The burden Canadian Copyright law is placing on higher ed institutions

I attended the annual BCNet conference in Vancouver yesterday where I was presenting on the BC Open Textbook Project (my slides).

While I was there I sat in on a session title the Copyright Modernization Act presented by Larry Carson, Associate Director, Information Security Management (UBC), Eric van Wiltenburg, Manager, Information Security Office (UVic), Dave Kubert IT Security Officer (UNBC), and Michal Jaworski, Legal Counsel (UBC). The session focused on how higher ed institutions have been responding to a new clause in the Canadian copyright act that came into effect in January of this year, the “Notice and Notice” provision .

In essence, the notice and notice provision now gives copyright holders a mechanism to track down suspected copyright infringement by putting the onus on ISP’s and other intermediaries (like post-secondary institutions) to contact suspected copyright offenders. Barry Sookman has a nice, succinct post describing the new regulation.

The regime permits copyright owners to send notices to internet service providers and other internet intermediaries claiming infringement of copyright. The notices must be passed on by these service providers to their users. Because there are no regulations, the notices must be processed and passed on by the internet intermediaries without any fees payable by copyright owners.

As illustrated in the session, this new provision is putting a large burden onto the shoulders of institutions that now have to track and contact potential copyright offenders on their network.

All the institutions made it clear that the only information that copyright holders have to go on is an IP address. How the copyright holders are obtaining the potential infringing IP addresses is unclear to me, but it is happening. Which explains to me why this has become a security issue at most institutions since they are often the first point of contact when any odd IP related activity comes up.

Once the copyright holder contacts the institution with an IP address that they alleged is being used to illegally download their material, the institution then has an obligation to match the IP with a person and send that person a notice saying…well, that is one of the first problems institutions are struggling with. What to actually say in their notice. Institutions are grappling with this. Is it simply a notice to the alleged offender that this activity has been noticed on the network, or does the notice go further and ask them to stop? Institutions are (rightly so) hesitant to become the police and be forced into a role where they then become the enforcers of the legislation.

This process is placing a huge administrative burden on institutions as they have been spending a large amount of time and resources dealing with these notices. One of the panel participants reported their institution was receiving up to 10 notices per day, with the others stating that they were dealing with hundreds of these notices each month. Hence the desire to come up with technical processes to automate the routine.

Specifically, the administrative burden looks like this.

First, when the institution receives a notice from a copyright holder, the notice may not come from the actual copyright holder, but instead from a third party contracted by the copyright holder to act on their behalf. So the first step for the institution is to try and figure out if the notice request they receive is, in fact, legitimate. And, early on when the regulation came into effect, there were many non-legitimate requests being sent to Canadians demanding that they pay a fine for alleged copyright infringement (and who knows how many Canadians actually did this when there was no need to). So, the first task is figuring out who is actually contacting them and whether they have the authority to act on behalf of the actual copyright holder.

Second, the institution then needs to match the IP address with a person to send the notice to. Not an easy task, especially if you are using NAT. Another time consuming task when you are dealing with hundreds of requests a month.

There is a big stick for institutions that don’t forward notices to an offending party. If an institution fails to forward a request, then the institution can be held liable for the alleged copyright infringement even if there is no further proof that copyright infringement has occurred. This put an incredible onus on the institution to comply with forwarding notices as it presumes their guilt that a copyright infringement has occurred, and makes the institution responsible for the presumed offense.

Finally (at the risk of burying the lede here, depending on what role you have at an institution), one of the more ridiculous aspects of the “notice and notice” system is that faculty and academic researchers have been receiving these notices for posting their own journal articles and published research online. Imagine posting your journal article on your institutional website (or, perhaps on an open course where you might want your students to have access to the research for teaching and learning purposes) and you receive a “notice” from your own institution saying that you have been reported as a potential copyright thief? I can’t imagine that is a good feeling. There seems to me to be a real risk that this type of notification from your own institution, regardless of how benign or moderate the wording may be, could lead to internal divisiveness between faculty and administration (a point that was touched on briefly in the session).

Now, there is always the new fair dealing clause that you could use in your defense. But the onus is then on you to defend your use of your own work in response to the notice. There again is a presumption of guilt for a perfectly legitimate use of the material (and if you are a faculty or researcher where this type of scenario has happened to you, I would love to hear whether this paragraph rings true to with your own experience).

Using technology to fix bad legislation, while understandable given the circumstances, does feel like a coping mechanism; one that is putting a large administrative cost onto the backs of the institutions. It forces them to act as an intermediary on hundreds of alleged infractions or else risk being fined over suspected infringements. The legislation also casts such a wide net that legitimate uses of copyright material are being tagged as malicious, forcing faculty and researchers to prove that their use is legitimate. All this not only sucks up time and resources, but puts the institution in the position of being the one to cast a cold copyright chill down the backs of its staff, students and faculty.


Week 17 In Review: The #oeglobal Edition

The view

The view for much of my week in Banff, Alberta, where I attended the annual Open Education Global conference sponsored by the Open Education Consortium. This was my first time at the conference and a very enjoyable, informative conference it was. Here are some of my personal memories of the conference.

While it was a global conference, there were many more people from our local network than I expected, which was fantastic. I had some great discussions with our colleagues from the Alberta OER project, Washington State and Oregon.

Notable sessions included a session from BC’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University where Salvador Ferraras and Thomas Carey outlined how open education fits in the institutions strategic plan. It was notable because here were two high level administrators from the institution articulating an institutional open policy that goes beyond OER and Open Access and attempts to embed open practices within the institution. Some very forward, strategic institutional thinking about open education happening at Kwantlen. I knew that Kwantlen was into open, but I don’t think I realized just how deeply it was being embedded in the culture there until I saw the presentation. The paper.

I also enjoyed the session from Paul Stacey on large scale national OER initiatives.  I’ve been struggling trying to do some big picture conceptualization and come up with a plan for system wide open initiatives. Paul’s framework was like manna as it provides a solid starting point for me to do both some big picture thinking, and articulate that big picture to a large system.

Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation, delivered the final day keynote and was fantastic (Stephen Downes blogged the keynote), talking about the threats to the open web and the increasing power and control that a handful of digital corporations (the Apple, Google, Facebooks of the world) have over our lives. I think Mozilla has done an excellent job of both grounding and articulating their learning model.  I’ve been loosely connected to Mozilla Webmaker initiatives here in Victoria for a few years, and have been watching with interest as Mozilla increases their informal learning activities around web literacy.  The thing that  connected a lot of dots with how Mozilla works (at least in their webmaker and teaching & learning efforts) was when Mark talked about his punk background. You can see that punk ethos reflected in both the D.I.Y. ethos of their webmaker initiatives, and the wider social and political anti-oligarchy perspective that influences Mozilla’s proactive work on open. Mark hit all the right notes for me, including a nod to both McLuhan and the other, often forgotten Canadian media theorist Harold Innis. 

Was honoured to have the BC Open Textbook project recognized with an award of excellence by the consortium. But the winning project that really impressed me was Tony Coughlan‘s CYP (Children and Youth Programs) project, which is a repository/referatory of  open resources for teachers and trainers working in that field. What is so fantastic is that Tony created it for about $30. $30! And he receives thousands of hits from around the world. This is such a wonderfully illustrative example of how powerful – and important – a simple, well curated, well targeted collection of open resources can be to educators. And it was done by one smart person using a WordPress site. For $30. We need more projects like this.

