be considered from a social and emotional perspective, too. They did not see the point in only looking at economic indicators and wanted to know the social as well as the economic impacts.

Questions nominated for inclusion in our survey, but that fell outside of the scope of 100-level microeconomics, include:

  • How do you feel when you realize a class is relying on open educational resources?
  • You come to class on the first day and find out the class has a free textbook. How would you characterize your reaction to this?
  • When an instructor makes a free text the required text for a course, what happens to your perception of that instructor?
  • When using a free text, do you trust the content more or less?

These questions help to create meaning and foster understanding of the idea that economics is part of a larger system that includes people in roles beyond consumers and labourers, as we tend to view them in economics.

The Association of American Colleges & Universities and the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching issued a joint statement on integrated learning that states, “integrative learning goes beyond academic boundaries. Indeed, integrative experiences often occur as learners address real-world problems, unscripted and sufficiently broad to require multiple areas of knowledge and multiple modes of inquiry, offering multiple solutions and benefiting from multiple perspectives.”

Connecting our classrooms to community-created conditions is one way for integrative learning to occur. Students were propelled by their own curiosity to seek out how economic choices can impact a community in ways we would not typically consider in first-year economics.

What is this unexpected — and at times, seemingly unmanageable course — helping me realize as an instructor? That integrative learning can be valuable in 100-level economics courses, and that first-year economics instructors may be able to consider certain co-curricular opportunities for their courses. While first year economics tends to be a stand-alone course there is value in pairing economics with other courses that may seem unrelated but can actually make projects come alive in the community. My students themselves sought out integration of disciplines to get a whole picture whether I was ready or not. While my students approached my assigned project in ways I could not have anticipated, they helped me contemplate the value of changing the teaching of economics at the first-year level entirely through well-designed co-curricular integrative learning opportunities.

Learn more:

What is the BCcampus Open Education Research Webinar series?

The Open Education Research Webinar series is a monthly showcase of research on open education by people in the B.C. post-secondary sector. It will take place between May and August 2020 and is being organized and hosted by BCcampus. This webinar series aims to bring attention to the important research work of BCPSE educators and to make this work visible more broadly. Hopefully, this series will also inspire others to build on this work and to consider applying for the BCcampus Research Fellows program, which helps to build research capacity in our province.

How did this come about?

BCcampus has had a Faculty Fellows research program for several years now, and this has been an important catalyst in developing a body of research on open education in the province. Last year, BCcampus published a blog post about the range of research on open in B.C., which highlighted some of the great research happening in our sector on a wide range of open education topics. What was also interesting was that research on open education in B.C. is being produced not only by faculty, but also by administrative staff, librarians, support staff, and students. In fact, in the sample of research that we looked at, approximately 30 per cent of the research was undertaken by people in non-faculty positions.

What kinds of topics will be covered in this year’s series?

Open education is a broad category that goes beyond just open textbooks and open educational resources. There are intersections with adjacent areas of study that include digital literacies and open scholarship, for example, as well as areas of focus such as open education leadership, open educational resources, and Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR). All of this contributes to a richer understanding of open education in our province, and it’s the goal of this year’s series to touch on that wide range of topics.

This year’s series will begin with a webinar on May 28 by Erin Fields, who was one of BCcampus’ Faculty Fellows in 2018–2019. Erin is a UBC librarian who has done some really interesting work at the intersection of information literacy and open pedagogy.

Our second speaker will be George Veletsianos on June 18, and he will share his work around framing quality in open and digital education to include equity. This is especially relevant to BCPSE, where diversity, equity, and inclusion have been top of mind in our efforts.

We will also have Michelle Harrison and Irwin DeVries sharing their recent research on the role of instructional designers as advocates for open educational practices, which addresses an important gap in open education research, as it has been largely centred on the role of faculty and students as advocates.

And last, but not least, we are reserving one session for student research on open education that will be posted soon.

Where can people register to attend?

Open Education Research Webinar Series: Authentic Student Participation — Information Literacies in Open Pedagogy on May 28 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Open Education Research Webinar Series: What Makes for “Good” Open and Digital Education? on June 18 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

What is the BCcampus Open Education Research Webinar series?

The Open Education Research Webinar series is a monthly showcase of research on open education by people in the B.C. post-secondary sector. It will take place between May and August 2020 and is being organized and hosted by BCcampus. This webinar series aims to bring attention to the important research work of BCPSE educators and to make this work visible more broadly. Hopefully, this series will also inspire others to build on this work and to consider applying for the BCcampus Research Fellows program, which helps to build research capacity in our province.

