A Conversation with Brian Lamb about the Open Educational Technology Collaborative (OpenETC)

Brian Lamb is the Director of Learning Technology & Innovation at Thompson Rivers University (TRU), and he is one of the founders of the Open Educational Technology Collaborative (OpenETC) here in British Columbia.  I wrote about the OpenETC in a previous post, but here Brian and I talked about how the OpenETC got started, and some visions they have for the future.

I’ve known Brian for awhile but was really interested in where the idea for OpenETC came from.  He began “I’ve been active in open education for most of my time in EdTech, going back to the early 2000s and always thought the open web was a great place to connect with people in other places, share materials, reuse other people’s materials, and collaborate.  So, when this thing called Open Education began to take form while I was at UBC, I was able to get support to bring in blog and wiki platforms for the institution.”  But then he moved to TRU and “was confronted with the reality of IT departments who are tightly strapped for resources and rightfully wary of people coming in with a boutique project”, because so often people start up projects, work on them for awhile, then move on leaving IT holding the bag.  While they had a WordPress installation at TRU, it was quite locked down and didn’t do what Brian needed it to do.  He started up something on his own, but quickly realized that being the admin for a service that he wanted to grow was not sustainable.

But Brian had a network to draw on.  “As I talked to people at other institutions, I knew that other people were in the same position, for example Grant Potter at the University of Northern British Columbia and Tannis Morgan at the Justice Institute of BC who was doing amazing work with her team at the Justice Institute.  So, we thought, rather than all of us struggling individually to run three different WordPress installs, we should pull our resources together and get one good one.”

Brian, Grant, and Tannis spent some time considering different models of hosting.  They knew that they wanted a space where they could innovate and collaborate.  They started small, collaborating on a WordPress platform they kept fairly small and private, but then were able to get some shared hosting space from BCNet. “That was a huge shift for us because it allowed us to be more open with the platform because we finally had FIPPA-compliant hosting.  At that point it started to grow and that’s when we started to think we had a model that we could extend to other people who might want to use these tools.”  And that was the moment OpenETC was born.

While WordPress was the main tool the OpenETC started with, they knew other applications were in the same boat with regards to institutional need versus lack of support.  “We’re always playing with things. Grant is the most experimental tinkerer of the group, and he’s brought several things to the table that we’ve played with internally, some of which we brought on (Mattermost) and some we decided not to move forward with. One of the things he brought forward early on was Sandstorm.”  While unfortunately the developers have not continued to support Sandstorm (which allowed people to run applications without having to install them locally), “that model is very powerful and it’s still our dream, to have a wide range of applications available for people throughout the province to take and run – open applications without third party surveillance.  Applications where people can determine the level of privacy they want and have the autonomy to run themselves. We’re still playing with those models but haven’t quite found the framework that we can share widely…yet.”

So, who is the current team supporting the tools they have and with new tools potentially on the way?  Brian tells me that while it can be a bit fluid, there is, of course, Brian himself (as one of the founders).  There is also Troy Welch, a developer on the team who works with Brian at TRU. But it’s a reciprocal relationship, and while Troy works on elements for OpenETC, he shares those back to TRU, “and other people build things that we can also bring back to TRU.”  In addition, OpenETC has support from BCcampus, and BCNet hosts their WordPress service via EduCloud.  Then of course Grant Potter (another founder) at UNBC whose WordPress use case was one of the drivers for the creation of the OpenETC and Tannis Morgan who was at the Justice Institute when she started with OpenETC and is now with Vancouver Community College. “The Justice Institute has done amazing with their open WordPress sites, and I wanted to be able to see how they build their stuff, to go into the back end and see what themes they chose, what plugins they used, how they configured them, etc.  There’s so much benefit in that kind of sharing.” And in addition to this initial group, “Anne-Marie Scott joined us while she was still at the University of Edinburgh. She happened to be in Vancouver when we were having an in-person event and we invited her along because her group at Edinburgh, in my opinion, may be the best EdTech unit in the world.” She is now a Deputy Provost at Athabasca University and an integral contributor to our planning and operations.  And of course, Clint Lalonde from BCcampus gradually became more and more involved as well. “We’re starting to expand now. First of all, anyone who shows up on Mattermost who is engaging with the other participants and the tools, if they want to say they’re part of the OpenETC, that makes us happy.” Then there are people who represent institutions.  “We’re starting to expand that group but doing it mindfully in a way that doesn’t spin out of control.  For example, bringing people like you, Emily, and Ian Linkletter from BCIT and Liesel Knaak from North Island College – you’re the people who are doing the most, especially institutionally.”

Other organizations have also supported OpenETC.  “We haven’t really talked about the role that ETUG (the Educational Technology User Group) plays. Even though there’s not an official relationship between OpenETC and ETUG, I don’t think OpenETC would have worked if ETUG didn’t exist. Because ETUG has created this cohesive community where we share with and help each other. It’s because of groups like ETUG and BCcampus, who emphasize openness and ethical practice as core values, that we have been able to do this work. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the people that are most active in the OpenETC are the same people that have been active in ETUG for years.”

You might be asking yourself, is OpenETC just for BC?  Brian told me that if you understand the model of sharing, we have in BC, supported by ETUG and BCcampus, which in other places seems to be an incredibly radical thing, it really is a natural reflection of the culture that’s evolved here over a long period of time.  “Sometimes we’ve had inquiries from people in other provinces about OpenETC. And from a technical point of view, creating your own OpenETC is no harder than setting up your own WordPress server, but how do you develop that culture? A lot of the things I’ve learned through ETUG we try to embody in our OpenETC practice. We don’t talk about it very often because I think it’s just understood; it’s just a shared set of values.”

