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Tannis Morgan

Reflecting on a decade

This week I’m wrapping up almost a decade at JIBC (9 years and 7 months to be exact). This is almost 3x longer than any other stay with an employer and it feels important to pause and reflect on this formative time.

I started at JIBC as …

The Future of Ed Tech in Higher Ed when Open Source is a Radical Solution

Yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity to be a keynote speaker at the Open Apereo 2019 conference. This is the first time a keynote I’ve done has been recorded so I’m posting the recording as well as the text script (even thought I diverged from it on occasion). I have nothing but huge gratitude to all the wonderful organizers and people I met at the conference in LA and I sincerely hope that our complementary worlds of open education and Apereo will overlap more in our future activities. It is a great pleasure to be here today, not only because I am a huge admirer of Apereo but also because I understand what it is to have this privilege of being here as a keynote.  This is my first time at Apereo, having only discovered its existence this year, so I thought it would be helpful to know a few things about me.  I am an accidental technologist; a mom of a teen and preteens (so pray for me for the next 5 years); a mountain biker (but as I recently discovered watching some video of me, I’m really slow); a former ultimate frisbee player; a romance novel fan (and I thank the people at Smart Bitches Trashy Women for not making me feel bad about that); sometimes painter, and a Vancouverite.  I am also a proud member of the #femedtech community who are doing amazing work surfacing and bringing critical feminist perspectives to educational technology.   This year I’m working with BCcampus as a researcher in Open Education Practices and who have been generously supporting not only research on how institutions are getting to open in our sector, but also the role of open ed tech in open education practices. Open education practices is the umbrella term for teaching and learning activities that included creation, use, and reuse of open education resources such as open textbooks, open pedagogies and the sharing of teaching practices. Open textbooks are textbooks that have been funded, published, and licensed to be freely used, adapted, and distributed.  Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others. Open Education is part of a broader ecosystem of open (Open Education, yes, but also Open Access, Open Science, Open Data, Open Source, Open Government). It’s been such a delightful year working with BC campus and specifically the open textbook team and I’m so incredibly grateful for one of the highlights of my professional career. I’ve spent the last 10 years in senior administration at the Justice Institute of BC where I am the Director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning, & Innovation and where I am responsible for the ed tech and innovation strategy.  Today, I’d like to talk about how open ed tech infrastructures need to be part of our institutions if we care about open education practices and ethical ed tech futures.  I’m aware that I’m speaking to a room of IT specialists, educational technologists, administrators working with open technology and some of what I talk about today may already be old news to you, but I hope that it will underline the importance of the work that you are doing. In BC it is customary for us to begin with a territorial acknowledgement and I would like to acknowledge that the land on which I work and live is the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.   Through the excellent resource I learned that the LA region is the traditional territory Gabrielino/Tongva (Tongva) peoples.  In looking to learn more about this indigenous past and present, I came across this website which describes a project that aims to map Indigenous Los Angeles through a storymapping project with youth, community leaders, and elders from indigenous communities throughout the city. It’s a fascinating website and I urge you to dig into it. Territorial acknowledgements provide us with the opportunity to reflect on our histories and the erasure of those histories.  My work is at the intersection of ed tech, innovation, and open education and a couple of years ago I became interested in these histories, in particular the time period of the 1960s to 1980s.  I guess you could say that I’m at that age where new things sound like old things and I wanted to check my assumptions. This took me on a fascinating (but by no means comprehensive) journey into old academic journal articles and I’ll share a few gems with you.  a.     “institutions are like blobs of jello: they absorb attempts to change their shape” . My personal favourite comes from an article called Radical Innovation in a Conventional Framework: Problems and Prospects. 1977 b.    Next, we have the familiar trope of disruption, 1960s style: “ there is a chorus of exhortations – articles beginning ‘Higher Education should’ or ‘must’”. This one is from 1967 – Innovation: Processes, Practice and Researchp.38. c.     This last one is most relevant for the topic of the presentation today:  “The development of new technology for education raises the question of control. Large corporations have entered the education field. They view the reluctance of some educators to commit themselves to the new media as a sign of fear of change.”  This one is from an article called Technology and Education: Who Controls. 1970 Of course, finding so many familiar tropes in the literature of the 60s and 70s left me with questions.    