ⓘ Open educational resources in Canada


ⓘ Open educational resources in Canada

Open educational resources in Canada are the various initiatives related to open educational resources and open education established nationally and provincially in Canada, and with international collaboration.

In Canada, education is exclusively a provincial or territorial responsibility, though the federal government can intervene in areas relevant to open education.


1. Initiatives

The open educational resources OER movement in Canada can be categorized in different ways, from type of initiative to geographical location to institutional initiative. The initiatives described below are categorized accordingly.


1.1. Initiatives Creative Commons Canada

The creation and use of OER benefits from the development and use of Creative Commons licences, which provide the legal framework to share these resources. A non-profit organization, Creative Common Canada CC Canada supports a legal and technical infrastructure for openness. It has created a set of free licensing tools permitting authors and developers to share, re-use and remix materials with an explicit "some rights reserved but others clearly allowed" approach to copyright. As an affiliate of the larger body, CC Canada is a collaborative initiative made up of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic CIPPIC at the University of Ottawa, BCcampus, and Athabasca University AU.

In addition to helping users choose licences and find Creative Commons-licensed work, CC Canada is a proponent of open government and the philosophy that government data should be accessible, shareable and reusable under open licences by everyone. It is actively involved in this pursuit, studying how CC licences can be used by governments to make data freely available for public use. Another CC Canada project is being spearheaded by its legal team at CIPPIC, which is researching the development of user-friendly tools that will provide comprehensive knowledge on how to analyse and use different open licences. CC Canada has also launched a series of conferences across the country to raise awareness of Creative Commons and its potential for educators, writers, artists, and others. In May 2014, Ryan Merkley, a Canadian, was appointed CEO of Creative Commons worldwide.


1.2. Initiatives Council of Ministers of Education of Canada

The Council of Ministers of Education of Canada CMEC is an organization of 13 provincial and territorial ministries of education. In response to UNESCOs 2012 Paris Declaration on OER, CMEC first discussed OER at a national meeting in 2012. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to open access and to adapt educational practices to the new realities of information sharing. After further discussions in 2013, the ministers unanimously endorsed the Paris Declaration. This has played an important role in the growing support for OER across Canada and has been instrumental in the establishment of OER initiatives in the western provinces.


1.3. Initiatives Tri-agency open access policy

The three Canadian research-funding agencies – the Canadian Institutes of Health Research CIHR, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada NSERC and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada SSHRC – have agreed on a draft policy supporting open access in scholarly publications. These agencies strongly support knowledge sharing and research collaboration, both domestically and internationally.


1.4. Initiatives National and international initiatives

Several OER initiatives in Canada feature national and international collaboration.


1.5. Initiatives OER universitas

OER universitas OERu offers free online university courses in collaboration with Canadian partners, offering formal credentials from the partner institutions. OERu is a consortium of more than 36 institutions and several organizations on five continents. It is dedicated to widening access and reducing the cost of post-secondary education for learners by providing OER pathways to achieve formal credentials. There are seven members of the OERu in Canada: three universities Athabasca in Alberta and Thompson Rivers and Kwantlen in British Columbia; one community college Portage College in Alberta; and three organisations.


1.6. Initiatives BCcampus

BCcampus, arguably the most-active collaborative Canadian organization in the open practices arena, is a publicly funded service that has turned to open concepts and methods to create a sustainable approach to online learning for the public post-secondary institutions of British Columbia BC. BCcampus was created to enhance students ability not only to identify, choose, register for and take courses, but also to apply any academic credits earned to credentials at a selected home institution. It was intended to benefit institutions through the rationalization of demand for academic opportunities from students with the supply of online courses from BCs public post-secondary institutions.

BCcampus has been the leader in Canada in promoting OER with CMEC. BCcampus played a major role in the decision by the BC Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology to support and implement the Open Textbook Project, which started with a commitment to provide 40 open textbooks at the post-secondary level and is now committed to 60. BCcampus hosted a working forum on OER for senior post-secondary institution representatives in Vancouver in October 2012, with the objective of developing a common understanding of what OER could mean for the province and of building a shared vision of how to develop and use the resources. The session also studied ways that BC could take advantage of the promise of OER and, specifically, of open textbooks.

The BCcampus Shareable Online Learning Resources repository SOL*R enables the licensing of, contribution to, and access to free online teaching and learning resources. Other BCcampus initiatives are also underway in support of OER, incluidng: the implementation of an initiative around apprenticeships for the trades, in partnership with BCs Industry Training Authority; and work with the North American Network of Science Labs Online NANSLO to build on the success of the Remote Web-based Science Laboratory RWSL and open educational science courseware.


1.7. Initiatives Alberta OER

The Campus Alberta Open Educational Resources ABOER Initiative was a 3-year $2 million government-funded initiative designed to assist with reducing the costs of a post-secondary education for students; and to provide students and faculty members with flexibility, offering updated, relevant content for learning. In March 2013, the Alberta Ministry of Innovation and Advanced Education entered a Memorandum of Understanding MOU with BC and Saskatchewan to collaborate on the development of common OER within their respective advanced-education sectors, recognizing the benefits of sharing existing OER with a focus on mutual areas of interest. This MOU was foundational to the establishment of the ABOER Initiative. Through partnerships with BCcampus, the initiative launched an ABOER Collection within SOL*R for open educational resources created or adapted by Albertans.

