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Research Spotlight: What Makes for “Good” Open and Digital Education

The BCcampus Open Education Research Webinar series was a four-part showcase of research on open education featuring colleagues from the B.C. post-secondary sector. It took place between May and August 2020 and aimed to bring attention to important research conducted by B.C. post-secondary educators. The four sessions attracted over 344 registrants from all 25 public post-secondary institutions in B.C., as well as from over 60 institutions across Canada and 37 internationally. Additionally, there were a range of participants from the private sector.

Post by Tannis Morgan, researcher, Open Education at BCcampus

The second of four in this series featured Dr. George Veletsianos. George is a full professor in the School of Education and Technology at Royal Roads University and holds the Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology and a Commonwealth of Learning Chair in Open and Distance Learning. His session What Makes for “Good” Open and Digital Education? provoked us to go beyond discussions of modality in distance education (DE) in order to underline the importance of considering equity.

George began by referencing his 2008 publication “Raising the bar for instructional outcomes: Towards transformative learning experiences,” which looked at what transformational educational experiences look like when equity is embedded in instructional outcomes. He realized that equity needs more attention and that there is a need to go beyond modality or discussions about whether face-to-face (F2F) or online is better. He also observed a recent trend towards looking at our field with a more critical lens, noting two recent special issues dedicated to this: JIME (Journal of Interactive Media in Education) and DE.

George turned our attention to a well-known model by Merrill (2013) for evaluating effective instructional outcomes through instructional design indicators of effectiveness, efficiency, and engagement. This model is also known as e3, but George proposes that it is missing a fourth e — equity.

The second part of the presentation focused on examples of research areas to explore around equity in open education (OE) and DE:

  1. Equity and OER — George proposed that we could be investigating diversity in graphics in open textbooks in an intersectional way, or perhaps compare representation in commercial vs. non-commercial textbooks.
  2. Equity and participation — George pointed to recent work by Lambert (2017) and others that provokes us to challenge who participates in open endeavours, who isn’t included, who is excluded as a result of systemic issues. He also mentioned an article by Kahu et al. (2014) that underlines how flexible learning designs may still disadvantage certain populations who have less flexibility than others. For example, caregivers taking DE courses may have less time available to study or participate in course activities.
  3. Equity in OE/DE vs. non OE/F2F — George proposed that there is room for comparative questions about whether representation in OER is broader or more diverse than in non-OER, noting a recent study by Jenkins et al. (2020) that examined whether textbook costs are harder to bear for certain populations.
  4. Equity in scholarship — George invited us to apply equity in our day-to-day work so that it is more than merely a topic of study. For example, building on the work of Ahmed (2017), we could pay more attention to the politics of citation and question injustices in the representation of gender and race in our syllabi and articles.

In his conclusion, George acknowledged that the status quo prior to COVID-19 was problematic, and that we can and should do better in our new normal. To view the recording of this webinar, please visit the event page.

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