The Commercial Crossover: A look at the people and projects reclaiming and releasing knowledge into the open

We live in a time of information overload, where news, opinions, and facts consume us. Despite this information-rich age, many students are deprived of the knowledge they need to learn by the cost and time limitation imposed by course access codes.

Fortunately, several presses and collections are dusting off out-of-print books and offering them up as open works. Some publishers and authors are taking this a step further by resurrecting old commercial textbooks and reissuing them with an open-copyright licence.

Post by Lauri Aesoph, manager, open education

In addition to teaching, more and more instructors are choosing to share their expertise by writing or revising an open textbook. What makes this type of book unique is the open-copyright licence used, which allows the author to give advanced permission to anyone, anywhere to use, copy, print, distribute, or change the book, depending on the specific licence.

Open licences, however, are not limited to new or adapted works. There are people and projects out there rummaging through their copyright cupboards to find under-utilized and forgotten books that still have value in order to share them openly.

Out-of-Print but Still-of-Value

During the past few years, several academic presses and collections have pulled out-of-print books from storage and reposted them with a Creative Commons or other open-copyright licence. (It’s important to note that many out-of-print books are still copyrighted works.)

For example, Cornell University Press (CUP) in Ithaca, New York, has been doing just that with its humanities and social science textbooks since 2016 with funding from the National Endowment (NEH) for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (see Mellon grant supports open access to humanities texts). Earlier this year, with the pandemic well underway, Cornell received an NEH CARES Act Grant to complete its Open Access in a Closed World project with contributions to the Cornell Open repository. 

In Canada, the University of Alberta Press decided to make “significant titles Open Access rather than letting them go out of print, keeping them available to researchers and the general public.” Elsewhere, the John Hopkins University Press in the U.S., the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in Greece, and El Colegio de México are all doing the same thing.

Update … then Open

For some authors and publishers, it’s not enough to pry open copyright and share existing content. For some, it’s crucial that the commercial textbook in question be revised before releasing it with an open licence. They consider these improvements give both students and instructors the best version possible of a once valuable — but now outdated — book.

BCcampus followed this trend with the recent release of Human Security in World Affairs: Problems and Opportunities – 2nd Edition. Dr. Alex Lautensach, associate professor at UNBC, and Dr. Sabina Lautensach, founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Human Security, served as editors for the first commercial edition of this human security textbook published by Caesarpress in 2013. After verifying that copyright was held by the 22 contributing authors and not the publisher, the couple approached BCcampus in 2017 about their desire to update and reissue the book as an open textbook. Read more about this project in the article “The Tie Between Open Education and Social Justice Strengthens.”

When copyrighted assets are part of a deceased author’s estate, the heirs may decide to extend the life and reach of a textbook with a Creative Commons open licence. Canadian students have been the lucky recipients of at least two such books: one on the east coast, and a second out west.

Keeping Knowledge Alive in B.C.

Back in 2016, the University of Victoria took on the task of updating a textbook by Dr. Peter Smith that had been last published by Prentice Hall more than 70 years ago. In fact, it had been so long since the book had last been in print that UVic’s Chair of Greek and Roman Studies needed to ask the author’s family for permission to revise and republish the original as an open textbook, as Dr. Smith had passed away a decade earlier. Fortunately, the family readily agreed, recognizing that the new open publication of Smith’s work aligned with the author’s original efforts to enrich the education of B.C. students.

Dr. Peter Smith was born and raised in Victoria, had attended Victoria College–the predecessor to UVic–and later earned a PhD at Yale. He eventually returned to Victoria where he was among “the first faculty members of the university when UVic opened its doors in 1963 (and was) … the founding chair of the Classics Department (later named Greek and Roman Studies) from 1963-69. ” Dr. Smith loved the institution where he spent the bulk of his career, which is attested to in the preface to his book, A Multitude of the Wise: UVic Remembered. He wrote: “My affection for Victoria College and UVic is an emotion that I can’t pretend to conceal.”

With the family’s hearty support and assistance from the university’s Greek and Roman Studies department, the library staff and ePublishing Services at UVic applied their skills not only for the benefit of students of Greek and Roman studies, but also for those in health care and law programs, where understanding Latin helps decipher medical and legal terms. The final result was a set of two open textbooks: Greek and Latin Roots: Part I – Latin and Greek and Latin Roots: Part II – Greek.

Inba Kehoe, project lead for this endeavour and UVic’s copyright officer and scholarly communication librarian, says, “Part of our motivation to pursue this project was to honour Dr. Smith’s legacy as a valued educator at the university by ensuring that his teaching materials would be carried forward and hopefully used by other educators. The value of releasing the work with a CC BY licence is that it allows other scholars to benefit from and build on Dr. Smith’s work. One of our own team members had taken this course as part of her undergraduate degree and remembered what a valuable and memorable experience it was, which made it all the more meaningful to take this project full-circle.”

Maritime Minds Think Alike

Around the same time that Latin and Greek were joining the OER ranks, Geoff Brown, digital scholarship librarian at Dalhousie University Libraries in Halifax, began thinking about publishing an open textbook.

Ann Barrett, associate dean of scholarly communications and head of Dalhousie’s W. K. Kellogg Health Sciences Library, says that, as the university’s and its libraries’ first steps into the OER world, they opted to pursue a similar course to UVic’s salute to Peter Smith. Dalhousie decided “to profile and celebrate the great work of a long time Dalhousie faculty member, Bill Freedman, who wrote the first Canadian text on environmental science, updating it in five editions.”

Environmental Science: A Canadian Perspective was a fairly unique and inspiring open textbook project to work on, says Geoff Brown. Dr. Freedman passed away in 2015 just after finishing the sixth edition, which was scheduled to be published by a commercial publisher. (Elizabeth May, then leader of the Green Party of Canada, tweeted that his death was “a terrible loss.”) However, after Dr. Freedman’s death, the publisher decided not to follow through.

