Removing barriers: Three scholars talk about open education at SFUPublished by Caja Blomley
Hey, did you know that March 6th to 10th marks an international celebration of open education? Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources created with the intention of being freely available to users anywhere (SFU Library). In June of 2022, SFU announced their commitment to open education.
In celebration of open education at SFU, meet these three scholars who have taken their own approach to crafting and using Open Educational Resources at SFU. Read on to learn about their open education work and their thoughts on open education.
Meet three scholars who are contributing to open education at SFU
Tell us about an open education project you are currently working on or recently completed
Rina Garcia Chua (RGC): “Fragmenting the West Coast through Asian Canadian Poetry” examines how contemporary Asian Canadian poets relate their experiences of migration, culture, and the environment on the West Coast, specifically British Columbia. As a digital humanities and public-facing initiative, the radical countercartography of BC will function as a living website: after I embed the initial poems from known Asian Canadian Writers into the interactive map, eventually Asian Canadians and Asian im/migrants will be able to submit their own poems about British Columbia to the site through the Open Journal System (OJS). I will also work to have it affiliated as an BC Campus Open Educational Resources (OER) so that it will be readily available to not only scholars or academics, but to teachers and students in Canada.
Linda Morra (LM): In 2022, four graduate students from a Canadian literature course in the English Department at SFU developed their final papers into peer-reviewed submissions for the first volume of the Women Writers’ Archive—this online, open access journal focuses specifically on women writers in Canada and their archival caches at Simon Fraser University Rare Books and Special Collections.
Don Shipton (DS): Last Spring, my peers and I contributed essays to the first issue of Women Writers’ Archives, an open access course journal edited by Jack and Nancy Farley Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Prof. Linda Morra. During her appointment at SFU, Prof. Morra taught a course wherein each student conducted research on a text (or texts) from the archive of a prominent female writer whose works are now held in SFU’s Special Collections. This first issue of WWA preserves and makes available our research in these important literary collections.
What do you see as the main benefits and outcomes of this work?
RGC: My work has always been focused on community building among people who, like me, are immigrants from the Global South, IBPOC (Indigenous, Black, Persons of Colour), and disproportionately marginalized peoples. As such, the project is designed to reach a broad public such as scholars, academics, creatives, writers, students, and the larger Asian Canadian community in BC.
I am motivated by my vision for the project, which is to have young Asian immigrants or Asian Canadians use the website to find stories that echo theirs and, hopefully, be compelled to also write poetry that is truthful to their experiences as Asian Canadians in this region. This project can also be a valuable resource for teachers in BC and in Canada who may be searching for an Open Access archive that can add a more nuanced perspective when they teach Asian immigration and/or Asian history in BC.
LM: The benefits of this endeavor abound! Graduate students had the opportunity to experience the process of publishing an academic, peer-reviewed article, and all its pertinent stages (readers’ reports, copy-editing, proofs), while also interacting for the first time with archival materials about literary authors in Canada. Open access means that their peers—other students, for example, who cannot afford journal subscriptions—and colleagues have the opportunity to read about these authors more readily, to appreciate the level of maturity of the papers themselves, and to participate in a much broader dialogue: their audience is both more immediate and expanded.
DS: The majority of undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in ENGL 493/821 had not yet published in an academic journal. This project offered the opportunity for students to experience the iterative journey toward publication. Online submission, multiple stages of revision, blind peer-review, and final proofing were all incorporated into this project giving each of the students experience in these processes. And after all this work, because the journal is open access, it can actually be read by the public. Ultimately, the collections represented in this journal have strong ties to multiple communities within “Vancouver” and the West Coast. Making these papers available is one small way of offsetting the sometimes-extractive practices of research in archives.
What is the most important reason for incorporating open education into your work?
RGC: Open educational resources remove access barriers for teachers who often spend their personal time preparing for their lessons or seeking additional resources beyond what the school can offer them. Further, aside from the goal of education, I believe in the future of the digital humanities and public-facing work to democratize the way we archive, disseminate, and share information with each other. My project is for the public and for my community—it is not only for the academic institution. It has always been conceptualized to be shared open access, and to be a space where the Asian Canadian community can thrive by sustaining it with their own poetic counternarratives.
LM: Aside from the fact that open education ensures a wider audience, it also invites students to participate in more professional forms of engagement: they understand that anyone will be able to view their work and they will therefore strive for excellence and produce quality material.
DS: Accessing academic papers without current ties to a university can be both difficult and expensive, at times prohibitively so. Open access journals provide one means of diminishing such barriers and bringing this work to a wider public.
What would you like other instructors and students to know about open education opportunities and projects?
RGC: My experience so far in engaging with open education opportunities and projects has been deeply embedded in building and seeking out community. I am fortunate to be supported by the Digital Humanities Innovation Lab, the Department of English and the Global Asian Department, the Digital Publishing Librarian, the Copyright Officer, the many Asian Canadian poets I am currently working with, and the Filipinx community in BC. Open education projects may seem daunting and are often feasible only with a supportive environment (materially and professionally), but if the project’s goals are clear, there will be people who want to see you succeed. Importantly, do not be afraid to ask for help. There will be steps in the process that may be overwhelming, but we lean on the shoulders of those who have successfully initiated open education projects before us and, often, help is just a message or email away.
DS: Between Digital Publishing, the Digital Humanities Innovation Lab, and Special Collections, Simon Fraser University offers considerable resources in support of founding an open access journal, either professor- or student-led. Such projects can offer professional and pedagogical value to students and further extend academic insight to the communities with whom their research intersects.
More about Open Education Week
Interested in learning more about open education at SFU Library? Check out our Open Education Week 2023 page for upcoming events and details about how you can get involved!