Intention versus Impact

This topic has been on my mind so much lately. My child is being bullied at school by kids who have been their friends going on 6 years. It is, as you may have experienced, completely heartbreaking and at the same time, enrages me beyond a place I knew was in there. Two of the many excuses being used by the perpetrators are  “We were only kidding” and “They shouldn’t take it so seriously”.

In other words, if I didn’t intend to make you feel like crap, it’s not my fault if you did.

You guys already know I have this thing about being kind to each other. This doesn’t mean we don’t have hard conversations in which we engage in critical discourse about shared topics of interest. It just means that at our core, we keep as the primary directive not hurting each other.  

What would help I think, is if we thought more about our impact than we do about our intentions.

Thinking about impact for me looks like this:

  • What will people feel upon viewing/hearing the words? And especially, is this going to make anyone feel ashamed? (more on shame another time perhaps, but it is just about the most insidious and damaging emotion out there).

You may be thinking “how the heck am I supposed to know what they will feel”? Yup, it’s a tough one. We’ve been using a facilitation tool a lot lately @bccampus called Empathy Maps. It’s a helpful way of thinking about folks with different contexts than you and it develops, you guessed it, EMPATHY. Of course my straight, white, educated privilege protects me from knowing so much of what I need to know. So part of developing empathy is just keeping my mouth shut and listening.  

Ultimately I feel like this is the big challenge. My child’s friends are young enough that we actually need to give them a few more years to fully develop empathy. But we’re adults. We are smart enough and mature enough to use and further develop empathy in ourselves.  As we do, I think we’ll find it easier not to agree, but to collaborate and share with each other despite disagreeing. Could really use your help. 


Advancing Open Pedagogy

Safety first!

Amanda and I recently spent a few days on a Mississippi river boat with a lot of big Open Education brains thanks to the very generous Hewlett Foundation. Some of the discussion that happened on the boat was about next steps for our Open work and about being more transparent with each other about our development. This blog post is our crack at that.

As many are aware, at BCcampus we’ve been actively working on the creation, adaptation, and adoption of Open Textbooks throughout the BC Post Secondary System for a little over 3 years. To date we have 139 open textbooks in our collection, with 375 known adoptions, and a student savings of $1.4 million.

How we got here

While we continue to work on the supply side, and see that work as crucial to the long term success and sustainability of our work, we are also moving forward in expanding the open eco-system, which includes open educational practices, such as Open Pedagogy. You can see our previous musings on Open Pedagogy, in which we built on Dr. David Wiley’s work, here and here, and a set of Open Pedagogy examples we solicited from the community here.

We are trying to marry our work in content supply with powerful practices in teaching and learning that engage students in ways only open licenses afford us.

What follows are some activities we’re trying to use to evolve and expand open educational practices within British Columbia and elsewhere. We hope that by sharing our concrete action steps (#oerboat), we’ll stimulate yet more of a snowball effect in the teaching and learning community so we can all help move this development forward.

Open Pedagogy Workshop at the Festival of Learning


At the upcoming Festival of Learning (join us!!), the BCcampus Open Education Team will work with other members of the Open community in delivering an Open Pedagogy Workshop. This hands-on offering will provide participants with the opportunity to further understand what open pedagogy is. More importantly, they will apply Open Pedagogy in their own contexts by developing and/or redeveloping curriculum so that it makes use of open licensing to not only use OER rather than traditionally published materials, but to better engage students in authentic, learner centred activities. We envision, for example, an instructor bringing their course to this workshop and working back from learning outcomes to select OER as content and design activities that enable students to co-create knowledge that is then openly available to others to learn from.

OER Resource Grants

The latest BCcampus call for proposals includes the OER Resource Grants. This call is for groups within and between institutions (e.g. Teaching and Learning Centre, Library, OER Working Groups, Articulation Committee, Discipline/Department) in British Columbia to work together to:

  • Adapt Open Textbooks and other Open Educational Resources
  • Create new Open Educational Resources
  • Redesign courses using Open Educational Resources

By providing funding for these projects, we hope to stimulate curriculum design and redesign that makes use of OP principles and we have stated in the call that we will give preference to proposals that include working with instructional designers and that make use of open pedagogy.

More information about the grant can be found at our Current Call for Proposals page >> OER Resource Grant.

Ancillary Materials Development Grant

One area that is frequently seen as a barrier to OER adoption is the lack of quality ancillary resources to accompany the Open Textbooks. These materials are sometimes used in conjunction with a textbook to further engage and or/assess students in face-to-face and online environments. Some examples are test banks, presentations, and online homework systems. Our colleague Dr. David Wiley has recently shared his thoughts on this perceived scarcity and some of the ways in which Lumen Learning is helping resolve the problem through a collaborative sharing model.  At BCcampus, we also see the need to shoot this gap in order to remove yet another barrier to the adoption of OER.  In this call for ancillary materials development, we are using the same criteria I mentioned above, i.e. if a proposal to create an ancillary resource includes a plan to work with instructional designers and a commitment to design the materials in ways that take the best advantage of open licenses, that proposal will rank more highly in our evaluation process.