How do we move towards new ideas without using the past as a check and balance? I should point out that Audrey Watters has for a long time been an important critic and in 2013 was lamenting the ignorance of ed tech history by venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, invoking the image of zombie ideas that can’t be slayed unless we pay attention to the past.   “But then again, when we don’t pay attention to the past, we can’t ever quite slay the zombie ideas. We build and move forward quite blindly”.    When I called this presentation “The Future of Ed Tech in Higher Education When Open Source is a Radical Solution, I’ll admit it was a bit tongue in cheek.  For me, the biggest innovation to happen to higher education isn’t ed tech – it’s the creation of the open university system in the late 60s and 70s.  If you are familiar with the UK Open University you may know that Canada created three open universities built on the OU UK model between 1970 and 1978, and I’ll share with you the goals behind one of them, TÉLUQ, Canada’s French open university. These were articulated in 1970: a.    — Lifelong learning b.     — Real accessibility for all. c.      — Social development. d.     — Needs of working population. e.     — Greater mobility of knowledge. f.      — Wide use of new media and techniques. g.     — Rethinking the learning situation. h.     — Taking account of people’s prior life experiences. i.       — Reduction of unit costs You can see that this is an incredible list, and it took advantage of a new structure, the model of the OU UK, to shift towards a future that aligned with the social justice ambitions of its time, and one of those ambitions –  accessibility – meant the open university was available for everybody. Today, 70% of enrolments at TÉLUQ are women and approximately 50% would not be attending university if TÉLUQ wasn’t an option.   I’ll also mention here, that currently of the 10 most enrolled universities in the world, 4 of them are open universities, with Indira Gandhi open university topping the number one spot at 3 million students. (NB: in the video recording, you can see that I say it has 35 million. This was from an inaccurate source – In the video I question this number because that’s equivalent of Canada’s entire population.  2 other sources put it at 3.5-4 million, so 35 million is a huge error and I’m correcting it here.)  So the impact of this new structure, in terms of accessibility for all, is profound.  Ed Tech Absurdities  The importance of new, or alternate structures guided by social justice ambitions and frameworks is the point of my presentation today, but first I’d like to share some stories about current realities that I call ed tech absurdities.  As the person responsible for the ed tech strategy and the designated business owner of several ed tech tools I have the dubious pleasure of being the primary contact for our vendors.  About 2 years ago one of our most boring but nonetheless important ed tech tools was being upgraded and the vendor wanted us to move to their full featured cloud version from our self hosted version.  BC student data privacy laws used to be quite strict and moving to a US cloud wasn’t an option. But as you can see from this email excerpt, the core features we needed would no longer be included in the self-hosted version, unless of course we wanted to sponsor its development.   I have reviewed your XYZ requirements with our leadership team.  Unfortunately the cost to add XYZ to the On Site platform is estimated to be upwards of $120,000.  Therefore the decision has been made to not offer it as a feature for On Site unless someone is willing to sponsor the development.  There is a chance a government agency might sponsor, but it is not certain and not in the near future.  This was my response:  I should let you know that we have a robust open source ed tech software infrastructure within our province that is currently piloting an open source alternative to XYZ.  I have to be frank and share that even if we had the 120k , I would likely invest that money in providing an open source solution to our consortium of 25 post secondary institutions rather than  build out your product at our expense which is hardly a value proposition for a client. I’ll get back to the robust open source ed tech infrastructure later but first I’d like to share another absurdity. My institution uses a piece of software for our health programs that I’ll call ABC software. ABC software costs about 30k/year at about 100$ per student. The last time I queried about it, there was very little user satisfaction with the tool but there also weren’t any other viable options.  Incidentally, this tool is used in the same kind of program across at least 10 other colleges and unis in Canada. Is it naïve to think that the 10 or more institutions could pool together to create a more satisfactory – and perhaps open source – tool? The inevitable response to this is it isn’t the job of institutions to get into the software game, they aren’t equipped for it, they aren’t software companies. But of course, this simply isn’t true WebCT being the most famous Canadian example, having been developed by a UBC faculty member in the late 90s.  In fact, my own, very small, low resource institution created a fantastic piece of software but this leads me to my third ed tech absurdity.  In 2010 we began creating Praxis, an online system for synchronous scenario based learning, which is primary learning methodology that we use at JIBC. The last time I did a search it was still the only one of its kind in the world and we created it because nothing else was out there, not because we wanted to get into the software game.   Here’s a sidebar: I’m regularly courted by ed tech vendors and have told them repeatedly that we would love to use their products if they would only create the ones that we need. The last time an LMS vendor visited, I even took them on a tour of our experiential learning spaces, explained the kind of teaching and learning we…