“The author’s widow feared that no one would benefit from all the hard work that her spouse had put into the last edition,” relates Brown, “so she approached the publisher and asked them to transfer copyright for the work to Dr. Freedman’s estate, to which the publisher agreed, along with providing all available files. This was a critical step towards ensuring a future for the work.”

Although Dr. Freedman’s widow, George-Anne Merrill, had no prior knowledge of OER or plans to republish her husband’s book, she did recognize the importance of acquiring copyright in case an opportunity arose. When Merrill eventually donated her spouse’s scholarly materials, including the Environmental Science textbook files, to the Dalhousie University Archives, university archivist Michael Moosberger explained to her that the sixth edition of Environmental Science: A Canadian Perspective need not be merely relegated to the archives, but could also be transformed into an open textbook.

“She immediately embraced the idea,” says Brown. “She felt an open textbook that could be made openly and freely available to anyone with a need to learn would be very much in line with Dr. Freedman’s wishes.”

Since its publication in late 2018, there have been over 1,000 downloads of various versions of the text from Dalhousie’s institutional repository, DalSpace, as well as a similar amount from the B.C. Open Textbook Collection.

Notable Quotes

From the foreword of Greek and Latin Roots: Part I, regarding Peter Smith:

“Peter had an exacting but jovial manner that students and colleagues can never forget. His demand for excellence impressed anyone who had the pleasure of knowing him.”

From Bill Freedman: an appreciation:

“Bill believed strongly that people are capable of rational action in relation to environmental issues if given ‘the facts’ and given some options. He was also Canadian to the core. That’s what drove him to write Environmental Science: A Canadian Perspective.”

For those interested in reissuing an existing textbook with an open-copyright licence that involves collaborating authors and other contributors, see Contracts and Agreements in the Self-Publishing Guide. For authors and projects interested in revising an existing textbook, see the Adaptation Guide.

Thriving Beyond Campuses: Well-Being in Learning Environments

A Dialogue Series Connecting B.C. Post-Secondary Schools

Like many post-secondary institutions, Simon Fraser University (SFU) and the University of British Columbia (UBC) have taken steps to transform learning environments so they are conducive to well-being in response to the Okanagan Charter’s (2015) call “to embed health into all aspects of campus culture, across the administration, operations and academic mandates.”

Thriving Beyond Campuses logo with flower along with SFU and UBC logo

At UBC, interdisciplinary teams of faculty and staff have been engaging in projects and practices to embed well-being in learning environments at UBC. This includes a three-year research project that explored teaching practices that support well-being and culminated in the creation of a professional development resource available to faculty. This research provided the foundation for an additional project that is exploring academic resilience in diverse learning environments and provides opportunities for dialogue on teaching and well-being.

For the past eight years, SFU has led its own initiative regarding Well-being in Learning Environments at SFU, involving faculty, instructional staff, and graduate students. Through this collaborative network, suggestions and strategies are shared about how its members have created conditions that have enhanced the well-being of students and helped create a positive student experience.

UBC Health Promotion and Education and SFU Health Promotion planned to host an inter-institutional symposium in May 2020 as an opportunity for faculty, educators, and staff from both institutions to connect on the topic of how well-being relates to teaching practices and learning environments. As with many events slated for this year, the planning team reconsidered how it might provide this opportunity and partnered with BCcampus to hold a virtual event series that is open to post-secondary educators from across the province.

UBC Health Promotion and Education, SFU Health Promotion, and BCcampus are proud to host Thriving Beyond Campuses: Well-being in Learning Environments, a dialogue series connecting B.C. post-secondary schools. The partnership aligns with BCcampus’ efforts to engage faculty and educators to support student mental health and well-being during COVID-19 as part of the COVID-19 Mental Health project.

Thriving Beyond Campuses: Well-Being in Learning Environments is a dialogue series connecting B.C. post-secondary schools that begins November 10, 2020. The first session features keynote speaker Cia Verschelden.

Faculty members, health promotion staff, and instructional support staff from post-secondary institutions in British Columbia are invited to attend these sessions for free. Register now!

Promoting Learning Through Collaboration

Following the intense pivot to online learning this spring, a group of local geography educators saw an opportunity to support each other as they prepared for the fall intake. Through a substantial collaboration, they identified the need for an open source lab manual, developed a process to create the content, formed a team to refine the materials, assigned an editor to compile the information, and published the first iteration via Pressbooks. And they did it in less than three months.

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

For many educators across the province and around the world, the summer of 2020 was one of figuring out how to convert programs and courses to an online platform. While some subjects were highly adaptable to an online model, others weren’t, due to their typically high-touch, hands-on instruction requirements. This was the case for first-year physical geography, which led to an opportunity for a group of educators to come together to develop an open educational resource (OER) to help local instructors and their students.

“The first-year, post-secondary physical geography course hasn’t been available as an online course in most institutions in B.C., Thompson Rivers University being a notable exception,” explained Katie Burles, geography instructor at College of the Rockies. “Our initial approach was to find everyone in the province teaching this subject. We ended up having about 20 instructors from across the province, meeting weekly via Zoom to discuss a specific topic or lab, and various ways to bring the learning online.”

“We discovered that there was quite a diversity in instructional approaches between institutions,” said Stuart MacKinnon, laboratory program manager at the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus. “Some would teach the program over two semesters, and others would do only one semester. Some might need seven or eight labs, while others might need upwards of twenty. We pulled together what everyone was doing to create a plan that covers everything that might be done, and this resulted in about 25 original ideas for labs.”

“This was a project where we were all able to contribute based on our own education and experience,” said Katie. “In our discipline of physical geography, most of us have a background or an undergrad in it, and then went on to specialize in certain aspects. There are folx who are atmospheric scientists and biogeographers, and others who are geomorphologists and hydrologists with a background in geology or fluvial geomorphology or glaciology. We all got to contribute to the areas that we had more expertise in.”