As always, people are the heart of any conference and this one was no different. I especially appreciated having some one on one time with David Wiley over lunch where we talked about the OpenEd conference in Vancouver this fall,and strengthening the relationship between what Lumen is doing and the work we are doing at BCcampus. One of the items we talked about was our shared use of PressBooks (which Lumen has rebranded as Candela for their purposes) and how we can work closer together in development. Dave Ernst from University of Minnesota was also there (and the open textbook network he has been working on that came out of his stint at the Institute for Open Leadership looks like it is taking off) , and the three of us discussed the possibilities of having some kind of PressBooks specific event, like a code sprint with our developers, around the open textbook summit in May. We have agreed that, to be effective, we need to find a project that benefits all three of us, and I have pitched the idea of extending the API’s that Brad has been working on to see if we can created this federated model of PB instances where we can each search and copy content from our respective instances into our own instances. Conceptually, Brad has done the groundwork to enable this and I think that if we can make this happen it would be a good win for all of us. But this is something that is still in the very nascent stages, and a few things have to fall in place before we can make this happen at the summit. A more likely timeline might be OpenEd in November. Where the three of us have agreed to work on immediately is sharing the load in getting existing open textbooks that are in the commons into PressBooks. We all have people who are on deck to work on converting existing open textbooks into Pressbooks, and it makes sense that we don’t duplicate our efforts. So, we are sharing lists and roadmaps on making this happen over the next 6 months or so, greatly increasing the number of titles we collectively have in the platform.

Also very much enjoyed spending some time watching hockey and hiking mountains with Martin Weller from the Open University & the OER Research Hub. We have been working with the Hub on a research project for the past year, but I’ve followed and admired Martin’s work virtually for many years (and if you haven’t yet read The Battle for Open, it is a wonderful read that encapsulates so many of the issues we in open education are grappling with at the moment), so to have the opportunity to spend some time hanging with Martin was wonderful after connecting in virtual spaces for all these years.

Also great to again see and hang out with Richard Sebastian from Virginia Community Colleges (heart of Z Degree land), Heather Ross from USask, Una Daly from CCCOER, Barb Illowsky (who brought a game that has been developed by their librarians to help spread the word about student textbook costs – very clever!), David Porter, Paul Stacey, Danielle Paradis (who did a bang up presentation on her Masters research), Irwin DeVries (busy videotaping a whole bunch of early open education advocates for a project he is doing with UVic’s Valerie Irvine), Rob and Bea from the Hub, and a whole host of others that, as soon as you start making a list like this, you inadvertently and unintentionally leave off as conference blur sets in.

Finally, really enjoyed meeting & spending some time with Marc Singer from Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey. Marc and I were seated next to each other on the 1 1/2 hour bus ride from Calgary to Banff, and Marc was the third of the hiking trio up Tunnel Mountain.

Tunnel Mountain Hike

Banff, you are much younger and have a more pronounced Australian accent that I remembered the last time I was there. And your crosswalks, while a cool idea to cross diagonally and all at once, did mess with my “only cross on green light” trained mind.

Walk/Don't Walk

Next week, off to BCNet in Vancouver.


Week 16 In Review

Presentations, Workshops, Courses

  • Working on upcoming BCNet presentation on (what else) open textbooks.
  • Met with Gill and Barbara about our Open Textbook Summit presentation on the Geography booksprint.
  • Submitted proposal for OpenEd15 this fall with Gill and Barbara to present on same topic (ok, not quite done this yet, but will beat today’s midnight submission deadline).
  • Co-facilitated a live webinar with David Porter and Paul Stacey (Creative Commons), part of a 12 day Open Education course I am co-facilitating with Commonwealth of Learning and BC Ministry of Education.
  • Prepped for a Monday webinar with Megan Beckett (Siyavula) for same course.


  • Finished up a testbank for the Noba Project (a great Psychology open resource). They co-sponsored the Psychology TestBank Sprint last summer that Rajiv put together. I’ve been working with Respondus to make LMS import packages of the question banks for them. They have been very patient with me waiting for these files as it was one of those projects that always seemed to get delayed by the tyranny of urgent. Was nice to be able to do something that was a bit edtechish.
  • We’re planning a revamp of the Open site this summer and I’ve started brainstorming some notes on things I’d like to see changed.
  • The night before the Open Textbook Summit, we’ve decided to hold a thank you event for authors and adapters who have worked on open textbook projects we have funded. Did some work on that event, although Amanda and Lauri are handling the bulk of the work.


  • The Portable Z: We’re Doing Five Blades by Richard Sebastian. Following on the success of the Z Degree at Tidewater Community College, the state of Virginia is going to be rolling out Z Degree programs at all 23 state colleges. This is really exciting stuff; entire programs with $0 textbook costs, scaling up to cover an entire statewide system.
  • Finding the Problems OER Solves Martin Weller. I tend to think of myself as a pragmatic dreamer (a recipe for cognitive dissonance if there ever was one) leaning a bit heavy on the pragmatic side. Which is why I appreciate Martin’s perspective so much. This pragmatism was also evident in a presentation of Martin’s that I watched this week on The Battler for Open (which I am three chapters into) when he responds to the criticism that, after 10 years OER’s haven’t disrupted education with “has it just been useful?
  • The Defining Characteristics of Emerging Technologies and Emerging Practices in Online Education Geroge Veletsianos. Looking forward to the new edition of the book.
  • I read some posts about the Microsoft/McGraw Hill partnership, but honestly I tuned out after I heard Powerpoint. I probably should care more since McGraw-Hill does a lot of openwashing in their press release “McGraw-Hill Education’s embrace of open learning.” Yeah, right. Embrace. Call me cynical, but I don’t think we’ll see a lot of openly licensed content come out of this arrangement.

Other stuff

  • Took some time with the rest of the open textbook team this week for a celebratory lunch.
  • Met with the Faculty Fellows this week. All are going to be busy at various events around the province in the coming months presenting and talking about open textbooks. We have also been going over the findings of the faculty survey we did earlier this year with the OER Research Hub. The findings will form the basis of their presentation at the Open Textbook Summit in May. We’ll also be releasing the results on the website over the summer.
  • Got the new @bcopentext Twitter account up and running.
  • Annoying login problem popping up with Pressbooks Textbook since we changed the login path in an attempt to stem the brute force attack that shows no signs of waning. Basically, if you are in as an editor or author in multiple books on the platform, you are being forced to log in twice. It may be an inconvenience we have to live with on our local platform (others who install Pressbooks Textbooks won’t have this issue – it’s something specific to our instance as a result of the persistent attack we have on our servers). Times like these, I am so grateful to have the skills of seasoned network administrators to rely on. I’ve spent too much time in the six stages of grief throughout my WordPress loving life.
  • Attended a presentation at my kids school on Internet Safety for Parents by Darren Laur. I was dreading this presentation since it was pitched to our school PAC a few months ago thinking it would be full of fear mongering. It didn’t make me feel much better after Googling about the presentation and finding out that Darren puts on the persona of a white hat hacker and creeps kids social media profiles befriending them as a 16 year old girl prior to doing his school presentations. Ick. Instead I was pleasantly surprised to see Darren present a pretty balanced view of digital citizenship. He made it a point to stress to the 50 or so parents in the audience that “your kids are doing some amazing things” and being positive digital citizens. I wish there was just as much emphasis on the role that schools should be playing in helping to create those digital citizens (I am still appalled at the lack of digital literacy education in my kids school curriculum) rather than placing the entire load on many parents to cultivate digital citizens, but overall I thought the presentation was good and not as fear monger-ish as I had expected.

Next week: packing my hiking shoes and off to Banff for OE Global, followed by a few days in Vancouver for the annual BCNet conference.


Week 14-15 In Review


Supporting the big bad mouse. I had to revoke my copy of No Logo at the gate.

Was on vacation with the family for most of last week and the early part of this week. Add in Easter. This summary covers 2 very compressed weeks.


  • Talked about Pressbooks TextBooks as part of a CCCOER presentation on OER authorng. Slides on Slideshare.
  • Prepping for upcoming presentations & workshops at BCNet & Thompson Rivers University.


