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Indigenization Guide: Taking Back Control

An excerpt from Pulling Together: Foundations Guide by Kory Wilson

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


– Billy Diamond, “The Cree experience”

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

Indigenous resistance

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

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

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

Idle No More

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

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

Indigenous rights, title, self-determination, and government

Key terms:

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

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

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

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

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Selecting and Adapting Resources for Sexualized Violence Training: A Toolkit for Educators

A new toolkit is now available to help post-secondary institutions and educators in B.C. develop training programs to raise awareness of, prevent, and respond to sexualized violence and misconduct (SVM) in online and face-to-face educational environments.

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

We have been working with the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training to develop resources to address sexualized violence and misconduct training for post-secondary institutions in British Columbia. Our first objective was to assemble an SVM working group to help us identify the resources currently being used by post-secondary institutions in B.C. Through the substantial efforts of the SVM working group, we have developed and published the first of many assets: a toolkit to help educators select or adapt resources so they can implement quality training for students, staff, and faculty around sexualized violence and misconduct. The toolkit is openly licensed (like all materials created by BCcampus) and authored by the SVM Training and Resources Working Group.

“At BCcampus, our core values are to create open and accessible quality OER,” shared Robynne Devine, project manager at BCcampus. “The SVM training resources developed by this project were intended to be open and accessible from the start, but with the impact of COVID-19 causing a high-paced pivot to online learning, this work could not be more timely. PSIs — especially rural institutions with typically small teams — previously would have delivered SVM training in a face-to-face format, but with the rapid conversion to online, they need resources that can be easily accessed and shared in a digital environment.”

A Strategy to Eliminate SVM

The first component of this project — hosting a provincial forum to bring students, staff, faculty, and stakeholders together — was completed in June 2019, where insights and best practices regarding SVM were identified. Future stages of this project include:

  • Plain Language Supports: Assisting PSIs to review their written communications to ensure information about SVM policies and procedures is easy to access, understand, and implement.
  • Building Capacity at Rural Institutions: Facilitating training and supports to address the unique challenges faced by rural institutions in implementing SVM programs.
  • Training Resources: Identifying or developing free, high-quality training and awareness resources and facilitating access across the B.C. post-secondary system.

Notable Quote

“It has been so rewarding to work with the subject-matter experts across the teaching and learning sector of B.C. The SVM Toolkit they’ve created is a phenomenal resource that will support PSIs in their evaluation of SVM training, so they can determine what is right for their post-secondary community.” 


—Robynne Devine, BCcampus project manager

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BCcampus Open Education Print-on-Demand Guide: What is Print on Demand?

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

Print on demand (PoD) is a service or process by which individual copies of a textbook or other resource that is usually available as a digital file can be printed upon request. This method allows publishers to provide books for a fixed cost per copy regardless of order size, be it one or one hundred copies. Prior to the digital age, most information was available in books that were printed by publishers in large (and expensive) allotments using offset printing.[1] The idea of requesting — and printing — a single copy of a book was unheard of.

The PoD model began in the 1990s as digital press technology — as well as printing and binding methods — developed and improved, allowing publishers to retreat from printing large runs of books and then dealing with unsold copies.[2] Replacing the standard large-book-inventory method with on-demand book printing afforded publishers other savings, too, including a reduction in storage costs, less labour needed for handling inventory, and lower inventory management fees. In 2008, UBC Press — Canada’s third largest university press[3]— began using the print-on-demand and short-run digital printing models as part of its workflow to keep book inventory at workable levels.[4]

While the price of each print-on-demand copy is typically higher than those produced with offset printing, the average PoD cost is lower for small print runs because setup costs for digital printing — including technical configuration — are much lower than those for offset printing. This advantage not only reduces the publisher’s risks, but also leads to more choices for the consumer, such as the ability to order a discrete, professionally produced book. Still, less publisher liability can also mean lower quality control of the printed book.[5]

Nevertheless, the PoD model aligns well with open textbooks. For instructors who take full advantage of the open-copyright licence (the tool that makes a textbook open) by customizing the book to suit their teaching methods and curricula; updating it regularly to keep the material current; and/or inviting students to contribute to the book as part of a course assignment (in line with open pedagogical practice), printing textbooks on demand is the ideal way to go.


  1. “Offset Printing,” Wikipedia, last modified April 17, 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offset_printing. 
  2. Edmund Chamberlain, “Investigating Faster Techniques for Digitization and Print-on-Demand,” New Review of Academic Librarianship 18, no. 1 (2012): 64, https://doi.org/10.1080/13614533.2012.660769. 
  3. “About UBC Press,” About Us, UBC Press, accessed April 8, 2020, http://www.ubcpress.ca/about-us. 
  4. Sara Xue Ying Chang, “A Case Study of Print on Demand and Short-Run Digital Printing at the University of British Columbia Press” (master’s project report, Simon Fraser University, 2017), https://summit.sfu.ca/item/17530. 
  5. “Print on Demand,” Wikipedia, last modified April 26, 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Print_on_demand. 

