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SFU's new commitment to open education

Published by Alison Moore
In June 2022, SFU Senate endorsed a statement in support of open educational resources (OER) and open education more broadly, developed by SFU Library with support from the OER Working Group and the Senate Committee on University Teaching and Learning (SCUTL). 

An interview with Hope Power, Teaching and Learning Librarian at SFU

Below is a conversation with Hope Power, Teaching and Learning Librarian at SFU and the July 2022 recipient of the BCcampus Award for Excellence in Open Education, on the ramifications of this commitment to open education.

What does it mean in the larger context of open scholarship? Is now the time for open education and OER?

Open scholarship is defined by SFU Library as an "approach and practice to the creation and dissemination of knowledge that values inclusion, social impact, accessibility, and participation," and encompasses a number of sub-domains including open education, open access, open data, open science and more. Open education, more specifically, seeks to advance affordable, accessible and flexible learning through the development and use of open educational resources (OER) and open pedagogy.
Open educational resources (OER) are teaching and learning resources created with the intention of being freely accessible to all. Most are developed by expert educators, and are covered by Creative Commons (CC) licenses that permit users to reuse, remix, and share their content. 
Open pedagogy, also known as open educational practices (OEP), refers to a set of innovative teaching approaches and methods made possible through the use of OER in the classroom. In practice, this involves designing learning experiences that empower students to make meaningful contributions to public knowledge.
In the past few years, addressing ongoing textbook affordability and accessibility issues have taken on a new urgency due to the impact of Covid-19 on post-secondary education. In Spring 2021, the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) launched a petition and video campaign calling on SFU administration to prioritize support for OER initiatives. And as online and blended modes of instruction continue to be prioritized as an outcome of SFU's Flexible Education Initiative and due to the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, increasing needs and opportunities to further support SFU instructors with using and developing OER have been clearly highlighted. In this context, SFU Senate's recent endrosement of a statement in support of OER and open education speaks to the university's timely commitment to leading and advancing in this area.

For students, the use of open textbooks and other OER helps to reduce financial barriers to learning and academic success.

Hope Power


Could you provide some context about this development, at SFU and broader, at other post secondary institutions in BC, or Canada?

In recent years, open education has been steadily gaining momentum at at post-secondary institutions across Canada; since 2012, for example, the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training has invested significant funding in BC Open Education initiatives, and tasked BCcampus with leading and supporting capacity-building in this area.
For students, the use of open textbooks and other OER helps to reduce financial barriers to learning and academic success; for example, see this 2021 article on an open textbook adoption by a SFU Mathematics instructor that saves students over $400,000 annually.
For instructors, using OER also enables flexible design and delivery of high-quality, online course materials that can be easily customized to support key educational goals and student learning needs. In addition, the development and use of OER and open pedagogy encourages new kinds of teaching and learning collaborations among faculty, students, library staff, and across institutions.

SFU Senate's endorsement of this statement represents a major milestone for open practitioners here at SFU.

Hope Power

What does this mean in terms of the SFU faculty and students' involvement and engagement with the OER and open education in general?

SFU Senate's endorsement of this statement represents a major milestone for open practitioners here at SFU. This development shines a spotlight on some of the amazing open education work already happening on campus; for example, this spring the Institute for the Study of Teaching & Learning in the Disciples ISTLD launched a new Open Education Grants (OEG) program pilot in collaboration with the Library and the Centre for Educational Excellence (CEE) to support faculty members with exploring and integrating OER and open pedagogy into their classrooms, as well as with assessing the impact of these projects on teaching and learning.
In addition, this development represents some new momentum for campus stakeholders to work together to develop a shared vision and action plan for advancing open education further. Planning is currently underway, for example, to establish a new advisory group to set high-level direction for open education at SFU going forward. Looking to the future, this represents an opportunity to strengthen connections and increase engagement in this area across the SFU community.

Thank you for your time Hope, for sharing your insights, and for the instrumental role you've played in this initiative!

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