  • Ministry update meeting.
  • Met with ROER4D project. They are kicking the tires with Pressbooks Textbook.
  • Took part in a Mozilla Community Education working group call with Emma.
  • Open textbook project meeting. Lots of planning for the upcoming Open Textbook Summit. We’re also planning on doing a special thank you event for our authors and adapters the night before.
  • Amanda and I met with CAST to talk how we can work together on accessibility.


  • Booked travel & accommodation to Kamloops for TRU faculty workshop in May, and Vancouver for BCNet (end of April) & ETUG (June).


  • Audrey Watters talk at Western Oregon, which lead me to Justin Reich’s article “Open Educational Resources Expand Educational Inequalities”. After reading the article and the research,  I don’t think the headline is accurate and unfairly throws OER’s under the bus.  Justin’s research isn’t at all about OER’s, but is actually about educational technology and (more specifically) the use of wiki’s as a teaching tool with his students.  A more appropriate title should be “educational technology expands educational inequalities”, not OER’s. In the comments, I found Justin does acknowledge that the headline is misleading, and that the original title of the article was “Will Free Benefit the Rich?” Not sure how OER got dragged into the mix, unless I am missing something in my reading of the research.
  • Open Ends? from Brian Lamb. Incidentally, the video of Brian and Alan’s presentation The Open Web at UVic a few weeks ago for Open Education Week is now available.
  • Finished We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. Stumbled across this book (which heavily influenced both Orwell’s 1984 & Huxley’s Brave New World) after seeing an interview with Noam Chomsky where he mentioned it. Can’t believe I have never come across it before.
  • Started Martin Weller’s Battle for Open.
  • Data on Textbook Costs from Alex Usher. 1350 Canadian students interviewed on how much they spend on textbooks. The interesting tidbit for me wasn’t with how much they spend (although it is interesting), but instead that “Overall, two-thirds of students said that they bought all of their required textbooks” Meaning 1/3 of students try to get by in their courses without purchasing the required material. I am not sure if that includes illegally obtaining copies of their material, borrowing from friends or the library, or just plain going without.

Other stuff

  • Connected some BC Physics faculty with OpenStax, who are looking for contributors for their new Physics book.
  • Working on another iteration of the Exploring Open Education with the Commonwealth of Learning and BC Ministry of Education.
  • Registered a new Twitter account for the BC Open textbook project @BCOpenText. I wanted to use the phrase OpenEd, but it is proving problematic to use that phrase in Canada.. I’ll have more to say about this at some point in the future, but it absorbed some of my time this week.
  • Ordered the Noun Project commemorative Creative Commons shirt.

Photos for Class provides safe search and auto-attribute for Flickr images

Came across a site that may be a good one for k12 teachers looking for a way to safely search Flickr for Creative Commons material, and for anyone looking for an easy way to attribute Flickr photos.

Photos for Class is a site that uses a combination of Flickr’s Safe Search filter and a few in house filters and allow you to search Flickr for G rated CC licensed photos. Which is useful in itself, especially if you are in a k12 environment. But the bit that everyone will find useful about Photo for Class is that when you download the photo, the CC attribution is automatically added to the image using the CC recommend TASL (Title, Artist, Source, License) format for correct attributions. Which works great if you are simply wanting to find and use an image without modifying it.

I did a quick search for the phrase totem pole and came up with a number of images.With each image there is an option to download, view on Flickr or report (if an inappropriate image has slipped through the filtering process, there is community moderation). I downloaded the first result and got this photo with the attribution automatically added at the bottom of the photo.


One of the things I hear often from people new to Creative Commons licenses is how to attribute resources. Here is a nice tool that makes it very easy to find and correctly attribute a CC licensed photo on Flickr. There are other tools, like the OpenAttribute browser plugin, the Washington State Open Attribution Builder and Alan Levine’s Flickr specific attribution bookmarklet also available to help make it easier to attribute CC resources correctly.

h/t to Dr. Jo Badge blog post on teaching children about Creative Commons licenses.


Need a damn computer to keep track of all these open events *

Whirl Wind

Whirl Wind by Jonathan Trumbull used under CC-BY license


There are a slew of Open Education events on my radar/ToDo list right now.

Open Education Week

Next week is the global Open Education Week from the Open Education Consortium. There are events happening around the world for this week, both live and online (full schedule of global events). BCcampus is participating by sponsoring a week of Open Webinars on Open Education. These are (as you might have guessed) free and open for anyone to attend, and I am very grateful to all of the presenters who have agreed to participate, from Camousn College, UBC, TRU, UVic, KPU and the OER Research Hub, as well as my colleagues from BCcampus.

Full schedule & connection details for  our Open Webinars on Open Education next week (March 9-13).

The BC Open textbook Summit

The 3rd annual Open Textbook Summit is happening May 28 & 29 in Vancouver. My colleague Amanda Coolidge is putting this event together & we are looking  for presentation proposals. We’ve had a number of great proposals already submitted that have me excited. If you have been working on an open textbook project, the call for proposals runs until March 23rd. Consider submitting and joining us.

BCcampus Faculty Fellow and open textbook advocate Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani from KPU (fresh back from his dream vacation to New Zealand for the Cricket World Cup) is our opening keynote. Rajiv has become a real force in the open textbook world and has made incredible progress in both his discipline Psychology and at his institution advocating for wider use of open textbooks. He was our first “free range” adapter (leading me to do a happy dance) and has been actively using open textbooks as an instructor in a number of courses.

The second keynote for the summit is one that I think is a stroke of brilliance from Amanda as it is being done by three students who have been leaders in the open textbook movement in Western Canada. Chardaye Bueckert from Simon Fraser University, Max Fineday from University of Saskatchewan, and Erik Queenan from Mount Royal University. Max is a wonderful speaker, Chardaye has been a long time supporter and advocate, and Erik has been doing some very interesting work on the ground. I am really looking forward to their talk.

Registration is now open.

OpenEd 2015

Working with David Wiley from Lumen Learning on this one. The annual OpenEd conference is happening November 18-20 in Vancouver, and David has just released the call for proposals for that. Last year was my first OpenEd in Washington. I did attend briefly in 2012 when it was in Vancouver, but was sequestered away shortly after Gardner Campbell’s excellent morning keynote (go watch it) for a BC specific open education meeting hot on the heels of the announcement of the BC Open Textbook Project, so didn’t really experience OpenEd as I had hoped.

My first task was securing a location for the event in Vancouver – no easy task considering the event has grown and last year was over 500 attendees. We’re used to doing events at BCcampus, but nothing at that scale (although David assures me that it will likely be a more modest affair this time around). At any rate, trying to find a venue in Vancouver was a challenge, but we think we have found a good one in the historic Fairmont Hotel Vancouver that will give the conference a very west coast feel.

OEC’s Open Education Global

Finally, in April there is the OEC’s Open Education Global Conference in Banff. I’ll be attending and meeting others from the global open community. Being peripherally involved with the Mozilla community here in Victoria (never as much as I would like these days), I am especially jazzed to see & hopefully meet Mark Surman from Mozilla. Mark is doing one of the conference keynotes. Mozilla is heavily invested in lifelong learning with initiatives like Webmaker and OpenBadges,  and everyday I appreciate more and more the work Mozilla does advocating for an open web and empowering people – especially kids – to tinker, make and (most critically) understand how the open web works and why the open bit is fundamentally important to the future digital world they are/will live in.

* apologies Lou


Supporting what I use

For the past couple of years I’ve made it a point during this season to try to provide some financial support to the web tools and services I use that are open. And by open, I mean that are free to use, and who do not make money off of my data or advertising.

In 2012, I supported Wikipedia, Mozilla, Creative Commons and the work of Audrey Watters. Last year it was The Internet Archive, Bad Science Watch, MediaSmarts and OpenMedia. All these projects and organizations make a difference to my online life and I am appreciative of the work they do.

This year, I have returned to Wikipedia and Creative Commons. CC is becoming especially important in my professional life as it is a major component of the Open Textbook Project I am working on.