When I asked if Brian was surprised by the way OpenETC has taken off in the community, he told me “I expected people would use the tools because there was a gap people were struggling with. What I’ve found most amazing is the quality of work being done with the tools. It’s so satisfying to see people at other institutions doing work that they couldn’t have done if not for OpenETC – that’s the coolest thing in the world. I love seeing committed Edtech people, who care about the ethics of what they do, doing such interesting things on the open web. And if you give them some tools and a little bit of help, what they’ll do with it never stops being amazing.”

But institutional collaborators don’t just bring themselves to OpenETC; they also bring students.  “It’s always been a given that whatever we make available, we want it to be able to work for students – if it’s something only a specific group of people can use, then it’s not really meeting our purpose. The thing with students is some of them can jump in right away, but the majority of students have never worked with tools like these before. I think that’s a big reason why a lot of faculty are wary of adopting new tools because they know they’re going to spend a lot of time supporting students, so we’ve tried to make the sign-up process as smooth and self-serve as we can.”  And they are still working on making the onboarding process smoother, including having more clonable starter sites in WordPress so students (and others) don’t have to start with a blank site.  That way “they can feel reasonably good about showing their site to people quickly without having to learn how themes work.”  But what Brian really likes about WordPress is that students have the control to change themes, delete and add plugins, widgets, design their sites the way they want to. And Brian is also, as he says, “selfishly excited to see the work students are doing with WordPress”.

I asked what the future holds for OpenETC (and I confess, I was asking specifically whether or not they were considering bringing on a Wiki or other collaborative tool) and Brian assured me that they are having discussions, but don’t want to raise expectations.  “We know that Etherpad is an extremely popular application, so we’re probably going to launch that as a stand-alone application which works well for collaborative writing. We’ve talked about Wikis, and if there was significant demand for wiki-like collaborative spaces that Etherpad couldn’t meet, we would have to look at that. We’ve been playing with a framework called Cloudron, which is like an advanced version of Sandstorm in the sense that it lets you deploy apps and includes a number of pretty interesting Wiki applications, but we aren’t sure that it is the right framework for us.”  But Brian is interested in creating a kind of middle-ground for more robust and server-intensive applications, where access is limited to those people at institutions who support educational technology, who can then support people at their institutions.

Then there is H5P.  “I think one of my dreams is to find ways to make H5P a little easier to support. We’ve talked about creating a dedicated H5P-enabled WordPress theme where we could embed sharing tools and user documentation. It’s been really cool to watch how H5P has been used across the province and I would love to find way to promote and support more activity with it.”  Of course, the challenge for Brian and others supporting OpenETC is that this sort of development work is not part of their regular jobs and “unfortunately, a lot of this work ends up being off the sides of all our desks, which is not the way it should be.”  Brian would also love to find ways to make it easier for people to share their work across the OpenETC network.  “My dream would be to improve discoverability and shareability of H5P objects across sites. And I hope one day to create a framework where you can share your own work more easily.”  He has some ideas but thinks this is where the community could really help, because the potential from sharing H5P objects is immense.  “We still have a long way to go, but where I think the future of OpenETC will come from people doing do more on the platform and contributing back. If we have more people doing that, we can start to incorporate what they do to make it better.  We’re better now already because of the participants, but I really think we’re just starting to see the payoff of wider collaboration across the province.”

As participation and community collaboration grew, it became evident that perhaps OpenETC should adopt some terms of use guidelines.  While OpenETC hasn’t been confronted with abuse of content or copyright violations yet, the community began asking about a code of conduct for OpenETC. “Ian Linkletter had developed a code of conduct for his Mattermost installation at UBC, so we adapted his model for our code of conduct and Clint Lalonde did a really good job of facilitating a wider community conversation and getting feedback and input on it. We might not have done it then without that help, but it was something the community wanted, and they were prepared to put in the work to make it happen.”

I asked Brian if OpenETC has seen a lot of growth when COVID hit back in 2020.  But he reflected that it’s hard to know because they had been growing before that point and it’s hard to know what the difference would have been without a pandemic pushing everyone online.  But numbers of users are not nearly as important or interesting to Brian as seeing unique and interesting applications of the tools from around the province.  That being said, with more people signing on, “we hired someone to tighten up the on-ramping for the WordPress clone tool, and to set up better reporting tools so we have a more effective way to look at growth in accounts over time and where they originated.  But, while we’ve definitely seen growth, I’m not sure how much we would have seen without COVID and I’d like to believe the work we did to make the platform more accessible, and our regular development plan would have brought people aboard under any conditions.”

As my discussion with Brian drew to a close, I wanted to express to him how much the OpenETC has supported me and my work with faculty and students at Camosun.  I was able to set up WordPress sites on the fly to support people during COVID, and have introduced many faculty, program groups, and students to the wonders of setting up their own WordPress sites, and even working with H5P.  And I also reflected, and continue to reflect, on more ways I can give back to the OpenETC community.  Brian was kind enough to assure me that we at Camosun have been contributing back, saying “we have just been so thrilled to see the work you’re doing, the way you’re giving back, and onboarding. That idea of ‘contributions, not contracts’ has become one of our slogans, and you’ve really grasped that right from the beginning. And I just want to say how much we appreciate how you’ve taken that idea of contributing back seriously.”  And I want to say that OpenETC makes it easy, and safe, to play and share back.  OpenETC is without a doubt one of the most collegial, supportive, and collaborative groups I’ve ever worked with.  I hope to be a part of this community for a very long time!