How did this come about?

BCcampus has had a Faculty Fellows research program for several years now, and this has been an important catalyst in developing a body of research on open education in the province. Last year, BCcampus published a blog post about the range of research on open in B.C., which highlighted some of the great research happening in our sector on a wide range of open education topics. What was also interesting was that research on open education in B.C. is being produced not only by faculty, but also by administrative staff, librarians, support staff, and students. In fact, in the sample of research that we looked at, approximately 30 per cent of the research was undertaken by people in non-faculty positions.

What kinds of topics will be covered in this year’s series?

Open education is a broad category that goes beyond just open textbooks and open educational resources. There are intersections with adjacent areas of study that include digital literacies and open scholarship, for example, as well as areas of focus such as open education leadership, open educational resources, and Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR). All of this contributes to a richer understanding of open education in our province, and it’s the goal of this year’s series to touch on that wide range of topics.

This year’s series will begin with a webinar on May 28 by Erin Fields, who was one of BCcampus’ Faculty Fellows in 2018–2019. Erin is a UBC librarian who has done some really interesting work at the intersection of information literacy and open pedagogy.

Our second speaker will be George Veletsianos on June 18, and he will share his work around framing quality in open and digital education to include equity. This is especially relevant to BCPSE, where diversity, equity, and inclusion have been top of mind in our efforts.

We will also have Michelle Harrison and Irwin DeVries sharing their recent research on the role of instructional designers as advocates for open educational practices, which addresses an important gap in open education research, as it has been largely centred on the role of faculty and students as advocates.

And last, but not least, we are reserving one session for student research on open education that will be posted soon.

Where can people register to attend?

Open Education Research Webinar Series: Authentic Student Participation — Information Literacies in Open Pedagogy on May 28 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Open Education Research Webinar Series: What Makes for “Good” Open and Digital Education? on June 18 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Open Pedagogy and the Trades

When I first started my foray into open education, I had no idea what open ed actually was. Like many, I found myself working with open educational practices before I even knew they were a thing. This is exactly how I began my work and research in the area of co-creation of resources with trades students.

Post by Chad Flinn, Electrical and Entrepreneurship Instructor at BCIT

As a trades instructor, it never made sense to me that we were training future tradespeople in how to construct, troubleshoot, maintain, and collaborate by putting them in classes, where they would stare at the backs of each other’s heads and work in isolation (one may argue that this holds true for all disciplines). After a few years of teaching, I started gravitating towards including my students as co-conspirators in their own learning. I started to see more engagement, more interaction, and, dare I say, the students seemed to be having more fun.

As my teaching methods evolved, I decided to pursue a Master of Arts in Learning and Technology at Royal Roads University. I learned that there were actual terms for some of the projects and methods I was working on with my students, like “co-creation” and “open pedagogy.” I started digging into learning theories, such as Vygotsky’s social constructivism and Kolb’s experiential learning theory. I began to see how these practices and theories could be integrated into the context of trades training. I started reading and following the works of David Wiley, Jesse Stommel, Sean Michael Morris, Tannis Morgan, Rajiv Jhangiani, Robin DeRosa, and Catherine Cronin.

I stopped dipping my toe into the shallow end of the open pedagogy pool and decided to jump in cannonball style.

Two years ago, I adopted a fully co-creative model with my students. I no longer had them read from textbooks or outside resources: I started having them create their own. This is an ever-evolving model. (One of the things that I appreciate about open pedagogy is how it can take something that was previously static and turn it on its head into something dynamic.)

Some of the things we do in the name of co-creation:

