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Open First! at Selkirk

Selkirk College, the first regional community college in British Columbia, is poised for another first: asking their faculty to consider Open First! as they plan their fall curriculum.

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

In the early days of 2020, when things were what we used to think of as normal, we had a chance to meet with the faculty at Selkirk College in face-to-face presentations to share some of the benefits of open educational resources (OER). We didn’t realize how much of an impact these sessions would make, but as post-secondary institutions in B.C. found their footing in the new normal, Selkirk announced that they were taking an Open First! approach for the fall and future semesters.

Open First!

“The Teaching & Learning Institute team is working closely with our instructional staff to support the adoption of more open educational resources as they design their programs,” said Rhys Andrews, vice president of education at Selkirk College. “Open offers considerable financial savings for students with substantial flexibility for instructors and is well suited for the online learning environment. While we do anticipate change in the coming months, our focus remains on excellence in education and learner success, two components of Selkirk’s strategic direction. Choosing open will help us achieve our goals.”

Regional Representatives

In the fall of 2019, BCcampus welcomed a pair of regional representatives to help us build our connections with the post-secondary institutions servicing the more remote areas of the province. Carolee Clyne is our open education advisor for the North, and Ross McKerlich is advising the institutions in the Interior. Ross coordinated a series of learning sessions for Selkirk faculty, opening the channel for conversations about open.

“After the in-person sessions at Selkirk, I was able to build relationships with faculty,” said Ross. “I listened and learnt about their open education goals and offered advice. COVID-19 may have accelerated the switch to online learning, but it was clear to me that the faculty cares about the learners, and the way they’ve embraced open affirms this.”

Delivery Models

To provide flexible options that work for students and instructors, Selkirk is planning to deliver their programs through a variety of models, including:

  • Online — asynchronous lessons that allow students to connect with their cohort and instructors as needed via the learning management system (LMS) Moodle. Projects are assigned due dates and submitted via the LMS.
  • Remote —synchronous lessons with set schedules, conducted via video services such as Zoom. Essentially the same as an in-class session, but accessed online.
  • In-person — on-campus instruction, primarily for students requiring access to labs, studios, fieldwork, practicums, etc.
  • Hybrid/blended — a range of scheduled remote learning, online asynchronous materials, and in-person instruction.

Textbook Selection 

Neil Martin, education developer in the Teaching & Learning Institute at Selkirk College, has developed a 12-point list of considerations for educators planning their textbook needs for upcoming semesters.

“We created this resource for our faculty, so they can really take a look at what they need from the learning resources they’re planning to use in the course they teach,” explained Neil. “The checklist asks them to look at the value a textbook brings to their students: Is it relevant and current? Is it fair to the students to ask them to buy a whole textbook when the instructor only plans to use a chapter or two? Does this course even need a textbook?”

“The cost-savings for students through OER is substantial,” explained Theresa Southam, chair of the Teaching & Learning Institute at Selkirk College. “Our student union body has been asking for this for years, and while some of our instructors were using open textbooks, many were not. Another benefit of switching to open is the reduction of cheating and plagiarism. With the customized nature of the authentic materials, it’s virtually impossible to cheat, and this means we use less online invigilation services or proctoring software.”

OER enables instructors to adopt and adapt the textbook to their teaching needs. Since the information is covered through a Creative Commons licence, the instructors can pick and choose the chapters they want, and they can contribute to the textbook by building on the open-source material.

“With open textbooks, you have the option of adapting them to your needs,” shared Theresa, “but it’s not an expectation. Use them as they are now, and if you are motivated to improve them in the future, you can.”

BCcampus Award for Excellence in Open Education

Because of their focus on open education and the work they’ve done to make it easy for instructors to examine their options, we’re presenting Selkirk College with the BCcampus Award for Excellence in Open Education for June.

“We’re so grateful to Rhys and his team for having created this opportunity for the educators at Selkirk to switch to open,” said Mary Burgess, executive director at BCcampus. “By putting a spotlight on open at Selkirk, they’re improving access to education for learners throughout the province.”

Do you know a person, group, or institution doing an excellent job of using, creating, or promoting open educational resources? Show them that you appreciate what they’re doing by nominating them for the BCcampus Award for Excellence in Open Education. There’s no deadline, as one recipient is recognized each month for their outstanding efforts.

Notable Quote

“Embracing open will help us focus on the quality of the learning experience for our learners, without compromising the safety and well-being of students, faculty, staff, and the communities we serve.”


—Rhys Andrews, vice president of education, Selkirk College

“Open allows instructors to have true academic freedom for their programs. They can choose which parts of the textbook to use, or they can change and adapt it to make it work with their curriculum. It maximizes the potential of the OER from a teaching and learning perspective while providing financial savings for the students. We’re thrilled with the commitment that Selkirk has made to open and the benefits it provides their students and faculty.”


Mary Burgess, executive director, BCcampus

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