Research Spotlight: Instructional Designers and Open Education Practices

The BCcampus Open Education Research Webinar series was a four-part showcase of research on open education featuring academics 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 was a range of participants from the private sector.

Post by Tannis Morgan, researcher, Open Education at BCcampus

The fourth and final webinar in the series, called Instructional Designers and Open Education Practices, was conducted by Michelle Harrison and Irwin DeVries of Thompson Rivers University. Michelle and Irwin spoke about their recently published paper, called Open Educational Practices Advocacy: The Instructional Designer Experience.

Michelle and Irwin began with a discussion about the role of instructional designers (IDs) and the shift that was inherent or needed to happen with open educational practices. Specifically, they talked about designing for epistemological shifts and how we might envision ID roles in these or similar shifts. They underlined that IDs need to rethink epistemologies. Specifically, they must consider not just instructional techniques, but also recognize that it may be difficult to have this conversation with faculty around these questions.

“Open educational practices” carries several contested definitions, so they used an open-ended definition of OEP. They also noted large gaps in research around OEP and IDs.

Their research question asked: What strategies and practices are used by ID professionals in higher education institutions (HEI) to advocate for and implement OEP?

Their research survey was completed by 40 respondents from various parts of the world. Of the respondents, 42 per cent of the IDs have adopted OEP.

In the webinar, they discuss in detail some of the findings, which include:

  • There is a notable difference between what IDs can do in their role and what they value
  • IDs have limited institutional support: for 79 per cent of IDs, their learning relies on externally supported networks
  • Support and leadership can enable or inhibit their OEP efforts
  • 50 per cent view leadership support as crucial, but don’t necessarily feel this support
  • Things that assist IDs in OEP advocacy include:
    • When an institution has a direct mandate of openness
    • Supportive teaching and learning centres
    • Clear role definitions, good supports
    • ID time, as well as release time, for faculty

Importantly, there is some indication that engaging with OEP and open pedagogy approaches can change the ways IDs work and help with the development of critical awareness. Michelle and Irwin underlined the importance of moving toward social justice thinking in instructional design.

During this session, there were a lot of great resources shared. View the recording of Instructional Designers and Open Education Practices and the compilation of resources shared online.

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