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BCcampus Open Education Working Group Guide: Event and Initiatives

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

Workshops and events can increase awareness and support for open education and open educational resources (OER) within your institution. Faculty and staff gain valuable skills and approaches for developing open resources. At institutions in British Columbia, like Douglas College, BCIT, and UBC, open working groups have developed and delivered a range of events from showcases to open courses to skills-based workshops. In the following section, we will look at some of the approaches taken to these workshops and events and what has been most successful.

Questions to Consider

  1. What events does your institution or organization already have that support open?
  2. Are there institutes or pre-existing programs where there is an opportunity to host an OER or open workshop or event?
  3. What are aspects of open that you can use to showcase open practices at your institution? Are there people in open education whose work you can share?

Open education workshops

One approach to both supporting and raising awareness for open education is to host workshops focused on some of the knowledge and skills required to adopt, adapt, and create open resources, and implement open pedagogy and open practices. These workshops can focus on licensing, tool use, finding and using OER, or developing OER using an open resource creation tool such as Pressbooks. By focusing on tangible skills, these workshops can offer a valuable entry point for people just getting started in open and fill skill gaps for those more familiar with open practices. These workshops can also create opportunities to collaborate between different units such as the library, teaching and learning centres, and faculty centres. You can find information about developing and running many of these workshops online. In the following section, we have listed some common skills-based workshops and included where you can find open resources to run them with.

Workshop examples

Finding, using, and remixing OER resources

One approach to engaging instructors, staff, faculty, and students around open education and OER is to run a workshop focusing on finding, using, and remixing OER. This type of workshop is useful for people starting to consider adopting OER because it provides participants with an answer to a common challenge in education: how to find resources to use in their presentations and courses. See In Practice: Find, Use, and Remix OER for Your Courses in this chapter for a description of a workshop like this.

Pressbooks workshops

Pressbooks is an open-source software that enables book creators to design and produce an open textbook or resource for the web and export it into multiple file formats like PDF, EPUB, MOBI, and various editable formats. BCcampus hosts its own instance of Pressbooks and all faculty, instructors, and staff working for post-secondary institutions in B.C. can use this service by registering for an account. Workshops about Pressbooks are a way to help provide faculty with a key tool in OER creation. Pressbooks workshops can focus on creating an actual resource, reusing a book published in Pressbook, or the process of adapting a textbook. BCcampus has a number of openly licensed resources that you can use and adapt when offering these workshops:

There are lots of other examples of types of workshops that you can run for instructors, faculty, and staff, including

  • How to create open resources,
  • Intro to Creative Commons licensing,
  • Intro to open pedagogy,
  • How to develop ancillary resources,
  • Workshops highlighting open tools such as blogs and wikis, and
  • Workshops about how to use the LMS to create and share OER.

Workshop resources

Inspire your workshop participants by showing examples of what high-quality OER looks like:

  • Showcase open textbooks. Find great exemplars from the B.C. Open Textbook Collection, a curated collection of open textbooks, many of which have been reviewed and vetted by educators across Canada.
  • Showcase open course materials. Share resources from the Open Course Library’scollection of course materials, including syllabi, course activities, readings, and assessments designed by teams of college faculty, instructional designers, librarians, and other experts.
  • Showcase open media. Explore Getty Institute Open Images, a searchable database of open images, or the Creative Commons image search tool.
  • Showcase open data. Showcase data from the UBC Open Data Collection, a repository with a collection of Canadian geospatial datasets.

Open courses

In addition to running workshops on skills and approaches required for open practice, another approach is to engage faculty, staff, and students to complete an open course, either together or individually. Consider sponsoring participants to complete these programs as a cohort and organize brown-bag lunches and meetups to share their learning and experiences.

Examples of open online courses

Creative Commons Certificate

Creative Commons offers a Creative Commons Certificate program, which is “an in-depth course about CC licenses, open practices and the ethos of the Commons. The course is composed of readings, quizzes, discussions and practical exercises to develop learners’ open skills.” You can organize a cohort of faculty to take this program together, complete the train-the-trainer program to offer it within your institution, or incorporate the program within your own offerings.

Open for Learning Challenges (UBC)

The Open for Learning Challenges website includes “challenges” that can be completed by instructors, staff, and students independently or can be used to create interactive activities as part of a workshop. The challenge bank structure is based on the architecture developed by Alan Levine for DS106 and Agora, and it includes challenges about open resources, open teaching, open profiles, and open advocacy.

Sprints

Sprints are probably most associated with software design but are becoming increasingly used as a strategy or approach for developing OER. The sprint approach can be used in a variety of contexts where a group of people (often cross-disciplinary) come together to focus on a specific project. In post-secondary education, sprints are emerging as a way to accomplish a shared goal while working across disciplines and on a short timeline. Hackathons can follow a similar process but often have a competitive element. In open education, sprints can be used as a way to quickly develop open textbooks (e.g., this Geography open textbook sprint) and ancillary resources (e.g., a sprint to develop a psychology test bank).

