BC Open Research

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Last week, BCcampus published a blog post on a summary I did of the landscape of research in BC on open. I’m reposting it here so that I don’t lose it, forget about it, or any of the things that happen when websites change. I’ve realized in the course of curation OER in Other Languages that more copies is sometimes better when it comes to these kinds of efforts.

In October of 2018, I began a secondment to BCcampus as Researcher, Open Education Practices. After being in an Administrator position for the last nine years, I’m grateful that this research role has afforded me the opportunity to do some catch up on research on open and, in particular, to spend some time getting to know some of the great open research being done in B.C. specifically. The purpose of this post is to shed light on the range of B.C. research on open and provide some observations about the various categories of open research. Note that I don’t go into detail about the respective findings, and this is in no way an exhaustive review of all B.C. research on open. There are a few reasons for this:

To begin, our B.C. colleagues are very active in producing conference presentations on open research and some of those have found their way into journal publications. There are some theses and dissertations as well, but I’ve focused only on formal journal publications in this review. Second, open research overlaps with research on digital literacies and connected learning as well as more discipline-specific research that may be undertaken in library sciences or computer science, to name a few.

B.C. research on open can be clustered around several themes: open textbooks, open education practices (OEP) including open development, open education resources, open strategy, the broader open landscape, and open scholarship. Most of the research in B.C. has been co-authored, suggesting that there is good collaboration on research projects.

Open Textbooks

It probably won’t surprise many that Open Textbooks has been a particularly popular and productive category of research in B.C., involving multiple co-authors and across several institutions. We have Rajiv Jhangiani from Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) to thank for leading a lot of this research, most of which have used surveys as part of the research design in addition to other sources of data. If you need a good starting point for a literature review on open textbooks, all of the articles in this category are a great place to start, with a special mention to Hendricks, Reinsberg, & Rieger, 2017 who make it especially easy to follow along. Open textbook research has looked at student and faculty perceptions of open textbooks vs commercial textbooks and digital vs print (Jhangiani, Dastur, Le Grand, & Penner, 2018), patterns of adoption (Barker, Jeffery, Jhangiani, & Veletsianos, 2018), impact on learning outcomes (Jhangiani, & Jhangiani, 2017Hendricks, Reinsberg, and Rieger, 2017; Jhangiani, Dastur, Le Grand, & Penner, 2018),as well as a reflective paper on three faculty members’ different approaches to open textbook development, which contains an especially humorous description of John Belshaw’s experience (Jhangiani, Green, & Belshaw, 2016). Also notable is that much of the research on open textbooks in B.C. is among the first in Canada.

Open Education Resources

If we consider Open Textbooks as a subcategory of Open Education Resources (OER), there is a fair amount of B.C. research on OER. It’s also important to note that before open textbooks there was a lot of good work happening in OER, especially at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Notably, the Digital Tattoo – which in this chapter by Mitchell and Underhill (2013) is framed as more of a digital identity project than an OER project – was an early example of a student-developed OER that was ahead of our time in so many ways. It’s a good reminder that open research intersects with digital literacies, educational technology, connected learning, and discipline-specific research (e.g. computer science, library sciences); and there’s no doubt that I’m missing some in my summary.

De Vries (2013) provides us with a 2013 view of the challenges of evaluating and considering OER to reuse in course development. He shares some lessons learned that are now familiar to us, but a 2019 view would likely show how far we’ve come. Some of the enabling factors of OER adoption identified in De Vries’ paper are also echoed in a 2016 B.C. Faculty Use of OER study (Jhangiani, Pitt, Hendricks, Key, Lalonde, 2016). This study surveyed educators across the province and found that OER use was similar across the different types of institutions and lists ten recommendations for reducing the barriers to OER and to advocate for more mainstream adoption. Interestingly, this survey was the first study to explore the relationship between OER use and educator personality traits, and in this case, educators who scored higher on openness personality traits were more likely to adapt or create OER.

On the topic of OER and Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR), Friesen and Wihak (2013) discuss how to bridge OpenCourseWare, MOOCs, OERs and institutional credentialing with PLAR. They forward a great argument that many of the pieces are already in place to do this and the role that digital badges may have had in diverting our attention from PLAR. Perhaps there is a future research opportunity to examine the experiences and impact of B.C. institutions who are doing PLAR for OER.

