Here at Campus Manitoba, we believe in the open education movement and are actively working to make higher education more accessible for students across the province. Through our partnership with BCcampus, we launched OpenEd Manitoba, a website that offers hundreds of free textbooks to view online or to download, all of which are created, reviewed, or adapted by faculty at post-secondary institutions in British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario. Now, we’re taking our efforts to the next level by supporting a new open educational resource (OER) pilot project – the first collaborative OER created since the Manitoba Open Textbook Initiative launched in 2015.
The OER, titled Teaching Instructional Methods in Adult Education, is a collaboration between Red River College (RRC), The Manitoba Flexible Learning HUB (the HUB), and Campus Manitoba. To learn more about the experience, we chatted with Doug Cameron (author and retired instructor from RRC) and Daryl McRae (Academic Coordinator for Teacher Education at RRC), along with Iwona Gniadek and Kristy Lacroix from the Manitoba Flexible Learning HUB.
Q: Why did you decide to create an OER instead of a traditional or online textbook?
Doug: An OER provides an excellent platform for sharing information and resources among colleagues. The idea is that this will not be a static piece of work that never changes. It affords the ability to update elements of the resource as theories and ideas around teaching and learning evolve.
Daryl: I learned about open textbooks after attending presentations from Campus Manitoba and BCcampus. I checked out the resources on OpenEdMB.ca, and I liked the fact that the Creative Commons license allows others to take the OER and manipulate it for their own purposes. Part of our goal is for this book to be fluid. It might even be, in a way, a Wiki. Even if the original book doesn’t get edited in the future, people could take it and make their own modifications. That’s why, when we’re licensing it, we’ll use a Creative Commons license.
Q: Tell us about the process of creating this resource.
Daryl: We started by seeking funding from RRC’s Program Innovation Fund (PIF) which provides support for special projects which advance teaching and learning through innovation. We then contacted Campus Manitoba to see how it would fit in with their mission, and they introduced us to the HUB. This project has grown into something bigger than we anticipated. Working with Campus Manitoba and the HUB has opened up more resources so we can take the OER as far as we can.
Iwona: The expectation from RRC was to create a resource that is flexible so that instructors can build their own lesson plan, use sections of the OER, or use the whole thing. Flexibility was a guiding principle of how it’s structured.
Kristy: The RRC team curated a lot of content, and so we created a multi-book structure: each chapter is a separate book within PressBooks, which links together through a table of contents.
Q: How does the OER address accessibility concerns?
Kristy: Our role, when designing the content, is to make it fully accessible for digital readers. To help visually impaired users, all hyperlinks must have descriptive text, and for JPEG charts, the text will be put into a table that a screen reader can parse. To ensure our OERs are fully accessible, we use BC Campus’ accessibility checklist.
Doug: This OER is built around a multi-methodology, meaning that within each topic, there is a range of ways instruction can happen. We’re encouraging users to try a variety of instruction techniques, not just their preferred method. When you use multi-methodologies, it’s a response to diversity in today’s classrooms.
Q: What does the project mean for open education in Manitoba?
Iwona: This is the first OER for the Manitoba Open Textbook Initiative, and we hope there will be many more to come. Education is about sharing learning. We would like to see more shared learning, so we don’t recreate the wheel. Innovation happens by building on others’ work. A good OER is not perfect because the user will adapt it and make it perfect for their context. If people are thinking it has to be perfect, they may not share, but we need to keep sharing to help our knowledge grow.
“Innovation happens by building on others’ work.”– Iwona Gniadek
Q: What advice do you have for others considering developing an OER?
Daryl: I would advise them to research how they are going to fund the development of an OER. You are not going to profit off of royalties. You need to have someone in a paid position who you can dedicate to the project, or you need to find external funding.
Iwona: Just do it. Like writing a book, it can take a long time. Some people chip away at it for a year. Others do a sprint and bring a group of people together to create a resource in a week.
Campus Manitoba: If you’re thinking about developing an open textbook, Campus Manitoba can help you set the wheel in motion. We can point you to the many support resources available, connect you with experts who will guide you through the process, and identify funding sourcing.
Campus Manitoba is a consortium of Manitoba’s public universities and colleges. Through collaborative projects and shared services, we facilitate student mobility and expand access to post-secondary programs for students in Manitoba. In addition to campusmanitoba.ca, our websites include ecoursesmb.ca, setyourcourse.ca, and openedmb.ca.