The sprint methodology includes the following features:

  • Short timelines and achievable goals,
  • Time-boxed working sessions (usually two to three days but can vary according to context and needs),
  • A defined outcome (i.e., textbook, resource),
  • A planning session to develop the sprint process,
  • Multiple perspectives and skill sets,
  • Identified/agreed roles for participants, and
  • Collaborative rather than competitive development processes.

Appendix 1: A Sprint Toolkit will guide you through all aspects of setting up and running a sprint at your institution.

Celebrate/showcase open education

Sharing and showcasing open education projects is a successful approach used by open working groups and institutions. A number of open working groups host events to share and celebrate open education within their institutions.

Provincial and national events

One strategy used when developing events is to host local events as part of provincial and national events and/or support faculty to attend these events.

Open Access Week

Open Access Week is organized annually by SPARC in late October. It is a global event that brings together the academic and research community to share and learn about approaches to and benefits of open access. Each year, the BCOEL has organized events as part of Open Access Week. Past events have focused on scholarly publishing and tension in open scholarship.

Open Education Week

Open Education Week occurs around the first week of March. B.C. post-secondary institutions are active in hosting open education events. Past events have included one-day conferenceslunchtime presentationshackathons, and evening socials with a panel.

Open Textbook Summit

Open Textbook Summit is a conference hosted every two years in Vancouver, B.C. in April/May that brings together people working in open. This event is for new and experienced OER advocates as it offers the opportunity to learn and share effective practices in awareness building, implementation, collaboration, strategy, and research in open education.[1]

In Practice: Find, Use, and Remix OER for Your Courses

A great starting place for these workshops is finding and using Creative Commons licensed resources within the classroom. For many instructors, this is an open practice that they are already engaged or interested in. This can be done through locally lead workshops. At the University of British Columbia (UBC), the open working group leads these workshops a couple of times a year in collaboration with the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology and the UBC Library. The workshops are developed and led by academic staff, instructors, and librarians to provide a balance of different perspectives and share expertise in different areas. Below is a sample description of these workshops.

Finding, Using, and Remixing Open Resources For Your Courses – Sample workshop description

As you prepare for your courses, chances are you may want to incorporate educational resources such as images, videos, or quiz questions from different sources into your own materials. There are millions of openly licensed resources—from full courses and textbooks to tests banks and images—that are available for others to freely use. These resources can be modified and adapted to be more useful for your own teaching or learning context. Additionally, these open education resources support the greater worldwide education community by sharing teaching work which may not be as visible as other academic engagement activities.

Are you interested in learning how to find, use, and remix open educational resources? Would you like to learn more about how to share resources back to the education community? This session is intended to address common questions concerning openly licensed materials for teaching and learning. Some of these questions include:

  • What is meant by Creative Commons?
  • How do you find and evaluate open resources?
  • What are the key considerations in reusing, reproducing, or modifying these materials?

With the proliferation of open education resources on the web, the practice of finding, evaluating, using, and remixing videos, simulations, test banks, presentations, and other materials is a skill that can help support instructors and students in their teaching and learning. This session will focus on the pragmatic elements of reuse and the basics of working with open education resources. Participants are invited to bring their questions, problems and favourite resources.

Image Descriptions

Figure 3 long description: A  Sprint Process.

  • Step 1: Plan. The sprint team determines the goals of the sprint, the sprint team, the logistics, and the venue.
  • Step 2: Prepare. The team explores the sprint content, process, technology, and collections open resources.
  • Step 3: Set up. The team sets up the venue and creates necessary style guides and templates.
  • Step 4: Deliver. The sprint facilitator leads the intensive sprint, emphasizing intensive content creation and collaboration.
  • Step 5: Debrief. The sprint team captures resources created and plans for the publication process.

Attributions

Media Attributions


  1. Note: In 2019, this event will be the Cascadia Open Education Summit

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10 Recommendations for Peer Engagement & Consultation

“Nothing about us without us”: It is a simple and pragmatic request made by people with lived/living experience (PWLLE) out of necessity. It isn’t a new request, as various iterations of this mantra have been mobilized alongside a number of social movements in recent history. At its core, it is a reasonable ask, so why are we so bad at this? Initiatives that are designed without meaningful consultation and engagement are often the ones that generate the most unintended harms: they fail to meet their mandate, and they waste valuable time and resources. They are emblematic of the simple fact that tokenizing continues in most systems, and admission of this flaw is a very uncomfortable truth.