OpenEd Week @KPU

I had the privilege of being one of the keynotes at KPU’s Open Education Week, a fantastic day that was co-organized by KPU, UBC, Douglas, SFU, and BCIT. There is nothing better than following a student keynote, and Aran Armutlu kept our attention on the things that matter in open…students and affordability of higher education, while also touching on the impact of open pedagogy. He talked about his first experience as a student discovering his course used a zero cost textbook and since the instructor, Jennifer Kirkey was also in attendance it was a really nice shout out to instructors doing good work and the impact it has on students. Here’s a bit about Aran and the work that he’s done with the BCFS. Aran Armutlu,  Chair of the BC Federation of StudentsAran is the Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students which represents over 130,000 students at 13 different colleges and universities across BC. The BCFS advocates for high-quality, accessible public post-secondary education in BC. Aran is a Douglas College graduate who is passionate about higher education and empowering youth to use their agency to create change. You can find Aran sharing his thoughts on the above topics and more on Twitter at @AranTheArmenian. I followed up with a short presentation on the landscape of research on open in BC. This is a more condensed version of a recent blog post I did for BCcampus and although I had prepped myself for the inevitable missing of key research being done on open in BC and I learned about some great work on open scholarship being done at the University of Victoria including this fantastic collection. Creative Commons Licenses provide a clear and well recognized mechanism for making one’s work open. This session will begin by outlining the basics of CC Licenses, their relationship to copyright, and what one should consider when selecting an appropriate license. The second half of the session will introduce attendees to the complexities of opening up certain types of materials, including cultural materials. In particular we will discuss Traditional Knowledge Labels, which have been developed to help indigenous communities exert access control over cultural materials that may be in public circulation. Just when you think you know a fair bit about Creative Commons licenses, a group of librarians come along and teach you something new. The session by Stephanie Savage, Karen Meijer-Kline, Lindsay Tripp, Michael Wynne was a crash course in some of the nuances of CC licenses (including the clarification that tuition charging institutions can use CC NC content. Note to All – Non-Commerical CC Licenses CAN be used by education institutions that charge tuition. #openinaction— Erin Fields (@Emefie) March 6, 2019 There was also considerable time (but never enough) dedicated to TK Licenses which are not only beautiful but provide such a critical extension or alternative to Creative Commons licenses. In this session I was intrigued by the relationship building opportunity that CI labels could provide as well as the introduction to Murkutu, an open source CMS for sharing digital heritage. Put a License On It  – Table SessionsHave a presentation, paper, a guide, or an image you own? Make it openly available!  Put a license on it! For this session we will build upon what you have learned about Creative Commons and work to put licenses on content you’ve created.  Join table facilitators to learn about the practical application of putting open licenses on your resources and how to share them. This was a really relaxed way to tackle something I hadn’t done in 14 years and took approximately 10 seconds to do…put a license on this blog! (Hint…go to Creative Commons license chooser and grab the embed code). At my table I learned some other tips and tricks including this attribution builder. Institution Spotlights (UBC, BCIT, SFU, KPU, BCcampus) Too much to say here, but a theme in the institutional updates is the importance of faculty bringing faculty, faculty telling faculty as awareness raising with OER. Finding, Using, and Creating Open Education Resources – Will Engle, Erin FieldsWith the proliferation of open education resources on the web, the practice of finding, evaluating, using, and remixing videos, simulations, test banks, presentations, and other materials is a skill that can help support instructors and students in their teaching and learning. There are millions of openly licensed resources, from full courses and textbooks to tests banks and images, that are available for others to freely use. This session will provide an overview of the tools available for finding, using, and creating Open Education resources. For me this session was so much more than as described here. I came away with a few nuggets that the presenters planted in my brain: First: open enrollment is open pedagogy. This should be so glaringly obvious for me given my love for open universities, but I’d honestly never considered this. Second: taking the time to reflect on what we are asking students to do when they work in the open…I have to admit I haven’t gone deep enough in my thoughts about this. ***The combination of slides and speaker notes from this session was so informative that it could have been written up as a how-to guide on considerations for and doing open pedagogy. Open Education Resources – Table SessionsJoin table facilitators to learn about different open education approaches and technologies, including:Pressbooks Open RepositoriesHypothesis Open Monograph PressOpen Journal Systems H5P WordPress/Wiki Integrating Open Pedagogy into teaching practices  I attended the Open Monograph Press, which is actually another Public Knowledge Project tool that sits along side the Open Journal Systems software (which I referenced in my keynote). This is a beautiful, but perhaps not well known tool for creating conference proceedings and edited volumes by facilitating the workflow process.

