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.