An Adaptable Resource

“Much of what you can typically purchase for a geography lab manual from a traditional publisher is very structured, offering little, if any, instructor flexibility,” said Stuart. “You’re stuck with what you have, going from lab 1 to lab 20, and that’s what the students get. If you don’t like one or two of the labs or it’s not relevant to you, you have to make something yourself or find a different lab manual. A big focus of making this OER was to put the instructors in the chair of student learning, with the ability to modify the labs to their needs.”

“This isn’t the type of manual that students would download and do cover to cover,” shared Katie. “It’s a resource for instructors to adapt the labs and make them work for their learning environments. We all have slightly different learning objectives or course topics that we cover, and this lab manual allows us to have a lot of ingenuity in our development, so we can create unique challenges for our students.”

Next Steps

“Now that the manual is available and being used in classrooms across the province,” said Stuart, “we don’t want to change anything with it for the next eight months or so. We’re calling this a beta version, exclusively for institutions in B.C., so that it has a good trial from the authors and the interested users. Over the next while, we’ll be gathering feedback to find out who is using the materials to find out what they like about it as well as what they don’t like, and then we’ll come back together to assemble a more polished version that we can share in the BCcampus open textbook catalogue. We’d like to see this available to educators far and wide for the 2021 academic year.”

A Talented Team

“I was quite surprised with the number of people who got back to me as quick as they did to create the content we needed,” shared Stuart. “There was a surprising quantity of people who wanted to help. In addition to these lab authors, there were a number of people who kindly dedicated their time with the creation and/or review of the first version of the lab manual.”

The lab manual’s collaborators included:

  • Stuart MacKinnon, editor (University of British Columbia Okanagan campus)
  • Katie Burles (College of the Rockies)
  • Terence Day (Okanagan College)
  • Fes de Scally (University of British Columbia Okanagan campus)
  • Nina Hewitt (University of British Columbia Vancouver campus)
  • Crystal Huscroft (Thompson Rivers University)
  • Gillian Krezoski (University of Victoria)
  • Allison Lutz (Selkirk College)
  • Craig Nichol (University of British Columbia Okanagan campus)
  • Andrew Perkins (Simon Fraser University)
  • Todd Redding (Okanagan College)
  • Ian Saunders (University of British Columbia Okanagan campus)
  • Leonard Tang (Langara College)
  • Chani Welch (Okanagan College)
Screenshot shot of the authors meeting in zoom
Top row (left to right): Gillian Krezoski, Stuart MacKinnon, Allison Lutz, Terence Day
Middle row (left to right): Craig Nichol, Leonard Tang, Katie Burles, Chani Welch
Bottom row (left to right): Todd Redding, Nina Hewitt, Crystal Huscroft, Andrew Perkins

The lab manual will be widely distributed in summer 2021 after completion of the B.C. beta test and subsequent revisions have occurred. If you have questions about the lab manual or the project itself, please contact the editor at stuart.mackinnon@ubc.ca.

Notable Quote

“I don’t think we realized how long it would take to create this resource. I assumed it would be a simple matter of making a Word document and then duplicating it on Pressbooks. We underestimated the amount of time it would take to do all of the attribution, image tagging, and behind-the-scenes work that goes into making a valuable OER.”


—Stuart MacKinnon, laboratory program manager, University of British Columbia Okanagan campus

“Right from the onset of the project, one of the visions for the lab manual was to move away from the traditional lab structure that focuses on correct or incorrect answers. With this manual, we wanted an opportunity to revamp everything, making the assessments authentic for the students. Now students can download real-time data, collect their own data, and look at virtual globes, then demonstrate their learning by explaining a concept or identifying a feature in a landscape, rather than just regurgitating correct or incorrect answers.”


—Katie Burles, geography instructor, College of the Rockies

In response to requests for online learning materials to provide students with practical experience without sacrificing personal safety, BCcampus has curated a substantial list of free resources designed to support remote science education with the Virtual Lab and Science Resource Directory.

Learn More:

Choosing to Be Inclusive

The Pulling Together: Foundations Guide has been an inspiration for educators across the province, leading to well-attended webinars hosted by BCcampus about the guide, as well as its inclusion in the Law Society of British Columbia’s Bar admission course. For instructors seeking opportunities to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in their classrooms, as well as in their world, the guides are an excellent place to start.

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

Through a pair of webinars about the Pulling Together: Teachers and Instructors Guide over the past few months, Kory Wilson, executive director of Indigenous Initiatives and Partnerships at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and author of the Pulling Together: Foundations Guide, has created conversations about and awareness of effective ways to Indigenize and decolonize our classrooms, with a goal of reciprocity, relationship-building, and reconciliation.

“Inclusion is a choice,” explained Kory. “Through the webinars, I’ve learned that people are committed. They have informed questions and they’re taking this seriously. They want to be good allies, but there is still a lot of work to be done. It’s clear that all institutions are at very different levels, and it’s vital that we recognize that diversity leads to innovation, strength, and creativity.”

“The number of people who engaged through the webinars was very satisfying,” she continued, “as was seeing and meeting those people who are interested in supporting this work. This wouldn’t have been the same five or ten years ago.”

Opening Your Heart and Mind to Indigenization

“It’s serious business,” said Kory, “educating the next generation of people who are going to shape and mould the society we live in. The elders have a saying: ‘you have two ears and one mouth,’ so listen twice as much as you speak. Look for the truth. Do the hard work. Do the self-reflection. A lot of this work about academics and the academy is in your head, but if we’re really going to make a more inclusive academy, you have to close the gap between your head and your heart, because those lead to your hands. This work can be hard, but everyone has a responsibility and a role to play in ensuring that Indigenous voices are heard and included. Diversity is a reality, but inclusion is a choice, and I hope that everyone chooses inclusion.”