What’s New in eLearning?

This post is dedicated to all those faculty with heads down marking and assessing and supporting students who were unable to attend our workshop this week.  Here is a snapshot of what is new, changing, etc. with some of our supported educational technologies here in eLearning!

Team Dynamix (TDX) Support portal

Need help with one of our tools?  Want to have a DEV site set up or arrange for other faculty to have access to a Master course site?  Trying to make an appointment with an Instructional Designer?  You can now reach us through our eLearning TDX support portal.  And don’t worry if you don’t see your issue listed as a specific option – there is a “My Issue is Not Listed” option for you.

Kaltura is taking a trip to the Cloud

Since we first onboarded Kaltura (you may know it as MyMedia in D2L) at Camosun, it has been graciously hosted by UBC.  But now, it is moving to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud in Montreal this summer.

Benefits of cloud service:

  • Faster to upload, edit, save videos
  • More frequent system updates and access to new features
  • More robust and direct support

When: May 15-July 15

Phase 1: April 20-May 15 

  • Faculty and students to delete unnecessary videos
  • Save time and money

Phase 2: Migration begins 

  • My Media will be fully operational to users
  • No deletions in this period
  • Playlists will not migrate – make sure to contact eLearning Support if you need help re-creating playlists after the migration
  • Embedded content, media galleries and video quizzes will all migrate
We don’t anticipate any issues, but are asking faculty and students to delete any videos they don’t need before we begin migrating videos on June 1st.  Important note: If you delete a video from My Media it will also delete that video from wherever you may have embedded it or from any Course Media Gallery it has been added to or shared with, so be careful. Once the video is deleted it cannot be brought back. Instructions for how to delete videos.
If you think you might need them in the future download videos from My Media to your device before you delete them. Instructions for how to download videos. Students, you can find My Media under My Tools at the top of this page. If you have any questions or need support, go to our Kaltura TDX support portal.

REV captioning service

We know editing video captions can be a long, arduous task, but we have brought in a captioning service, REV, to help.  You can request access to REV through our TDX service portal, but first, ask yourself:

  1. Are these videos reusable learning objects?
  2. Are these videos short instructional videos?
  3. Are these videos full class lectures (for example from Collaborate?)

If you answered yes to 1 and 2, you are good to go – REV is being reserved for videos that have a clear instructional purpose and will be used long-term.  If you answered yes to 3 (or are unsure if your videos fit into any of these purposes), please stop and contact an Instructional Designer to talk more about how REV should be used.

Final Grades Export (D2L to MyCamosun)

As some of you already know, you can now export final grades from D2L to myCamosun.  The main benefits to this for you are saving time, and reducing errors which sometimes happen when transferring grades by hand.

For help:

We are turning off the Message tool – what alternatives are there for student to student communication?

As you know, we have already had to limit email use to between students and instructor only due to privacy implications as a result of the D2L integration with Colleague.  As a result, student to student interaction in D2L was limited to the Message tool, or to Discussion topics or Collaborate sessions which have to be set up by instructors.

Unfortunately, we have also encountered complications with merged sections which has meant that as of May 1 we  are disabling the Message tool.  There are some upsides to the way we will be handling merged sections in D2L moving forward, meaning you will be able to sort your Gradebook by sections directly rather than having to set up Groups to sort your students, which will also make the grade export to MyCamosun go more smoothly.

If you are looking for ways to support student interaction in D2L, you can create group discussion topics, create a Collaborate space for them, or you can enable Chat on your navigation bar.  Review our tutorials Customizing your Navigation Bar and Customizing your MyTools Menu for information on how to add a tool to your navbar.

D2L Rubrics enhancements

I’ll keep this one brief.  You can now add multiple rubrics to an Assignment dropbox.  You can use any of the attached rubrics to assess individual students (using a toggle function), but only ONE can be used for a grade directly.  That being said, you could use both for general assessment and manually override a grade in the grade box.

In addition, you can now export a rubric to a PDF.  For instructors, this is only available in the Rubrics tool and appears as a Print function when Previewing a Rubric.  You can use the print function in your browser to print a graded rubric for an individual student.  And students can print graded rubrics using a Print function when they view Feedback for the assignment.

D2L Discussions Evaluation Experience update

If you are assessing discussion posts, you will notice that the assessment interface now looks like the one in the Assignments tool.  The tutorials Assessing Topics in Discussions shows you the new interface (starting on page 6.)

Reminder:  Set Quiz Accommodations in the Classlist

Finally, we want to remind you that if you have a student requiring quiz accommodations (more time), you can set this up on a student-by-student basis in the Classlist, rather than having to set Special Access for each individual quiz.  See the tutorial Setting a Student’s Quiz Accommodations from the Classlist for more information.

Camosun Faculty Story #48: A conversation with Monique and Deidre about redesigning the BEST Program

In the midst of the amazing discussions I have been having with faculty over the past year and a bit, I was hearing stories of the BEST (Building Employment Success for Tomorrow) Certificate program at Camosun College, a seven-week tuition-free program.  You may remember BEST from reading Diane G’s and Val’s stories – both faculty members in the program (and we mustn’t forget their third member, Allyson, the Instructional Assistant for BEST.)  Well, I knew from previous conversations with colleagues that the BEST program had gone through a program review right before the pandemic hit, and I wanted to hear from Monique (a fellow Instructional Designer in eLearning) and Deidre (an Educational Developer in the Curriculum Development and Program Renewal unit) about their experience with the BEST program review.  Now, full disclosure: I interviewed Deidre and Monique quite some time ago, and since then the BEST program has been “discontinued,” but not really – it will be reappearing under the name Education and Career Planning Certificate Program soon, but with the same amazing faculty and dedication to meeting learners where they are at.  