In addition to those two organizations,  I am also supporting three other open products and services that I use.

I have been spending a lot of time this year converting documents, and have come to rely on Pandoc, created by John McFarlane. This open source software package is the Swiss Army knife of document conversion, and has made my work life easier. So, a monetary nod goes to Pandoc.

Finally, there are two streaming music services that I use almost everyday. If you see me hunkered over a keyboard with my headphones on, then chances are I am plugged into either Radio Paradise  or Soma FM. Both are longtime streaming music service that are listener supported, ad free, and provide a great diverse soundtrack to my life.

I write and publish these posts because I want to encourage you to do the same, and support the open services and tools that you use. The open source software that makes your life a bit easier, the single person journalist or blogger trying to stay independent and free from the influence of chasing advertising dollars, the web service you use that isn’t mining your data as a business model. I know that, at this time of the year, there are many competing interests for your hard earned dollars. But if you have the means, I encourage you to put a few dollars to supporting the open sites, services and tools that you use.


Week 48 Week in Review

Truncated week as I took Monday & Tuesday off after OpenEd.

  • Shortlisted candidates for an 8 month co-op gig we have with the open textbook project. Brendan Lane, our current co-op (and an awesome one at that) is leaving at the end of the month after working on open textbooks for the past 8 months. I am sure he has cleaned up enough bad html code to last a lifetime.
  • Met with Ministry of Advanced Ed in Saskatchewan to talk about open initiatives in that province. We’ve recently opened up our textbook review process to both Alberta and Saskatchewan faculty and are looking for ways to make more collaborative moves under the tri-provincial MOU.
  • Brainstorming meeting yesterday on how to promote and support Open Pedagogy projects (like many of the UBC student as producer projects that Will and Novak talked about in their OpenEd presentation). We also talked about developing more localized sprints along the lines of the work being done by Lumen Learning where we go to institutions to build local capacity by engaging in a textbook adaptation project.
  • After OpenEd I came back wanting to have someone else check over our attribution statements for textbook adaptation projects we have done, and to ensure that we have done things correctly as per the CC licenses. Working on adaptations on projects (or, even more challenging remix projects) is complicated when you are mixing and matching sources of content with different licenses, so I have reached out to Creative Commons to see if they can help us by checking over our work on the first adaptation projects we are rolling out the door.
  • Our fantastic Communications Director, Tori Klassen, is leaving BCcampus & heading over to Vancouver Community College, so we had an impromptu office goodby lunch for her yesterday.
  • Began working on venues for OpenEd 2015 in Vancouver.
  • Open Education Week is coming up in March, and it looks like we are going to try to put together a series of lunchtime webinars for the week with different open textbook groups (faculty, librarians, students, adapters & others) participating in the webinars. I may be tapping some of you on the shoulder in the coming weeks
  • Heading to VIU to do a workshop with Jessie Key on Open Textbooks on January 15th. Also have booked presentations for UNBC and Selkirk College in the new year. The virtual open textbook roadshow is coming to an institution near you.
  • Getting ready to move the new Nursing and Mental Health textbook I’ve been working on to the editors for release early in the new year.
  • Added a cap of 5 reviews per faculty to our textbook review process to try to encourage a greater diversity of voices in our textbook reviews.
  • I’m facilitating a couple of open online courses – a one week course on OER’s starting Saturday with EdTechOpen (register here), and another longer, 4 week course on adopting open textbooks. Did some work prepping for those.
  • Did an interview with a group doing an evaluation of the work of the OER Research Hub. They wanted the opinion of a partner who has worked with the Hub about what it was like working with them. Really, if it wasn’t for Martin, Beck and the rest of the OER Research Hub reaching out to us after I flailed trying to organize some research on our project, I think we would have missed a valuable opportunity to add to the body of OER research that is in demand by practitioners around the world. For that I am eternally grateful for their help and support. I’ll add Rajiv to my grateful OER researcher list as well as he, too, helped push the current research project along.
Proudly sporting my shiny new OER Research Hub t-shirt.

Big fan. Proudly sporting my shiny new OER Research Hub t-shirt.


Week 47 Week in Review

It was all about OpenEd 2014 last week in Washington, DC. Brad and I presented on the work he has been doing to add an api to PressBooks. Amanda and Lauri also presented on managing an Open Textbook adaptation and how we have been doing things here in BC.

David announced that OpenEd 2015 will be held in Vancouver, BC next year & we (BCcampus) will be helping to host the event, so I was taking lots of notes on logistics organizing an event for 500+ people.

I wrote a blog post about OER efficacy after seeing John Hilton’s presentation on OER research.

I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with some people as I had hoped to, but am grateful to have finally met folks like Audrey Watters, David Kernohan, Vivien Rolfe, Tim Owens, Pat Lockley, Rob Farrow, Bea de los Arcos, Mikhail Gersovich, Nate Otto, Mike Caufield, Rolin Moe and so many others in person after connecting online for many, many years.

And such a great representation from BC at OpenEd with excellent presentations from UBC’s Will Engle & Novak Rogic, BCcampus faculty fellow & UBC faculty Christina Hendricks, RRU’s George Veletsianos., and JIBC’s Tannis Morgan (who’s 11 year old daughter wins the award for best graphic illustration of a presentation with this beauty of Brad from our session)

While I was deep into conference networking mode for the majority of the week, Brad & I did get a chance to see some of Washington & spent a day playing tourist.

The backside of the White House with Washington Monument in bg

The backside of the White House with Washington Monument in bg

Flight of beer at Churchkey at the end of a long day playing tourist

Flight of beer at Churchkey at the end of a long day playing tourist




Proven efficacy?

I am at OpenEd in Washington DC this week. Earlier today I sat in on a session by John Hilton from Brigham Young University called A Review of Research on the Perceptions, Influence, and Cost-Savings of OER In lightening sequence, Hilton presented 12 empirical research studies that showed that students who used open educational resources do as well and, in some cases, slightly better, in their class. 

Now, many of these studies were cautious in drawing direct conclusions that it was the OER alone that lead to the results of the studies (and I’ll post the full link of research studies he quoted here when the slides of the presentation are released), but 12 studies that all looked at classes using OER’s returning similar results is encouraging, even if that result is, in essence, no significant difference. Because if there is no significant difference between learning outcomes with students who use free open learning resources and a $200 commercial textbook, then why use the commercial textbook?

One of the interesting points in the presentation came at the end during the Q&A when David Kernohan asked John if he knew of any studies that looked specifically at the efficacy of publishers textbooks. John’s reply, essentially, that he wasn’t really aware off the top of his head, but he may have come across 3 or 4. But there isn’t much.

Which is a similar finding that I discovered this spring as I was doing some research on what makes an effective textbook as I was preparing for our Geography book sprint. There is not a lot of research on efficacy of textbooks, period. One paper I looked at was from 1996 titled Student’s Perceptions of Textbook Pedagogical Aids by Wayne Weiten, Rosanna Guadagno & Cynthia Beck which stated that

“virtually no research has assessed the usefulness of the numerous pedagogical aids that are now standard far in psychology texts”.

Meaning that, in the views of these researchers, the features of a textbook that have been put in place to help student learn weren’t put there because they have been shown to help student learn.

Now, I noted at the time of that post that the research I was looking at was 20 years old, but the scans I did at the time showed something similar to what John Hilton had discovered – there are not a lot of research studies showing that publishers textbooks help students learn better (and if you know of studies, please point me to them).

Contrast this lack of empirical research on the efficacy of publishers textbooks with what the recent Babson report on OER’s said is the most important factor faculty consider when selecting teaching resources – proven efficacy. And not just a few faculty, but 59.6% of faculty said “proven efficacy” is the number one consideration for them when choosing teaching resources. Which is a huge disconnect for me. You have faculty saying they pick resources because they are proven effective, but yet reviews of the literature don’t show a lot of “proven efficacy” of publishers textbooks. Which should start to make educators reframe the question from “show me the proof that open educational resources are effective” to “show me the proof that publishers resources are”.