Professional Legal Training Course

The Law Society of British Columbia has incorporated the Pulling Together: Foundations Guide into their curriculum, building on work that began last fall.

“In the pre-pandemic times,” explained Dr. Annie Rochette, deputy director of the Professional Legal Training Course, “we piloted a cultural competency component in the Professional Legal Training Course with an interactive half-day workshop facilitated by Brad Marsden. The students were required to do a pre-workshop assessment, then some reflective questions after the workshop. When the pandemic hit, having large gatherings to do the workshop wasn’t an option, so we had to transform this component, as well as the entire PLTC, for online delivery.”

Self-Reflection

In this online module, PLTC uses a reflective and self-directed approach to encourage Indigenous cultural self-awareness for students. Students are required to complete pre-module reflective questions to create a baseline of their knowledge of Indigenization in British Columbia. The module features open source video and supplemental content, including the Foundations Guide. Based on their answers to the initial reflective questions, students can self-direct through the resources, which are divided into thematic sub-modules, such as the impacts of colonial laws and policies on Indigenous peoples, systemic racism in the legal system, Indigenous resistance, and resilience and Indigenous laws. Following the completion of the module, the students are asked to re-evaluate their understanding of Indigenization in B.C. and to reflect on their role in decolonization and reconciliation in the legal system and the legal profession.

“The current module is a transitional measure while the Indigenous cultural competency component of the PLTC is being developed,” shared Dr. Rochette. “Tools such as the Foundations Guide and its accompanying resources for curriculum developers and teachers are indispensable, and we are grateful for them. The Foundations Guide is an excellent resource to embed Indigenous content and intercultural competency into any course.”

The non-mandatory use of the open textbook, Pulling Together: Foundations Guide, will provide additional savings for students in this course, adding substantial student savings across the province since the launch of the open textbook program at BCcampus.

The Law Society of B.C. also has an annual Indigenous scholarship of $20,000 available to one eligible student, or divided equally between two.

Getting Started

“The guides are a great place to start,” said Kory, “but the first thing every person needs to do is to look around at where they are. Critically examine their institution: are there Indigenous people there? Check out the community. Start learning about the places and spaces where you live and work, and start learning as much as possible. It often starts with yourself. Recognize that if you are Indigenous, you have a role to play, and if you’re not Indigenous, you should self-reflect on how you can best contribute. A lot of this is about relationship-building and learning.”

Unrealized Potential

We recently completed a survey of the post-secondary institutions using the BCcampus Indigenization guides, and we discovered that the folx who were aware of the guides were making good use of them, but unfortunately, overall awareness of the guides is still low. You can help change this by reading and learning more about the guides and sharing your knowledge with the people in your institution.

Notable Quote

“Creating authentic and sustainable engagement is hard, and there will be challenges, but it’s exceptionally satisfying and can lead to greater societal change.”


Kory Wilson, executive director, Indigenous Initiatives and Partnerships, British Columbia Institute of Technology

Learn More:

BCcampus Open Education Print-on-Demand Guide – Why Print a Textbook: Preference and Ownership

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

Some people prefer to get their information from the printed page, not computer screens. Anecdotally, reasons for this range from personal preference to memories of being read to as a child. Some feel it’s easier to make notes when reading a physical book. Others are uncomfortable reading online or using technology. Still others like the flexibility of having a textbook that’s available both online and in hard copy. Hearsay aside, research supports the fact that not everyone’s first choice is digital.

Some professors prefer print

According to a print-on-demand survey, instructors expressed an array of preferences when it came to their teaching materials, be they print, digital, or a combination of both.[1] These personal tastes are reflected in other research, too.

A survey of faculty conducted by the National Association of College Stores during the 2016–17 academic year found that half the instructors surveyed preferred a print textbook over a digital one. One-fifth said they liked to have both print and online components available, while 7 per cent favoured an exclusively digital format for teaching.[2]

Some students prefer print

Even in this technological age, there are students who want to learn from an old-fashioned printed textbook. Some college bookstores in British Columbia report there are students who still lean toward printed textbooks for courses. Jodie Pickering, kinesiology instructor at the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook, B.C., reports that many of her students “like to have a paper copy to highlight and make notes in. Plus they like to be able to bring their textbook into the lab.”

Research conducted at Adams State University, a small Hispanic-serving institution in rural Colorado, explored what format students prefer for their textbooks: print or digital. The resounding choice was print, at almost 80 per cent.[3]

Graph about media preference. Long description available.
Figure 1: Media Preference [Image Description]

When probed about their favourite type for reading assignments, the majority of student respondents (49.1 per cent) again selected the printed page over a screen. Another 7.5 per cent said they need printed copies.

Pie chart describing reading format preference. Long description available.
Figure 2: Medium Preference for Textual Material [Image Description]

Dr. Naomi Baron, a Professor of Linguistics for the Department of World Languages and Cultures at American University in Washington, D.C., asked over 300 university students in the U.S., Japan, Germany, and Slovakia which media they preferred for “serious” reading.[4]Over 90 per cent of students said they concentrate best when using a hard-copy book. The problem with reading online, says Dr. Baron, are the diversions scattered across the Internet.[5]Printed books, on the other hand, have few to no distractions.

Personal library

In addition to a preference for reading on paper, some students like the idea of keeping their textbook after a course is finished. More than half of the surveyed Adams State University students said holding onto their printed textbook was important or very important for either personal interest or professional reference.