BC Open Research

Last week, BCcampus published a blog post on a summary I did of the landscape of research in BC on open. I’m reposting it here so that I don’t lose it, forget about it, or any of the things that happen when websites change. I’ve realized in the course of curation OER in Other Languages that more copies is sometimes better when it comes to these kinds of efforts. In October of 2018, I began a secondment to BCcampus as Researcher, Open Education Practices. After being in an Administrator position for the last nine years, I’m grateful that this research role has afforded me the opportunity to do some catch up on research on open and, in particular, to spend some time getting to know some of the great open research being done in B.C. specifically. The purpose of this post is to shed light on the range of B.C. research on open and provide some observations about the various categories of open research. Note that I don’t go into detail about the respective findings, and this is in no way an exhaustive review of all B.C. research on open. There are a few reasons for this: To begin, our B.C. colleagues are very active in producing conference presentations on open research and some of those have found their way into journal publications. There are some theses and dissertations as well, but I’ve focused only on formal journal publications in this review. Second, open research overlaps with research on digital literacies and connected learning as well as more discipline-specific research that may be undertaken in library sciences or computer science, to name a few. B.C. research on open can be clustered around several themes: open textbooks, open education practices (OEP) including open development, open education resources, open strategy, the broader open landscape, and open scholarship. Most of the research in B.C. has been co-authored, suggesting that there is good collaboration on research projects. Open Textbooks It probably won’t surprise many that Open Textbooks has been a particularly popular and productive category of research in B.C., involving multiple co-authors and across several institutions. We have Rajiv Jhangiani from Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) to thank for leading a lot of this research, most of which have used surveys as part of the research design in addition to other sources of data. If you need a good starting point for a literature review on open textbooks, all of the articles in this category are a great place to start, with a special mention to Hendricks, Reinsberg, & Rieger, 2017 who make it especially easy to follow along. Open textbook research has looked at student and faculty perceptions of open textbooks vs commercial textbooks and digital vs print (Jhangiani, Dastur, Le Grand, & Penner, 2018), patterns of adoption (Barker, Jeffery, Jhangiani, & Veletsianos, 2018), impact on learning outcomes (Jhangiani, & Jhangiani, 2017; Hendricks, Reinsberg, and Rieger, 2017; Jhangiani, Dastur, Le Grand, & Penner, 2018),as well as a reflective paper on three faculty members’ different approaches to open textbook development, which contains an especially humorous description of John Belshaw’s experience (Jhangiani, Green, & Belshaw, 2016). Also notable is that much of the research on open textbooks in B.C. is among the first in Canada. Open Education Resources If we consider Open Textbooks as a subcategory of Open Education Resources (OER), there is a fair amount of B.C. research on OER. It’s also important to note that before open textbooks there was a lot of good work happening in OER, especially at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Notably, the Digital Tattoo – which in this chapter by Mitchell and Underhill (2013) is framed as more of a digital identity project than an OER project – was an early example of a student-developed OER that was ahead of our time in so many ways. It’s a good reminder that open research intersects with digital literacies, educational technology, connected learning, and discipline-specific research (e.g. computer science, library sciences); and there’s no doubt that I’m missing some in my summary. De Vries (2013) provides us with a 2013 view of the challenges of evaluating and considering OER to reuse in course development. He shares some lessons learned that are now familiar to us, but a 2019 view would likely show how far we’ve come. Some of the enabling factors of OER adoption identified in De Vries’ paper are also echoed in a 2016 B.C. Faculty Use of OER study (Jhangiani, Pitt, Hendricks, Key, Lalonde, 2016). This study surveyed educators across the province and found that OER use was similar across the different types of institutions and lists ten recommendations for reducing the barriers to OER and to advocate for more mainstream adoption. Interestingly, this survey was the first study to explore the relationship between OER use and educator personality traits, and in this case, educators who scored higher on openness personality traits were more likely to adapt or create OER. On the topic of OER and Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR), Friesen and Wihak (2013) discuss how to bridge OpenCourseWare, MOOCs, OERs and institutional credentialing with PLAR. They forward a great argument that many of the pieces are already in place to do this and the role that digital badges may have had in diverting our attention from PLAR. Perhaps there is a future research opportunity to examine the experiences and impact of B.C. institutions who are doing PLAR for OER. Open Education Practices Open education practices (OEP) is a relatively newer topic area in B.C. research on open. Depending on your definition, OEP could be considered a broader