Post by BCcampus Research Fellow Theresa Southam, PhD, Teaching and Learning Centre, Selkirk College
At institutions with relatively small student populations like Selkirk College, instructors were just beginning to adopt open textbooks in 2018, but the number of adoptions amounted to less than ten between Selkirk and College of the Rockies. One of the reasons was private publishers had ancillary resources in their courseware, including demonstration videos and branching video quizzes. Instructors were not overly satisfied with the third-party resources due to the cost to students, lack of relevance to the region or even Canada, and challenge fitting the resources to course outcomes. However, many of the third-party resources had ancillary materials like homework systems, video, and audio. When an opportunity to apply for an Open Education Foundational Grant arose, the Teaching and Learning Centre leads at Selkirk College and College of the Rockies created a proposal to develop some of the materials instructors found so appealing in the third-party resources. Looking at the fellowship as an enhancement to the grant, we applied with a desire to develop open educational resources (OER) in a good way.
Although we could not have predicted the future, after we received the grant, the pivot to online began in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. Ancillary resources, like demonstration videos and simulations, were more sought after by instructors as many programs did not meet in-person during the pandemic. Today post-secondary institutions are being called on to transition from emergency remote teaching and learning to hybrid-by-design (eCampus Ontario, 2021).
Our Two OERs
We shared the call for proposals with staff and instructors at both institutions and received eleven proposals. Where a proposal involved only one institution, we made introductions to representatives of similar programs or responsibilities at the other. In the end two proponents completed their OER and shared them in the BCcampus repository:
- Health care demonstration videos (please note: these educational materials may not be suitable for all audiences)
- BC Schools of Nursing Virtual Simulation Games
Our research question was: “How inclusive and accessible do students find OER (e.g. videos, podcasts, formative assessments, collaborative peer-based learning, and homework) designed with inclusivity and accessibility for an online environment?” Like any other learning resource, whether open or not, inclusivity varies (Hockings, 2010; Hockings, Brett, & Terentjevs, 2012). We used pre- and post-surveys, with the first survey offering only short definitions of accessibility and inclusivity in OER development and the second offering descriptions of what developers and instructors did to increase accessibility and inclusion in their OER. We held a focus group with the educational developers and instructors involved.
There was a slight increase in perceptions of both self-knowledge and evidence of inclusion and accessibility in the OER in the second survey.
Students demonstrated an appreciation for both accessibility and inclusion.
“What stood out to me was how the nurse respectfully asked the patient what pronouns/name they preferred and how the same nurse handed over care to the second. She explained both the patients’ legal and preferred names and their pronouns.”— survey respondent
“I liked the branching option of the sim to see video exemplars of poor and good relational practice. It was one of the more useful SOGI resources I’ve used at school so far.”— survey respondent
At Colleges and Institutes Canada, the Virtu-WIL project has uncovered that one value of simulations and demonstration videos with embedded quizzes is students can “fail” in a safe environment. Eyler (2018, p. 171) said, “Wrongness is a vital part of how we learn and change,” and failure is associated with developing empathy, optimism, imagination, conviction, and courage. In the demonstration video quizzes, students wanted to see both the right and wrong answers. One student said, “I didn’t like that I couldn’t go back and change my answer if I selected the correct one. I wanted to see the other ones, and I felt like I was being punished for giving the right answer. I was unable to access the learning from exploring wrong answers without starting the whole thing over.”
An OER without reflection and debrief can reinforce existing stereotypes and generalizations. For example, in a post-OER-viewing debrief, one student told the instructor the actors were too white and male. The student failed to notice the pride flag, partner photo, and other intentional signs and discussions in the demonstration video. Hearing more about the actor challenged some of the student’s assumptions.
There are many aspects of accessibility. As one of the developers said, making OER more accessible and inclusive is a continuous process. For example, one student said, “Audio on and off might help those who do not process visually at the same time as auditorily. Perhaps a button to click for sign language. I have also seen a button bubble option that has a close-up on the speaker’s mouth for those who read lips.” With feedback, instructors and developers can continue to improve OER.
Four themes emerged from the focus group:
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion can be subtle.
- Student reflection and debrief are essential
- Embodying accessibility and inclusivity in OERs is a process
- OER experiences must feel safe and supported
What Our Research Means for Post-Secondary Institutions
Our research demonstrates instructors must explicitly unpack biases and assumptions, even where OER have been created with inclusivity in mind. Institutions need to see the process of improving accessibility and inclusivity as a continuum. Below I propose a continuum of increased inclusivity and accessibility based on the checklists used in this research project.
“While the discourse around OER emphasizes opening up quality educational resources on a global scale … a recognition that access is not enough and a need to be combined with open educational practices has emerged” (Jordan & Weller, 2017, p. 13).
In the future Selkirk College will continue to work with other community colleges on open education. We are currently working with the Learning Region, a collaboration that extends our work with College of the Rockies across the border to Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College. The collaborators have developed a research project — Transcending Borders: Building Relationships Between Faculty, Students, Equity-Deserving Communities, and Community Colleges that Decolonize Teaching Practices — that focuses on decolonizing open educational practices.
This research is supported by the BCcampus Research Fellows Program, which provides B.C. post-secondary educators and students with funding to conduct small-scale research on teaching and learning, as well as explore evidence-based teaching practices that focus on student success and learning.
- 2020–2021 BCcampus Research Fellows
- 2020–2021 BCcampus Research Fellow: Theresa Southam
- Pivoting to Inclusion: Designing Ancillary OER in a Collaborative Cross-Institutional Environment
eCampus Ontario. (2021). 2021 foresight report. The Hybrid Futures.
Eyler, J. R. (2018). How humans learn: The science and stories behind effective college teaching. West Virginia University Press.
Hockings, C. (2010). Inclusive teaching and learning in higher education: A synthesis of research. In Higher Education Academy, United Kingdom.
Hockings, C., Brett, P., & Terentjevs, M. (2012). Making a difference-inclusive learning and teaching in higher education through open educational resources. Distance Education, 33(2): 237–252.
Jordan, K., & Weller, M. (2017). Openness and education: A beginner’s guide.