Open education resources policy will make study materials more accessible

Members of the CSU and CapU Library staff are pushing for a more progressive learning style

Justin Scott // Managing Editor

The end of the semester, for most students, means selling and buying a new selection of textbooks for the spring – something Capilano Student Union (CSU) Vice President Academic Andrew Willis, Accessibility Justice Coordinator Andrew Dillman and library staff members Michel Castage and Debbie Schachter hope to change through an issues-based policy concerning Open Education Resources (OER). These are educational resources that are available for all students to use without any financial barriers coming between them. They come in a variety of forms from more traditional resources including textbooks and advanced media resources such as podcasts or documentaries.

Willis and Dillman plan to publish the issues-based policy before Dec. 15, and then continue working towards having greater inclusion of these resources at Capilano University. “What this issues- based policy will do is say, ‘this is where we’re at with OER as a university, this is where we should be going, this is what other institutions are doing and how can we turn this into an issue for the school to work around and incorporate into their curriculum?’,” said Willis, who had his first experience with OER as a first-year student at CapU.

Brian Ganter, a professor in the school’s English department, embraced OER years ago and opted to provide his students with the resources they needed for class rather than assigning them readings from expensive textbooks. “I went in and was like, ‘oh, I only have to buy the $10 Cap Guide to Writing’,” Willis recalled of English 100 with Ganter. “Then there was this website that he had called Gantercourses.net and you’d go there and everything was already organized and uploaded on Google Drive.”

Willis sees OER as a multi-faceted issue. The biggest motivation behind the CSU and Library’s push for the resources is the affordability and accessibility of textbooks. Many students spend hundreds of dollars every semester on books that they will only need for a few months, and then they will depreciate rapidly in value. When discussing the issue, Willis questioned who had the most to gain from the current system – the students or the institutions cashing in on books? Another reason Willis believes it’s important for CapU to start incorporating more OER into its course programming is that he sees it as the future of academia. He knows that there will be pushback from instructors, but he believes that it is important to stay progressive.

For Willis, who’s constantly trying to assess how education can be improved, OER is something he’s been curious about for a while. He attended a conference in May about OER and although he came away with a greater understanding of the concept, he found the event to be somewhat hypocritical. “It was literally PhDs loving each other a little bit too much,” he said. Although the conference was about a style of resource that promotes openness and accessibility, he found the attitude of many at the conference to be the exact opposite.

The issues-based policy will be the first step in a long process, but Willis and Dillman hope it will get the ball rolling. “I want to then bring this to the OER working committee with the University and say, okay, this is where we’re at, this is what students are really wanting, this is what we’re seeing is the pattern of learning, now we need to incorporate this into how instructors are offering their curriculum,” Willis explained. The road ahead may be a long one, but Willis hopes that one day every class at CapU will include OER. “I don’t think instructors should just move to the next page or chapter, I think they should leap into the future of learning.”

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