Developing Sustainable OER at JIBC

The Justice Institute of British Columbia is leveraging a BCcampus Open Education Sustainability Grant to develop viable and supportable solutions that increase the use of open educational resources (OER) in their programs, despite a global pandemic.

Post by the BCcampus editorial team

In fall 2019 we announced that the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) was the recipient of a BCcampus Open Education Sustainability Grant, a program designed to help post-secondary institutions advance their on-campus efforts to create and deliver sustainable open education practices. 

At the time, the JIBC team was focused on a range of open education projects that spanned the next two years, including hosting events, creating and hosting workshops, and creating and hosting a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) professional development series.

Since the announcement of these plans, the educational world changed drastically, which resulted in shifting priorities for many institutions, but the JIBC team found opportunity in the chaos. “The pandemic disrupted a lot of our work because of suddenly shifting priorities, including our 2020 Open Ed Pro-D Day and our criminology sprint,” explained David Smulders, program manager, faculty development at JIBC. “Specifically, all on-site activities had to be cancelled while we were all working from home.

“However, this opened up new opportunities. For example, it is much cheaper to send people to online academic conferences for pro-D, so we have done some of that, including providing support for 15 program staff and instructors to attend an online UDL workshop. We are now working with those individuals to follow up on their experiences to create momentum to apply UDL in our curriculum development. And we are focusing on creating more resources for open access as well.

“There are benefits in the online delivery of pro-D activities,” says David. “In December, we had one of the best attendances of any pro-d/faculty development event we’ve ever hosted, and we were able to have participants from well beyond JIBC, including attendees from other institutions like Vancouver Community College, Douglas College, BCIT, and the University of Northern British Columbia, which was great.” 

The Influence of COVID-19 on Online Education

Until the time of COVID-19, educators had a choice about transitioning to online instruction. Some of them might have been interested and wanted to try it, while others didn’t. “After March, you were going online whether you wanted to or not,” said David. “At JIBC we haven’t transitioned everything to online; many of our teaching and learning practices are very hands-on, such as life-saving procedures for paramedics or fire-suppression techniques for firefighters. Some things are still on-site, with our JIBC COVID-19 Safety Plan in place to ensure they are safe, but many teaching and learning activities that wouldn’t have initially been online have gone online, and some of them will probably stay there because the results have been quite successful. An example is within our emergency management program. We do training for emergency operation centres. Centres are assembled to manage an event like an earthquake, fire, or flood. We used to do live tabletop exercises to practice various scenarios or simulations. In conventional training, this might take a day or an afternoon on-site, with everyone taking up the role of the players in an emergency operations centre: planners, operations people, finance people, logistics, communications, etc. We have converted some of these scenarios to an online format, where people still assume those roles and work through the event, but some are now available in an asynchronous format. Now, instead of three hours on a Tuesday, it happens over two or three weeks, and participants come into the discussion areas when they can to learn more about the event. There was some skepticism at first. These centres are typically very intense scenarios, but I’ve heard, informally, from some of the instructors that these exercises have been very effective. When we do get to some semblance of normality, we will go back to in-person scenarios in some cases, but we won’t get rid of the ones that are working in an online, asynchronous format.”

Open Education at JIBC

The BCcampus grant provided JIBC with the ability to explore the idea of sustainability. “We’re hoping to do a panel of open textbook authors to share their experience and lessons learned,” David said. “We want to find out their cautionary tales of what worked and what didn’t, then draw from their experiences to refine our processes. We want to make our open textbook creation process a long haul, not a sprint. The BCcampus grant has been quite helpful for us to improve our processes. Without the grant, we might not have had the occasion to pursue opportunities that were right in front of us.

“Sustainability is the key aspect for the BCcampus Open Education Sustainability Grant,” David said. “It’s tempting to throw money at a problem and then just walk away, but we’re trying to figure out the processes and approaches to give it legs and bring more educators into the development and in use. In the current scenario, it’s usually the original author working to keep the resource in use because they’re so personally tied to it, but we’d like to create a system to see other educators maintaining the OER because they have experience and interest in the subject matter. The grant also gives our curriculum developers and instructional designers in our Centre for Teaching, Learning and Innovationmore capacity. These individuals tend to be the early adopters who already have an interest in the possibilities of open. We need to reach out to the instructors who aren’t coming into the internal network and help them think more about open pedagogy and open education and the potential benefits to them.”


Prior to the pandemic, JIBC was developing a law enforcement studies diploma program using the zero textbook cost (ZTC) model. “Our instructors have developed open textbooks for this program, but now we’re looking at ways to add more resources. You can find some of these OERs at Pressbooks.”  

Notable Quotes

“The BCcampus Open Education Sustainability Grant helped us do more professional faculty development than we might have without it.”

– David Smulders, program manager, faculty development, Justice Institute of British Columbia

“Open education affects and requires stakeholders from all areas of the institution, as each person will have a different lens on how to move open education forward based on their perspective and lived experience with the institutional culture. The approach the JIBC team is using to create sustainability in open education is inclusive and effective, and we can’t wait to see it adopted and adapted at other post-secondary institutions.” 

 – Amanda Coolidge, director of Open Education, BCcampus

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