The ABOER Initiative funded over forty grant projects in Alberta across 31 publicly funded post-secondary institutions. In March 2017, program evaluation reported $482.000 in cost savings after one term fall 2016 of open textbook adoption and forecasted cost savings of $5.5 million over five years. A broader evaluation of cost savings including the adoption of ABOER-funded OER development and results of awareness initiatives remains to be evaluated. The report indicates an estimated one year of OER adoption to recuperate the investment of resource development.

eCampus Alberta closed March 2017 funded the development of an OER awareness course and peer review of BCcampus OER.

The work of the ABOER Initiative and eCampus Alberta continued through a provincial OER Community of Practice CoP, intended to encourage open educational practices in Alberta. In May 2017, University of Alberta hosted the first Alberta OER Summit.


1.8. Initiatives eCampus Ontario is the primary face of the Ontario Online Learning Consortium OOLC, a not-for-profit corporation whose membership is composed of all publicly funded colleges and universities in Ontario, and whose funding comes from the Government of Ontario. As of September 12, 2016, eCampus Ontario is led by CEO, David Porter. With a background in leading the open education movement in British Columbia with SFU, BCcampus, and BCIT, eCampus Ontario has already begun to bring OER and practices to the forefront of Ontarios education system. OER initiatives from eCampus Ontario include $2.6 million in open research and innovation funding, an open textbook library, and a collaborative project with Ryerson University to create an open publishing platform.


1.9. Initiatives Athabasca University

There has been, and continues to be, significant OER activity at Athabasca University AU. It was the first university in Canada to join the OpenCourseWare Consortium now the Open Education Consortium and, as of 2014, remains the only Canadian institutional member. The Province of Alberta and AU hosted the 2015 OEC conference in Banff, with over 250 delegates from more than 26 countries. AU was also given an OEC ACE Award in 2014 for its highly visible OER research website, the OER Knowledge Cloud.

AU is home to the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute TEKRI and the UNESCO/COL/ICDE Chair in OER, both of which promote research into, and the implementation of, OER at institutional, national, and international levels. The OER Chair is also a member of the board of the OER Foundation, which hosts the OER universitas OERu.

AUs adoption of open access began with the creation of the scholarly journal International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning IRRODL in 1999, and continued in 2005 with the implementation of AUSpace, a DSpace repository of scholarly articles, theses and other documents produced within the AU community. AUPress was the first open access university press in Canada, starting in 2010, and offers over 100 volumes. Other AU open initiatives include participating in workshops and conferences, conducting a mapping of open educational activities with POERUP policies for OER uptake and eMundus Europrojects, and supporting GO-GN, the Global OER Graduate Network.


1.10. Initiatives Thompson Rivers University Open Learning

Thompson Rivers University TRU houses the former BC Open University as its distance education wing, called TRU Open Learning. It is working with several OERu partner institutions to provide initial prototype courses to be released as OER. TRU Open Learning has a robust system for prior learning assessment and recognition PLAR that includes challenge examinations and transfer of credit. This makes it a key partner for OER initiatives nationally and internationally.


1.11. Initiatives OCAD University

The Inclusive Design Research Centre IDRC, a research and development centre at OCAD University formerly the Ontario College of Art and Design, consists of an international community of open practice advocates. The learning technologies and products that have been developed at by IDRC are distributed under the GNU General Public Licence. This means that the code is open source and requires users to share products under the same liberal licensing.

A key project, FLOE Flexible Learning for Open Education, is currently one of the IDRCs biggest initiatives. It has received substantial funding from the Hewlett Foundation and the European Commission. FLOE takes advantage of the fact that the centre has a set of curricula that is openly licensed and can be repurposed and re-used to make content accessible. This makes FLOE heavily dependent on OER, which presents an optimal learning environment to meet the needs of all learners, including those with disabilities. FLOE advances the strengths and values of open education and encourages pedagogical and technical innovation. It also promotes OER for content portability, ease of updating, internationalization and localization, content re-use and repurposing, and more efficient and effective content discovery. FLOEs work is international and broad. For example, to support adoption in Africa and other areas where mobile devices are more prevalent than Internet access, FLOE creates tools and services for delivery as OER via audio, text messages, and the small screens found on popular cellphones. These same tools and services are intended to support accessibility through inclusive design.


1.12. Initiatives Contact North

Contact North CN is Ontarios distance education and training network. It provides programming from public colleges, universities and schools with a focus on smaller towns, rural and remote communities. In 2011, Contact North published "Open Educational Resources OER Opportunities for Ontario", a major position paper stating the case for a provincial OER initiative. Contact North has also published an OER primer as a video series.


1.13. Initiatives Teleuniversite du Quebec TELUQ

TELUQs policies on the dissemination of educational resources were presented in "Politique de gestion de la diffusion des ressources denseignement et dapprentissage" REA. These policies relate to learning content in general and could include OER, but are also designed for proprietary content. Because TELUQ faculty retain the intellectual property of all original material they produce for teaching, institutional policy has limited impact on what professors do with their material. The Laboratoire en Informatique Cognitive et Environnements de Formation LICEF is a research centre at TELUQ, and hosts the Banques des ressources educatives en reseau brer, a repository of French-language OER.


2. Massive open online courses

Massive open online courses MOOCs are Canadian in origin. The name dates to an experimental course led by George Siemens at the University of Manitoba and Stephen Downes at the National Research Council in 2008 Tamburri, 2014. They taught a regular online university credit course, "Connectivism and Connective Knowledge", with 25 students; and more than 2.200 additional learners joined the course online. As Siemens reports, this course, delivered in 2008, was the first MOOC to combine open content with open teaching. This concept was developed from the idea of an open wiki pioneered by David A. Wiley at Utah State University and a 2007 open-boundary graduate course facilitated by Dr. Alec Couros at the University of Regina, in which 20 registered students were joined by approximately 200 non-credit international students.

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