Concordia’s open educational resources project is in full swing

Second round of grants boosts the number of open textbook initiatives to 12
March 4, 2020
By Leslie Goldstein


Concordia’s Open Educational Resources (OER) project is gaining momentum with two rounds of grant proposals already successfully completed.

Part of Concordia’s Digital Strategy, the OER project allows Concordians to use and contribute to OER repositories as well as develop their expertise in adopting, adapting and creating open teaching and learning materials.

The second round of OER grants rolled out in fall 2019 and eight new projects were accepted. Seven of these will focus on customizing open textbooks and one on adopting an existing open textbook — bringing the total number of open textbooks in development to 12.

Dianne Cmor, associate university librarian for teaching and learning, and Chloe Lei, open educational resources librarian, are leading the initiative. Two of the professors they are working with are happy to share their thoughts about their open textbook projects.

Brian Vermeire, assistant professor of mechanical, industrial and aerospace engineering at the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science, is creating an open textbook for Computational Fluid Dynamics for Aerospace Applications (AERO 455).

Students are already using a pilot version of Vermeire’s open textbook this term. Vermeire will be adding content throughout the term and gathering student feedback to help fine-tune the course material.

Lucy Farisello, lecturer of psychology in the Faculty of Arts and Science, is working on adopting an existing open textbook for History and Systems (PSYC 305).

‘My goal is to make an entirely free and open-source package for students’

How did you become interested in open educational resources?

Brian Vermeire: I have worked in open-source software development for several years now. This has shown me the impact that open projects can have, reaching wide audiences and encouraging collaboration between end users and developers.

Open-source software development has motivated me to adopt an open educational resources approach to the way I teach my courses. This benefits not only the students in my classes but also others who may be interested in learning what I teach every day.

Lucy Farisello: I got interested in open educational resources through working with Michael Colatruglio, the learning experience designer at KnowledgeOne. He told me about this great opportunity to incorporate free online resources into my class. I thought it was an excellent idea and a great way to use different learning modalities like videos and podcasts in class while keeping the cost for students at a minimum.

What are your goals in adopting, customizing or creating an open textbook?

Brian Vermeire: One of the main challenges in teaching computational fluid dynamics is the cost of commercial software packages and the inability of students to use these to further their education after they graduate.

While a number of powerful open-source software packages exist, they often lack documentation that is accessible at the undergraduate level and assume the user already has an understanding of fundamentals.

My goal in creating a new open-source textbook is to make an entirely free and open-source package for students to start learning with the fundamental concepts, and ultimately progress all the way up to real-world simulations. This enables students to continue to use these tools once they graduate, since everything is made freely available to them.

Lucy Farisello: I have two goals for adopting an open textbook. The first is to provide students with interesting material and a variety of educational tools. Many open-access textbooks present the material clearly, with vivid images, and have interactive components with added resources.

My second is to minimize the costs that students incur. They already spend so much on textbooks that they may only use for one term.

If students do not have the financial means to purchase an expensive textbook, they may opt not to buy it, and that can cause them to be at a disadvantage compared to students who are able to buy the book.

Having these resources available for free, online, not only allows students to save money but also means all students have access to the same material.

Concordia’s OER initiatives are in line with an international movement to make education more accessible. Since 2013, Open Education Global has been organizing Open Education Week, and this year’s edition is taking place March 2 to 6. In 2019, more than 6,450 participants including universities, colleges, organizations and individuals from 123 countries contributed to the event, which features live, face-to-face events, webinars, resources and projects.

Learn more about Concordia’s
Open Educational Resources and stay tuned for more updates on the university’s open textbooks.


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