Weiten, W., Guadagno, R. E., & Beck, C. A. (1996). Student’s Perceptions of Textbook Pedagogical Aids. Teaching of Psychology, 23(2), 105-107. doi:10.1207/s15328023top2302_8


Introduction to Sociology: An Open Textbook Adaptation Story

One of the promises and potentials of open textbooks that has always intrigued me the most is the ability to customize and adapt the book, enabled by open licenses. To me, this is a powerful pedagogical tool that, in the right hands and used effectively, can contribute to better student learning outcomes as some research suggests*.

When the opportunity to work on the BC Open Textbook Project came up, I made a conscious effort to try to promote adaptation over creation of new resources and try to work on how adaptations might work beyond the theoretical promise. This is why our first funded projects were adaptation projects of existing open textbooks.

Here is one of the adaptation projects that, I think, shows how open licenses combined with some fairly informal connections can lead to a type of autonomous collaboration (oxymoron?) to create customized learning resources from a single root source.

OpenStax Introduction to Sociology

Our first adaptation project was released earlier this week, Introduction to Sociology: 1st Canadian Edition. The original Introduction to Sociology textbook was released by OpenStax College. We added it to our collection and solicited reviews from BC faculty on the book. From these reviews, we determined that the book needed to be revised to fit our local (Canadian) context.  Some comments from the reviews:

This is a text that I would use, if it was adapted to the Canadian context. It is very clear and understandable, and all of the sections lend themselves well to illustrations, discussions, and other activities. So, while I do like the text, the issue of using a text with American content in a Canadian college course is very problematic.


a) The context is American: Substitute the American context with a Canadian context.
b) There is no single “feminist theory”. Therefore this textbook defining and applying the feminist paradigm as “feminist conflict theory” or simply “feminist theory” limits the contributions of the feminist paradigm to the development of sociology.

From these reviews, we developed a call for proposals to adapt the textbook based, in part, on these reviews. Dr. Bill Little (University of Victoria & Thompson Rivers University) with Ron McGivern (TRU) undertook the adaptation process. Dr. Little was our first textbook adapter and lived on the bleeding edge. This was no small undertaking. You can see for yourself all the changes made in the adapated textbook, but here is a small sampling to show you the type of work that went into this revision. These are the changes made to a single chapter (of the 21 chapter book).

Chapter 1

  • Figure 1.1 changed
  • Added new figure 1.2
  • Added figures 1.5, 1.8, 1.9, 1.10, 1.11, 1.15
  • Added information about Vancouver hockey riots
  • Enhanced definition of Sociology with Dorothy Smith reference
  • Enhanced and expanded  with micro- and macro- definitions
  • Enhanced and expanded section on to include reference to C. Wright Mills, obesity rates in Canada.
  • Added information about rectification
  • Removed information about U.S. housing crisis and Food Stamp Use in the U.S.
  • Added in reference to CBC program The Current and information about aboriginal incarceration rates  in Canada
  • Removed title Studying Part and Whole and merged with Studying Patterns section
  • Removed reference to the practice of religion
  • Removed section on Individual- Society Connections
  • Enhanced section on Greek philosophy
  • Enhanced section on Eastern philosophy to expand section on Khaldun
  • Enhanced section on 19th century sociology to include contributions to discipline by Mac Weber and feminist contributions by Mary Wollstone.
  • Enhanced and expanded Comte section
  • Renamed, expanded and enhanced section on Karl Marx
  • Broke apart the Creating a Discipline section and added separate and expanded biographical sections for Harriet Martineau, Emile Durkheim, Max Webber, and Georg Simmel
  • Expanded Working Moms section and replaced American references with Canadian
  • Rewrote and expanded the section to include Positivism and Quantitative Sociology
  • Expanded Structural Functionalism and criticism of sections
  • Added Interpretative Sociology, Historical Materialism, Feminism & criticisms of each
  • Added Farming & Locavores case study
  • Removed Conflict Theory
  • Replaced Elizabeth Eckford introductory example with Canadian health care system example.
  • Rewrote and expanded introduction to include reference to feminist movement and aboriginal perspectives.
  • Expanded the “Please Friend Me” to include data on smartphone use
  • Updated Key Terms, Section Summary, Quiz, Further Research and References to reflect new chapter content

You can see the amount of work that Bill, Ron and the entire project team put into adapting this book to make something that was more regionally relevant to Canadian faculty. But as a result, we now have a Canadian edition of an OpenStax textbook.

During this adaptation process, I kept in sporadic touch with David Harris at OpenStax, informing him of the progress of the adaptation. I worked together with David to devise the copyright and Creative Commons attribution statements to satisfy the CC licensing requirements, which ended up reading like this:

Unless otherwise noted, Introduction to Sociology is © 2013 Rice University. The textbook content was produced by OpenStax College and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License, except for the following changes and additions, which are © 2014 William Little and Ron McGivern, and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Changes to this book, as a whole, were made to achieve the following goals.

  1. Replace U.S.-centric content with Canadian content. This included examples, case studies, significant figures, perspectives and, more pragmatically, spelling, idioms, measurements and grammatical structure and style.
  2. Add feminist theory and feminist perspectives throughout the text.
  3. Add Canadian aboriginal perspectives and content.

Key Terms, Section Summary, Quiz, Further Research, and References in each chapter have been updated to reflect new chapter content.

For a detailed list of the changes and additions made to this book, see “1st Canadian Edition Changes”.

Under the terms of the CC-BY license, you are free to copy, redistribute, modify or adapt this book as long as you provide attribution. Additionally, if you redistribute this textbook, in whole or in part, in either a print or digital format, then you must retain on every physical and/or electronic page the following attribution:

Download this book for free at

For questions regarding this license, please contact To learn more about the B.C. Open Textbook project, visit

You can scroll to the bottom of this page to see the final wording of the CC licensing statement we came up with in context.

Our Adaptations become part of next OpenStax edition

While our book was being edited and finalized, I sent a draft copy to David and the OpenStax team so they were aware of the changes we were making. It was at this time that David informed me that OpenStax was working on a second edition of the Introduction to Sociology book, so they were very interested in the changes we were making to the content. It is now looking like some of the changes we have made will find themselves into the next OpenStax edition of the textbook.

Adaptations building upon adaptations. Revisions building upon revisions. This is what is supposed to happen. This is the power of open licenses in action. Now, this is still not at the granular level of, say, a department modifying the book to meet the specific needs of their students, as was the case with the Houston Community College example (and which is where I would like to see our book go next – into departments). But this adaptation does illustrate how two projects working collaboratively, yet independently, can both benefit from open licenses at a more macro, system wide level.

So often when talking about adopting OER’s the conversation seems to focus on the single faculty who undertakes these types of projects on their own. The lone wolf. And there are certainly great examples of that kind of adaptation and authoring of open textbooks. But I think those types of adaptations are few and far between. Open wins cam also come from collaborative projects where groups of faculty combined with support structures in place work together to adapt and modify OER’s.

Our authors have never met the original authors of the OpenStax books, and vice versa. Yet they have, in effect, asynchronously and somewhat autonomously, collaborated with each other to create multiple resources based on a single shared resource with the OpenStax project team and the BC Open Textbook project team acting as mediators. Autonomous mediated collaboration. Is that even a thing?

To me, this type of collaboration connects deeply with the spirit of what OER were designed to do. You take my stuff, change it to work for you. Oh, you want it back? Sure. Here it is. Use the new stuff if you want. This is the spirit of open and, as a result, both of our projects and the students & faculty we serve, are benefiting.