  • Textbooks: At the beginning of the unit, the students are given a slide deck template. It comes with headings and subheadings, but it is up to the students to fill in the rest. I started this as an individual exercise, and over the past couple of years, it has evolved into a co-creative process (I hesitate to use the term “group project,” as it goes deeper than that). The group is responsible for gathering all the information it can on the topics. This is not done in a silo: I encourage the groups to interact with each other, and I am a constant sounding board for what information is relevant and what isn’t. Some of the work that they have created rivals those of standard textbooks.
  • Explainer videos: Using the free Flipgrid app from Microsoft, the students show how they would solve a problem that I put on the board at the end of the day. They have complete freedom in how they present the information, as long as it is appropriate and explains how they arrived at their answers. Some of the videos that have been submitted are animated, complete with soundtracks. The students enjoy making them, and I enjoy watching them.
  • Self and peer assessment: At the end of each unit, I send a Google Form survey to each student, where they may assess their contribution to the project. They are also required to assess their peers in the co-creation project. After a couple of days, I will have a mini interview with each student regarding the survey. Without fail, at the beginning of the course, students will mark themselves at a lower grade than they would normally obtain in a standard assignment. They will also be much more lenient on their peers. While this is not at all surprising, it has led to some great conversations regarding assessment and constructive criticism.
  • Authentic assignments: Along with the textbook projects, I try to focus on never having the students do something that could be thrown away at the end of the course. For example, during the electronics portion of the course, we work with Raspberry Pis (programmable microcomputers), and the students decide what they want to build with it or how they would like to program it. Some of the projects have been Wi-Fi boosters, gaming systems, media servers, and homemade laptops.
  • Group assessments: Instead of having individual students write tests or quizzes, we bring the collaborative nature of the course into the assessments as well. In groups of four, students work together on assessments. While one might think that the group would have the “smart” students do the test while the rest copied the results, this is never the case. Instead, there are many great discussions among the groups, and it is apparent that these assessments are learning opportunities for all the students.

A year ago, I made the decision in my master’s program to pursue the thesis track. I was very much interested in how the students themselves viewed these exercises and being brought into their own education as co-collaborators instead of mere consumers. I decided to take a mixed methods approach, using both a survey and interviews to gather my information. I was very fortunate in that I was able to gather all the data from my students before COVID-19 started to change the face of education. I was unfortunate in that, shortly after I gathered my data, all my attention was taken trying to figure out a way to transition face-to-face trades education delivery to some sort of workable remote delivery model. (I hesitate to use the word “online,” as I believe there is much more work that must be done to make this an authentic online model.)

It is now 10 weeks later, and we have our noses above water. I am now able to start digging into all the data that was collected. There were 18 responses to the survey, and nine students participated in an interview by a third party. I have just finished my first pass in coding the interviews, and I am seeing some exciting themes emerging:

  • Students like putting information into their own words, as it helps them to retain more information than by just reading textbooks.
  • Learning collaboratively is perceived as more enjoyable than learning alone.
  • Having access to resources at any time on a mobile device is useful for future studies.
  • There is a strong distrust of Wikipedia.
  • While strong in social media, many students have few to no digital literacy skills.

This is only my first pass, and these are only preliminary findings. I am in the process of taking some time and immersing myself in the data and seeing what comes out the other side. As I continue to dig and work and teach in this time of a pandemic, I am beginning to see how useful these exercises may be in an online context. Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself, but I am now pondering the question of what role co-creation of resources could have in a post-COVID era.

Learn more:

Exploring an Open Path for First-Year Engineering

Quality open educational resources (OER) are available for a number of first-year courses in engineering programs throughout the province. Many faculty across B.C. and beyond have long been involved in creating, adapting, and adopting OER for their courses. With that in mind, BCcampus is exploring potential paths to Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) programs in STEM in B.C., including for first-year engineering. ZTC programs enable students to earn credentials without incurring costs for textbooks.

Post by Melanie Meyers, project manager for Business/STEM Zero Textbook Cost Programs and Improved Searchability

In spring 2019, BCcampus was asked by the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training to assist with a project concerning B.C. institutions delivering engineering programs who want to move to a common first-year curriculum. The project was initiated by the engineering articulation committee and led by its chair, Brian Dick of Vancouver Island University.

BCcampus has recognized the need to search for and align available OER with the common curriculum for first-year engineering. The goal is to ensure that relevant and quality OER are available for all first-year engineering courses, thus making possible a Zero Textbook Cost pathway in engineering.

Why OER for Engineering Is Needed Now More than Ever

With the pivot to online learning due to COVID-19, the need for and benefits of OER are even greater than before, as OER save instructors’ time, help cash-strapped students, and provide immediate online availability and accessibility. To illustrate this, BCcampus created an infographic showing the advantages of OER and published the article OER: Trial by COVID-19.

Regardless of the current situation, textbook costs for first-year engineering students can amount to more than $500 per student/year. The common curriculum includes courses from a variety of STEM disciplines that have already demonstrated high numbers of OER adoptions in B.C. (e.g., physics, chemistry, and math).