And meeting learners’ needs led to discussions around how best to offer the program: continue with in-person or explore blended and online modes, and online became a strong contender.  Deidre and Monique recalled that the impetus for taking the BEST program online came from a desire to reach more people.  “The conversation sparked out of a desire to drive up enrollment – could it be offered in a different delivery format that would encourage people who were working, etc.  They were looking at ways to reach more people because it’s the only program of its type.” 

Of course, moving a program online can be met with trepidation and BEST was no exception.  “There was real fear about going online because the program is community-based and takes a very personalized approach, including one-on-one coaching.” But the BEST faculty were curious and keen to explore what opportunities online might bring. As the program review started, “we were starting to develop online components, not necessarily for full online delivery, but more of a gentle start helping them to become receptive to a hybrid approach.”  But then, March 2020 hit and any options involving in-person instruction flew out the window. 

Luckily, as noted, the BEST group had already begun to develop online materials, and in addition an already vetted open resource was available through BCcampus.  But while content wasn’t much of an issue, Monique told me that “the challenge was that each module of the program generated its own D2L course with students enrolled in each of those courses discretely. So, we had to merge those courses right away, then fit them into a larger framework within D2L.”  Rebuilding the courses into one whole was an overwhelming task within the sudden shift to online, but the team jumped in and started working.  “We merged the courses and they worked on a course map to guide students through the online materials.  Then because it’s such a short program, they surveyed students every Friday about how they were experiencing the program, and every week we would meet and tweak the program.  Then for each following iteration of the full program we would make more substantive fixes.”  And those weekly meetings continued for the duration of the pandemic.  Finally, last June, they were able to take a breath and redevelop the program into a week-by-week structure to make it easier for students to navigate in the online format. 

What Monique and Deidre really wanted to emphasize for me was the team effort of the BEST group.  “They divided and conquered and were open with each other, always giving constructive feedback. I would say they were high performing. It was nice because Allyson is very technical, so she understood the need for a structure and version control, while Diane really grabs onto the vision of the program, and Val is the cheerleader.” 

Once BEST settled into its new online mode, the program review process had to be picked up again, which happened in May 2020.  At that point, Deidre says, “they had to decide whether to articulate at the provincial level which had implications for the learning outcomes. There was discussion about how to structure the program and we landed on four courses (there used to be five) which felt better in the overall structure. Then we spent a lot of time redeveloping the learning outcomes and identifying which courses they wanted to include.”  And by May, the group knew that students were embracing their online instruction, which helped inform the program review going forward. 

But while BEST emerged as a seven-week course with four modules, the way students complete the program is not by doing one module at a time, but by working on all four modules simultaneously.  As Monique put it “if you’re doing labor market research, you’re doing it for the full seven weeks, not just in two weeks. The content all needed to be integrated as a kind of spiraling curriculum.”  And as Deidre pointed out, “BEST isn’t a typical program in the Camosun sense of the word, and while I think we ended in a good place, it was not a linear process to get there.”  

One of the things that has made the revision of BEST a success is the support from leadership, specifically the Dean and Associate Dean of the School of Access.  “All the pieces were aligned going through the program review cycle – in addition to Curriculum Development, they brought eLearning in at the beginning of the review process and had leadership behind them all the way. They ended up with the right people on the team.” 

So now, we have a tuition-free, seven-week program with four discreet modules, operating as one course using open educational resources, and taught entirely online. But Deidre reminded me that “they’re not teaching a subject; they’re teaching people confidence building and self-belief.  They’re teaching about growth mindset and all those intangible things like self-leadership. I think it’s amazing that that they’re able to build this community online in a safe place for people to share and grow.” And in only seven weeks. In addition, Monique adds that the BEST team “worked to Indigenize the curriculum as they went. Because the Indigenous ways of learning are how you build community, representing the core values of the program which is about developing from the inside out and building community where everyone has a story and grows at their own pace.”  

Monique and Deidre reflect that the biggest reason BEST was challenging to put online was this emphasis on building community along with the personalised development piece, the pieces that make BEST a transformational and life-changing program for students.  But by taking a risk, BEST has opened its doors to many more students than it could have reached by remaining a solely in-person program.  Deidre says “The BEST team jumped off the boat into deep water and they swam. They more than just swam; they did the butterfly. They didn’t just dogpaddle, they were doing backflips off the high diving board.”  Their dedication to the BEST program’s underlying principles, to trusting in others to guide them into the online environment, as well as working with students to get feedback on what was working and what wasn’t as they trialed the online course, has created a solid foundation for success.  

Open Education Resources

Good morning, post long weekend.

I was talking to a faculty member this morning about OER and Open Education, and as I put together a list of resources for her, I thought I would share them with you as well.  I hope these are especially useful for those of you getting ready to integrate OER into your courses for next term!

General/overall information and links to collections, etc.

OER “courses”

Open Pedagogy

And there is so much more out there!  But hopefully for those of you just starting to explore, these resources will give you a start.

Camosun Faculty Story #47: Sue

Sue is an instructional designer and one of my colleagues in eLearning (part of the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning) at Camosun.  I wanted to speak to Sue so she could tell me, and you, about her experiences supporting faculty when we all moved to online teaching in March 2020.  On a personal note, going back in time to when we in eLearning were working long hours helping faculty and students navigate this new world brought back feelings not just of exhaustion but also of the excitement we felt as our faculty colleagues began to see first-hand the benefits of online teaching, something we have known for years.   