* I should clarify with this example from Houston Community College that I think the improvement in learning outcomes occurs not just because the faculty used an open textbook & replaced it with an open one, but because faculty in the department full exploited the potential of the open license to customize the book to meet the specific learning needs of their students. It’s not just an open textbook that contributed to better learning outcomes, but an open textbook combined with faculty who took full advantage of the open license to customize the learning resource that, I think, made the difference in learning outcomes.


More open textbook remixing in the wild

you are awesome

You are awesome by Torley used under CC-BY-SA license

Earlier this week I was at the COHERE conference in Regina, talking about open textbooks. Open textbooks seemed like a hot topic of informal conversation at the conference with one of the student participants, USask student society president and open textbook advocate Max FineDay, diving right into the topic on the first morning during the student panel.

While I was there I met Sheila Hancock, an English instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. As we talked, Sheila told me about the open textbook she has been working on, inspired by the BC Open Textbook Project. Sheila and her partner, James Panabaker have taken two existing open textbooks and created their own customized English 1100 open textbook to fit their needs. They set up a WordPress site and, like Rajiv Jiangiani did last year, created a customized textbook. And they did this primarily off the radar of us at the project.

I love this so much. These are the types of examples that really make my day when I come across them. Here are 2 faculty who saw a need, found some openly licensed resources, set up a site, and then used that site to remix their own textbook. And they never asked for help! They did it on their own, quite autonomous from the project. Really, so wonderful to see faculty take the initiative, hear the message that they can take these resources and work with them to customize and mold them to fit their needs, and just go and do it. Because you don’t have to wait for us. You don’t have to ask anyone for permission. You can just do it.

This is the kind of action I always hope to see with this project. Open textbooks living without us. Ok, we did have some part in this by starting the conversation in our province and trying to address the traditional barriers to adoption of OER that faculty often face (where do I go, what is the quality, etc). But, in the case, of Sheila and James, we didn’t have to do much more than that. We set up the conditions, the executed their plan. Beautiful.

When we “formally” work on a book as part of our project (be it an adaptation or a creation from scratch), there is an administrative process that I often worry burdens us. There are contracts, timelines, project managers, people, etc. Adapting and creating a book is an entire “process” for us. And I think, at this stage, we have to do this to provide some guidance, instruction, and support for faculty we are working with. Every time we do an open textbook adaptation or creation project, we are building capacity within the system for people to be able to understand the concept of adapt. To see the realities of what an adaptation project might look like. At the end of the day, by doing projects in an open and transparent way, we are starting to tackle what it actually takes to do adaptations and, once people have had some guidance and support the first time through, they may not need as much for the second…and third…and so on. Every project we fund is a way to build capacity in the system to undertake open textbook initiatives without our involvement in the future.

But sometimes it feels like we are recreating a publishing process with the work we are doing. I think this is a necessary step for us as we push towards our goals of making open textbooks a reality in the target areas we have, but I know what we are doing isn’t scalable or sustainable. We always need to keep in the back of our mind that, our bigger goal with this project, is to build capacity within the system to ensure that adaptations and adoptions continue without us. Which is why I am so happy when I see these kinds of examples like Sheila and Rajiv, of faculty who have felt the open textbook project has empowered them enough that they are willing to tackle something like remix and adaptation on their own.

I don’t expect we will see a lot of faculty take this route right now, at this point in the evolution of our project. We still need to do a lot of work building more localized support structures at institutions to build local capacity within the institutions to help them support their faculty if they wish to pursue an open textbook project on their own. A distributed, localized support system with librarians, instructional designers and educational technologists in place at the institutions to support the work of local faculty at each institution seems like it could be one model of sustainability for open textbooks that I have been thinking more about lately.

Seeing faculty like Shelia and James undertake an autonomous adaptation of open textbooks is a powerful example that digital technologies have had a democratizing effect on the way we produce content. The barriers are being lowered, and people are taking advantage that we live in a world where, with a little technical know how mixed with initiative and an understanding of the needs of their students, anyone can create their own learning resources using the work of others as the base. And for that, I am doing my happy dance once again. Thank you Sheila and James!



Week 42: Week in Review


  • The BC Open Textbook project became a toddler this week, turning 2. I spent the early part of the week writing a lengthy blog post and working with our graphic designer Barb Murphy to create an infographic (see below) of how far the project has come in the 2 years since it launched.
  • Prepping for 3 upcoming presentations for Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) on Wednesday, the BC OER Librarians workshop on October 27th, and COHERE on October 28th.
  • Meetings with Camosun, OpenSchool and the Industry Trade Authority as we continue to work out the release of a major common core trades open textbook over the next year. This is a really exciting project, but intellectually draining as it requires me to do a lot of facilitating and get up to speed on long standing relationships between at least 4 different organizations. So far, everyone I have met and worked with have been positive, receptive, keen and eager to see this project happen. But facilitating these types of meetings really stretches the boundaries of my skills (definitely not in my comfort zone) and reminds me that I am an introvert. It was great having the meeting at Camosun as I spent many years working there and had not been back on the Interurban campus for probably 4 or 5 years. Over lunch I ran into a lot of familiar faces and old friends.
  • Met with Bill & Jeff at FunnyMonkey and Hugh at Pressbooks to talk about some potential collaborations in the very near future. We have some projects that we would like to knock of the Pressbooks “to-do” list and I think with the work that FunnyMonkey has done with Lumen and the deep knowledge that Hugh has with Pressbooks that we can get these done in the new year. Specifically I am hoping that we can get much more of the content we have in the open library into Pressbooks to make it remixable. Currently we only have about a dozen of the 76 books in our collection living in Pressbooks. The rest are in other formats and we want to change that. We also want to be able to build a Word exporter (I am still convinced that if we are really serious about giving faculty the ability to adapt OER content we have to give them content on their terms and, for the time being, that means Word). We also want to replace the proprietary PrinceXML PDF engine to make it a truly end to end open source package. Those are the goals.
  • ViaTEC, the Victoria Advanced Technology Council, named the BC Open Textbook Project their Techtorian of the Week, which is really nice recognition from our local tech sector of the work we are doing.
  • Backed 2 Kickstarter projects. BulletJournal is a productivity method I’ve been playing with the past 6 weeks or so. And the StandStand, a portable standing desk (thanks for the lead, Amanda).
  • A 4 day work week for Canadian Thanksgiving and I ate much turkey with my family, including my oldest daughter who traveled to Victoria with her 4 children to spend the night at our house for Canadian Thanksgiving. Our house was hopping.

BC Open Textbook Project turns 2

Open Textbooks Turns 2

The BC Open Textbook Project Turns 2 by BCcampus is used under a CC-BY license




Remixing open textbooks redux

Out of all the blog posts I have written in the past few years, none continues to generate the type of traffic to my site as the post I did on remix and plagiarism 2 years ago.

In that post, I raged against Turnitin which sent out a poster that tried to portray some of what I consider important cultural acts of our time: remix, mashup, aggregation and retweeting, as acts of plagiarism.

Tonight I reread what I wrote 2 years ago. It was written right around the time that the open textbook project was announced here in BC, and before I joined BCcampus to work on the project. In that post, I talked about some of the challenges I thought the open textbook project might have working with faculty around adapting content created by others:

If this is the true and accurate sentiments of educators in general – that remix is, in fact a form of plagiarism – then it makes me realize just what kind of uphill battle we might face here in British Columbia as we move towards creating and modifying Open Textbooks. The challenge being that if educators have this underlying core value that remixing  someone else’s content to create something new is plagiarism, then they are coming into the open text book project with the preconceived notion that we have to build something from scratch; reuse is not an option because it is plagiarism.

For me, this is the wrong way to approach an open textbook project. In order for the open textbook initiative to be successful, I think we need educators to come to the table with an open mind about reuse and remixing existing materials; to modify already existing open textbooks and openly licensed content to fit their specific needs.

Little did I know that, 4 months later, I would be working on this project.