More information about the grant can be found at our Current Call for Proposals page >> Ancillary Materials Development Grant.

Open Instructional Design Community of Practice- the BC ID OER Group

Instructional Designers are crucial to the evolution of Open Educational Practices. In the next few months, we will begin to foster a community of BC Instructional Designers as we have done with the BCOER Librarians. The intention of this group is to not only advocate for open educational practices, but also to develop templates and strategies for implementing open pedagogy in course design and teaching practices. The more Instructional Designers are informed about Open Pedagogy, the more they can support each other, and the more they can support and advise faculty. I can hardly wait for this one to get started!

Workshop Development Sprint

On March 31 and April 1, 2016, the BCcampus Open Education Team will bring together representatives from a variety of BC Institutions for a two day workshop development sprint. The intention of the sprint is to develop workshop lesson templates for the following:

  1. Adoption of OER workshops for both Faculty and Staff (an online and F2F version)
  2. Adaptation of OER workshops for both Faculty and Staff (an online and F2F version).

Building on work developed and delivered by Lumen Learning and the Open Textbook Network, these workshops will include instruction on not only the necessary learning outcomes for using OER, but also for how to use them in the most pedagogically sound ways that take advantage of the affordances of open licenses. Once developed, these workshop templates will be available to the entire system and will also be used in delivering workshops across the BC Post Secondary System to enhance the adoption of OER and the inclusion of open educational practices.

Building Open Pedagogy into our Textbooks

GeographyCoverIn addition to what we plan on doing, BCcampus has also already done some work in this area. In 2013, we worked with Geography faculty from around the province in a sprint format to develop a new BC Geography textbook. This textbook not only includes some great content, but also learning activities for students that adhere to the tenets of Open Pedagogy. You can find that textbook here and the activities under Suggested Activities for each chapter.

Content AND Pedagogy

Before I leave this topic, I wanted to say a few words about the content vs. pedagogy narrative that has been bubbling up in the Open community over the last few months. At BCcampus we believe the two are not mutually exclusive. Content is crucial to the forward momentum we have in achieving our goals of making Open the default. We MUST have replacements to offer when faculty are looking to move to Open. That said, content must be developed by subject experts who also have expertise with teaching and learning, or are supported and advised by those who do. Coupling the OER supply chain with a commitment to making the best use of open licenses for effective pedagogy is where we all need to be.

Sunset on the Mississippi

Blowing up the LMS

Educause published an article recently about the future of the good old Learning Management System (insert eye roll here). Several of the notable thinkers in our space have had interesting things to say about the article, like Tony Bates, and others have already talked about the concept, like Jon Mott. If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you’ve got a lot of experience with this type of technology. Except for the very early parts of my career as an Instructional Designer, where we posted PDFs of course content to static websites for distance students, (which they also received in massive print packages), the LMS has been a constant for me. I’ve worked with home-grown systems, had the pleasure and pain of implementing Moodle at Royal Roads University back in 2006 when that software was at version 1.5, and over the years I experienced other systems as both a student and an ID. Suffice it to say that the LMS is the ultimate example of ubiquity in ed tech.

I’ve been talking with people for a few years about the future of the LMS. Blow it up into parts that are loosely connected, that’s always been the conversation. A SYSTEM imposes too much of a restrictive framework for the way we facilitate learning today (or the way we want people to facilitate learning, because let’s be realistic about what’s actually happening in institutions). It’s based on a teacher centric model, as the article says. Not to mention, when you start thinking about the way the culture of the designers and developers of systems gets imposed on the way the system works, you’re really locking people into a very particular way of learning. Fair enough, we need to do things differently.

Independently developed apps often have greater potential for better and more functionality than those that are part of a system. One of the challenges however, is going to be linking them together, particularly when we need to assess student learning and report out on that in a way that works for students, employers, future institutions the student might transfer to, etc. As the article states, full adherence to standards will be necessary for all the pieces to play nicely together. Standards. Harrumph. How’s that gone for us in the ed tech world so far? You all using SCORM regularly, are you?

I can’t conceive of what a distributed but loosely connected toolset might really look like when I read the article, especially when we live in a province that prevents the use of lots of apps due to the most restrictive privacy legislation in the country. The article is understandably vague about implementation.


Having spent many years working in a course development shop (and yes, I call it a shop purposely because by necessity, due to volume and limited resources, the work is often like a production line), I think about how we would operationalize this concept in practice. When we implemented Moodle at Royal Roads, the faculty and student training we undertook was a massive effort, and that effort continued with every upgrade. That said, because it was a SYSTEM, many of the tools within it work similarly, the buttons are in the same place on pages, it’s pretty easy to navigate once you’re in there, and there’s a common look and feel that reduces cognitive load on students already struggling to keep up with new concepts and ways of learning.

With a set of loosely connected tools, we would likely get more functionality and more ability to make choices about how learning happens, including enabling students to make their own choices about who contributes to their learning, how they represent their learning for formative and summative assessment and other forms of agency.