One of Sue’s passions is accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  In fact, she was a co-author (2015) of the BCcampus Accessibility Toolkit.  Sue tells me that while eLearning had offered some workshops on accessible design and had some accessibility tools available in D2L (namely ReadSpeaker) prior to March 2020, when everything moved online “challenges around accessibility hit people like a brick wall and I think we had one of our greatest teachable moments possible for digital accessibility.  We saw more awareness around issues students were having enhanced by the fact that faculty themselves didn’t have the right infrastructure to teach online.  That shared lived experience, of a sudden lack of access impeding your ability to do something, well you can’t manufacturer that.”   

Sue also reminded me that we had enabled another online accessibility tool just prior to the pandemic, BBAlly (aka Ally) which we turned on across D2L in June 2020.  “We were barely through wrapping up the pivot term when we turned BBAlly on across the system and as a result, I have had way more interest in accessibility workshops and learning about UDL skills since 2020.” But the accessibility tools we had incorporated into our D2L system turned out to have a broader impact, beyond, for example, simply converting text-to-speech.  “We learned that Textaid was also a great asset for our language programs. Faculty teaching Japanese, Spanish, and Korean were able to use TextAid to support some spoken and written assessments that they had struggled to do even before COVID.” 

In addition to accessibility tools, our streaming media service, Kaltura, had only been enabled for a year or so and “we went from barely having started to use it to an exponential production of videos, which quickly shone a light on the poor quality of auto-captioning in services like these. While many faculty recognized that this bad video captioning needed to be fixed and wanted to do that work, they were overwhelmed, sometimes to the point of tears, by the work this added to their already heavy load. That was the motivation to rattle the cage for some professional captioning support.”  And now, we have access to a captioning service, REV, to assist faculty with their video captions in Kaltura.   And as Sue notes again, good video captions are not just useful for people with hearing impairments.  “You can watch videos in locations where you have no sound capabilities, students have access to a searchable transcript for study purposes, etc.”  

In terms of assessment, Sue recalls faculty struggling with assessment methods that would not work in a fully online environment.  Instead, they needed to ask “what if I provided more options for students to be able to complete the assignment? What if instead of a time-based test it was a take-home exam? Some Faculty were looking at their assessments with fresh eyes for the first time in years. Coming up with alternate assessments exemplifies UDL by exploring flexibility in the way we get students to show they’re engaged.  I think that this focus on alternative assessments, in one of the biggest shifts to UDL we’ve seen.” 

While Sue wonders how much less stressful the move to online teaching would have been if content had been built with accessibility and UDL in mind, she says, “there is no going back from the spotlight on accessibility and the awareness that’s been developed around the tools to support accessible design. I think we raised the baseline a bit, and while we’re still going to have new people who are not there yet, I’m confident that most faculty can, and will, use these tools without the trepidation they may have had before.”  

When talking a bit about rewards Sue has seen over the past two years, she tells me “I am more aware of the multi-dimensional challenges each individual student is dealing with because I’m dealing with them more myself too.” This also means that while she had to press pause on the UDLProject she was working on pre-COVID, “these past two years have provided much additional material for that project that I couldn’t have even imagined.” And building from that awareness of what overwhelmed students were experiencing, well she found herself supporting faculty who were similarly overwhelmed from trying to support those students. “I had to meet faculty members where they were at, trying to make things work for that individual in the moment realizing they were just keeping their heads above water. So, if I can help you to achieve this thing that’s more important than even you know at this moment, let alone how you would do it in the future, well, like any new language you learn the vocabulary, then you put the words together, and then start to build sentences. When you talk about accessibility and UDL, you can find a point of entry and then build thoughtfully from there. I think the way we were all meeting faculty where they were at was in many ways a UDL model of support.” 

If there was one shining moment for Sue, “I think coming out of this we have forged a tighter bond with our colleagues in the Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL) and that we now have the foundations from which we can continue to build a model of collaboration in our teaching and learning community. We are all committed to creating good online learning experiences for students and faculty, and because we work with so many different groups, we’re in a position to influence change. So having CAL be more of a partner, for me, that’s amazing and is a model other Post-Secondary Education institutions should take note of.”  And what really resonated for me was Sue’s comment that, as a result of increasing online options at the college, “we’re a three-campus college now and we in eLearning sit mostly on this third campus. We need to make sure that we are supporting students and faculty fulsomely and accessibly in this third campus environment.”   

When I asked Sue what some of her biggest lessons learned over the past two years were, she tells me “What I have gotten out of the past couple of years is confidence that in our team we have a range of skills and experience.  There are so many skills we need to be current with: technologies, pedagogy, inclusive education, accessibility, decolonization, open education, etc., that each of us alone can’t possibly know it all.  So, it’s a huge asset to have, say, a colleague who is deeply focused and committed to bringing open education practices, examples, and opportunities to the college. I can both participate in those and continue to develop my expertise so I can work with faculty, but I don’t have to be the expert in everything to recognize expertise and to draw on it.” 

Advice Sue has for anyone faced with moving to online teaching echoes what so many other faculty have said:  “Work with peers, connect with folks who have been where you are, so you are not recreating the wheel, try something small and build your confidence in lower stakes moments, and don’t feel afraid to reach out and borrow ideas from people.” We reflected a bit on how learning to teach online is similar to training for a marathon: you do it gradually, upping your mileage as you go.  “Of course, March 2020 was like running a marathon with no training, multiple times.  But in normal times, take it slow.  Oh, and get a good chair at home for all your online classes and meetings!” 