As a number of engineering programs across B.C. are presently undergoing curriculum redesign, now is the perfect time to consider shifting to OER so that further reworking of the curriculum is not necessary down the road.

How Will We Get There?

In order to determine what OER is available and what gaps might exist, BCcampus is undertaking a gap analysis and mapping of OER to the common first-year curriculum for engineering. We will be looking at data such as current adoptions, where the successes have been, and where improvements and adaptations might be needed. Each OER will be reviewed for quality and relevance so that those programs and faculty looking to adopt can do so with confidence. Full results from this work are expected in fall 2020, but we will share preliminary information as it becomes available to assist those preparing for fall courses.

For gaps that emerge — as well as ones that we are already aware of — BCcampus will support collaborative projects intended to fill those gaps as soon as possible.

Contact

For more information, please contact Melanie Meyers, STEM Open Education Project Manager, at mmeyers@bccampus.ca.

Learn more:

Working Together, Learning Together

Invitation: To educators and anyone doing the work of “pivoting online” who would like to drop in with questions, and/or to hear others’ challenges and solutions.

Who is hosting: BCcampus – a passionate group of instructional designers, learning technologists, administrators, and more!  

And why…We feel the enormous challenge you are facing today and in the weeks to come. We want to offer support, particularly to institutions and educators without access to a large teaching and learning support team.

Topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Human Support/Communications
  • Exams Online
  • Experiential Learning Online

Expectation setting: We cannot offer or replace institution-specific supports, but we CAN talk through challenges like:

  • I have an in-class final exam worth 30% – what could I do instead?
  • My students are freaking out and I can’t keep up with the messages – what can I try?
  • I want to do a live online session but I’ve never done that before – what can I do?
  • I have this assignment…I’m not sure how to do it online – do you have ideas?

Join us for one or both sessions:

Starting at ground zero? 

Join us for the super-duper basics of online learning AKA no dumb questions session. This drop-in is for folx who are completely new to the online teaching world. There are no dumb questions. We will try and cover the basics of online learning while giving you the space to ask your questions. March 25, 2020 @ 12:30 pm – 1:15 pm PDT

Learn more:

BCcampus COVID-19 update – March 10, 2020

Countries around the world, including Canada, are working to contain the current outbreak of the coronavirus virus (COVID-19) and as such, BCcampus is continuing to follow the advice of the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and provincial and federal authorities. As cases continue to increase around the world it is a challenging and uncertain time, but it’s important to note that the risk to people in British Columbia and the rest of Canada remains low at this time.

We have been given no indication of the need to change or cancel the Festival of Learning at this time. However, we will remain vigilant in ensuring a safe space is maintained for all those attending, and if conditions worsen, we will respond appropriately based on public health recommendations.

Most of the cases in B.C. have been linked to travellers, but to ensure we prevent local transmission we urge each and every member of our community to take personal responsibility to reduce the risk of respiratory illnesses (coronavirus, colds, and influenza). This includes:

  • Avoid touching your face/eyes/mouth with unwashed hands
  • Stay home when you are ill, especially if you have a fever, cough, or runny nose
  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds using soap and water
  • If a sink is not available, use 60-90% alcohol-based hand sanitizer

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact festival@bccampus.ca

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Identifying Evidence-Based Strategies Used in Teaching and Learning

We recently caught up with Andrea Sator and Heather Williams to learn more about a research project they’re conducting — funded by a BCcampus Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) grant — to explore evidence-based strategies to remove barriers to online learning. 

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

Last spring, we published a research call for proposals to develop a thought-leadership resource, seeking evidence-based strategies for designing and delivering professional development and open educational resources (OER) for educators in online learning. The goal of the research is to improve learning conditions for a diverse spectrum of students. Andrea Sator and Heather Williams created a comprehensive response, outlining the project they felt was needed for educators and learners in B.C.

What prompted you to apply for a BCcampus DEI grant?

Heather: This opportunity was brought to my attention through my relationship with one of the people at BCcampus. She learned about some of the work I’d been doing in equity, inclusion, and interculturalism. I reached out to Andrea, because she has expertise in online learning and doing work provincially, and we saw that the call for proposals aligned well with our combined areas of expertise.

Andrea: We were interested in how the work would inform the larger field because it’s an area that is increasingly becoming important and is on everyone’s mind — it was such a unique opportunity to get in the field to conduct our own investigations about the specific inquiries that are informed by the scholarship and interested us. We felt we had a lot to offer in the way of shaping this research: asking the questions in an open-ended way to get at what we thought is important for practitioners and scholars to know.

