Open Education Week brings students and professors together

By in News

From Mar. 27 to 31, the University of Saskatchewan hosted its second Open Education Week, holding many sessions on how Open Educational Resources can benefit students and how they can be used in an educational community, allowing professors and students to access and share these resources as a team.

Open Education Week is not only a local event but is also a part of a global event that focuses on students and professors sharing their own knowledge. According to Heather Ross, an educational developer at the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning, OER give students the chance to work with professors on modifying textbooks and learning materials, shifting the focus from what students actually know to what the education system thinks students know, which in turn creates an open pedagogy.

Ross shares her thoughts on the international perspective of the event.

“Educational institutions all over the world hold sessions to help share information and ideas about Open Educational Resources and how to integrate them into teaching and learning with instructors, students and administrators,” Ross said, in an email to the Sheaf.

Ross explains that Open Education Week is not possible without the help of students and instructors willing to use OER. She also emphasizes the importance of the event.

“Sessions and publicity about OER that happen [throughout] Open Education Week, and also throughout the year, help to raise awareness about the possibilities that come with using OER,” Ross said. “[Students] will see cost savings. They will see changes in types of assessments, built around using OER and having students contribute to that OER, that some instructors are already starting to use and that instructors may hear about during Open Education Week.”

Karla Panchuk, a geological sciences professor, shares how she uses OER within the courses she teaches and how she views these resources in comparison to textbooks.

“My main reason for using an open textbook rather than a commercial one is to make sure students will be able to afford the textbook for the course. Secondary reasons are that it’s easy to update when new scientific discoveries are made, I can be sure it has the necessary content, and errors can be fixed immediately,” Panchuk said, in an email to the Sheaf.

Panchuk explains that Open Education Week not only allows instructors to reflect on the cost of textbooks, but it also allows students to use a cost-effective solution. She also believes that making OER available for use all over campus is important to professors using these resources.

“I’ve been working on adapting an open textbook for my physical geology courses, Geology 108 and 121,” Panchuk said. “I’ve been using my open textbook for a course at St. Peter’s College, but once we’ve [completed] the new U of S edition, it will be used more widely on campus. Open textbooks have low-restriction Creative Commons licenses. The best-case scenario is that they can be used by anyone in any way as long as the person who made them is recognized.”

According to Ross, this new program will provide students with textbooks that are not only free but also without any legality issues restricting their access.

Open Education - Jeremy Britz

“This not only saves students money, but improves access to resources and opens up new opportunities for students to engage with the materials, because there aren’t any copyright restrictions,” Ross said.

Because of events like Open Education Week, the U of S has seen significant growth in the use of OER, and Ross hopes to continue to see it rise.

“The U of S has come a long way in a pretty short time on this front. In January 2015, we only had about 300 students benefiting from the use of OER instead of commercial textbooks. This academic year, that number is more than 2,700, and we expect significant growth for the next academic year as well.”

Lindsay Rose

Photo: Jeremy Britz / Photo Editor