I wanted to end with Sue’s reflection on where she feels we, as eLearning and CETL, are now as a team. “We as a unit no longer face concerns about feeling left out because of being on different campuses, because we have a more universal place for us and faculty we work with, in this new, third campus.  I also have deeper relationships with faculty, some of whom I had worked with very little before, and I feel like I have a much deeper awareness of what’s going on in different parts the college than I ever did before. Even amongst our CETL community I feel like our communication and collaboration is stronger.” Our third campus has enabled and supported this enrichment, so we need to respect and nurture it going forward. 

Camosun’s Open Education Survey and Conversation Cafe Takeaways

On March 30, 2022, a group of 12 Camosun faculty and staff got together (virtually) for a conversation about open education.  In addition, 63 faculty members completed an Open Education survey in February and March 2022.  Below are a few key takeaways, overall themes, as well as recommendations for consideration.

Open Education Conversation Café Key Takeaways

This group reflected on and discussed the following questions:

  • How have you used, or considered using, Open Educational Resources (OER) to support your teaching?
  • What questions do you have about OER and Open Educational Practices (OEP) that might be preventing you from going further?
  • What are the advantages and challenges of designing and delivering OER and OEP?
  • How can we support each other to create and integrate OER and OEP into teaching and learning at Camosun?

While the majority of people in the conversation were from the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) (7), 5 were faculty who had used and were passionate about OER.  Some of the initial burning questions from participants were:

  • How do we get others fired up around adopting, adapting, and creating OER, especially when time and money (to create and adapt) are still big issues to overcome?
  • How can we support integrating OER into our Camosun systems and what options do we have for sharing and promoting for sharing?
  • How do we ensure platform independence and transferral of OER (especially question banks) from one system to another?
  • How can we be transparent with students around how adapting OER works as opposed to academic integrity/plagiarism?
  • What are the best practices for revising and reviewing existing OER? Is there a cycle? Who is in charge (BCcampus?) And how do people know when OER have been updated (and an aside – how do people integrate relevant changes when they have themselves adapted the materials?)
  • How do we overcome and/or work with Intellectual Property (IP) concerns from faculty (the idea of “ownership” versus sharing, and how to choose a licence when you want to protect the integrity of your work – due to safety protocols, traditional knowledge, etc.)

Following are the higher-level collated responses from the conversation café discussion questions.

How have you used, or considered using, OER to support your teaching? What questions do you have about OER and OEP that might be preventing you from going further?

  • How do we and departments adopt and promote the use and awareness of OER? How can we work with departments/programs to create a culture that embraces and supports OER?
  • How can we better support Term faculty around their rights and responsibilities for choosing course materials (for example, if they wish to use OER to support their teaching)?
  • How do we vet resources and look at quality assurance for OERs?
  • How can we work together to find, assess, adopt, adapt, and create ancillary resources (PowerPoints, question banks, etc.) to support the use of open textbooks?
  • How do we find out about, promote, and build on the work that has already been happening in open education at the college?
  • How can we work with students to promote awareness and importance of OER?

What are advantages + challenges of designing + delivering OER and OEP? How can we support each other to create and integrate OER and OEP into teaching and learning at Camosun?

  • Advantage: OER can be tailor-made and/or customized for a specific course
  • Advantage: Working with OER provides a huge opportunity for cross-institutional/program sharing (of resources, of collaboration, etc.)
  • Advantage: It does not have to be an “all or nothing” approach – start small, create small OER at first and build from there
  • Advantage: Saving students money
  • Challenge: Working with OER is a lot of work, requiring time and money and resources (people for support, a team, etc.) to find, vet, create, etc.
  • Challenge: Knowing who all to consider when adopting OER (copyright, bookstore, other faculty teaching the same or similar courses)
  • Challenge: Understanding how OER are updated – is there a process, who is in charge, etc.
  • Challenge: Understanding licencing and being aware of content that should not be adapted (TK, content with safety and technical standards, etc.)
  • Challenge: Represents a culture change for some (faculty, admin level, etc.)

Open Education Survey Results

Schools responding

  • School of Business: 17
  • Access: 6
  • Arts and Science: 18
  • CSEE: 5
  • HHS: 6
  • Trades and Tech: 9
  • Other: CETL 1

How familiar are you with Open Educational Resources (OER)?

How familiar are your with OER? bar graph

Full description: Bar graph showing Familiar, Not familiar at all but interested in, Somewhat familiar

Familiar

  • 1 response “No, I have never used OER in any of my classes.”
  • 11 responses “Yes, I am currently using OER in at least one class.”
  • 9 responses “Yes, I have used OER in the past by am not using any currently”

Not familiar at all but interested in

  • 9 response “No, I have never used OER in any of my classes.”
  • 1 response “Yes, I am currently using OER in at least one class.”
  • 1 response “Yes, I have used OER in the past by am not using any currently”

Somewhat familiar

  • 11 responses “No, I have never used OER in any of my classes.”
  • 14 responses “Yes, I am currently using OER in at least one class.”
  • 5 responses “Yes, I have used OER in the past by am not using any currently”

How familiar are you with Creative Commons?

  • Somewhat familiar: 28
  • Familiar: 21
  • Not familiar at all but interested in learning more: 13
  • Not familiar at all, and not interested in learning more: 1

Are you using OER in any of your classes?

  • Yes, I am currently using OER in at least one class: 26
  • No, I have never used OER in any of my classes: 23
  • Yes, I have used OER in the past but am not using any currently: 14

What types of OER have you used?

