Open Education

Created from the words in this blog post:
Created from the words in this blog post:




Introduction: open education

Open education refers to teaching and learning activities and materials that are “open.” This can mean those that are made available free of cost (such as with MOOCs, or Massive, Open, Online Courses), but many also insist that to be “open,” activities and materials must be licensed to allow what David Wiley calls the “5 R’s”: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute. See this page for explanation of the 5 R’s: One frequently-used way to allow such activities is to use a Creative Commons License. The UBC Copyright office has a nice discussion of Creative Commons licenses, here: For more information on open education, please see this blog post (which is copied and pasted from a teaching award application I submitted):

In what follows I begin by discussing my own open educational activities in my courses at UBC, because these have led me to become a leader in open education at UBC and beyond.


Open Educational resources

UNESCO OER logo by Jonathas Mello, licensed CC BY 3.0
UNESCO OER logo by Jonathas Mello, licensed CC BY 3.0

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that are either in the public domain or openly licensed (such as with a Creative Commons license). UNESCO defines OER this way:

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation. (

In my courses I use and create openly licensed teaching materials, and I often ask students to share some of their work publicly as well. All of my course websites are public, and all of my teaching materials on them are openly licensed. Here are the public course websites I have created so far:

All of my assignments for these courses, as well as lecture notes, presentation slides, and more are made available and licensed with a Creative Commons license on those sites.

In addition, we record most of the lectures in one of the Arts One teaching teams; you can see all of those on the Arts One Open site (under “lectures and podcasts”): You can see those just by me here:

I have also posted some of my teaching materials to MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching), a repository of teaching materials for anyone to search and use. You can see what I have added to this collection so far on my profile: (click on “contributions” on the right). Materials on MERLOT can go through a peer review process, which is helpful for others to see that the materials are of good quality. Since such peer reviews can only happen if there are people engaging in them, I am also volunteering to be a peer reviewer for MERLOT. I have registered for an upcoming training session for peer reviewers, and will be doing reviews of teaching materials after that.

I have asked students to post some of their work publicly as well, though they always have the option to post under pseudonyms or to post privately, just to me and the T.A. I have not asked the students to give their own work open licenses (though I am thinking of making this an option in the future). See my scholarly teaching statement, section on the “student as producer”model, for more information on what sorts of educational resources students are creating in my courses.

I also use educational resources from around the web in my Philosophy courses. There are quite a few high-quality philosophy resources available on the web, and I include many of these in my courses in order to: (1) save students money, (2) give them multiple modes of approach for philosophical ideas and arguments (text, audio, video, etc.), and (3) provide several perspectives outside of my own on that material. In my recent Introduction to Philosophy and Moral Theory courses, I have assigned readings from online resources such as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy ( and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (, for which the articles are peer reviewed just as in academic journals. I have also given as “optional” resources various podcasts and videos on philosophy.

Finally, I consider my blog on teaching and learning an open educational resource: In it I discuss many topics in teaching and learning and open education, and I post my presentations and my notes on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning research articles as well. It can therefore serve as a resource for others on teaching and learning.


Screen shot of the title page of my blog,  You're the Teacher
Screen shot of the title page of my blog, You’re the Teacher


Open Textbooks

BCcampus Open Textbooks Brochures, Flickr photo by BCcampus News,, licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
BCcampus Open Textbooks Brochures, Flickr photo by BCcampus News,, licensed CC BY-SA 2.0. Original image cropped.

An “open textbook” is a textbook that has an open license and that is easily adapted by instructors for their own particular purposes and teaching contexts. See, e.g., the BCcampus website on open textbooks: I have not yet used an open textbook in my courses, as I haven’t found one that fits my needs; instead, I have combined various OER in my courses rather than assigning one open textbook.

I have contributed to the effort to increase the number of open textbooks by reviewing an open textbook on Ethics in Law Enforcement: I gave extensive comments as this book was being written, making a significant contribution to the finished product.

I am also actively searching for funding for an open textbook for Introduction to Philosophy courses, for which I would write one or two chapters and solicit chapters from other authors. The BCcampus Open Textbook program has no more funding for new textbooks, but I am in consultations with several people in other organizations to see if I can get funding for this project. When I do, I will reach out to authors.


Open Textbooks Faculty Fellowship

My work in open education has been recognized through the awarding of a BCcampus Open Textbooks Faculty Fellowship from September 2014-September 2015. A brief overview of this fellowship can be found in this BCcampus news item: Three faculty members in BC received these fellowships (see the previous link for the other two), which comes with a monetary award as well as particular responsibilities.

As Open Textbook Faculty Fellows, we are engaging in work in three areas:

Slide from a recent presentation on our research.
Slide from a recent presentation on our research.
  • Research: so far, we have collaborated on a survey of faculty use of and attitudes towards OER and open textbooks. See the SoTL page for information on this project. During the Summer of 2015 we are writing a report about the results of this survey, to which we will add recommendations for institutions to promote the use and creation of open educational resources, including open textbooks. We are also in consultation with a faculty member from another institution to do research on the drivers for faculty adoption, creation and revision of OER and open textbooks at different types of higher education institutions (research-focused universities, teaching-focused universities, skills and trades institutions, and more). See the publications and presentations page for information about dissemination of our research so far.
  • Awareness and advocacy: We have presented about OER and open textbooks at our institutions, at conferences, and elsewhere (see “publications and presentations” for my presentations on OER and open textbooks). I am also working with students from UBC and a nearby institution, Simon Fraser University, to get students involved in raising awareness about OER and open textbooks, hopefully leading to greater faculty adoption, creation and revision. We have an upcoming presentation on student-faculty collaboration on awareness and advocacy re: OER, at the Open Education Conference in Vancouver in November 2015 (see “publications and presentations“).
  • Feedback on the open textbook program: We are also sometimes asked to give feedback on various aspects of BCcampus’ Open Textbook Program (, from a faculty perspective.