Post by Corey Ranger, past project manager, Mental Health and Substance Use – Peer Support, BCcampus

When BCcampus was tasked with the development, implementation, and evaluation of a Provincial Peer Training Curriculum for PWLLE in mental health and substance use, we began by acknowledging that uncomfortable truth. We adopted a set of values and principles founded in humility and the mutual understanding that our process would never be perfect. In fact, we had to acknowledge that the concept of perfectionism itself is rooted in historical, colonial, and oppressive structures. Taking this iterative approach, we spent our time having meaningful conversations with PWLLE and reflecting on our own processes. We heard from peers who have experienced tokenism in its many forms and learned about the negative impact it had on both individuals and the project outcomes. For those of you Googling “tokenism” at home, tokenism is an oppressive act in which under-represented groups — particularly PWLLE and BIPOC — are brought into the decision-making process, but only to appease inclusivity requirements. Power imbalances result in those individuals experiencing harms and ultimately being ignored when their insights do not conveniently align with those of the people who hold true decision-making power.

After a robust engagement and consultation process that involved quantitative and qualitative research, the establishment of advisory committees and peer-led expert working groups, and a commitment to developing transparent and trusting relationships, we have been successful in connecting with 271 peers to date to inform the development of this vital project (see Meaningful Engagement, Meaningful Results: Engagement and Consultation Road Map from the Provincial Peer-Training Project [PDF]). Every PWLLE who consults on this project is compensated for their time, no matter how big or little the commitment. We hired 35 peers to provide monthly feedback and guidance on all project deliverables for the duration of the project, and we sought out opportunities to challenge our own embedded power structures to move away from tokenism. No matter how robust we deemed the process, we still needed to ask two very important questions: What did we do well, and more importantly, where are the gaps in our approach?

In taking part in this reflection, we at BCcampus identified 10 Recommendations for Peer Engagement and Consultation [PDF] that we are happy to share with the world. These recommendations are derived from our lessons learned, peer-authored literature, and most importantly, from the voices of PWLLE who have worked on this project. Organizations and institutions are encouraged to take stock of their processes and challenge their own power structures. These 10 recommendations are a great place to start, but they are not absolute. It is our hope that adopting these recommendations will create a pathway to further growth, including the prioritization of decolonizing decision-making structures. Some systems will struggle to abide by these recommendations, as adopting them requires that necessary first step of acknowledging that there is significant work still to be done. The recommendations are not end points, but demonstrations of a commitment to always strive for more equitable and inclusive approaches.

Exams: Who are we leaving out?

Post by Mary Burgess with help from Jess Mitchell, Josie Gray, Tracy Roberts, Amanda Coolidge, Carolee Clyne, Susan Doner, and Mirjam van Hasselt. 

Because of the pandemic, the last several months have involved pivoting post-secondary courses in B.C. from face to face to online delivery. Part of that pivot has required new ways of administering exams. The use of proctoring software has emerged as a popular solution, and some B.C. institutions are currently in the process of evaluating different proctoring products such as Proctorio, ProctorU and Respondus, while others are relying on video conferencing as a way of monitoring students during exam writing. As much as it enables continuity of course delivery, using the software comes with its own set of problems and some B.C. educators and institutions are outright rejecting these tools in favour of teaching methods that do not require exams. The pandemic has shone a light on how we use assessment practices without questioning their validity or purpose. This article looks at some of the problems created by the use of proctoring software, as well as problems created more generally by the use of exams as an assessment method.

Accessibility

Most exams are what is known as time-based assessment. That means students have a specific amount of time, at a particular time, to perform the assessment. Within an assessment, there may also be time limits on how long a student gets before they have to respond to a question.

Time-based face to face assessment disadvantages many students. For example:

  • Those who cannot sit comfortably for long periods of time as a result of physical disabilities or because of uncomfortable settings (no heat or AC; those who have acquired a temporary injury) 
  • Those who have anxiety disorders that prevent concentration in timed settings; with the pandemic, anxiety is even more likely as students navigate many challenging situations in their personal and professional lives
  • Those who have attention disorders that prevent focus, especially with the distractions of others around them, and those in settings that prevent focus, such as caring for an elderly parent or a small child during the pandemic
  • Those with learning disabilities may not be able to adequately express their learning in written form
  • Exam questions and answers may be written using cultural knowledge not all students have

Online Exams

Online exam proctoring, now becoming much more prevalent due to the pandemic, presents some additional challenges, including but not limited to:

  • Facial detection software built into many of these systems is racist
  • Incoming and outgoing data on student computers is being surveilled by the software
  • There is a financial burden to students who have to purchase a webcam for the purpose of exams
  • Not all students have computers that are robust enough to install and run the software
  • Not all students have their own computer in a private room
  • Not all students have constant, reliable internet access (due to their geographic location or competing priorities in their family group, e.g., students doing home schooling while others work from home, etc.), and upgrading creates a financial burden

In addition to the above, the issue of cheating has also come to the fore with the use of online exams. Academic integrity is being discussed more than ever. Institutions, departments, and individual faculty are using a variety of methods to stop cheating both before it happens, with things like academic integrity pledges, and after it happens, with plagiarism detection software and the like.

