Festival of Learning 2018

Carley McDougallBlogs

By: Claudius Soodeen and Daryl McRae , RRC for The Spotlight


In late May, we (3 colleagues from Red River College) had the opportunity to attend the Festival of Learning 2018 in Vancouver, which was hosted by BCcampus. The theme was “Higher Education: Handle with Care” and presentations reflected on how we as educators care or fail to care for students and their learning. This theme is apropos given the current climate in which costs of education are rising, government funding is decreasing and this is burdensome and stressful for students, faculty and staff.

Creating an Open Educational Resource (OER)

Pamini Thangarajah at Festival of Learning 2018

Pamini Thangarajah presenting ‘An adventure into creation of OER: A STEM wiki project.’

Our interest was particularly in the realm of OER creation as we embark on the creation of an open textbook/resource and are looking for guidance. Some takeaways from the related sessions we attended were that most Canadian institutions have been slow to invest time and effort into creating and contributing to OERs and unresponsive to policy creation related to development and adoption of OERs. Efforts have largely been individual, borne out of frustration with a) inadequacy of existing resources and/or b) the high cost of textbooks.

However, one presenter (Pamini Thangarajah) from Mount Royal University noted that support for her efforts came in the form of institutional grants that allowed her to “hire and mentor undergraduate research assistants.” Her creation included not only a textbook but a series of video resources, some Google Docs™ based assignments and the inclusion of active learning strategies into her teaching. So, embarking on an OER project also allowed her to expand her knowledge of and ability with new technologies and teaching methods. Mount Royal’s Student Association recognized her efforts with the “Open Education Champion Award” in 2017. Her presentation highlighted the small ways in which institutions can support OER creation: find willing, able and passionate educators, provide financial, human and ideological support and recognize the work done and the contributions made to caring for students.

Three Days of Engaged Learning

Amanda Coolidge and Rajiv Jhangiani at Festival of Learning 2018

Amanda Coolidge and Rajiv Jhangiani discussing ‘How to Ruin an Open Education Initiative.’

Amanda Coolidge (BCcampus), Rajiv Jhangiani (Kwantlen Polytechnic University) and Rosario Passos (BCIT) presented on How to Ruin an Open Education Initiative at your Institution. This very interactive session supported the information presented in one session by Pamini Thangarajah.  Individual and organizational misconceptions of OERs often stall or halt OER development. Participants also supported misinformed attitudes when polled for thoughts and opinions during the session. Many practical strategies to support OER development and adoption at the student, faculty and institutional level left the attendees with a more positive view on how OERs can be successful.

Other sessions (Christine Horgan, SAIT) brought to light the need for policy frameworks regarding OERs that helps decision-making and promotes support for faculty who want to adopt, adapt and create OERs. Clearly a team-based approach is preferable as is the simple building of awareness of what OERs are, how they can be used and how to assess their quality. Overall however, individual (or small-team) effort seemed, in most cases, to be the catalyst for institutional change and in some cases, had significant institutional barriers to overcome.

Care for students was also evident in Capilano University’s session about a curriculum development initiative that engaged students meaningfully. Their model went beyond simply surveying students and alumni about their experiences; instead they included students as partners and co-leaders in curriculum review and planning. The students who presented, most of whom had never presented to an audience before, were articulate and demonstrated courage and confidence likely gained through interacting with faculty as peers.

Open Educational Practices and Technologies

Micheal Paskevicius at Festival of Learning 2018

Micheal Paskevicius at Festival of Learning 2018.

Beyond OER policy and resource development, open educational practices (OEP) influence how learning can be designed to allow students to interact with OERs.  This important component must not be forgotten as many educators do not develop, but use these resources and need to do so in a purposeful way.  Presenting on OEP, Michael Paskevicius (University of Victoria) explores this topic in his Ph.D. research and is looking at how educators are bringing elements of openness into their everyday teaching and learning practice within the structural confines of formal higher education.

Zoe Wake Hyde, Product Manager, Rebus Community presented at several sessions during the conference speaking to related technologies that support the development of OERs.  Pressbooks seems to be one of the most common platforms that allow ease of use, low cost and ability to publish in multiple formats. This product also allows for collaboration, co-authoring and versioning of OERs.  This can assist in the technical challenges of self-publishing that normally have been barriers for some who would otherwise author OERs.

Venturing Beyond the Walled Garden

Due to our backgrounds in teacher education, educational technology and course design, we enrolled in the very informative session by Liesel Knaack (VIU) and Michael Paskevicius (UVic). They suggested that educators dare to “venture beyond the walled garden” of institutional LMS’ and begin to incorporate technologies that help students learn in more open and flexible ways. Their well-crafted handouts outlined strategies and activities for blending learning environments as well as a listing of selected technologies and their potential uses. We really enjoyed this session and wish it had lasted longer!

While this was an enlightening conference for many reasons, we did not find particular sessions that were strategic in providing advice on how to begin and sustain the OER creation process – even in sessions whose titles implied that particular focus. This was disappointing BUT, there were too many good/useful sessions that we wanted to (but couldn’t) attend; it is possible that we simply missed those ‘how to’ presentations.

We would like to express our thanks to Campus Manitoba for their generosity in sponsoring us and to Red River College for giving the time to attend this conference.


About The Spotlight

At Campus Manitoba, we support post-secondary initiatives and events that foster collaboration, expand access, and cultivate an open culture. Our partners, and colleagues are at the centre of this work and we want them to share their story. You’ll find them here at The Spotlight.