Fast forward 2 years and I am happy to report that we have had some successes in the adaptation/remix area with the Open Textbook Project. This week we released 3 textbooks that are significant adaptations of previously released open textbooks; Mastering Strategic Management, Introductory Chemistry and Principles of Social Psychology. All three of these books were previously available in the commons with open licenses, and all three have been heavily modified and adapted by British Columbia faculty.

I am very proud of the people who have worked on the adaptation projects. These have not been easy projects. These have not been easy projects. Yes, I just said that twice. And will say it again. These have not been easy projects. There is no template to follow for adapting textbooks on the scale that we are doing (and we are not done with some of the biggest adaptation projects still to come in the next few weeks).

Why has this been so challenging? Really, Amanda and Lauri (the two project managers responsible for the heavy lifting) and the faculty involved with adapting these books can fill you in in much more detail than I can, which is why I keep telling people who are interested in adaptation projects that the best BCcampus presentation to attend at OpenEd will be the hands on, nitty gritty adaptation session that Lauri and Amanda will be presenting. You want to get a view into the belly of the adaptation beast, that is where you will find out the work and the issues that are involved in an adaptation project. In a nutshell it boils down to the simple fact that there are not a lot of established processes for adapting an open textbook. If there was a process or a formula that others had developed, then these first projects might have been easier. But there isn’t a lot of operational material on how to actually adapt an open textbook. So, whenever we have an issue or challenge, we need to figure out/research how to solve this on the fly.

Emergent operations.

For example, we had this high level conceptual view (formed from the BC faculty reviews we received about the open textbooks in the collection) that we would have to “Canadianize” many of the textbooks we had found in the commons as they were written from a predominantly U.S. perspective. Great. Swap out a few case studies, replace some stats and we’re good to go.

Wait a second….all those descriptive measurements. Those are imperial units. Oh, wait, I guess we need to go through the entire book and replace all those as well with metric equivalents.

Spelling. They spell it labor, not labour. Oh. Guess we need to go through the entire book and search and replace those. Behaviour, too. Hmmm, there are a lot of those.

Wait. Are those copyright images in that book? We can’t release a book with copyright images. We need to find CC licensed replacements for those images. Crap, those charts are copyright as well. Isn’t this a CC licensed book? WHAT IS ALL THIS COPYRIGHT STUFF DOING IN THERE? Full stop. Content audit. Replace all those images.

Ok, time for copy editing. Oh, the copy editors want to know if there is a track changes feature in PressBooks.


Hmmm, okay, let’s try this plugin. It’s the friggin New York Times. If anyone knows about editorial workflo—–oh crap. Well, that plugin doesn’t play nicely with PressBooks. Ok, no, that’s not going to work.

And how exactly do we word the CC attributions again?  Where do we put them – within the caption of an image, or at the foot of the page, or in a separate document at the back of the entire book, like a glossary or index? How do we handle academic citations? What do we cite, and what do we need to attribute as per CC license requirements?

Ok, I know. I’ll stop because I am sure I am scaring people. Isn’t this supposed to be easy?

Yes, it is a lot of work. But ours is just one way. We are one project and are probably going to extremes because there is this intense desire among the people working on this project to be correct – to address these issues when they arise in a meaningful and thoughtful way. We have this opportunity to do something that, quite frankly, I haven’t seen done on this scale anywhere else. We are adapting a boatload of existing open educational resources for reuse on a system wide scale.

Which brings me back to the original post I wrote about the fear I had that the project would not be able to find faculty willing to remix the work of others. That was flat out wrong. The faculty we have worked with have been eager to adapt – to use others material. To remix. The have smashed those fears I had from 2 years ago, and have provided some tangible examples of remix and adaptation that rounds out the emerging picture of how educators are remixing open educational resources. These people get it. It has been hard work, but adaptation IS happening. And they are to be commended.

But equally commendable are the faculty who created the original material, and who had the foresight and understanding to release their content with an open license that allowed us to take their original material and rework it. They are the ones who set up the conditions to make our projects successful. For if they didn’t put the blood, sweat and effort into creating the original textbooks, or if they had and then decided to shop them around to a commercial publisher or release them with full copyright, then we simply could not do what it is we are doing. So, this post is really a long meandering thank you to David Ball, Dave Ketchen, Jeremy Short and Charles Stangor – the original authors of the three textbooks that have been revised by B.C. faculty Jessie Key (Vancouver Island University), Rajiv Jhangiani (Kwantlen Polytechnic University), Dr. Hammond Tarry (Capilano University) and Janice Edwards (College of the Rockies). For without their original work, adaptation would not be happening at all.


Week 39: My Week in Review

Another week down, another 2 new books in our open textbook collection! Kudo’s to Amanda, Jessie Key, Rajiv Jianghiani and Hammond Terry who, between them, rolled out 2 new BCcampus adapted textbooks this week: the first Canadian Edition of Introduction to Chemistry and an internationalized version of Principles of Social Psychology.

My week

  • Met with OpenSchoolBC about some resources they have developed for trades curriculum that could, potentially, be adapted into open textbooks.
  • Finalized the open textbook budget for the next year.
  • Reviewed open textbook creation proposals in skills and trades training
  • Did some outreach work with provincial college Deans in the Trades & Tech areas informing them of the Open Textbook project and the current call for proposals focusing on trades.
  • Attended the September advisory meeting of the CCCOER & contributed the BC Open Textbook Adoption Toolkit to the CCCOER beta campus toolkit under development.
  • Had first planning meeting on the 2015 Open Textbook Summit. I think we are going to try to go a bit narrower with this one and really try to engage the people who make adoption decisions – faculty, chairs and department heads.
  • Wrote a bit of a book length comment on this post from Anne Marie Cunningham on what OER’s can “replace” in higher ed. The convo was sparked after I was tagged in a Twitter convo, which lead me to a really interesting presentation from Norm Friesen on lectures as trans-media pedagogical form. THIS is the reason why I still love Twitter. To be openly tagged and brought into an interesting conversation, which then leads you down an unexpected path of discovery.
  • Attended an all BCcampus staff meeting with our new Associate/Assistant (still not exactly clear what the A in ADM means) Deputy Minister
  • Created 2 new PressBooks sites. One for a health related textbook (our first skills training project that had already been developing their book at! FTW!), and one for one of our Geography textbook authors.
  • Sent a copy of the open Psychology testbank that we created this summer to a prof at University of Winnipeg.
  • Continued working on an “open textbook by the numbers” blog post for the open site.
  • Will be doing a virtual presentation with the OER Librarin group on how librarians can support a book sprint at the October 27th OER Librarians Event at Douglas College (know of a librarian interested in attending? Registration is open).
  • Spent much of Tuesday documenting the first 7 chapters of changes we made to our Canadian adaptation of the OpenStax Introduction to Sociology book (coming soon) before handing it off to Brendan, our co-op, to complete the next 14. Sent those off to OpenStax who may fold some of our revisions into their next version of the book. ’cause that is how open works.
  • About 35% of the way into To Big To Know by David Weinberger and am struck by the similarities between Weinberger’s thinking & connectivism.

And then there is Brad


Brad rolled out a killer PressBooks Textbook update that turns PBTB into a PressBooks eco-system with the potential to conduct a federated search across other PBTB installations and import CC tagged open content from those installations. It’s crazy what that guy is doing with api’s. I wish I could keep up.



Our open Geography textbook is alive!

BC in a Global ContextWell, this is a few weeks later than I was hoping thanks to some last minute wrangling we needed to do with the PressBooks PDF output and image sizes, but it is finally ready for use.

British Columbia in a Global Context is a first year Geography open (CC-BY) textbook that was created by a group of faculty, designers, librarians, instructional designers and other open educators during in a four day book sprint held earlier this summer.

This first year Geography textbook takes a holistic approach to Geography by incorporating elements of physical, human and regional geography, as well as bringing in methods and perspectives from spatial information science.