Students have their own thoughts about exams being administered this way. A quick tour through institutional subreddits on the Reddit platform tells the story of students who fear for their privacy, are confused about what their rights are, are very aware of the power dynamic between themselves and their instructors, and, above all, want to succeed in their courses. Some students claim to have cheated the systems put in place to prevent cheating, and we hear similar stories from other sources, including the software companies themselves. The bottom line is that it is not a pretty picture.

Exams are not only problematic from an accessibility and inclusion lens. Teachers need to know whether their students learned what they intended them to learn. Unfortunately, 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.

Person biting pencil in front of laptop

Are they demonstrating learning?

Assessment of learning is vitally important to a student’s journey. In order to achieve mastery of course competencies, they need regular and actionable feedback. Assessments need to align with learning goals that are appropriate for the course level and the mastery expected. Bloom’s taxonomy is one of several tools and methods used to talk about levels of learning and mastery and to therefore design learning experiences and assessments. Educators need to think about what students should be able to do as a result of their learning. In some cases, a requirement may be the ability to analyze information using the learning, which requires much more mastery than simply remembering concepts such as formulas. David Jaffee points out that in having students study for exams, we are focussing their attention on a very short term goal rather than on the larger context in which the learning exists and will ultimately be applied.

Unfortunately, many exams only test remembering, and they end up testing a whole bunch of other things that have nothing to do with mastery or the ability to use the learning in a variety of ways. Exams that are held in auditoriums with several hundred students at the same time test a student’s ability to focus on a particular task when there are many other distractions around them. For some students, this is relatively easily done. For others, the inability to focus might be the result of anxiety, and that anxiety may prevent the student from recalling information they have studied diligently.

The notion of scaling education is almost always in direct opposition to what we know about how learning works. Classes with hundreds of students per educator create a situation where few thrive and the likelihood of many not having their learning needs met is high. Thinking of students or any one “group” of students, such as “those with disabilities”, as a monolith ignores the many ways in which needs, skills, and background affect learning.

Trauma-informed education

Dr. Stephen Porges’ research into the pathways that connect the brain to the body tells us that certain physiological states reduce our ability, during times of stress, to access information we have already learned. We also now know much more about trauma and its impact on our ability to learn new information. There are many examples of students for whom trauma may be a barrier to learning and to expressing their learning. A student whose grandparents went to residential school, for example, may be impacted by intergenerational trauma and could find that an exam setting provokes feelings that are barriers to focus, expression of learning, and feeling safe.

Given this information, we are in a position to better design learning and assessments to give students the very best chance at success. So, what do we do instead?

Use Formative AND Summative Assessment

Assessment can be formative, i.e. it happens during the learning process, or summative, i.e. it comes at the end of the learning process. For students to gain mastery, they need multiple attempts at learning with feedback along the way to guide them. Many final exams are worth a very large percentage of a student’s final grade in a course. It is not uncommon to see courses with two midterms worth 25% each and a final worth 50%. Students need formative assessment to help them identify where they need to do more learning. Educators need formative assessment to know whether their teaching techniques are working. Supporting students through their learning journey using formative assessment can help put much less emphasis on the necessity of a final exam and can spread the work of assessment over a term instead of piling it up at the end. One alternative strategy is to provide students with multiple opportunities throughout the course to show competency, using a variety of techniques including short, low risk, in-class quizzes and peer assessment. Students often only study for a final exam in the days leading up to it; ensuring there are regular opportunities for assessment throughout the course will require consistent acquisition of knowledge. Assessing learning along the way also gives students practice with knowledge retrieval processes. Recent research indicates that this practice strengthens learning and, in fact, enables higher order learning to take place.

2 people side by side at laptops in brightly lit room

Does it need to be time-based? Does it need to be written?

Exams have traditionally been administered over several hours at once. We have done it this way for a long time, but that does not mean it works. Time-based exams are a scheduling nightmare at institutions, and in most cases, this way of working is not an accurate reflection of how students will use the learning in real life situations. In most fields, nobody is going to ask you to do something in two hours, by yourself, with no access to any resources. A take-home exam can be a good alternative. Not only does it reduce the likelihood that your exam and its physical setting are not accessible to some students, it can also be an opportunity for students to reflect more deeply on their learning. Many instructors will be concerned about cheating with take home exams. One way to prevent that is to design questions that require students to use higher order thinking skills like analyzing and creating, using reference to learning from the course and other sources.

The ways in which we expect students to express learning could also be much more flexible than it currently is. Again, this is a case in which educators can look at what students need to learn in a course and make a decision about whether the method of expression of learning is germane to the assessment. Perhaps making a video or doing a presentation is more appropriate for a student moving into some fields. Perhaps a conversation is a better way to find out what a student knows. Some students who are extremely strong academically have major challenges when it comes to writing. We are currently penalizing those students who excel at oral communication over written. This is another example of where scaling education and tradition lets us down.

