Creating sustainable resources through open textbooks

In anticipation and celebration of Earth Day on Friday, April 22, 2016, we’d like to explore the sustainability of open educational resources (OER). Sustainability is complex and more than financial, it’s ensuring access, improving student learning outcomes, and so much more! While we continue to explore potential sources of sustainable funding for the B.C. Open Textbook Project, we also need to define the scope of sustainability.


To do this, we needed to answer the following five questions:

  1. Will the resources remain available and accessible?
  2. Who will update the resources and how will that be done?
  3. Who will advocate and promote open textbooks?
  4. Who will support faculty who wish to adopt open textbooks?
  5. Who will support faculty who wish to adapt or modify an open textbook?

A key objective of a comprehensive sustainability plan should be to develop capacity at all levels of the post-secondary system to sustain the textbooks they find important and useful for their local audience. This means empowering individual faculty, groups, departments, institutions or any combination of these to sustain the projects that are important to them.
The following strategies will be implemented to develop capacity within the B.C. post-secondary institutions:

  • Develop and deliver learning opportunities for faculty and instructional staff who will support adoption to build system support capacity. By educating faculty and staff at institutions on open education we are then able to create a larger community of knowledgeable open education advocates. These advocates then start to create an institutional community that can support the development, implementation, and sustainability of open educational resources.
  • Establish and lead working groups for institutional instructional staff to collaborate on the development of training resources and support materials for faculty. Many B.C. Institutions have established Open Working Groups, which include instructional staff, faculty, librarians, students, and administrators.
  • Establish and lead working groups for institutional instructional staff, which build system capacity for innovation and sustainability of OER. The BCOER Librarians and the soon to be established B.C. Instructional Designers Group are thought leaders in Open Education. These groups are able to collaborate across institutions to further innovation of OER and ensure that resources for OER are shared across the province. The more resources we are able to share with each other the less duplication of effort we see, thus creating a more efficient, cohesive, and collaborative framework for implementing OER.
  • Host events, including training on how to adopt open textbooks and participate in those hosted by institutions than generate the ability to produce more OER and ensure adoption. Adoption and adaptation of OER workshops are critical to the success of OER. Bringing together interested individuals into one event and being able to answer their questions directly and in a timely manner alleviates their concerns of adopting. For OER to be sustainable, faculty need to know the essentials on how to adopt and if they are interested in the next phase, they need to know the exact process of adapting an OER from both a technical and pedagogical perspective.
  • Develop “how to” toolkits for institutional implementation of OER projects. Providing guides or toolkits for institutions further supports the sustainability of OER projects. These guides are resources for institutions to use as a reference point on how to adopt OER, how to author OER, how to adapt OER, how to make OER accessible, and how to develop open policies. These guides are in continual development and therefore are as up to date as the technical and pedagogical practices change.
  • Provide leadership, consultation, and tools for institutions and other academic groups such as articulation committees who want to establish OER policies. OER policy is essential to the successful implementation and sustainability of OER in post-secondary institutions. Having an OER policy ensures that material created by an institution or another academic group has an open license associated with that resource that then facilitates its use in the commons, to then be reused, revised, remixed and redistributed.

Notable quote:

“In our project, we preach “Don’t Reinvent the Wheel” meaning, don’t create something that someone else has built already. To me, this practice fits beautifully into the sustainability of open educational resources. I see it as a matter of managing our collective energy. If we don’t waste our time recreating materials that already exist, then each of us will have more energy to build something new.” – Lauri Aesoph, Manager, Open Education

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