The process of how this book came about has been well documented so if you are interested, you can check out the posts on the BCcampus Open Education site. For now, I just want to get the word out and start finding Geography faculty who might be interested in reviewing the textbook.


Happy Birthday Wikimedia Commons

Sunday was a big day for the Wikimedia Commons.

Wikimedia Commons is turning 10 years old this Sunday — will you help celebrate? We’re asking everyone to join the Wikimedia community by sharing a freely licensed image with world.

You know, I have contributed, edited and created Wikipedia articles. And I have spoken of the love I have for higher education researchers & faculty who engage with Wikimedia and create clever and creative methods to add content to Wikipedia and the Commons. But, for some reason, it has never crossed my mind to actually contribute something to the Commons. I do contribute photos to the greater “commons” (the web) via my Flickr account where I license many of my images with a Creative Commons license, but I have never contributed something to the Wikimedia Commons.

So let’s fix that right now….

The Wikimedia Commons maintains a page listing image requests. There are a lot of image requests that post-sec faculty could contribute, especially in the sciences. So, if you have any of these specific images (or any image for that matter) consider uploading it to the Wikimedia Commons and improving the Commons.

Or, you can do what I did and contribute a photo of an historical monument in your community. Right now,  Wikimedia Commons has a contest running encouraging Canadians to upload a photo of a Canadian monument. So, over lunch I poked around the Wikimedia map of heritage monuments in my city, found a couple close to my house, took a walk with my phone, snapped a couple shots of the historical monuments in my neighbourhood and uploaded them to the Wikimedia Commons.

In the process, I even learned a bit about a (what I thought was) common structure that I have seen on a regular basis for close to 20 years going back to when I first started working at Camosun College. Turns out, this structure….

Richmond Road Streetcar Shelter - front

…which I have walked by and through hundreds of times over the past 20 years on my way to work when I worked at Camosun College (and was/is used by students as a smoke shelter), is actually a historically significant structure in my neighbourhood. Apparently, this little structure is a leftover from the days when a trolly used to roll up and down Richmond Road.

The heritage value of the Streetcar Shelter is as one of the last two remaining streetcar shelters in Victoria, the third Canadian city to have streetcars. The Victoria and district streetcar system was inaugurated by the National Electric Tramway and Lighting Company in 1890. The system was later bought in 1897 by the British Columbia Electric Railway (BCER) Company Limited, who operated it until 1948, when streetcars made their last runs. This shelter was constructed to service the Number 10 Streetcar, which made two trips a day to service the University School and then the Provincial Normal School.

I had no idea this little shack I used to walk through to get to work everyday for years was anything more than a fancy smoking structure.

I also grabbed a shot of another heritage structure at that location – the Provincial Normal School, now known as the Young Building at Camosun College, and contributed that.

Provincial Normal School (now known as Young Building)

But I digress because this isn’t about heritage structures. It is about contributing something to the greater good; something with educational value. By contributing to the Wikimedia Commons, I am, in a small way, making a bit of knowledge that much more accessible by making it visible in the web’s largest information repository. And it got me to thinking about why I share and how I share the stuff I create.

Like many of you, the reasons why I share my stuff on the web is multi-facted. To connect with others, to build relationships, to learn. But one of the really important reasons I share on the web is because I am an educator. I want others to be able to use the stuff I share to better understand their world. If a word I write, or a photo I take or a video I make helps someone somewhere understand something a bit better, then I am a happy man.

So, if by now I haven’t subtly encouraged you to contribute to the Wikimedia Commons, let me blatantly say it: contribute something to the Wikimedia Commons (which, right now, sits at around 22 million images in size). I know quite a few people who read this blog on a regular basis who share and contribute their content around the web (sometimes at the cost of using a particular service for free). Well, here is a chance to contribute something to a project that is a) non-commercial and b) educational. Share your content with the Wikimedia Commons and make it a stronger, better repository.


Connecting with faculty

Things are settling down into a summer groove and I’ve been able to do a bit of reflecting on what was a whirlwind spring of activity which included a very short – but highly impressionable – trip to the Canadian Chemistry Conference in Vancouver.

BCcampus sponsored a talk by Delamr Larson, founder of the ChemWiki project out of UC Davis. I’m a fan of the Chemwiki project  (an open pedagogy project that began as a student assignment and has now become one of the largest Chemistry open educational resources on the web) and jumped at the chance to have lunch with Delmar. I was also looking forward to reconnecting with Sharon and Bruno from the BC-ILN at TRU and to also meet Jessie Key from VIU who is adapting a Chemistry open textbook this summer as part of the BC Open Textbook project. But to be honest, the conference itself wasn’t much of a draw for me. I mean, I am not a chemist or have a chemistry background and attending a general chemistry conference wasn’t high on the list of conferences I was hoping to attend.

Man, was I wrong. It turned out to be one of the more revelatory experiences of my event filled spring.

From the moment I stepped into my first session I immediately regretted my decision to just spend the morning at the conference and head back to Victoria after lunch with Delmar. I had no idea – no idea – that there would be such a strong education track at a general conference. I mean, check out the edu focused stream of sessions list from the event. Sessions like Open Access Resources for teaching Analytical Chemistry, Service Learning: Contributions to Wikipedia, and a whole host of others made me wonder if I had accidentally wandered into an open education/edtech conference. There were more education focused sessions at this general chemistry conference than I’ve seen at many edu-focused conferences I’ve attended. And really excellent sessions, focused on innovative pedagogies and unique uses of technology in teaching and learning.

Wait, isn’t this the conference where chemists get together and talk about the science of chemistry? The business of chemistry? Where the heck did all of these educators come from? WHY DIDN’T I KNOW THIS IS WHERE THEY ALL HANG OUT?

It took me back. I mean, maybe this industry focused conference is different. Maybe the Canadian Psychology Conference or the Canadian Biology Conference doesn’t have such a deep connection to education as Chemistry does. Maybe I hit upon the exception rather than the rule. Maybe. But after seeing the level of edu involvement at the Chemsitry conference, it underscored that I need to find out and do some deeper research into discipline specific association conferences. And it double underlined for me how deeply higher ed faculty are connected to their discipline.

It is one of those retrospectively obvious epiphanies; want to connect with faculty? Then maybe the place to do it isn’t at edu conferences but at discipline specific conferences, like this. If I want to be a truly effective advocate for open educational resources and open learning, then these are the events I need to be at. This is where faculty connect with faculty. This is where they are talking about pedagogy, the role of technology in their classroom, teaching & learning practice, communities of practice and open educational resources, although that phrase wasn’t to be found, yet the practice was everywhere.

For example, at this conference I found out about the IONiC (Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists) and VIPEr (Virtual Inorganic Pedagogical Electronic Resource). IONiC is an online network for teachers of inorganic chemistry, and VIPEr a repository of teaching materials freely available for inorganic chemistry faculty. Both these were started not by open education advocates, but by inorganic chemistry faculty themselves. They wanted space to share resources and develop community. It’s a grassroots lesson in sharing and connecting, driven by the faculty, driven by the community and not by a more formalized “Open Educational Resource” project. I mean, when you read about what VIPEr and IONiC are about, not once do you see the phrase “open educational resource” or “learning object repository”, or even the word “open”. Yet this is clearly an example of open education in action, just without the words we all use to describe open practices in education.

How many more communities like this are there out there? How many are being driven by faculty and living outside the boundaries of our more formalized “open education” world? And how do we in open education find and connect with projects like this; projects that have the potential to resonate with faculty even more deeply than more formalized OER projects (like the open textbook project I am working on) because they are being driven BY faculty FOR faculty?

Needless to say, I’ll be on the lookout for more opportunities to attend conferences like the Canadian Chemistry Conference.

Thanks to Pat Lockley and Tannis Morgan for a Twitter convo prompting this post.