Co-creation with students

How about having the students design the exam questions? Co-creation of curriculum with students is an emerging way of teaching that is gaining ground due to its effectiveness. What if students each had to create four exam questions that reflected their knowledge of the course topic, and then answer each other’s questions? Creating questions requires deep thinking and makes students accountable for their own learning. In order to create multiple choice questions with plausible wrong answers, students must first master a topic. Question creation could happen throughout the term or only in the weeks leading up the exam. This method can also be used during a take-home exam in which students use their own learning and experience to come up with questions rather than answers to questions.

students collaborating on single laptop

Applied learning

If what you are really interested in is enabling your students to apply what they learn in your course in different contexts, multiple choice exam questions are not going to get you there. Using case studies from real businesses, for example, can help assess whether students remember the math formulas you taught them as well as their ability to choose the right formula to solve a problem. Applied learning can also be much more engaging for students, motivating them to explore topics on their own and take control of their own learning. Like other methods, this way of engaging students can happen over an entire semester, or be used as a way of assessing learning at the end of the course in a final project or take-home exam that asks students to apply learning from across the course to a set of real world problems.

Student Reflection

At the University of Saskatchewan, Professor Hayley Hesseln in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources has been successfully using reflection as a way for students to demonstrate learning. She provides students with a rubric to guide their thinking, and as a summative way of assessing asks them to write about what they learned in the course, including how they will use their learning in the future. Using a rubric can simplify the assessment process for both students and educators because it focuses on specific and measurable goals, makes students aware of expectations, and helps connect them to their learning in ways that enable them to assess their progress. Jess Mitchell, in her UX course at Wilfred Laurier University, uses this method on a more frequent basis. At the end of each weekly class, she asks students to connect their new learning with how they see the world and what they notice they are thinking about. She also encourages them to think about their learning and what supports they need. These prompts enable students to explore more deeply topics they are passionate about and to take agency over their own learning.

What will you do now?

Exams have been a regular part of the post-secondary experience for a very long time, and no doubt they will continue to be used for a long time to come. We know more than we used to about how learning happens and about what can prevent students from actually learning and expressing learning. Do you have an exam in your course? What might it look like to do something different? What supports would you need? If you are ready for a change, seek out your institution’s learning and teaching experts, who are always really excited about challenges like this! Talk to colleagues who might want to take the journey with you. Doing things in community can feel a lot less risky. If you can change even a couple of small ways in which you assess students’ learning, you will have made progress. You could even involve your students in the decision making about how to assess their learning.

At BCcampus we are collaborating with educators who are shifting to assessment methods that have a positive impact on student learning. If that sounds like you, please connect with us so we can talk about how we can support you!

BCcampus Award for Excellence in Open Education: Michelle Harrison

For her long-time advocacy and many contributions to open education in the B.C. post-secondary system, Michelle Harrison of Thompson Rivers University is the recipient of the BCcampus Award for Excellence in Open Education for July.

Post by Tannis Morgan, researcher, Open Education, BCcampus

In her roles at TRU as senior instructional designer, assistant professor, and co-chair of the Learning, Design and Innovation Department in the Open Learning Division, Michelle has quietly had an outsize influence on the advancement of open education at TRU and in B.C. Michelle’s work in open education extends beyond open educational resources (OER), encompassing open education advocacy, research, and scholarship. In her role as instructional designer, she has had an impact on incorporating OER into course development and design at TRU.

Michelle Harrison

Some of her many accomplishments include being part of the TRU open education working group, teaching for the Master of Arts in Learning and Technology program at Royal Roads University, and being editor-in-chief of the International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education. But where Michelle really shines is her open education research.

In 2019, Michelle was a BCcampus open education faculty fellow, during which time she conducted research exploring the impact of open learning. More recently, Michelle and her colleague Irwin DeVries at TRU published a study in the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology on how instructional designers advocate for openness. Currently, Michelle is part of a BCcampus-led research team that is investigating a tool that institutions may use to self-assess their open education initiatives.

Michelle is an indispensable part of the open education community in B.C., and for that, we thank her.

“Dr. Harrison is deeply committed to students and to the intersecting fields of open education and instructional design. Throughout her career, she has focused on enhancing access to learning in her research, teaching, and instructional design practice. Michelle has rightfully earned the respect of her colleagues and her peers. Michelle is unquestionably deserving of the recognition provided by the BCcampus Award for Excellence in Open Education.”


—Irwin DeVries, adjunct faculty, Thompson Rivers University, and associate faculty, Royal Roads University

Previous honourees

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

A pathway to open for Science programs in B.C.

For the past several years, there has been incredible work across British Columbia around the development of certificates, diplomas, and associate and bachelor’s degrees that rely solely on open educational resources (OER) and other free materials in an effort to save enrolled students money. These credentials have been named Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) credentials.

In April 2019, Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, announced the funding of $3.26 million toward open education in British Columbia. This welcome infusion of financial support has enabled BCcampus to continue developing and distributing OER — including open textbooks — that save students money while providing significant learning value.