Pie chart describing feelings about keeping textbooks. Long description available.
Figure 3: Keeping Textbooks [Image Description]

There are other reasons to hold onto an old textbook. In her blog post “10 Reasons Why You Should Not Sell Back Your Textbook,” Jessica Lyons adds that a book that has been annotated and marked up during the learning process serves as a valuable personal reference.[6]

Long descriptions

Figure 1 long description: Horizontal bar graph displaying answers to the question, “What are your media preferences for consuming information? (Select all that apply).” The data, based on 159 responses, is as follows:

  • 127 respondents (79.9 per cent) selected “I prefer my information in printed form.”
  • 82 respondents (51.6 per cent) selected “I prefer my information in visual form.”
  • 76 respondents (47.8 per cent) selected “I prefer my information in graphic/picture form.”
  • 46 respondents (28.9 per cent) selected “I prefer my information in sound/audio form.”

[Return to Figure 1]

Figure 2 long description: Pie chart displaying responses to the prompt “For textual material, rate your paper/screen preference (screens include computers, tablets, phones, etc.).” The data, based on 159 responses, is as follows:

  • 49.1 per cent of respondents said, “I prefer paper but can read on a screen.”
  • 36.5 per cent of respondents said, “I can read from paper or screens equally.”
  • 7.5 per cent of respondents said, “I require paper for readings.”
  • 5.7 per cent of respondents said, “I prefer screens but can read on paper.”
  • 1.2 per cent of respondents said, “I require screens for readings.”

[Return to Figure 2]

Figure 3 long description: Vertical bar graph displaying responses to the question “How important is being able to keep your texts (books, research articles) after the end of the class / end of term / after graduation / leaving the University?” The data, based on 159 responses, is as follows:

  • 43 respondents (27 per cent) felt it was important
  • 42 respondents (26.4 per cent) had no feeling of importance (neutral)
  • 39 respondents (24.5 per cent) felt it was very important
  • 26 respondents (16.4 per cent) felt it was not very important
  • 9 respondents (5.7 per cent) felt it was unimportant

[Return to Figure 3]

Media Attributions


  1. BCcampus Open Education, “Print-on-Demand Survey” (unpublished survey, 2020), Microsoft Form. 
  2. National Association of College Stores, “Report Shows Faculty Still Prefer Print over Digital and Open Educational Resources,” August 31, 2017, https://www.nacs.org/advocacynewsmedia/pressreleases/tabid/1579/ArticleID/644/Report-Shows-Faculty-Still-Prefer-Print-over-Digital-and-Open-Educational-Resources.aspx. 
  3. Amanda N. Langdon and Katherine E. Parker, “Bridging the Gap: Rural Librarians’ Journey to Understanding Students’ Role in OER Outreach,” International Journal of Open Educational Resources 2, no. 1 (Fall 2019/Winter 2020): 99–118, https://www.ijoer.org/bridging-the-gap-rural-librarians-journey-to-understanding-students-role-in-oer-outreach-doi10-18278-ijoer-2-1-7/. 
  4. Naomi S. Baron, “Reading in a Digital Age,” Phi Delta Kappan 99, no. 2 (2017): 15–20, https://doi.org/10.1177/0031721717734184. 
  5. “Is This the End of Print Textbooks?,” Two Sides, July 21, 2019, https://twosidesna.org/US/is-this-the-end-of-print-textbooks/. 
  6. Jessica Lyons, “10 Reasons Why You Should Not Sell Back Your Textbook,” Education Insider News Blog, Study.com, accessed April 3, 2020, https://study.com/articles/Selling_Back_Textbooks_Is_Not_a_Yes_or_No_Decision.html. 

Learn more

Studio20: Inspire! Explore! Create! Share!

Post by Leva Lee, manager, learning + teaching, BCcampus

Studio20: Engaging Learners Online will take place over three half-days this fall as a new learning experience offered by BCcampus. The event is designed for anyone looking for inspiration and energizing ideas as to how to engage learners online.

Each day will start with a keynote to spark our creativity and thinking on ways for using vison, voice, and active participation. We are fortunate to have as our keynotes Sam BraddVanessa Richards, and Arley Cruthers. Using a studio-based learning approach, participants will have opportunities to explore, create, and share their ideas with each other.

Studio20 will be offered in a mix of modes, including synchronous sessions with hands-on activities, asynchronous discussions, virtual studio exhibits, and “crafty” evening socials. Studio20 will be a safe, fun place to play and creatively connect with instructors, staff, and students in the B.C. post-secondary community, as well as friends beyond!

To join us November 17–19, 2020, register for Studio20.

Allyship Requires Action: The More, the Better

We recently hosted an emotionally charged, raw, and real webinar with a group of anti-racism educators and activists to gain a glimpse into the roles racism and discrimination play in their lives in Canada. They shared suggestions to help us — both as professionals at BCcampus and as individuals across the province — to become effective allies in the war against racism.

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

At BCcampus, we are not experts in matters of racism. We do not know how to solve this locally visible and globally impacting issue, but we are willing to learn. We’re eager to help, and we are passionate about making the teaching and learning space in B.C. one that is welcoming and accessible to every individual in the province. We are allies-in-training, and you’re invited to bring your mind, your body, and your voice to the cause. As Maya Angelou beautifully said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

On August 18, a group of anti-racism educators and activists convened via Zoom to discuss what is required of a person with privilege to be and become an ally to Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC). The 90-minute session, titled Answering the Call to Being and Becoming an Ally, is rich with personal experiences, delivered by folx with extensive first-hand knowledge of oppression, systemic racism, and discrimination. It’s a powerful presentation that will lead you to consider your current position on racism in Canada, with the message that sitting idly by is not now — nor was it ever — an acceptable option. You are either vocally and actively working to stop discrimination in Canada, or you support it: there’s no middle ground.