How do you see students and/or faculty benefiting from this project?

Andrea: The unique contribution that this piece makes is that it achieves a triangulation of what’s happening in the scholarship; exploring what’s taking place in the public post-secondary institutions (11 institutions have agreed to participate in the study); and what today’s students are saying. A cross-comparison of three different areas provides a unique perspective that we think can shape this field in an original way. 

Typically, researchers start with a literature review but don’t often make the comparison between how that resonates with what practitioners say about the daily work and their current challenges, concerns, approaches, and experiences, and what students are saying about those very same questions.

Heather: We hope the benefits are many. One is that educators are aware of diverse learners and their needs; they are aware of the limitations in online course design and/or delivery when it comes to the ability to engage all learners. However, what we heard was a wish — through a project such as this — for there to be more potential collaboration between institutions, which could enable more people to employ best practices in building and delivering online courses and programs. In turn, this kind of collaboration will potentially benefit students who struggle with online platforms as a means of education, as the courses will be built with diverse students in mind.

What is one of the notable benefits you’ve found through this project?

Andrea: We were amazed by the way people accepted and participated in the research, specifically the faculty and staff in the post-secondary institutions. They were consistently welcoming and inviting in every instance, whether we met them on campus or online. It was completely volunteer, and they could withdraw their participation at any time, but never did. They wanted to know the results, make the connections, and have their voices heard, as well as know what they could do to support the work going forward.

It was also notable to hear how much they appreciate BCcampus, and how important BCcampus is as a resource for this province.

Heather: For many of the people we interviewed, being asked to participate and being listened to as experts was a form of validation for the hard work that goes into building thoughtfully designed and instructed online courses. There was a high level of excitement about the opportunity to share their practices and the ways in which they face their challenges.

The other piece — when we brought different stakeholders from the same institution together, they saw the opportunity to break down the silos within their own institution and work better together.

Andrea: The cross-collaboration generated within the institutions was a notable impact of this work. Also, for us as researchers, having the bird’s-eye view — the environmental scan of what’s happening in different institutions — enabled us to see the good practices being implemented. Comparing this to what’s happening in the literature, it was really nice to take a step back and help make connections to say, “Yes, people are doing these types of things.”

It was nice to see that some groups were focused on specific areas rather than other topics, and that differed from what the literature was saying, so having the environmental scan/bird’s-eye view was valuable. More about this will come out in the research.

There were four main phases: the literature review; interviewing the post-secondary institutions and transcribing, coding, and understanding the data; meeting the ethical requirements of having students respond to a survey; and pulling it all together in a thought-leadership piece.

We needed parts one through three completed to inform the fourth, but here’s the sticky part with the ethics: we’re working as independent research consultants; we’re not affiliated with any institutions and don’t actually fit into any of the tri-council receiving areas, so we didn’t need ethical approval from our own institutions because we weren’t doing this work on their behalf. Our thoughts were that our milling groups would share these surveys so we could collect the student data, but what we’ve found is we do need ethical approval from each institution. Working with each of the 11 institutions, we’ve discovered that each has a different level of ethical approval — some are quick, some are simple, some are very detailed.

We think this is an enormous learning opportunity for BCcampus, for other research consultants, and for ourselves on how to engage with this process. I think that’s going to be a big bonus, with substantial scholarly impact on how to approach ethics.

We even sought out the possibility of getting a private ethical review, but most institutions don’t accept private reviews. There seems to be some discord in the field around how to approach ethics, and each institution has different parameters. It’s quite exciting to document this.

What were you surprised to learn?

Andrea: There’s an opportunity to seek clarity in advance — these ethical officers are so busy — and they have the spirit and enthusiasm to engage with external contractors. It’s just so amazing and positive that they’re willing to have that conversation because we’re completely outside of their institutions.

Heather: When we talk about removing barriers for equity-seeking groups, it’s important to keep in mind that all of the institutions we’ve spoken with are doing their best with the often-limited resources and tools that are out there. We heard how people are grappling with the need to change, and how that is challenging within the system of education, but by and large, educators are putting diverse students in the centre. Participants are aware that different learners need different strategies, and this informs their approaches to teaching and designing online learning.

What is next for you on this project?

