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Campus Life  

Open education efforts continue to enhance access for OC students

Roen Janyk

Thanks to a grant from BCcampus, over the next several months Okanagan College will be adding to its strong track record for promoting and supporting open education practices, including the creation, use and adaptation of open educational resources (OER).

The $10,000 grant is empowering project lead Roën Janyk, Web Services Librarian, and a group of OC employees and student union representatives who have been meeting for the past several years, to focus their efforts on honing an open education strategy and action plan for the College.

“The creation of an OER strategy at OC is something we have been hoping to develop for a long time now,” says Janyk. “We are really excited to be engaging with students and staff on this initiative.”

“This grant will enable faculty and instructors to have a point person at their own institution to learn more about developing and adopting open education content, while giving their students an opportunity to not only save money on course materials, but also to engage with course materials that remain relevant and accessible even after they leave the College” she adds. “I am looking forward to having time to devote to open education, and work with colleagues across Canada and BC who are working on similar projects at their own institutions.”

In the coming months, Janyk will be working with faculty, instructors, departments and portfolios to reduce reliance on traditional textbooks and course materials.

According to BCcampus, OC ranks sixth in the province among institutions in terms of savings generated for students by the use of open educational resources, with cumulative savings of nearly $750,000 since BCcampus and OC began tracking in 2013. In addition to OER savings, the Library’s e-textbook licensing program has saved students more than $400,000 since it launched in 2018 – bringing the combined savings well over $1 million between the two initiatives.

“Open educational resources play an important role in increasing affordability for students, as commercial publishers make it increasingly difficult and expensive for libraries to license ebooks, preferring to pass on the high costs of textbooks and ancillary materials to individual students,” notes Ross Tyner, Director of Library Services at Okanagan College.

As Tyner points out, OERs are vital to the development of a textbook alternative strategy, the importance of which has been reinforced by most large commercial publishers’ reactions to the current predicament which students and institutions have found themselves in during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Instructors and students who had relied on the availability of print textbooks on reserve in the library, and who have, as the result of courses moving online, transitioned to commercially published ebooks on proprietary platforms, are finding themselves locked out by publishers that refuse to sell ebooks to libraries or institutions, or who will only sell them at hugely inflated prices, choosing instead to sell or rent them directly to students where profits are highest,” adds Tyner.

Open educational resources are just one part of the open education movement.

While affordability for students is an obvious benefit of OER use, it is but one of many advantages open educational practices bring to students and instructors. For example, with OER, faculty and instructors can customize the material they use in class, either by substituting for, or adding to, resources provided by commercial publishers.

They can also build upon materials created by other educators and experts, and share among one another, giving faculty and instructors ultimate control over their course content and teaching pedagogy.

OERs also help to integrate local content – increasingly important and of interest to students across many fields.

With OERs, faculty and instructors have the ability to adapt materials to a local context, add experiential learning activities to traditionally static learning materials, and continue to adapt materials for currency and relevancy.

OERs are also greener too. They reduce waste – no more outdated print editions of textbooks going unused – by offering an online alternative or print-on-demand option. They also reduce carbon emissions by eliminating the need to ship traditional textbooks globally.  

The OER project at Okanagan College will be underway within the next few weeks and will include consultation with interested faculty, instructors, students and others. To learn more about the project or to begin exploring more open education materials for your courses, please reach out to Roën Janyk.

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