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University-wide network aims to increase awareness and support for open education resources

Student social action inspires UCalgary initiative to encourage collaboration, sharing of high-quality learning resources
March 29, 2017
University of Calgary students study in the Taylor Family Digital Library. A new university-wide network will help to raise awareness and adoption of open educational resources. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

University of Calgary students study in the Taylor Family Digital Library. A new university-wide network will help to raise awareness and adoption of open educational resources. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

The pursuit and open sharing of knowledge is at the heart of academic work. Open Education Week (March 27-31) celebrates the worldwide movement to collaboratively share and adapt educational resources to make that knowledge — and ideas for how it can be learned — openly available to learners and teachers.

At the University of Calgary, a significant number of individual academic staff are already engaged — often with their students — in creating or adapting valuable open educational resources (OER). In most universities, institutional infrastructure to enable this work is lagging behind practice. The University of Calgary is proud to mark Open Education Week 2017 by announcing the launch of a new initiative designed to provide institutional support for adopting and adapting open educational resources (OERs).

In response to a social action movement led by students concerned about both the cost and relevance of learning resources, a university-wide OER network involving students, teachers and staff developed a three-pronged strategy to increase awareness of and support for OER adoption. The implementation of that strategy will begin in July 2017, when an OER advocacy team consisting of Quazi Hassan, PhD, and Kyle O’Keefe, PhD, and PhD candidate Khan Rahaman, will undertake a year-long initiative to encourage the adoption of OERs.

“Our overall goal is to collaborate with stakeholders, raise awareness, and build an OER community of practice at the University of Calgary,” say members of the OER Advocacy team.

Their advocacy efforts will be integrated with two additional effective OER practices: providing support to help academic staff identify prospective OERs that match their course requirements, and providing peer reviews of these resources.

Sam Hossack, president of the Graduate Students’ Association, sums up the value of this initiative: “OERs are an incredibly important learning resource that encapsulate the new ways in which students learn and access learning in the 21st century. For graduate students, OERs are not only an excellent way to access knowledge, but also a great opportunity to be a part of developing that knowledge. It is very exciting to see the university incorporating all elements of the teaching and learning process into adopting OERs on campus.”

The undergraduate Students’ Union has been a strong advocate for OERs, and Alicia Lunz, current vice-president academic of the SU has been a driving force behind this initiative. “This pilot program is the culmination of a lot of hard work between Dr. Lynn Taylor and myself. The program will allow professors to enhance their knowledge of open education resources and in turn, make them more available to students. As I leave my role in the Students’ Union, I look forward to seeing the impact this will have on the student experience and on the financial barriers that persist in post-secondary education,” she says.

The University of Calgary OER initiative is about more than access to high-quality knowledge sources. It is about how, as an academic community, we develop, customize and enhance OERs to support learning in our local context.

Find out more about OERs here