Today, we are pleased to announce that BCcampus is awarding an OER grant to Thompson Rivers University (TRU), who will be developing a ZTC pathway for students looking to obtain an Associate of Science degree. As part of this project, all resources created will be shared in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection. It is expected that this pathway will be ready for the 2021–2022 academic year. 

Michelle Harrison, Senior Instructional Designer, Co-Chair Learning Design and Innovations, TRU Open Learning says, “we are excited to further expand our support of faculty developing and adopting OER at TRU. As we mapped and aligned our Associate of Science diploma course offerings with available OER, it was amazing to see how far we have come and that creating a ZTC pathway for a STEM program was within reach. Providing opportunities for students to complete a diploma with zero textbook costs aligns with TRU’s open access mandate, further reducing barriers 

In addition to TRU’s ZTC pathway, over this spring, BCcampus has conducted an extensive environmental scan of STEM adoptions across the province. After reviewing the requirements for a two-year Associate of Science degree at all public institutions in B.C. that offer this credential, we established a basic program plan that fits most institutions. We have aligned the known OER adoptions with the requirements of the Associate of Science credential. This credential is used throughout the province to offer laddering opportunities into Bachelor of Science degrees.

We are pleased to share a pathway to an Associate of Science degree based on existing OER and known adoptions. This pathway will act as a resource for faculty to discover and adopt OER for their subject area. If an institution were to adopt OER for each of the requirements in the pathway, they would have a ZTC Associate of Science degree to offer their students.

The resources on the pathway are verified adoptions, and the OER can be found in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection and other OER repositories. Due to confidentiality promised during the adoption reporting process, we are unable to offer specifics as to course numbers and instructors. Faculty are encouraged to report adoptions to BCcampus and may choose to keep their information private.

Jennifer Kirkey, physics instructor at Douglas College and BCcampus science advisory committee member, has been an advocate for the ZTC Associate of Science degree and encourages faculty to look at adopting OER for the foundational courses in this credential. 

“As a physics teacher,” says Jennifer, “most of what I teach is based on classical mechanics based on Newton’s four-hundred-year-old laws, or on work done by Einstein in 1905 — information that is in the public domain. The fundamentals of math, physics, and chemistry have not changed for more than a century. Meanwhile, biology and astronomy often change much faster than the standard commercial textbook can be produced. This is where the ability to adapt OER truly proves its worth. The OER movement is much more than just free textbooks.”

This pathway would not be possible without the dedication educators have to their students, nor without educators’ enthusiasm and willingness to adopt, create, and adapt OER.

Notable Quote

“As a faculty member, being able to remix and adapt high-quality OER means that my students get a better experience that is tailored to the course they are taking. I value the ability to make materials relevant to the students in my course and at my institution.”

—Jennifer Kirkey, Physics Instructor, Douglas College

“OER has tons of benefits for STEM students and faculty. Textbooks in this field are usually super expensive, so using an OER such as an open textbook is a great way of reducing the cost of course materials for students.”

– Brenda Smith, TRU Open Ed Librarian

Newly expanded Print-on-Demand Guide

Beyond printing: A practical approach to PoD services that logs open education on campus and improves student accessibility

By Lauri Aesoph, Manager, Open Education

Most open textbooks are available online or in other digital formats. However, there are times when a student or instructor needs or wants a printed version. There are times when screen-only reading creates a barrier, and the printed page is the window to learning.

The newly expanded and completed BCcampus Open Education Print-on-Demand Guide provides an overview for post-secondary institutions interested in offering on-demand and pre-order printing services for open textbooks. Print on demand (PoD) is a service or process by which individual copies of a textbook or other OER can be printed upon request.

While the newly updated Print-on-Demand Guide can be used as an instruction manual for setting up a print-on-demand service, its emphasis on broad institutional participation during evaluation also makes it a tool for taking inventory of open educational activity and interest on campus.

This guide, laid out in four parts, begins by describing the history behind print on demand and explaining why open textbooks are ideal print candidates for instructors interested in customizable classrooms. It describes how open textbook permissions allow copies to be made and legalizes their sale. NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) licences are also covered.

The second section contains situations in which the printing of open textbooks is warranted, such as personal preference, limited computer and internet availability, learning needs, literacy, and accessibility. The third part looks at the benefits of an on-campus print-on-demand service, and the fourth includes suggestions, considerations, and templates that can be used to set up this service.

Chapter content in the Print-on-Demand Guide incorporates research, real-life examples, input from B.C. post-secondary representatives who answered a print-on-demand survey designed for this guide, and quotes from bookstores, printshops, and libraries across the province.

Homework high five

BCcampus awards five open education development grants as part of the open homework project.

The grants will be used to add H5P interactive formative assessment activities to five Pressbooks open textbooks in the BCcampus open textbook library.

BCcampus has awarded open education grants totalling $50,000 to five collaborative projects representing 11 post-secondary institutions in British Columbia. The grants will be used to develop interactive activities for Pressbooks open textbooks in the areas of English, nursing, psychology, biology, and tourism.