What types of OER have you used? bar graph

Full description: bar graph showing results of types of OER uses (note that numbers were challenging to analyse due to multiple selection option)

  • Open textbooks: 29
  • I have not used OER: 7
  • Multimedia:  8
  • Quizzes or tests/homework assignments: 10
  • Other: 4

If you have not used OER in your classes, can you tell us why?

Why have you not used OER in your classes? bar graph

Full description:  bar graph showing “Not aware of OER”, “N/A”, “Others/I have written my own textbooks”, “Time required to vet, adapt or create”, “Lack of peer review”

  • Not aware of OER: 8
  • N/A: 2
  • Quality of available OER: 3
  • Time required to vet, adapt, or create/Effort: 4
  • Lack of peer review: 1

Have you ever created or adapted OER materials (rather than a straight adoption)?

Have you created OER? circle pie chart

Full description: circle pie chart showing majority response “No”, second highest response: “Yes, at Camosun”, third highest response “Yes at another institution”

If yes, what types of OER have you created or adapted?

What kind of OER have you created? bar graph

Full description: bar graph showing types of OER created

  • Homework assignments:  21
  • Textbooks: 9
  • Multimedia: 4
  • Quizzes or tests: 3
  • Other: 5

Have you had support creating, adapting or using OER?

Have you had support to create OER? bar graph

Full description: bar graph showing what kind of support has been received

  • None: 28
  • BCcampus and CETL, other Camosun support: 5
  • Release time: 1
  • Pressbooks training: 1
  • SD time: 2

CETL and the library are interested in increasing OER adoption, adaption, and creation by faculty. How can we best support you to meet these goals?

How can we support you? bar graph

Full description: bar graph showing the following:

  • Establish OER working group and/or community of practice: 14
  • Information sessions: 52
  • Virtual or in-person training opportunities on OER and Open Education: 45
  • Virtual or in-person training opportunities on Creative Commons licencing: 32
  • Grant programs for faculty creating OER: 27
  • Public recognition of faculty creating OER: 7
  • Creation of written documents on OER to support faulty applications for OER SD projects: 21
  • Other: 5

Overall Themes and Recommendations

Organize general information sessions

  • Collaboration for running info sessions: CETL, Library, Copyright office
  • Provide basic information (what are OER, how they work, where to find them, where to get help)
  • Include discussions around starting small, working with others to find appropriate resources, implications for intellectual property, and why OER are important
  • Discussion of quality assurance and vetting resources
  • Clarification of authorship and information on how OER are updated (find out more about this process at least at BCcampus and implications around it)

Collate resources in one place

  • Update library Research Guide for Open – put together a team (CETL, Library, Copyright) and work on over the summer
  • Include a list of who can support OER development at Camosun, and in what capacity

Department meetings info sessions

  • Start in May/June, then Fall (collaborate CETL, Library, Copyright office)
  • Fire up interest
  • Find out who is already working on integrating OER and how
  • Answer questions

Faculty Support and Engagement

  • Workshops and other training opportunities for faculty
  • Create a list of faculty members working with OER to support each other in varying ways
  • Find ways to fund (grants?) faculty for adopting, adapting, creating, and reviewing OER

Talk to Student Society

  • Engage with students
  • Find out more about students’ perceptions of OER and provide information sessions for them (Student Society, student groups within programs, etc.)

Advocate to college leadership

  • Show student savings in $ amounts for people who have adopted OER
  • Discuss initiating grant or support (i.e., release time) opportunities for faculty to create and adapt OER

Camosun Faculty Story #46: Rob

As you may have noticed, I’ve been posting a few stories from faculty talking about their experiences of moving suddenly to online teaching back in March 2020.  But teaching online was not new and uncharted territory to all faculty teaching at Camosun.  Today I bring you some highlights from an interview I had with Rob, whose training company has partnered with Camosun for the past 10 years to deliver a Project Management Certificate program through Contract Training.  Rob has a degree in Adult Education, and is also a fellow instructional designer, and it was a lot of fun talking to him about his work as both an instructor and an ID. 

Rob and his instructors “teach everything from technical skills to interpersonal skills, to how to think at a strategic level,” and they teach using the full spectrum of modes, from fully in-person to fully online asynchronous, and everything in between.  Rob himself “started off designing and developing computer-based training, electronic performance support systems, and what we used to call web-based training back in 1994/5. My Master’s specialty was in online learning and performance, and I’ve also been designing and developing curriculum for online delivery for over 25 years.”  I found myself realizing that I have also been working in online learning design for the same amount of time as Rob, and we reflected on how much has changed since when we started this work back in the nineties. “It’s gone from very text-heavy, to some videos and audio, to full multimedia with the ability to focus more on tailoring the type of instruction to the knowledge or skill to be developed. We use video for more prescriptive processes and skills and reading to build a more fundamental knowledge base, all while using asynchronous approaches to provide flexibility in the delivery, and synchronous interaction to provide direct feedback to students. So, it’s a much more robust environment today compared to where we initially started.” 

I asked Rob what he thought of the concern cropping up since COVID forced almost all education online, that online learning is lesser quality than in person (which, as IDs, we had hoped had been put to rest years ago.)  He explained that we first need to move beyond our biases, that is “the propensity for adult learners to fall back into their historically established learning environment. Every term, I still have students telling me they prefer in-person learning, but then they tell me they had more interaction in our online environment than they have ever had in a classroom.”  Thinking about why that is, Rob reflected that “when they’re in the classroom, they’re not talking to other students, but are focused on the instructor-led approach that typifies many classrooms, and they often think that online learning is just watching videos and reading. What they don’t understand is the instructional design that’s associated with developing instructionally-sound curriculum.” Most information is out there on the Internet, but learning is not just about finding information. “What students don’t see is the preparation, activity design, testing, and modification that goes into building an engaging online course,” and our job as instructional designers is to help faculty understand how instructional designers, curriculum developers and technology support staff can help them create those courses (something we didn’t necessarily have time for when courses moved so suddenly online in 2020.) 