Open Education Practices

Open education practices (OEP) is a relatively newer topic area in B.C. research on open. Depending on your definition, OEP could be considered a broader umbrella category that encompasses most of the research mentioned in this post, but I’ve separated it here to include research that specifically focusses on OEPs. This research homes in on two types of participants: educators as a broad category that includes faculty and staff who support faculty; and instructional designers or course development teams.

Michael Paskevicius (University of Victoria) has both a recent dissertation and an article on open education practices while Irwin de Vries and Michelle Harrison, both from Thomspon Rivers University (TRU), have an article in draft form about instructional designers and OEPs. De Vries also published a comparative case study of the course development process for an OERU course, comparing it to a case study on FOSS development (De Vries, 2013). I found this interesting both for the methodology as well as for the signal that extending our gaze to different but related disciplines of open may surface some valuable lessons learned.

Paskevicius (2017) provides an especially useful model of how OEP can align with various components of a constructivist design that will be beneficial to both designers and faculty trying to better understand OEP and how it might benefit teaching and learning. He notes that leadership and professional development are needed to support a shift towards OEP, and further research is needed to understand the impact of OEP on faculty and students. This is noteworthy, given the shift of OER towards OEP that has occurred elsewhere such as the U.K., and the relatively little research on OEP in B.C.

Open Strategy

There is a noticeable gap in institutional case study research or publications that discuss open at the institutional strategy level. Carey, Davis, Ferreras, and Porter (2015) provide a discussion paper of the steps that KPU took in their Open Studies Plan as an example of OEP strategy. They map OEP to their strategy on teaching, learning, and scholarship and consider OEP as a way to support the university mandate.

The Broader Open Education Landscape

The Discourse of Open

Two articles in this category touch on the ahistorical nature of the field in different ways.

Irwin de Vries was one of the co-authors of a popular article (Weller, Jordan, De Vries, and Rolfe, 2018) that conducted a citation analysis of historical distance and open research. The analysis revealed there are islands of research that don’t connect to each other and no shortage of topics (e.g. MOOCs and e-learning) that have developed without recognition of the work that preceded it.

In a similar vein, Paskevicius, Veletsianos, and Kimmons (2018) conducted a mixed methods analysis of Twitter hashtags to examine how open education discourse has evolved over time. They note the prevalence of content hashtags over education or pedagogy hashtags and suggest that the “continued emphasis on open content might displace conversations around emerging aspects of open education, such as pedagogy and policy.”

Jhangiani (2017) also discusses the open movement as it moves into adolescence using a framing of pragmatism vs idealism. Together, these articles reveal some of the tensions that have surfaced in the broader open community and contribute to expanding the dominant narratives with good scholarship.

Open Scholarship

If you’re looking to better understand open scholarship with a critical lens, this 2012 paper (Veletsianos and Kimmons, 2012) might be a good place to start. In considering how open scholarship intersects with technology, social media, digital literacies, and identities, this paper still feels current among today’s discussions.

Open Software

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the work of John Willinsky and his students on the Public Knowledge Project (PKP), which brought us the Open Journal Systems (OJS) software that more than 10k journals use, most of which are open. As this report outlines, PKP started in 1998 and OJS launched in 2001; since then we’ve witnessed a substantial shift in the academic publishing paradigm, for which we have Willinsky and others to thank. It’s a good reminder of the importance of open technology in enabling a shift towards more open practices and suggests that there is room for research that looks specifically at how open in our sector is facilitated by open technologies such as Pressbooks and WordPress.


  • B.C. researchers have contributed to a range of topics related to open that go beyond OERs
  • B.C. researchers are collaborators, with most articles co-authored
  • B.C. researchers have contributed to a lot of firsts: e.g. the first open textbook research in Canada, the first open source software for academic journals, the first Zed Creds in Canada
  • BCcampus Faculty Fellows have contributed to several of the studies, highlighting the value of a Fellows program in enabling and advancing open research in the province
  • Research gaps include: institutional case studies; the role of institutional leadership in advancing open; qualitative studies that focus on student narratives of open; research on open education practices; research that considers open technologies in higher education practices; research that focuses more specifically on open in types of programs (e.g. trades) or types of institutions (e.g. northern, institutes, colleges); research on decolonization and OEP; and research on diversity, equity, inclusion and OEP

I have no doubt that I’m missing research and people and I invite you to comment or tweet to the hashtag #openresearchBC if you want to bring my attention to other publications that I may have missed. And don’t forget to follow the work of current Faculty Fellows – Erin FieldsFlorence DaddeySteven Earle, and Jonathan Verrett.

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