UOIT, DC starting conversation on free educational resources

Keynote speaker, Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani, speaking with UOIT Student Union Vice-President of Student Affairs, Amr Elziny, at the Open Education event. Photo credit: Victoria Marcelle

A British Columbia professor is looking to make course resources more accessible for post-secondary students.

Rajiv Jhangiani visited University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) recently to share his work on implementing open education resources and initiatives. The speech was titled, Serving Access, Equity, and Innovation through Open Educational Practices.

The event discussed the value of using open education resources in courses to deal with the growing concern of students not being able to access post-secondary schooling because of high costs.

Jhangiani says he believes higher education is a vehicle for economic and social mobility.

“I think its an incredible tool in which to unlock human potential. But the more I examine the structure of higher education, the more I see the many ways, obvious and subtle, it’s actually structured to replicate, to reinforce our hierarchies,” says Jhangiani.

UOIT president Steven Murphy began the event by noting open education is a shift away from the traditional, in-person education model. He says boundaries between universities and colleges, will begin to drip away, allowing students to connect with several institutions simultaneously.

“Students are going to get used to hybrid and online learning. Students are going to be able to register in multiple courses and universities. [They] are going to see resources from around the world readily available on the internet as a part of their education,” says Murphy.

“It forges students an offering to say ‘I can dabble in my education from one institution and I can take a course somewhere else’.”

Open education resources can help decrease student stress by lowering costs for textbooks, says Amr Elziny, UOIT Student Union vice-president of student affairs.

Elziny says one of the biggest roadblocks to a university degree is the high cost. He says the average total costs per year is $19,498.

Being financially independent is the most hardest aspect of being in university, says Elziny.

The average student loan debt after graduating is $30,000, adds Jhangiani.

Textbooks prices leave students with the choice between either purchasing the needed resources for their class or pay for rent, with students often choosing the latter, says Jhangiani. The average price for business textbooks are $874 per year, says Elziny.

“[Open education] is about creating a new, efficient structure that decreases the amount of waste and increases the amount of efficiency and affordability [with a] more student-driven system,” says Elziny.

Event organizers, Catherine Davidson and Emily Tufts, smiling proudly after listening to the inspiring keynote speaker. Photo credit: Victoria Marcelle

Catherine Davidson, an university librarian and the event organizer, says the event is a result of the student union discussion that has been happening for at least a year.

“This event is the catalyst to kick-start the conversation on open education resources on both campuses. It’s just the tip of the iceberg,” says Davidson.

Davidson says the next phase at UOIT and Durham College is conducting workshops with Jhangiani and a panel of faculty and students on how to create or reuse open education resources. She says creating incentive grants for faculty would be a good way to encourage developing content from scratch.

“He’s so passionate, engaging and funny. [He] grabs your attention and makes you understand why [open education] is so important.”

Jhangiani teaches psychology and acts as the special advisor to the Provost on Open Education at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), in Surrey, B.C. He has spoken at more than 100 institutions across five continents.

Jhangiani is a co-founder of the Open Pedagogy Notebook, and an associate editor at Psychology Learning and Teaching, an international peer-reviewed journal.