Our Privilege

At BCcampus, we recognize that we are fortunate. We have privilege. We have support: financial from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, and emotional through our network of educators and scholars, faculty and staff. We are fortunate to have vocal proponents who help us improve the student learning experience through open education and by eliminating barriers to education, whether they’re physical, technological, or systemic. Webinar host, Dr. Kyra Garson, commented, “In the academic hierarchy, the higher you go, the paler it gets.” At BCcampus, we acknowledge that we are inherently pale, and the fact that this is reflected across the sector is one of the biggest barriers to change in education. We cannot overcome white privilege until we acknowledge its pervasive presence. We know that this is not a quick transformation, but we are enthusiastically and continuously working toward becoming an ally, understanding that it’s an activity, not a goal.

This article contains dialogue from the webinar, as well as from individual conversations held to inform this post. We do not and cannot speak for these people, but we can provide them with a platform to help the rest of the sector hear their voices, acknowledge their experiences, and work with us to make it better.

The Panel

The session featured guests with a great variety of perspectives, including:

  • Harminder Padda, a second-year student in the Bachelor of Science in nursing program at Thompson Rivers University
  • Rohene Bouajram, program director, Global Campus Initiatives at the University of British Columbia
  • Dr. Moussa Magassa, human rights education advisor and specialist in equity, diversity, inclusion and partnerships at the University of Victoria
  • Dr. Justin Wilson, Aboriginal Studies department coordinator at Langara College, amongst many other roles
  • Dr. Amie McLean, acting manager of equity, diversity and inclusion curriculum for work-integrated learning at Simon Fraser University
  • Dr. Sae Hoon Stan Chung is a Korean Canadian writer, academic, and consultant
  • Dr. Kyra Garson (webinar host), intercultural coordinator in the Faculty of Student Development at Thompson Rivers University

“The selection of people for this webinar was very intentional,” explained Kyra. “We wanted different perspectives, regions, and lived experiences. It’s clear that racialized oppression and its intersections are really visible to many of us, but not so visible to all of us.”

Racism in Canada

As Canadians, we like to think we’re a mosaic of cultures, embracing and accepting of other cultures and beliefs. In reality, this is patently false.

“In a country that was ruled by colonial powers, i.e., Zimbabwe, where I am from, racism was very much at the forefront: you could see it, understand it, and act upon it,” shared Rohene. “In Canada, it’s not the same. Racism is very subtle, sophisticated, and devastating, to the point that it makes individuals, particularly marginalized and oppressed individuals, feel as if what they’re seeing, experiencing, and feeling isn’t truly happening. And that is something we do need to change.”

“Every incident of racism is THE incident,” said Moussa. “There is no small one, there is no big one. Racism is compounded. It is everyday oppression. We need to fight it from the centre. The Black Lives Matter movement means you can’t sit and watch anymore. We all have to do something, and the most important thing we can do in our institutions is to challenge the racist policies that are in place. The concept of good fit/bad fit: we need to talk about it, and we must deconstruct the concept of them and us.”

Inaction is Tacit Approval

By pretending that racism is not an issue, we are silently allowing — encouraging — it to continue. Ignoring the protests and requests of oppressed people, standing by when you see workplace bullying or brigading, and delaying your support until you’re in a more comfortable scenario is tantamount to actively subjugating those you mean to support.

“If you see something and you know it’s wrong, and you don’t do anything, that’s an issue in itself,” said Harminder. “You might feel uncomfortable in this situation, because it is uncomfortable, even if you aren’t the victim. They might be awkward conversations, and you’ll definitely have to step outside of your comfort zone to initiate them, but they’re crucial so change can happen. People are witnessing things but staying quiet, which happens all the time, and this makes change that much harder. As uncomfortable as you might feel addressing the situation, because you’re worried that because you’re not a member of that group, you can’t address it, you should address it anyways. It’s better to say something than to stay quiet. Everyone will appreciate it, especially those who happen to be in these situations. If they have voices to back them up, it provides a lot of value.”

“Allyship is about emotional commitment,” said Rohene. “As a Black woman, particularly in the hierarchy of educational institutions, the structure, the tables, the places of hierarchy were not made for my voices, my ideas, my intellectual opinions, or simply me. I’m constantly reminded of that on a daily basis, particularly in meetings when I provide an idea. The reaction I’m going for is enthusiasm and agreement, especially if it’s a good idea. What I often get is nods, as a way of being complacent, or silence. And when I leave the meeting, someone will often come to me and say, ‘Are you OK? That was a really good idea.’ While I appreciate that emotional commitment post-meeting, I don’t need it then. What I need is in the meeting for you to validate my idea, particularly if it was a good one. That’s when it will be most powerful, most relevant, and most impactful. And that, to me, is allyship in its truest form.”

The Rewards of Allyship

“When we talk about allyship, it’s really a long-term commitment,” said Rohene. “It’s an admission of the invisibility of structural and systemic racism. There is no formal acknowledgement of being an ally.”

“Allyship means that you continue to show up in the ways you’re able to,” said Amie. “It’s not only when certain eyes are on you, or something you can leave behind when you leave the office or your home. It’s something that needs to be present in all aspects of your life. That can be really difficult, and often comes at a cost. Moussa made this point well in the webinar: he doesn’t have the choice to step away. When we are in positions of privilege, part of that privilege is being able to pretend that something hasn’t happened, or to choose not to say something, or to choose not to be quiet and give somebody else room to speak. When we talk about the costs of allyship, we need to recognize that often people of privilege can benefit from allyship. Many people have spoken about allyship as a performance, and the problematics of that when it basically becomes diversity branding. Given the real costs of oppression are heavily borne by people who are members of equity-seeking groups, it’s pretty inappropriate to talk about the cost of allyship when you’re in a position of privilege. With those caveats, I do sometimes think about the costs, the challenges, the difficulties of allyship. Perhaps we can think about it as an important metric, in the sense that if you are accruing nothing but benefits from the ways that you act as an ally, you might want to check your practices. We live in a profoundly oppressive, white supremacist society, and in my experience, if you consistently show up in all the ways that you can be imperfectly trying to be an ally, it comes at a cost. But if we don’t, we’re just shuffling the price off to someone else, for whom the cost will be all the higher.”

