Op-Ed: Open educational resources would make post-secondary costs more affordable

assorted books on wooden table

The follow article was published in the Edmonton Journal by myself, Chaten Jessel (University of Calgary) and Michael McNally (University of Alberta) highlighting the benefits of provincial government funding for open educational resources in Alberta. OER are highlighted as a strategy for the Alberta 2030 post-secondary plan. We argue that the current conservative government could easily resurrect the OER pilot project, which was initiated by the previous conservative government in 2014, and put aside a small annual grant to fund resource development in the province.

Article link: https://edmontonjournal.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-open-educational-resources-would-make-post-secondary-costs-more-affordable

In 2014, the Alberta government funded the provincial OER initiative — a pilot project designed to promote OER in the province. This program was eventually ended, but the Alberta OER archive is still available. Open textbook adoptions were projected to save students $5.5 million over five years.

The government could make meaningful progress on open education in Alberta over the next 18 months. Here are three steps the government could take.

– Reinstate the Alberta OER initiative by providing a modest annual grant: The money could be used to fund OER projects throughout the province. The majority of the funds should be distributed as small grants, to fund educators who want to develop OER materials for their classes. The remaining funds could be used to track student savings and prevent duplication by encouraging co-ordination and co-operation across the province.

– Recruit educators to volunteer on the Alberta OER initiative: The previous initiative comprised many volunteers from the post-secondary sector, and there are many skilled people across the province who would be willing to administer the grant and plan OER related events.

– Develop partnerships with other provinces: There are numerous OER initiatives going on in provinces like B.C., Ontario, and in Atlantic Canada. Through establishing partnerships, Alberta could benefit from the knowledge, expertise, and already made OER that other groups have.

Alberta OER Summit 2019 presentation: #aboerjc

The Alberta OER Summit took place on June 21st, 2019 at NorQuest College, Edmonton, AB. It was a wonderful meeting, and I’d like to thank Robert Lawson at NorQuest for organizing the event and for inviting me to speak about our provincial journal club project. We have a great OER community in Alberta and it’s events like this that keep the momentum going.

Below is a link to the presentation slides from Mount Royal University’s Institutional Repository.


OE Global 2018 Presentation Slides

Thank you to all who attended my session at OE Global 2018 in Delft, Netherlands. What a massive turnout! The room was packed and there were excellent questions from participants! I have posted my PowerPoint slides for you to view. If you have any questions about this research paper or the presentation, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Mount Royal University Institutional Repository Link: http://hdl.handle.net/11205/366

Spring conference tour 2017



This spring marked the last conference presentation, and it was a good one.

The Alberta Library Conference (ALC), which is held at the Jasper Park Lodge annually, is a beautiful venue. Attending the conference is as much a getaway as “work event,” which explains the number of smiling faces.

This year I was lucky enough to speak to academic, public, and some school librarians about the library’s role in the open education movement in Canada. Speaking at ALC is fun but it poses a challenge insofar that there librarians from various sectors. As a speaker, one wants to create something that’s meaningful to everyone.

I’ve addressed the topics of the open education movement and open educational resources several times. This particular presentation covered a lot of ground:

  • OER and the open education movement
  • OER policy in Western Canada (this is my primary research project)
  • A discussion about OER and the public library
  • Examples of ways the public library can support open education
  • Challenges to OER

About two-thirds of this presentation was me talking, but I tried something a little different this time around. First, before launching into my own ideas about the public library’s role in open education I posed two questions to the audience.

  1. Are there patrons, or specific groups, that would benefit from OER in any way?
  2. Can you think of an experience you had when you were trying to help a patron find some information where an OER might have been helpful

Literature about the public library and OER is greatly underrepresented, and I made specific mention of that in the presentation. The participants were extremely vocal and their examples were quite surprising.

Some identified patrons / groups included high-school students, those looking for career changes, second language learners, not-for-profit employees, internationally trained professionals, people with access barriers (health and otherwise), and people looking to start their own business. These examples give an idea of the variety of patrons the public library is expected to serve. While the participants admitted to using some good commercial products, there are still resources not available for purchase. OER can fill this void, but many of the participants were unaware of the repositories that exist. This underscores one of the primary shortfalls of OER – a general lack of awareness.

It is my presumption that public libraries are equally – if not better – suited to advancing OER awareness. They have broader needs than academic or special libraries, and they service a wider segment of the population.

Participants’ answer to the second questions was equally surprising. Responses included programming lesson plans for robotics and STEM, examples of in-depth reference questions (I presume for training purposes), resources for children to keep up with their school studies, homeschooling resources, and oral histories. Again, this demonstrates a wider need than academia which is largely focused on course plans and textbooks.

At the end of the talk, I encouraged participants to ask if there were resources they wanted that were not covered in the presentation. I also asked them where they’d like to see scholarship on this topic published. In response to the latter, one participant suggested a K-12 or teacher librarian publication that’s open access.

I think public libraries are largely underrepresented in the OER literature and, given the thoughtful feedback and positive reactions to this presentation, I’m considering what such a publication would look like.

Presentation slides