“open education is not limited to just open educational resources. It also draws upon open technologies that facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing of teaching practices that empower educators to benefit from the best ideas of their colleagues.” Cape Town Open Education Declaration, 2007
The BC Open Educational Technology Collaborative is a loosely-knit, tightly-honed group of BC post-secondary educators dedicated to working together to address our common dream of providing open and ethical online tools to educators.
The purpose of the BC Open Educational Technology Collaborative is to provide space for BC higher education institutions to participate in the development and application of open source Next Generation Digital Learning Environments.
The Evolution of Educational Technology
As the landscape of post-secondary educational technology continues to evolve, a number of recent developments highlight the importance of exploring new ways to deliver educational experiences to students.
- The emergence of a new generation of educational technology interoperability standards, like LTI, Caliper and CASA means it is easier to provide small, lightweight educational technology tools and still integrate with existing educational technologies, like Learning Management Systems.
- The explosion of growth in the number of teaching and learning applications available for educators to choose from. This explosion means more choice for educators to find a tool that meets their specific pedagogical need. It also means that it is becoming more important for educators to support and collaborate with each other to determine which tools are effective for specific pedagogical purposes.
- The emergence and growth of new interoperability standards and new tools underpin much of the recent discussions in the educational technology community around the Next Generation Digital Learning Environments (NGDLE).
- There is growing concern over data privacy (FIPPA) and data ownership, especially in British Columbia where strict privacy regulations often prevent the use of cloud based services hosted outside of Canada. New ways of using technology in education, such as personalized learning, are exerting more of an influence on educational technology tools, and making us examine more deeply the ways in which data is collected and used by those tools. This is raising some concerns among post-secondary educators who feel higher education may be outsourcing its core purpose.
- Open Source educational technologies are often not considered as viable alternatives as OSS edtech often cannot compete with commercial vendors to respond to standard IT procurement practices, like the RFP process which can favour commercial applications and limit Open Source involvement in the EdTech space at most institutions (see point #2 from UMassOnline EduTools initiative as well as Chronicle article What’s Really to Blame for the Failure of our Learning Management Systems?).
- To promote the use of open source software (OSS) applications focused on teaching & learning. While there are numerous commercial vendors promoting the use of commercial software, numerous open source applications get overlooked because there are no vendors selling & marketing OSS.
- To provide practical solutions to educators wishing to employ open education pedagogies that build on network learning principles.
- To promote inter-institutional collaboration. Open source software relies on the development of communities of both developers and users in order to be successful. The success comes from sharing knowledge about how the software is constructed and can be utilized. An open source software application is the focal point around which a community can develop.
- To provide a pathway for institutions and educators to actively participate in OSS projects that are focused on EDU OSS. Pathways to participate in OSS projects can sometime be obtuse and difficult to maneuver, meaning educators may not want to, or feel welcome to, participate in EDU OSS projects. The collaborative can provide support for those who wish to dive deeper and participate in specific community projects, and in ways that are not just software development. This provides benefit to the OSS project as it brings new members into the community. Active involvement in OSS communities strengthens the software, the community developing & maintaining the software, and the long term sustainability of the software.
- To encourage technological autonomy and provide ways for students, faculty and institutions to own and control their own data.
- To lower the barrier to participation on the open web for BC faculty and students.
- To provide value to other higher ed support systems within BC such as the BCNet EduCloud service.
- To provide a more sustainable ed tech infrastructure to BC higher education that gives institutions more control over their tools. Institutions are currently at the mercy of vendor pricing, upgrade cycles, and exit strategies. This puts institutions at a certain degree of risk when there are changes to any of the variables beyond their control. OSS reduces the risk to the institution in this regard.
- To assist BC faculty in evaluating and making informed pedagogical decisions around open source teaching and learning applications.