“We had an overwhelming response to our call for proposals,” says open education project manager Clint Lalonde. “The evaluation committee had a very difficult job, choosing just five projects for funding. But in the end, we feel that we have a broad selection of excellent projects representing a variety of institutions and disciplines.”

In addition to the scope and variety of institutions and disciplines represented, the winning projects demonstrate a commitment to including students in the development and evaluation of the learning activities.

Approved Projects

TextbookProject LeadParticipating InstitutionsAmount AwardedProject
Description
Writing for Success – 1st Canadian EditionBrenna Clarke Gray (Thompson Rivers University)TRU, Douglas College$9,507The purpose of this project is to improve the Writing for Success textbook by integrating more hands-on, formative learning objects. Writing for Success is a textbook for use in first-year academic writing, one of the highest volume classes in the province and a course with a high degree of failure and attrition. Any effort to improve rates of success in this course will positively impact the vast majority of post-secondary students in the province, as this is a required course for most degree programs and in most transfer agreements. The H5P interactives will offer students the opportunity to reinforce, apply, and check their learning, primarily relying on pedagogical practices like spaced practice, retrieval practice, and concrete examples.
Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in BCRebecca Wilson-Mah (Royal Roads University)Royal Roads University, Selkirk College, Thompson Rivers University, College of the Rockies$10,000This project will support the revision of the open textbook Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in BC. This project will be led by Wendy Anderson, and the B.C. tourism and hospitality articulation group has now confirmed editors for the open textbook. These editors are now working on a revision of the open textbook.The team will develop H5P activities using different content types for 12 chapters of Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in BC to create formative learning opportunities in the open textbook. The content type choices will be made to support the learning objectives for each chapter and to develop a range of engaging digital content that aligns with the principles of UDL and encourages self-assessment and practice.
Vital Sign Measurement Across the Lifespan – 1st Canadian EditionKymberley Bontinen (Douglas College)Douglas College, Vancouver Island University, University of the Fraser Valley, Centennial College (Ontario)$10,000The open educational resource (OER) Vital Signs Measurement Across the Lifespan – 1st Canadian Edition is invaluable for thousands of health care students across Canada, providing accessible, current, and accurate textual information related to the foundational skill of vital sign measurement. Already, each chapter has activities to stimulate learning that were developed in collaboration with multiple health care professions. This project will take the existing activities and increase their interactivity using H5P and continue to include the perspectives of multiple professions. The main goals are to enhance the students’ ability to assess their learning, identify knowledge gaps, reinforce new knowledge, and enhance confidence in skill performance.
Psychology (OpenStax)Simon Lolliot (University of British Columbia)University of British Columbia$9,870This project will strive to create at least 150 H5P-based formative assessment opportunities that span the complete OpenStax psychology textbook. These activities will use the full gamut of H5P content types, with careful attention paid to the synergy between the H5P content type and the academic content. The aim is to intersperse these learning opportunities throughout the textbook, providing students with regular opportunities to test their understanding. Select H5P content will be placed directly after a paragraph for immediate practice of the content, with the goal of making sure students master content before moving on. Other H5P content will appear at the end of the section for students to complete. This approach provides students with spaced retrieval practice questions while reading the text.
Concepts of Biology – 1st Canadian EditionMichelle Nakano (Kwantlen Polytechnic University)Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Camosun College$10,000This project supports formative assessment by integrating H5P activities into 11 chapters of Concepts of Biology – 1st Canadian Edition, a learning resource for introductory biology courses for non-majors offered at Camosun College and at most institutions across B.C., Canada, and the world. The enhanced accessibility and instructional value will increase textbook adoptions and use by post-secondary, high school, and adult students. The project will increase the cost saving value for students and support the need for online education and self-regulated interactive learning for the foreseeable future.
All projects will be completed by November 30, 2020.

About H5P

H5P is a tool for creating over 40 different types of interactive learning activities. H5P integrates with numerous platforms, including all major learning management systems used within the B.C. post-secondary system and Pressbooks, the open textbook authoring platform supported by BCcampus. All H5P interactions created for these textbooks will be released with Creative Commons licences — which allow other educators to freely copy, reuse, and modify the interactions to fit their own pedagogical contexts — and will be contributed to the forthcoming H5P OER repository

Additional Background

Since 2012, the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training has funded B.C. open education initiatives and tasked BCcampus with managing them. BCcampus Open Education’s goal is to provide flexible and affordable access to post-secondary learning resources in B.C. by making available openly licensed textbooks that align with the most highly enrolled first- and second-year undergraduate subject areas, as well as with select skills training and trades subject areas.

A key component of the next phase of open education work for BCcampus is the enhancement of the existing open textbook collection through the development of complementary open homework systems and accompanying formative assessment questions that provide students the opportunity to reinforce and practice using new knowledge. This OER development grant is a key strategy in meeting the goals of the open homework systems project.

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