Amplifying, Not Altering

A vital part of being an ally is using your channels, connections, and influence to help the voices of the oppressed be heard above the noise — not speaking for them, but boosting them so that their voices can carry further, faster.

“There needs to be a collaboration across cultures,” said Harminder, “bringing voices together so change can be initiated. I’d love to see more conversations and more webinars. From a student’s perspective, participating in this webinar, learning what scholars have to say about this topic was such an eye-opener. It honestly gives you hope to see people in these positions fighting for the right things. If participating in this made me feel this way, it will help many other students build hope, knowing there are people they can reach out to: people out there trying to make change happen. The more, the better.”

Becoming an Ally

“As allies, we are blind to the impact of systemic racism,” explained Stan. “We must first deeply learn about the historical situation of ourselves and the communities with which we want to support.

“Being a keyboard warrior isn’t the way to fight oppression, but it might be a way to begin. Facebook posts and marches are a good start, but our institutions require a strategic and cultural shift, particularly when our institutions support our own advancement and blindly oppress those who don’t fit the majority view and culture.”

“Allyship is a verb,” said Amie. “It’s a thing that is done and has to be continued to be done over and over. Allyship can’t be something you do for a pat on the back or a superficial one-off. It means doing that solidarity work every day. For white folx like me, answering the call really involves taking responsibility for the operation of oppression, racism, and white supremacy within my communities and within my institution.”

Harminder shared his perspective as a student. “What makes an ally? For me, it comes down to the thinking that drives the actions. For a professor to be an ally for me, I need to see that an individual is willing to get outside of their comfort zone, go out of their way to learn about my personal perspective, aside from whatever their own experiences might be. This comes through asking questions, actively listening, and engaging in meaningful conversations.”

Education Got Us into this Mess

“As academics, we love to have our models and be informed by the literature,” said Justin. “In terms of being informed as scholars, it’s understanding power. Understanding how knowledge can be weaponized, such as pathology or deficit. Instead of seeing individuals who have been racialized, objectified, or sexualized in terms of deficit pathology, we need to focus on their resiliency and their strength. You have a lot of power in the classroom, and when you’re speaking about things, you need to be able to see the sacredness of that human being in front of you, and teach with love, kindness, and compassion, understanding that non-violent communication and microaggressions can oftentimes be very subtle. Reconciliation and truth should be transformative for the people in your classroom. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of awareness to do that.”

“We need a baseline,” continued Justin. “If it’s important, we’ll measure it. Just like the systemic racism being called out in the RCMP and in our health care system — specifically, the incredible work being done with the First Nations Health Authority health authority for cultural humility and safety — we need to have a national task force to look at the systemic barriers, opportunities, and interventions that can be done inside post-secondary institutions.”

“What can we do about this? If the intersection between Indigenization and internationalization is important, then we need to start having community-based metrics — a dashboard — to gauge the working conditions Indigenous faculty and staff experience as they seek to operationalize principles  from the B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act needed to enhance the cultural and spiritual integrity of Indigenous cultures, spirituality, and epistemologies. Right now, there are far too many Indigenous and BIPOC academics who feel isolated, victims of organizational violence and mobbing when they speak truth to collegial supremacy inside our institutions. As scholars, I’d like to think we’re smart enough to do better, but this can’t happen until structural racism is acknowledged inside British Columbia post-secondary institutions and BIPOC faculty are provided whistle-blower protection. Canadians want more from us in terms of what we can contribute as scholars. That is what the scholarly relationship is about: trust in our collegial contributions, our academic, and our Indigenous cultural freedom to look at presenting options for a better future, for everybody, today.”

Learnings

Our reliance on technology can be problematic, as we discovered through the machine-generated closed captioning we provided for this webinar. We discovered that the software was not capable of handling non-English names and words, nor adept at captioning speakers employing English as an additional language. We apologize for any errors the captions may contain. To report any errors that obscure meaning, please send details (including the name of the video, URL, suggested correction, and time code) to support@bccampus.ca.

Notable Quotes

“When you hear my voice, and you see my face, please be reminded that you can’t know the experience of another person. You can’t know their oppression. But you can critically interrogate your own ancestry and unearth your own complicity. You can learn about the historical, ancestral circumstances between you and Black people, Indigenous people, oppressed people everywhere.”

Dr. Sae Hoon Stan Chung, Korean Canadian writer, academic, and consultant

“Racism is our business and our responsibility, all of us. We need to fight it from the centre.”

Dr. Moussa Magassa, human rights education advisor and specialist in equity, diversity, inclusion and partnerships at the University of Victoria

“When it comes to white folx helping those who come from a Black community, it’s not about having white people lead the way, it’s about having Black people leading, with people of other colours there to support them.”

Harminder Padda, student, Thompson Rivers University

“What does it mean to be an ally? You have to be prepared to grab a paddle, hop in the canoe, and row. Share the load. Share the emotional and spiritual labour associated with things eroding my vibrancy as an Indigenous scholar. If you want the culture, you have to be prepared to lean into the community-based intersectional struggle.”

Dr. Justin Wilson, Aboriginal Studies department coordinator, Langara College

“While you, me, we, may never fully understand the lived experience of marginalized people, standing alongside them also means amplifying their voices in a way that you’re not leading their voice, nor lagging behind. Both of those actions are a subtle form of oppression, and in many cases, performative allyship.”

Rohene Bouajram, program director, Global Campus Initiatives, University of British Columbia

“We need to make plans to create space for actual dialogue and real training opportunities that can move beyond, allowing for engagement with cultural safety and proper protocols in place. Following this webinar, I’d like to see the learning shared out, and I hope the conversations continue and really spur meaningful change.”