Now, don’t get me wrong in this next part, because I’m not saying we don’t need something new and that the LMS isn’t deeply flawed, but how would we, in practice, help faculty make pedagogically appropriate choices about which set of tools to provide to students for a given course? How do we overcome barriers of privacy, both with respect to the law and students and faculty who aren’t comfortable with a more open environment? How do we provide students the flexibility to make choices while supporting overworked faculty whose role is to facilitate learning, not to become technical experts on the huge variety of tools that may become available? How will an Instructional Designer working in a busy course development shop, who barely has time to actually design anything, both learn the new technologies and lead faculty through the process of choosing them, designing associated activities, linking the toolset together and providing a way of representing assessment that is meaningful both for the student and for institutional purposes?

As a person who has often been the implementer of concepts rather than the conceptualizer, I tend to lean towards the current realities, barriers and limitations. I want to help make this change happen, but without full acknowledgment of the challenges, we’ll never succeed.

Next Steps

We’ve had some success at BCcampus with linking applications to each other via APIs due to the magical stylings of the amazing Brad Payne. There’s lots of talk about federated identity and shared services in this province, and those conversations give me hope that we’re getting there.

But, we have a long way to go before we say good-bye to the LMS. In the meantime, there are a few ways of moving forward that would help:

  • I think it makes sense to stick with more open source tools like Moodle, because at least they can be customized to suit specific pedagogies and institutional policies, and can be modified to make the administrative aspects of teaching easier.
  • While asking leaders to provide a 50,000 foot view of the possibilities is necessary and useful, we also need to engage the practitioners. Instructional Designers, Educational Technologists, Faculty and Students should all be engaged in this conversation so we account for all the current challenges, as well as future needs and desires.

What about you? How do you see the future of the #LMS rolling out at your institution? What do you think the challenges are, and how will we overcome them?

The Open Education Global Conference

This post was originally published on the BCcampus blog.

Two Big Takeaways

As with so many conferences, the Open Education Consortium Conference in Banff last week was a wonderful opportunity to connect with colleagues, learn new things, confirm my thinking on some issues and make me question myself on others. It was particularly nice to meet the rest of the OEC board members and staff as I had only done so online so far. My head is swimming but for now, I’m going to focus on 2 big takeaways.

This is a global community, and there are global needs we should be thinking about.


Axel Meisen, Past President of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, gave an inspirational talk in which he described the need for OER in developing nations. In particular, he pointed to the example of the 20 million people around the world living in refugee camps who have not only a desire to learn, but also a lot of time on their hands in which they could, if they had the educational resources, be learning new skills that would help them when their living situations stabilized.

At OpenEd 2009 in Vancouver, I remember very distinctly the keynote given by Catherine Ngugi, Project Director for OER Africa. She pointed to the need for projects like ours and others to connect with projects like hers in our OER development thinking, so we’re not just creating resources and throwing them over the fence hoping they’re going to be useful to someone.

There was talk at the Conference about helping students work toward a competency I’ll refer to as “Global Citizenship”. This isn’t just a competency we should help students with. All of us could be more effective, particularly if our goal is adoption of our resources, if we thought more about our potential reach and how to meet needs in a global way while still serving our local communities.

How does this impact the work we’re doing at BCcampus? One of the first things that occurred to me is accessibility of our resources on mobile devices. In many developing nations, access to the Internet is severely limited, however this is often not the case with phones due to advances in mobile infrastructure. We’ve already done a lot of work on accessibility and many of the texts in our collection are available in formats that work well on mobile devices, but there is more we could do, particularly with rich media.

In addition, I’m betting that making sure our resources are easily editable so that they can be translated, reformatted and remixed would also go a long way. If you have other ideas about how we could, in a not too resource intensive way, make headway in this regard, we’d love to hear from you. I’m so proud of the work we’ve done so far on the Open Textbook Project, particularly our continued outreach work with the BC Post Secondary community. I’m hoping we can continue that while we take a broader view of the world as consumers of our work.

It’s time to think more about Open Educational Practices.

Many presenters at the conference talked about open practices as opposed to just objects, resources… essentially things. As some of you know, we’ve been moving in that direction at BCcampus in our exploratory work on Open Pedagogy. We’ve been following the work of Lumen Learning on this front, and we’ve been lucky enough to get a chance to take a look at their workshop frameworks. We’re also really looking forward to learning from our colleagues Dave Ernst and Sarah Cohen of the Open Textbook Network, who are also delivering workshops in this area. Approaching the use of OER with an instructional design lens brings two of my favourite things together so I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to this conversation.

There are so many opportunities to enrich and improve student learning experiences with OEP. We’re talking about student co-creation of content, faculty collaborations, and design that accommodates differences, is fluid, is flexible and is relevant. Stay tuned for more on this from BCcampus. We’ll be presenting about Open Pedagogy at the Open Textbook Summit May 28/29 (with Kim Thanos) and at the Educational Technology User Group Workshop in June.

It’s an inspiring time to be part of the Open movement!! If you want to access more of what happened in Banff, check out the Twitter stream with the #oeglobal hashtag.