Open Online Game: #TvsZ

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 4.53.44 PM
Screen shot from the current #TvsZ site

I have been part of the design and facilitation team for an open online game called #TvsZ for the last three iterations of this game (it runs about twice a year, and has had seven iterations so far). Here is the website for the most recent iteration:

This is a game played on several online platforms over the course of several days. The main action occurs on Twitter, but participants also create blog posts, images, videos, collaborative poems and more. During the game participants organize themselves into teams and create a story together, across national and cultural boundaries. In an abstract for a recent presentation, we described the game this way:

 This game builds digital literacy through creating avenues for participants to engage in international collaboration, to compose for a visible and active audience, and to craft personal learning networks. It is a dynamic experience for engaging students in transmedia storytelling and narrative collaboration, and it can democratize the classroom by blurring the line between teacher and student. The game design itself is democratized through emergent rules: players re-shape the rules and revise the narrative as the game unfolds. (

To see an example of one of the collaborative documents we have used for suggesting new rules during the game, see here:

Several people have used #TvsZ in their courses (though I have not done so yet). They use it to help their students learn:

  • digital literacy: the game requires that you learn how to use Twitter and collaborative documents, that you learn how to create a short video, that you have a blog and learn how to post images and videos, among other things)
  • collaborative fictional narrative creation: during the game the participants create an ongoing story
  • teamwork, including with people you don’t know and have never met face-to-face
  • digital citizenship: students practice effective and respectful online communication, recognize and respect privacy concerns, consider and become prepared for the possibility of online bullying

There have been two versions of the game so far. The first one was organized around a zombie apocalypse (thus, the original name of the game was “Twitter vs. Zombies”). One could get “bitten” on Twitter and turned into a zombie, or could dodge the bite, or save others from bites. But the more interesting parts of the game were when participants could protect themselves for an hour or more by writing blog posts, or uploading images or videos (and the zombies could sometimes overrun protection zones with similar artifacts as well). Here is the web page for #TvsZ 3.0, which was a zombie version:

edublog_awards_social_network-1xcyp15We created a new version for #TvsZ 5.0 and 6.0, where there are no zombies but rather an unidentified apocalypse scenario and participants have to get together in teams to try to survive it and figure out what happened. This book is a collection of artifacts created during #TvsZ 6.0, which gives you a sense of what the participants did in that game:

#TvsZ was a finalist for an Edublog Award, Best Educational Use of a Social Network, 2014:

I was a co-presenter for two presentations on #TvsZ at a recent conference, and we have another presentation on it upcoming in October, 2015. See the publications and presentations page.


Evidence of impact

Invited talks

Because of my work in open education, I was invited to do the following talks:


Beyond UBC

  • Invited to be “interviewed” during a Twitter chat for an open online course called “Tinker, Make and Learn,” February, 2015. I was invited to speak about the digital storytelling objects I have made over the last few years (images, videos, podcasts, animated gifs, and more). Tweets from this “Twitterview” can be found here:


Interview by the Open Policy Network

Screen shot from the Open Policy Network website
Screen shot from the Open Policy Network website

Because of my research on UBC’s Policy 81, which addresses sharing of teaching materials by faculty members at the university (see the SoTL page for more information), I was invited to be interviewed by Jenni Hayman of the Open Policy Network. You can see the video of the interview here:


Letters of recommendation

I have received two letters of recommendation about my leadership in Open Education, for two awards that unfortunately I did not receive.

In Fall 2014 I applied for the 2015 Institute for Open Leadership, run by the Open Policy Network. Fellows with the Institute work on awareness and advocacy around openly licensed materials in their sector, and propose and work to implement policy changes as well. My application was not successful, but I am including in the dossier a letter of recommendation for my application written by the open education strategist at the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology at UBC. Please see the password-protected appendix.

In Spring of 2015 I applied for the STLHE Brightspace Innovation in Teaching and Learning Award, after being encouraged to do so by the Academic Director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology at UBC. My application focused on my work in open education. I did not receive the award, but the letter of recommendation included with the application talks about my leadership in open education. Please see the password-protected appendix.


Lecture notes

I post my lecture slides on the Slideshare site, where they can be found more easily by others than if I only have them on my course websites:

As of July, 2015, the slides with the most views are:Slide1

The slides with the most downloads are:


In one of the teaching teams in Arts One, we have recorded all our lectures for the past few years. By posting these on YouTube as well as on the Arts One Open site we can get useful data about views. Our Arts One Open YouTube channel is here:

My lectures in Arts One with the highest number of views are:

Screen shot from one of my videos on the Trolley Problem
Screen shot from one of my videos on the Trolley Problem

I also post some video lectures in my Philosophy courses; so far I have some videos of me talking over slides, and also three videos on “the trolley problem” that I created for a “blended” (online and face-to-face) section of my Introduction to Philosophy course: (the capital letters in this URL are required)

You can see all my videos related to teaching here:


As of July 2015 the videos from my Philosophy courses with the most views are:


I started tracking data on my blog in early February, 2015 with Google Analytics, and since then I have had:

  • over 6,000 sessions on the site (a “session” counts any time someone lands on any page in the site)
  • almost 8,000 views of pages by over 5,000 visitors (includes both new and returning visitors; 89% of those are new)
  • visitors from North America, the UK, Australia, India, Japan, China, Russia and the Philippines

Open education in other sections of this dossier

I have facilitated several open online courses so far: see the teaching and learning workshops facilitated page.

I have numerous invited talks, conference presentations, and other presentations on open education. See the publications and presentations page.