Dr. Amie McLean, acting manager of equity, diversity and inclusion curriculum for work-integrated learning at Simon Fraser University

Learn More:

Indigenization Guide: Decolonization and Indigenization

An excerpt from Pulling Together: A Guide for Front-Line Staff, Student Services, and Advisors by Ian Cull, Robert L. A. Hancock, Stephanie McKeown, Michelle Pidgeon, and Adrienne Vedan

If we want to contribute to systemic change, we need to understand the concepts of decolonization, Indigenization, and reconciliation.

Decolonization

Decolonization is the process of deconstructing colonial ideologies of the superiority and privilege of Western thought and approaches. On the one hand, decolonization involves dismantling structures that perpetuate the status quo and addressing unbalanced power dynamics. On the other hand, decolonization involves valuing and revitalizing Indigenous knowledge and approaches and weeding out settler biases or assumptions that have impacted Indigenous ways of being. For non-Indigenous people, decolonization is the process of examining your beliefs about Indigenous Peoples and culture by learning about yourself in relationship to the communities where you live and the people with whom you interact.

We work in systems that perpetuate colonial ideals and privilege Western ways of doing. For example, many student services use forms and procedures instead of first initiating relationships with students. This is a colonial process that excludes rather than includes. Also, how libraries catalogue knowledge is Western and colonial.

Decolonization is an ongoing process that requires all of us to be collectively involved and responsible. Decolonizing our institutions means we create spaces that are inclusive, respectful, and honour Indigenous Peoples.

The call for decolonizing education and including Indigenous ways of knowing and being in education was first articulated in 1972 in “Indian control of Indian education” [PDF][1] by the National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations).

“We want education to give our children the knowledge to understand and be proud of themselves and the knowledge to understand the world around them.” (p. 1)

Indigenization

Indigenization is a collaborative process of naturalizing Indigenous intent, interactions, and processes and making them evident to transform spaces, places, and hearts. In the context of post-secondary education, this involves including Indigenous perspectives and approaches. Indigenization benefits not only Indigenous students but all students, teachers, staff members, and community members involved or impacted by Indigenization.

Indigenization seeks not only relevant programs and support services but also a fundamental shift in the ways that institutions:

  • Include Indigenous perspectives, values, and cultural understandings in policies and daily practices.
  • Position Indigenous ways of knowing at the heart of the institution, which then informs all the work that we do.
  • Include cultural protocols and practices in the operations of our institutions.

Indigenization values sustainable and respectful relationships with First Nation, Métis, and Inuit communities, Elders, and organizations. When Indigenization is practiced at an institution, Indigenous people see themselves represented, respected, and valued and all students benefit. Indigenization, like decolonization, is an ongoing process, one that will shape and evolve over time.

Indigenization is not an “Indigenous issue,” and it is not undertaken solely to benefit Indigenous students. Indigenization benefits everyone; we all gain a richer understanding of the world and of our specific location in the world through awareness of Indigenous knowledge and perspectives. Indigenization also contributes to a more just world, creating a shared understanding that opens the way toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. It also counters the impacts of colonization by upending a system of thinking that has typically discounted Indigenous knowledge and history.


  1. Indian control of Indian education: http://www.oneca.com/IndianControlofIndianEducation.pdf 

Learn more:

Mental Health Resources

Throughout October, there are a number of initiatives and campaigns organized to shine a light on mental health and mental illness. 

Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 4-10, 2020) is an annual campaign designed to help Canadians understand the reality of mental illness. World Mental Health Day is on October 10, 2020. It is observed annually and aims to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world. 

This year has proven to be a challenging time for many. To help post-secondary students, staff, and faculty, BCcampus has hosted a number of mental health webinars throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

If you or someone you know is looking for support, we hope the resources you find in the list below help. 

Upcoming Webinars:

Past Webinars:

Additional Resources:

BCcampus Award for Excellence in Open Education: Ali de Haan

This September, we are extending a warm congratulations to Ali de Haan, the latest recipient of the BCcampus Award for Excellence in Open Education!

Nominated by Lauri Aesoph, manager, open education, BCcampus

Ali de Haan wears the hats of manager of library and instructional services, Moodle administrator, and copyright and privacy officer at Acsenda School of Management. She earned her MLIS at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she was first introduced to open education. She has been a tireless advocate of the concept ever since. At Acsenda, she is the champion of all things open, whether it’s helping faculty identify relevant open educational resources (OER) for their classes, advising leadership on open software like BigBlueButton, WordPress/Pressbooks, and H5P, or supporting faculty as they adapt and create their own OER.

Ali’s current projects include a guide for faculty on finding, adopting, and adapting open textbooks, developing an H5P workshop for faculty, and creating a mechanism for sharing OER created at Acsenda. Ali is also an active member of the BC Open Education Librarians (BCOEL), which she finds invaluable for advice and support.

Ali has over 10 years of experience in academic, public, and special libraries. Ali has developed and taught classes and workshops on APA style, research skills, information literacy, library instruction, and HTML. Ali’s research interests are Romanesque pilgrimage art and history, information literacy, the cultural perceptions of librarians and how it impacts the profession, open pedagogy, and copyright.

Notable Quotes

“I started working with Ali on open education a couple of years ago, when she first began reporting faculty adoptions of open textbooks at Acsenda School of Management. Shortly after that, she became the key open education contact at Acsenda for BCcampus, as well as for instructors, staff, and students at her school who had questions. She has participated in conversations with other institutions about how international students — who make up a huge portion of the student body at Acsenda — fit into the world of open education and provided insight for the recently revised Print-on-Demand Guide.”


—Lauri Aesoph, manager, open education, BCcampus

“Ali is an outstanding colleague, always boosting the role of libraries and advocating for services and systems that serve students. She also offers help to new librarians and shares information openly and with great warmth. She is a community builder, and I feel lucky to have her in our corner.”


—Faith Jones, library director, Columbia College

Previous honourees

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