umbrella category that encompasses most of the research mentioned in this post, but I’ve separated it here to include research that specifically focusses on OEPs. This research homes in on two types of participants: educators as a broad category that includes faculty and staff who support faculty; and instructional designers or course development teams. Michael Paskevicius (University of Victoria) has both a recent dissertation and an article on open education practices while Irwin de Vries and Michelle Harrison, both from Thomspon Rivers University (TRU), have an article in draft form about instructional designers and OEPs. De Vries also published a comparative case study of the course development process for an OERU course, comparing it to a case study on FOSS development (De Vries, 2013). I found this interesting both for the methodology as well as for the signal that extending our gaze to different but related disciplines of open may surface some valuable lessons learned. Paskevicius (2017) provides an especially useful model of how OEP can align with various components of a constructivist design that will be beneficial to both designers and faculty trying to better understand OEP and how it might benefit teaching and learning. He notes that leadership and professional development are needed to support a shift towards OEP, and further research is needed to understand the impact of OEP on faculty and students. This is noteworthy, given the shift of OER towards OEP that has occurred elsewhere such as the U.K., and the relatively little research on OEP in B.C. Open Strategy There is a noticeable gap in institutional case study research or publications that discuss open at the institutional strategy level. Carey, Davis, Ferreras, and Porter (2015) provide a discussion paper of the steps that KPU took in their Open Studies Plan as an example of OEP strategy. They map OEP to their strategy on teaching, learning, and scholarship and consider OEP as a way to support the university mandate. The Broader Open Education Landscape The Discourse of Open Two articles in this category touch on the ahistorical nature of the field in different ways. Irwin de Vries was one of the co-authors of a popular article (Weller, Jordan, De Vries, and Rolfe, 2018) that conducted a citation analysis of historical distance and open research. The analysis revealed there are islands of research that don’t connect to each other and no shortage of topics (e.g. MOOCs and e-learning) that have developed without recognition of the work that preceded it. In a similar vein, Paskevicius, Veletsianos, and Kimmons (2018) conducted a mixed methods analysis of Twitter hashtags to examine how open education discourse has evolved over time. They note the prevalence of content hashtags over education or pedagogy hashtags and suggest that the “continued emphasis on open content might displace conversations around emerging aspects of open education, such as pedagogy and policy.” Jhangiani (2017) also discusses the open movement as it moves into adolescence using a framing of pragmatism vs idealism. Together, these articles reveal some of the tensions that have surfaced in the broader open community and contribute to expanding the dominant narratives with good scholarship. Open Scholarship If you’re looking to better understand open scholarship with a critical lens, this 2012 paper (Veletsianos and Kimmons, 2012) might be a good place to start. In considering how open scholarship intersects with technology, social media, digital literacies, and identities, this paper still feels current among today’s discussions. Open Software I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the work of John Willinsky and his students on the Public Knowledge Project (PKP), which brought us the Open Journal Systems (OJS) software that more than 10k journals use, most of which are open. As this report outlines, PKP started in 1998 and OJS launched in 2001; since then we’ve witnessed a substantial shift in the academic publishing paradigm, for which we have Willinsky and others to thank. It’s a good reminder of the importance of open technology in enabling a shift towards more open practices and suggests that there is room for research that looks specifically at how open in our sector is facilitated by open technologies such as Pressbooks and WordPress. Takeaways B.C. researchers have contributed to a range of topics related to open that go beyond OERs B.C. researchers are collaborators, with most articles co-authored B.C. researchers have contributed to a lot of firsts: e.g. the first open textbook research in Canada, the first open source software for academic journals, the first Zed Creds in Canada BCcampus Faculty Fellows have contributed to several of the studies, highlighting the value of a Fellows program in enabling and advancing open research in the province Research gaps include: institutional case studies; the role of institutional leadership in advancing open; qualitative studies that focus on student narratives of open; research on open education practices; research that considers open technologies in higher education practices; research that focuses more specifically on open in types of programs (e.g. trades) or types of institutions (e.g. northern, institutes, colleges); research on decolonization and OEP; and research on diversity, equity, inclusion and OEP I have no doubt that I’m missing research and people and I invite you to comment or tweet to the hashtag #openresearchBC if you want to bring my attention to other publications that I may have missed. And don’t forget to follow the work of current Faculty Fellows – Erin Fields, Florence Daddey, Steven Earle, and Jonathan Verrett.