Andrea: Getting the student survey out — it’s such a big and exciting piece to hear from the students —and ensuring we have diversity in different areas. The ethics piece is holding us up a bit — it’s hard to complete the leadership piece without the three comparators – the first three phases – available to us.

Heather: Andrea is already brainstorming different ways for us to be as proactive as we can to ensure we get as many respondents as possible.

Andrea: There’s a possibility of support to reach students in remote and rural communities, but we initially want to honour the students in the post-secondary institutions where we were privileged to interview the faculty and staff. 

At BCcampus, we’re looking forward to sharing the research results once Andrea and Heather have completed this project.

Notable quote:

“B.C. is very progressive and very aware, and there’s a lot of amazing work out there. We feel very privileged to be invited into these institutions. We’re also fortunate that there is a BCcampus, and that there is this type of work. As well, the community appreciates the resources and opportunities that BCcampus has to share. There’s a lot of gratitude on our end, as well as from the folks in the field for everything that BCcampus provides.”

Andrea Sator

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BCcampus Excellence in Open Education Award: Lindsay Tripp

The newest recipient of the BCcampus Award for Excellence in Open Education is Lindsay Tripp, Copyright Librarian, Langara College. Lindsay is the chair-elect of the BC Open Education Librarians and the co-chair of Open Langara. She has been a tireless advocate for open education at Langara and essential in establishing Langara’s open textbook adoption tracking procedures.

Nominated by Lauri Aesoph, Manager, Open Education, BCcampus

Lindsay served as planning team lead for BCOEL’s 2019 Open Access Week event, Can we decolonize open? In addition to her open education work, she serves as the library’s liaison to the Aboriginal Studies and Indigenous Education and Services departments. In her spare moments, she has been learning about what it means to be an authentic ally in reconciliation. For this reason, the event was close to her heart and one she’s particularly proud of.

In recent months, she has focused time and energy on refining Langara’s open textbook adoption tracking processes. Lindsay has been instrumental in running the ongoing adoption program for Langara and sharing this data with BCcampus OpenEd in order to keep the provincial numbers current. Over the summer of 2019, Lindsay began visualizing Langara’s open textbook stats in Tableau and embedded the visualization into the college’s new Open Education website homepage. Lindsay thinks that visualizing their open textbook stats has really helped Langara to communicate the impact of open education at their institution.

Under Lindsay’s direction, the Langara Open Education Working Group instituted an open textbook review program that doubled BCcampus’ $250 honorarium for reviewers. This program solicited over 20 open textbook reviews from Langara instructors in the past year.

Currently, Lindsay and her colleague Julian Prior are in the midst of writing up the results of qualitative research they conducted regarding the impact of open textbooks on international students’ academic success.

Notable quotes

“In the past few years, as co-chair for Open Langara, Lindsay has used her drive and dedication not only to spur a rise in adoptions, but also to support faculty in their efforts to adapt and create open textbooks. She has advocated for resources to support faculty wanting to incorporate open ancillary materials and open pedagogy into their practice. Lindsay has been creative, energetic, and instrumental in leading activities encouraging and celebrating Langara’s Growing Open movement.”

Patricia Cia, MLS, FSLA, Director of Academic Innovation, Library & Learning Commons, Langara College

“I have had the privilege of working with Lindsay since 2016 when we first kicked around the idea of creating a working group advocating for open education at Langara. Four years and many meetings (and coffees!) later, Langara now has an established Open Education Advisory Committee and is the heaviest user of open textbooks amongst post-secondary educational institutions in B.C. Even though I’m sure she would deny it, this impressive achievement is mainly due to Lindsay’s tireless work advocating for open in so many different ways at the college, and is all the more remarkable when you think that most of this work has been done off of the side of Lindsay’s desk (her main role is copyright librarian). This is testimony to Lindsay’s passion and commitment towards equality, justice, and accessibility in education, values which are so important to our work in the open space. The icing on the cake for me is that Lindsay happens to also be just a fantastic person to work with. I am absolutely delighted that she has been given this important award, as it is fully deserved.”

Julian Prior, Chair of Educational Technology, Langara College

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Previous honoureesJennifer Kirkey, Rajiv JhangianiCindy UnderhillMichael PaskeviciusMaja KrzicGrant PotterIrwin DeVriesTara RobertsonChristina HendricksTannis MorganInba KehoeDiane PurveyErin Fields, Arley CruthersChad Flinn, Aran ArmutluTerry BergWill EngleFlorence Daddey, and Brenda Smith

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