When talking a little bit about that design for engagement, Rob says “the first thing we do is establish contact with students. The moment we engage with them to keep them on track they realize that they are being supported, that their instructor is there to work with them, and that they are not just one of 500 students that the instructor doesn’t know. The second is to build in collaboration as one of the requirements and teach them why collaboration is important in the learning process, building it as a bonus for them so if they collaborate more, they will learn more.”  Remembering Rob’s earlier point, that adult learners tend to want to learn the way they have in the past, all this engagement and collaboration sometimes “requires a period of cultural change for them to feel like they’re being supported, to build up to an interactive dynamic between students and instructor.” And that’s where that huge investment in up-front work to contact students, to set expectations, to build collaboration, and to follow-up pays off: when students start to engage. 

I wanted to see if Rob had noticed an uptake in his online courses post-COVID and was a bit surprised when he said that while there was a jump in enrolment at the beginning of the pandemic, but “by September 2021, a year and a half in, we saw a substantial drop in enrolment.  While we are still studying why it happened, one of the things we identified through feedback was that people were tired of meeting and learning online,” something I am sure many people reading this can identify with. This past term, enrolments are back up, but Rob tells me he will “need a longer period of time to study if this fatigue might have an effect long-term.  I think it’s been beneficial for people to have had the experience through the pandemic of recognizing that it is possible to engage, to have interactivity, and to learn online.”  I know I hope faculty and students, once fatigue fades, will embrace more online teaching and learning now that they know what is possible. 

When I asked Rob about some of the rewards he’s experienced teaching online all these years, he says “I think it’s difficult to separate the rewards from teaching online from the rewards from teaching in general. From my perspective as an adult educator, it’s about helping adults learn. The reward I get from helping an adult learn, whether it’s online or in the classroom, is the emotional satisfaction of seeing someone develop a skill or knowledge, and to feel that tingle up the back of your neck when they get it. I think teaching online means that I’m able to help people that might not be able to access a course, because of timing or geography or personal situation. And I think the greatest reward is that online teaching broadens out accessibility to a subject that I’m passionate about.” 

In addition, Rob has heard from students that being able to work with people from all over the world through an online class is hugely beneficial and rewarding.  “Students have said that interacting with people who are completely outside their bubble has been very valuable to them because they never would’ve experienced the people that they’re interacting with outside their local area. It gives them access to a new perspective and the ability to share and learn from each other that they wouldn’t get in a traditional classroom.” Often as a result of that greater diversity, Rob says there is more interaction in the online classroom, “students are intermingling with people with whom they may never have spoken if they were in a classroom, because you tend to gravitate towards the person sitting next to you. But when you’re online, you can establish relationships with anybody and everybody because you have that flexibility.” 

I asked Rob what kind of advice he gives instructors teaching online for the first time, and he said “I want them reach out to the students more because I think one of the biggest challenges is that, while students have a reason for showing up at that course, they can also feel alone in the online environment. If instructors reach out to students and create a relationship with them, it’ll be better for the students because they’ll see there’s somebody there. It’s not just a computer teaching them, but there’s actually a flesh and blood person behind it.”  And in addition, Rob wants his instructors to see that teaching online does not have to be hard.  “Start by recording a question-and-answer session – that’s a learning opportunity.  Then when we use technology like collaborative document creation, that collaborative document can become instruction – that can become a reusable tool for future instruction. We might be building the plane while it flies, but that course material can be reused and improved.” There’s no need to be intimidated by online teaching if you keep it simple and build from there. And of course, find yourself an instructional designer!  “Just call us. Send an e-mail to us. We’re here!”  

Looking forward, Rob tells me that he “would like to see online learning become more integrated with the way people work through micro-learning and just-in-time learning; and there is an opportunity for the academy to provide a foundation for this learning; to constantly supplement it with online in-the-moment micro-learning performance support. I think this is where online learning needs to go, but I think we’re still a long way from that.”  There is so much information out there already, but how do students know what is accurate or useful? “I really think that our profession needs to evolve to provide both foundation and practicality, and practicality needs to be in the moment. For instance, even if all you want to do is build a schedule for a project, you have to understand concepts and other contextual knowledge which is the foundation that still needs to be structured as a comprehensive program. But then, in the moment, when you are ready to build that schedule, you should be able to access with a micro-learning tool immediately.” 

One final thought from Rob: “I think there will always be room for face-to-face, virtual instructor-led synchronous, and instructor-led asynchronous learning experiences. And after the past few years, maybe people can settle into their preferences and recognize the benefits of each.” 

D2L Orientation videos for new students!

While I generally prefer not creating tutorial videos for our eLearning supported tools (mainly because they all change so quickly and I simply don’t have it in me to re-create videos every term), recently a small team of us in eLearning produced three Introduction to D2L videos for new Camosun students.

While these videos were created specifically to support English Language Development and International students, they can be viewed and used by any students who are new to Camosun and our D2L (Brightspace) learning management system.

So, have a look at our Introduction to D2L for Students Videos and if you like what you see, send me a note at schudele@camosun.ca!