Open universities and the broader open narrative

Today Martin Weller gave a really nice talk at the OU that was streamed for a global audience that was no doubt numerous. I’m told there’s a recording that will be posted for those who have missed it. There was a lot of rich information in his talk but Martin punctuated a few big points for me: Open universities were a higher education innovation and continue to be an innovation (I wholeheartedly agree). In fact, “innovation happened around an idea of openness”, which ensures its relevance. The Open University has been innovating open and ed tech for a long time (they were early adopters of Moodle and the biggest contributor to Moodle’s code base). The OU’s first online course in the 1990s had 15k students. The OU explores all the various tentacles of open including the great work and exemplar practices of the OER Research Hub. Of course, tangled in all this – which Martin gets into – is that at some point some open universities ceased to control their own narrative. (This is a screen capture of what he actually said, and I hope I’m not taking too much liberty with my interpretation): For me, this was the most important slide of the talk (other than the one of his dog, of course). Somewhere in our excitement for the new world of open, we dissected it into pieces – MOOCs, textbooks, OER, technology, publications – and lost the thread that ties all of the goodwill of open to a social innovation that continues to actually change lives. Whose lives are they changing? Canada has three open universities with an approximate combined enrolment of 75,000. At TELUQ 70% of the students are women, and 1 out of 2 would not study at university if it wasn’t for TELUQ. You can read about Athabasca and TRU’s facts and figures respectively or a more student oriented perspective on why attend an open university over here. But here’s the thing: how many people in the OER community in North America even know that Canada has three open universities, all of which were modelled after the UK Open University? And to what extent are open universities in Canada visibly inserting themselves into the broader open movement? How strong are those ties? When we talk about open as a social good, or the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion, or open as innovation, shouldn’t we be connecting these ambitions with a well established entity that shares them?

