About

What is "Open"?

Open isn’t one thing, but rather a range of practices based on the idea that collaborating on the creation of and freely sharing knowledge, research, and learning materials benefits all of us.

Open Educational Practices (OEP) is a broad term, but aspects of OEP include:

Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely available and shareable, increasing the access to the materials. Accessible also means that materials should be available for those with differing abilities (e.g. use a screen reader) and for those who may not have access to higher-end technology, including high-speed internet.

The principles of open not only allow, but rely on the ability for anyone to create/modify, collaborate and share materials.

Examples of this include instructors collaborating on an adaption of an existing open textbook to better meet the needs of their students, and students engaging in the creation of learning materials to demonstrate their understanding of a concept.

Whoever creates the materials may decide on the license they wish to put on their materials, allowing them to dictate how the materials may be used, changed, and shared. In addition, choice means providing creators/adaptors of materials, including students, to determine the format for the materials that they create.

For example, for a particular assignment students may be given the option of writing a paper, updating a Wikipedia article, or creating a poster for presentation.

As most research is publicly funded, the data and results should, ideally, be made freely available to the public. In addition, such sharing of data and results allows for greater collaboration in addressing major issues facing the world such as COVID-19, environmental challenges, inequality, etc.

Reflecting on what has worked and what hasn’t in our teaching and learning allows us to learn from our successes and mistakes. Sharing those reflections with others through publications, blogs, and conversations allows others to learn from our experiences and the opportunity to offer us both support and potential solutions to problems.

Why Open (OEP)?

Video by Dr. Jorden Cummings, USask | Video preview image: Lane Community College, CC BY-NC 4.0  https://www.flickr.com/photos/lanecommunitycollege_oer/39174875302/in/photostream/

Open textbooks have been benefiting students at USask since at least the 2014-2015 academic year, saving them millions of dollars and increasing access to needed resources. Open educational resources, such as open textbooks, have also allowed for materials to be customized to meet local Saskatchewan needs.

As noted in the “What is open” section, open is about more than just OER. Open creates opportunities for instructors and students to collaborate with each other or their counterparts at other institutions, and allows students to engage in authentic learning experiences that they can relate to.

For example, open allows students to participate in the co-creation and sharing of text on current major issues (BLM / Indigenous lives, pandemic, climate change, struggling small businesses) in their learning, demonstrating that USask is engaged with addressing major issues shaping the world and giving students relevant career skills they can demonstrate for potential employers.

When students create materials to share with an authentic, public audience, they work harder and care more, increasing student engagement within the course and discipline. Students who understand why a discipline matters take more courses in that subject. 

The world needs a place where students can learn about, engage with, and even create knowledge and find solutions to the problems we face, from issues around such problems as COVID-19, climate change, and racial and other forms of inequality. The world also needs such a place to share that knowledge and those solutions outside of the institution’s walls so that others can benefit and build upon the work being done. The University of Saskatchewan is in a position to be that place, to be the university the world needs.

Areas of Open Educational Practices

OEP includes a number of areas listed below which are related to teaching and learning, as well as research. Click the titles to view additional resources and information.

Open Educational Resources (OER), such as open textbooks are freely available and can be modified to meet local needs. These materials carry an open license that allow them to be adapted and /or combined with other resources, allowing instructors to control the content, instead of an outside publisher.

More than a dozen open textbooks and ancillary resources such as test banks, have been created or adapted at USask, with dozens more adopted for use in courses. Since the 2014-2015 academic year, USask students have saved more than $2.9 million from the use of these materials instead of commercial textbooks.

OER can be found through our own open textbook library or through outside catalogues of open textbooks and ancillary resources.

 

Open pedagogy takes OER as a jumping-off point to rethink the relationship between teachers, students and knowledge. When teachers and students are able to modify their own textbooks and learning materials, we shift the student emphasis toward contribution to knowledge rather than simple consumption of knowledge.

Teachers and students become learners together, and content becomes a dynamic, always changing category with which we engage rather than a stable set of facts to be mastered. (DeRosa)

USask students have contributed to textbooks and other projects that allowed them share the knowledge they gain with others. For more on types of project and other considerations for integrating open pedagogy into your courses, please see this post.

Open Access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the copyright holder.

Publishing in either an OA journal or institutional repository is a requirement of Tri-Agency funding.

The University of Saskatchewan has an institutional repository, Harvest, and is home to several open access journals.

In addition to research conducted by faculty and graduate students, undergraduate research, including through the First Year Research Experience (FYRE) program is being conducted in a growing number of courses across the U of S, with results being shared through poster sessions, on open websites, and in the open access Undergraduate Research Journal (USURJ). Undergraduate research shared publicly allows for more than just the student researchers to learn from it, which is why the Undergraduate Research Initiative has begun promoting the open sharing of undergraduate research at the U of S.

Educators have much to learn from one another. This may come in the form of papers and presentations relating to aspects of teaching and learning in your discipline, including the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), but also through less formal means. Publicly sharing reflections on what you’re learning through teaching, including what has gone well, and what you would like to do differently in the future, through blog posts, podcasts, or other non-peer reviewed platforms can be useful to yourself and others. While others may glean ideas from a way that you teach, you may receive feedback that can help you solve roadblocks you experience in your courses.

OEP and Remote Teaching

While students benefit from the use of open educational resources and open pedagogy in on-campus classes, those benefits may only increase during times of required remote teaching and learning.

Open textbooks are free and easier to access than commercial textbooks. Open pedagogy that relates to current issues can help students feel like they’re contributing and connecting, helping to alleviate feelings of helplessness and isolation.

 

Funding

Funding is available to support two types of open educational practices. If you have questions or require assistance with an application, please email Heather Ross or call 306-966-5327.

Open Educational Resource Funding

This funding can go towards the creation, adaption, or adoption of an open educational resources such as an open textbook and ancillary resources including a test bank.

For OER that students in a class will be creating or contributing to, please see the open pedagogy proposal information below.

Open Pedagogy Funding

This funding can go to support students engaging in the creation or adaption of open resources. This may include funding a student not in the course to assist with the project, for example, formatting materials or assisting with technology.

Homework Systems

Homework systems are online tools that can grade questions asked to students as homework, track formative practice, or assess examinations. They are most useful in classes where students are problem solving (i.e. math, chemistry) and need immediate feedback about if they have done the process correctly. They are also commonly used to test recall.

Homework systems can be commercial, student-pay systems or non-commercial (free) systems. For a comparison of the pros and cons of commercial systems, as well as a list of alternatives, please follow the link below.

Tools

USask has three platforms that may assist you in engaging with open educational practices:

Canvas Commons

If you’re teaching courses through Canvas, you can use the Canvas Commons to find openly licensed material and to share your work and student work (with their approval) for others to use and build upon. For more information, contact movetocanvas@usask.ca

Wordpress

The Wordpress blogging tool is available for instructor and student use. This can be a good place for you and /or students to share reflections on teaching and learning, as well as newly created or adapted work related to courses or programs of study. Get started here.

Pressbooks

Pressbooks is where most of our open textbooks are created and adapted. If you’re interested in setting up an account, email openpress_support@usask.ca


 

Getting Help

If you have questions about open educational practices (OEP) or need help finding open educational resources (OER) you can contact: