After a small hiatus, we are happy to present the BCcampus Award for Excellence in Open Education to Stephen Brown, professor of Mathematics and Statistics at Okanagan College.
Nominated by Natasha Mandryk, department leader, Mathematics, Vancouver Community College
Stephen Brown spearheaded the technical and administrative implementation of an open homework system that was first adopted for use in mathematics and statistics classes at Okanagan College. Now the platform and the student savings have spread to other departments at the college — and hopefully beyond.
Stephen jumpstarted the use of open homework systems in math at Okanagan College with no initial funding and a secondhand server. He set up an implementation of IMathAS (the software behind MyOpenMath), giving students access to an open homework system.
He created a custom website, MyOkanaganMath, and hosted it on a local server, and he did all the initial software installation and server configuration himself, creating a proof –of concept that could be used on the local network. Once this was operational, he worked with the college’s IT staff and BCNet to get offsite hosting suitable for wider deployment.
In the meantime he was busy customizing the homework system to Okanagan College courses and needs. In addition to importing existing MyOpenMath questions, he created new questions to use in calculus labs and championed MyOkanaganMath to the Mathematics and Statistics department. As a result, the department agreed to adopt MyOkanaganMath in lieu of commercial homework systems.
MyOkanaganMath debuted with Calculus I and II classes in summer 2022. As of June 2023, the computer science, physics, chemistry, business, and adult upgrading departments had all expressed interest in MyOkanaganMath or put it to use. Currently, over 500 students per year use the system at no cost to them. Commercial homework systems can cost students up to $100 per course; this is a substantial savings and represents a commitment to open access on the part of Okanagan College.
Stephen presented on MyOkanaganMath at BCcupms articulation meetings in May 2022 and shared an interest in collaborating with math departments at institutions around the province. He hopes other B.C. institutions will consider adopting the platform, as other open homework systems like WeBWorK can have a steeper learning curve than MyOkanaganMath.
Stephen’s dedication to open education, as demonstrated by a significant commitment of his own time and resources to this project, deserves to be recognized. We applaud him for his creativity and leadership in open-source software and congratulate him for this huge accomplishment.
Stephen welcomes other educators to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org if they have any questions or are interested in setting up their own server.
“Open education projects like Stephen’s are important, as they take advantage of open-source software to deliver interactive learning content to students. Open-source software has no licensing fees, which translates to low- or-no cost applications for students to use. Through this project Stephen demonstrated genuine commitment to providing an engaging and equitable learning environment for all his students.”
— Clint Lalonde, director of Open Education, BCcampus
“I have had the pleasure of working alongside Stephen for the past five years. Stephen has always had his ear to the ground regarding innovative new open-source tools and often leads the pack in being the first to try them in his classroom. When Stephen first brought MyOpenMath to our attention, he showed off how it addresses the limitations of other platforms with fixed question settings and restrictive assignment settings. This past year Stephen led the charge in creating MyOkanaganMath for our college, allowing full control of our student data on our own server. Stephen leads by example in how to create customized questions that integrate with Maple, GeoGebra, and Desmos (to name a few), creating an interactive experience for students to help them grasp harder concepts. This level of customization contributes to a more engaging and personalized learning experience for students while also providing instructors with the ability to design assignments that can be tailored to their teaching style and learning outcomes. I know both me and my students have benefited greatly from Stephen bringing MyOkanaganMath to our college.”
— Joya Danyluk, professor, Mathematics and Statistics, Okanagan College
“I’m thrilled to hear Stephen is being recognized for his extraordinary efforts in establishing MyOkanaganMath. Stephen and I are in the same office, and we often bounce ideas off each other. He introduced me to MyOpenMath (now affectionately known as grandMOM), and after playing around with it, we were convinced this would benefit our students immensely. We’ve seen how online assignments with randomized values, multiple attempts, multiple versions, and immediate feedback has improved student learning and engagement. MyOkanaganMath is not only free to students but also allows us to build more in-depth questions than any other platform I have used in the past. I can build randomized questions that closely resemble a written version of an assignment with multiple question types (e.g., multiple choice, followed by numeric answer, followed by essay box for interpretations). In statistics, students can practice R using the SageMathCell option in their assignment questions, and many functions have been programmed to mimic Excel output. I truly enjoy creating unique questions in MyOkanaganMath, and I am so grateful to Stephen for working tirelessly toward hosting our own version locally.”
— Emelie Lee, professor, Mathematics and Statistics, Okanagan College
Jennifer Kirkey, Rajiv Jhangiani, Cindy Underhill, Michael Paskevicius, Maja Krzic, Grant Potter, Irwin DeVries, Tara Robertson, Christina Hendricks, Tannis Morgan, Inba Kehoe, Diane Purvey, Erin Fields, Arley Cruthers, Chad Flinn, Aran Armutlu, Terry Berg, Will Engle, Florence Daddey, Brenda Smith, Lindsay Tripp, Mary Shier, Brad Bell, Debra Flewelling, Michelle Harrison, Sally Vinden, Ali de Haan, Sara Humphreys, Jim Maxwell-Campagna, Andrea Niosi, Petra Menz, Nicola Mulberry, Izabela Mazur, Meizhong Wang, Theresa Southam, Christine Miller, Brian Coey, Agnes d’Entremont, Shantel Ivits, Valerie Irvine, the BCIT BSN Program, Linda Woodcock, Hope Power, Emily Schudel, and UBC H5P Symposium Organizing Committee.