What is OER and How is It Supported at UBC?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are defined as “teaching, learning, and research resources that are free of cost and access barriers, and which also carry legal permission for open use. Generally, this permission is granted by the use of an open license (for example, a Creative Commons license) which allows anyone to freely use, adapt and share the resource—anytime, anywhere” (SPARC, n.d). Open educational resources “include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge” (Hewlett Foundation, n.d).

The permissions and rights contained within the open license of OER help to assure academic freedom by allowing instructors to modify or add additional content to the materials to fit their specifications and goals, which in turn creates the opportunity to provide more relevant and engaging materials for students.

As of 2016, the creation and dissemination of open educational resources is recognized as an example of Educational Leadership activity in consideration for appointment, promotion and tenure decisions at UBC. The UBC Strategic Plan specifically addresses OER in Theme One: Inclusion:

  • “Led by strong student advocacy efforts, UBC is expanding the use of open textbooks to improve affordability” (pg. 21);
  • UBC is committed to making education more affordable and accessible, with expanded creation and dissemination of open educational resources” (pg 21);

as well as in Strategy 1: Great People:

  • “To help address affordability pressures, we will expand financial assistance programs for students, including funding and support for continued growth in open educational resources” (pg. 41).

To learn more about open education resources and their use at UBC, please visit https://open.ubc.ca.

Is the use of OER for graduate courses eligible for this fund

This fund was created, in part, due to advocacy and leadership from the AMS to address affordability and access to learning resources within UBC-V undergraduate credit-based courses. While we recognize the cost of learning materials impacts students at any level, the 2020 funding cycle has a priority for high enrolment year one and two undergraduate courses. Future funding cycles may have different priorities.

Why is the affordability of learning material a focus?

According to the 2018 AMS Academic Experience Survey (AES), two-in-five UBC students have been concerned about their financial ability to feed themselves during the previous year. UBCV undergraduates spent an average of $760 on textbooks or course resources in the 2017 academic year. Forty-four percent of these undergraduate students reported spending $500 or more, while 17% reported spending $1000 or more (pg. 17). According to 2018 AES survey data, over 70% of UBCV undergraduate students have gone without textbooks or resources due to cost at least once, with 34% of students reporting they frequently or often go without textbooks due to costs.

Why are open assessment materials a priority?

According to the 2018 Teaching Practices Survey, 20% of instructors of courses with enrolments over 200 students, 21% of instructors of first-year courses, and 12% of all responding instructors expect their students to purchase access to digital learning resources other than a textbook. When fee-based quizzes or online homework systems are used for assessment activities, access and use of those materials may represent an additional student fee beyond tuition. At the May 2019 meeting, the UBCV Senate endorsed Principles for Digital Learning Materials Used for Assessment. The new principles, which address affordability and student agency, also call for greater support for open resources for assessment purposes.

Can I apply for funding to develop non-credit courses or support extra-curricular learning context?

A benefit of open resources is their ability to extend learning beyond traditional classroom and campus walls by making their content accessible and free to use by anyone.  However, one of the core principles of the OER Fund is to reduce the costs of learning materials/textbooks for UBC students. Thus, a requirement of any resources funded by this grant is their integration as the required learning materials within credit-based courses at UBC V. 

I have already created and implemented OER in my courses. Can I still apply for the funding?

Absolutely. Faculty, students, and staff have contributed greatly to the use and impact of OER at UBC. Proposals that address the enhancement, extension, and sustainment of ongoing OER efforts are highly encouraged.

To learn more about the impact of OER efforts at UBC, please see the report: Open UBC Snapshot: Significant Use and Support for Open Resources.

Where can I get more information about open education?

The Open UBC Working Group has been developing and publishing OER resources on the Open UBC site. Toolkits and resources that might be helpful in the development of your OER Fund proposal include:

The CTLT and UBC Library provide in-depth information and consulting on open education. To schedule a consult, please contact open.ubc@ubc.ca. Between September and November, we will also be hosting weekly drop-in sessions.  The full schedule of OER Fund consulting sessions, as well as OER related workshops, is available on the CTLT Events Open Education Calendar.

