Open Education and Paperless Classrooms

Although I have long incorporated open educational resources into my teaching predominantly so that students would not have to buy expensive textbooks, I haven’t until recently considered this to be foundational to my pedagogical approach in the university classroom. Having learned much over the past year, I now consider that incorporating open educational resources not only saves students money, but also contributes to the accessibility of the university and the democratization and decommodification of knowledge.

Open educational resources are those which are licensed in such a way that they are available for free for use by students and teachers. Many of these resources are also licensed such that with attribution they can be modified and customized. BC Campus has a list of such resources which is growing daily.

Using open resources acknowledges the communal nature of knowledge production and resists attempts to commodify what should truly be held in the common good. We also know that students will sometimes not enroll, withdraw from, or not purchase the readings for courses that have significant text costs. Textbook costs are a serious hindrance to the financial accessibility of the university, but the adoption of open educational resources in BC has saved students about $8million since 2010.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University recently announced a suite of courses with zero textbook costs called “Zed Cred.” I’m thrilled that many of my courses will rely completely on open resources as part of the Zed Cred suite.

Finally, I’ve recently moved to a “paperless classroom,” which means that all course documents are exchanged via the course management software used by the institutions where I teach. I was concerned that this would make grading more difficult or tiresome, but in fact it saves time with things like tabulations and keeping track of late assignments. Likewise, I need no longer carry around bags and bags of paper, and don’t have to worry about where I will store piles of assignments for the few years we are required to retain them. Plus, this obviously reduces the environmental impacts of paper, printer, and ink manufacturing.

Teaching Feminism and Fat Studies

This term, I’ve been teaching a special topics course in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University entitled “Adipossibilities of Feminist Fat Studies.” To my knowledge, this is the first fat studies course at SFU, although fat activism has taken place on campus for a number of years. With any new course there come many challenges, but this topic itself is also very challenging given current social, political, and economic discourse about fat. I shared the following with my students to set the tone for the course:

  • You do not have a body, you are a body
  • You have experiences, beliefs, and assumptions that are shaped by your embodied, worldly being
  • Your body is a site of politics, history, place, feeling, and memory
  • Your body in-folds your internal and external worlds; every day, you live this involution
  • We can’t talk about fat without talking about intimate places of our being
  • A body gives testimony of trauma and of thriving
  • Not everyone gets to equally enjoy, love, and agentially control their bodies
  • Weight discrimination is real, and intersectional
  • If you google anything to do with fat, it’s not safe to go alone

Fatphobia is real, pervasive, and structural, and can be found everywhere if one is attuned to look. Despite the current climate, I am very impressed with my students’ willingness to look and ability to find.