Skip to main content


#opened15 Keynote 2 - Supporting Open Textbook Adoption in British Columbia

5 min read

Only two keynotes at Opened15 this year (keynotes are so over) - the second is David Porter (now at BCIT) and Mary Burgess (BC Campus Executive Director), two stalwarts of the BC Open Ed scene. You can follow them on twitter as @dendroglyph and @maryeburgess

(Superbly, Mary started by celebrating the hard work and passion of the one and only Clint Lalonde in making OpenEd15 happen. We love ya, Clint!)

Open Education in BC has been a 13 year journey, with numerous twists, turns and miss-steps along the way. It's a story of amazing people and an amazing community - all of whom could tell you how this *really* went down. Enlightened government in BC have invested in building the capacity for sharing in education, demonstrating what is unique and experimental about BC.

One of the forerunners was the Open Learning Agency, charged with making education accessible to BC citizens.

David introduced (after some tense moments of technical crisis) three short stories concerning some key voices in BC Open Ed, presented as video:

Clint Lalonde: His first involvement in (pre-opened) opened was as broadcast manager on CKMO, offering 12 week courses on radio production and over-the-air courses to the local area and then the world. Around 2004-5 Clinte was still at Camosun as a media developer, supporting the construction of a shared open course supported by BC. This (OPDF) programme exposed many in the province to open education.

Gina Bennett:  She donated materials to wikieducator in 2006, and was inspired by the chance to act on a passion.

Irwin DeVries: at TRU, was also in reciept of OPDF funds, and cited collaboration as a key benefit.

Set up in 06, BC Campus focuses on on collaboration in course development - vesting the intellectual property in the developers but requiring an open licencse.

Brian Lamb: During the learning object phase, Brian went to the IMS - a group focused on standards fror learning objects - and heard Stephen Downes urge for a focus on enabling activity, not overthinking standards.

Irwin Devries added that the sharing and the community, not the technology, was key.

Scott Leslie (#bigfan) contributed a lot to the way that Open Ed was considered globally and genuinely moved the field forward. We heard parts of Scott's legendary "educator as DJ" presentation.

Paul Stacey (seriously, this was like a who's who of canadian edtech) noted that BC funding fostered collaboration as a spur to openness, and established open practice in education.

Every institution in BC has participated in Open Education. But despite this opportunity, Paul sometimes faced issues in supporting some more conservative issues.

BC supported "OER Good Public Policy For Canada", as a way to bring wider Canada into the Open Education world. We heard Cable Green's contribution to this campaign.

Mary Burgess continued the story into the world of Open Textbooks. Textbooks are something that everyone understands, not an abstract like a learning object.. In 2012 John Yap announced that the start of the Open Textbook Programmes (we saw Giulia Forsythe's sketch note). The focus on highly enrolling programmes was seen as a constraint in some circles, but there was a clear demand from institutions for what remained a collaborative (in governance) project.

The project built on resources from around the world rather than starting from scratch. Connie Broughton and Una Daley were two prominent external advisors, as were the team from OpenStax.

A strong academic review process supported the quality of developed resources, via the use of faculty fellows from institutions around the province. Faculty, after all, want to hear from faculty. And a BC Open Librarians group was established.

The "pressbooks" platform was used to allow remixing and development, including a book-sprint that developed a textbook in 5 days. Localisation and adaptability were central planks. And the project team worked with CAPER-BC to support the development of resources that were truly accessible. 

Addressing the eternal question - "what's next?" - David Porter examined the need to scale up and grow adoption rates. "Open as default" was cited as a key project goal, which would require infrastructure, collaboration and leadership. Various previous contributors suggested goals around open pedagogy, credentialling, leadership buy-in and policy.

Mary concluded by showing the Tidewater College OER policy as a great example of institutional policy. She highlighted the role of libraries - and OER librarian in every institution. Todd Mundle and Gwen Bird spoke about the key infiltration role that library expertise lead to, and the student demand for open resources in both print and digital format.

And open pedagogy requires excellent faculty and instructional designers to develop and embed open practice. Rajiv Jhangiani noted the excitment and passion of open education.

David and Mary offered thanks to the many people who have been involved in open education in BC, and had contributed to the presentation (which was really much more of a community keynote than just David and Mary).

Questions concerned sustainability - and one response will be the project becoming less centralised and more embedded. It was hoped that institutions would take ownership of books that were important to them.

And on faculty progressing to tenure via open educational contributions, one example of the use of exemplary teaching and research informed open resources. International awards were one factor in her progression to tenure.