How do you define high enrolment? What if I teach in a discipline that does not have high enrolment courses?

It is the intention of this fund to support OER across a broad range of academic disciplines.  Therefore, the impact will be comparative within subject areas.

How do I know if the content I’m planning to use is openly sharable, and abides by copyright? How do I properly attribute others’ open content?

The UBC Library and the CTLT provide in-depth information and consulting on open content, open educational resources, open licensure, and copyright. To schedule a consult, please contact open.ubc@ubc.ca. Additionally, the Open Licensing for Instructors toolkit provides information on these topics.

What if my project is relatively small and I just need to hire a student to do some editing. I don’t need $25,000 a year to adopt a new open resource – should I still apply for this fund?

The stated funding and timeline are maximums. Proposals for projects that are under the funding and timeline cut-offs are strongly encouraged.

What is included in OER Projects?

Most OER projects involve the integration of openly licensed and freely available learning resources into courses. This most often takes place by adopting and adapting existing resources or creating new resources:

  • Adoption is the replacement of course resources, including textbooks, with open copyright licensed materials. Replacing a high-cost textbook with an open textbook or other open resources (e.g., videos, simulations, etc.) reduces barriers for students to access course material needed for their success.
  • Adaption is the modification or alteration of an open copyright licensed resource for use within a course. Adaption provides the opportunity to improve teaching materials, provide important local context, and to share knowledge to ensure sustainability and the ongoing health of open content. Examples of adaptation include updating an existing resource with current information, making a resource more contextualized to the courses, integrating accessibility best practices, and designing for inclusive learning.
  • Creation is the development of a new open resource. This might include an open textbook, or other open learning materials (assignments, videos, presentations, diagrams, problem sets or test banks for an existing open textbook, supplementary learning activities, etc.).

What support is available for application development?

Applicants who are working on an OER Fund proposal can ask for support and feedback from the CTLT and the UBC Library. Consultations are always available by appointment. Between September and November, we will be hosting weekly drop-in sessions.

The full schedule of OER Fund consulting sessions, as well as OER related workshops, is available on the CTLT Events Open Education Calendar.

Please also see Grant Supports on the OER Fund Page for an overview of the areas on which consulting support is available.

Can I hold the TLEF grant and the OER Fund grant for the same project?

Applicants can hold a TLEF grant and an OER Fund grant concurrently if the projects are distinct.

Can I apply for multiple OER Fund grants?

The OER Fund is looking for impact in a large range of projects across different disciplines and units at UBCV. Applicants may not hold two OER Implementation Grants nor two OER Rapid Innovation Grants in consecutive years. However, OER Rapid Innovation Grants are able to be used as seed funding to initiate projects that may become the basis of larger OER Implementation Grant proposals. Thus an OER Rapid Innovation Grant holder may be able to apply for an OER Implementation Grant in the following year.

The stated buy-out budget amount does not cover a full teaching release in my department. Can I include a higher amount in my budget for the course buy-out?

Developing and implementing open resources can take time which is often a limited resource for instructors. The OER Implementation Grants are able to provide funds for faculty course buyouts (for time release from teaching) up to $10,000 for a three credit course. In departments where this amount does not cover a full buy-out, applicants should discuss with their department heads other options, including using the OER Implementation Grant funds to provide additional resources such as increased TA hours to supplement the applicant’s teaching load, or providing department in-kind funding to support the full buy-out.

Can I limit access to the materials used for assessments?

Yes, one of the priorities of the OER Fund is the development and implementation of open test/quiz/problem banks and other interactive content that can be used for assessment. All materials created through the OER Fund must be openly licensed but if openly sharing the assessment materials online would limit their use for your teaching, you may wish to explore alternative strategies. Such strategies may include limiting direct access to the materials and committing to sharing the actual assessment materials with instructors upon request or using the funds to also create self-study formative questions that could be shared openly while limiting access to the materials that will be used for marks. Applicants should communicate their reasoning for limiting access to any materials in their grant proposals. The CTLT and UBC Library can provide support for sharing strategies, including limiting access for assessment materials.