Pop Up Ed Tech, Trust, and Ephemerality

This post captures a back and forth text conversation that Anne-Marie Scott and I had about one of her many brilliant ed tech ideas. She’ll have a version of this posted over on her site as soon as she gets back from the cinema, but in the meantime her blog is a treasure trove of higher ed and ed tech thinking. T – The other day we were chatting about open ed tech infrastructures and you mentioned something that caught my attention… you called it Pop up tech.  My head went to the concept of pop up shops, physical spaces that are occupied briefly by a brand and their products that may exist online the rest of the time, and I’m curious if you can say a bit more about what pop up tech is? AMS – Yeah – this was something I wrote about as part of my rant on the NGDLE concept ( it came from several different places. Firstly I was seeing a few tweets about students getting in touch with Universities after they’d graduated and asking for blogs they’d created to be taken down as they no longer wanted this stuff hanging around. At the same time I was re-reading some ideas JISC had about next generation learning environments – they mooted the idea of the pop-up VLE, but never took it further. Finally, I was reading stuff about Transcyberian who run cryptoparty events which seem to be a mashup of a hackathon and a dance party (’s where the reference to Hakim Bey’s Temporary Autonomous Zones writing came from “Any attempt at permanence that goes beyond the moment deteriorates to a structured system that inevitably stifles individual creativity. It is this chance at creativity that is real empowerment.” ( As I dug into that more I really liked it as a metaphor for how EdTech might behave. I think we’re all inherently a little lazy and that’s what a lot of software companies bank on – making it as frictionless as possible for you to do things that might not be in your best interests. So I started thinking more about what the possibilities of pop-up / impermanent / self-destructing edtech tools might look like. I coined the phrase “emphemeral by design” and wondered what sorts of creative possibilities might appear if we know the tool / space we’re working in isn’t permanent? Might we make different choices? Take different risks? Be bolder / braver / more experimental? I also like the idea that positive action needs to be taken to *keep* a thing rather than delete a thing. That seems to have the possibility of more informed / intentional decision making. There are immediate personal consequences to inaction and you’re working to your own interests, not someone else’s. After this I saw some tweets relating to a talk Mike Caulfield gave about information environmental activism and I thought that was quite a nice methaphor too. There’s something about building in the clean up as part of the systems we use that seems to be at the heart of privacy by design for me. T – What I find interesting about the pop up tech idea is how it runs counter, or perhaps in conjunction with  a somewhat pervasive idea of digital preservation.  For example, I might very much want to ensure that my family photos are preserved, but I’m not sure I care about the essay I wrote in my undergrad, or the report I wrote at my former job.  Increasingly, I find the pressure to preserve has resulted in boxes full of external hard drives and other distractions that I call digital pollution.  So the idea of the default action being “to keep” vs to “delete” is really appealing to me.  I’m curious how you think this might play out in a teaching and learning context.  Are there examples you’ve encountered where pop up tech might have resulted in a different or more enriched teaching and learning experience? AMS – It’s not an idea that I’ve been able to put into practice yet, but we have just agreed the retention policy for our new WordPress blogging platform and by default student work will be deleted when they leave the University, unless there’s some intervention to keep it for longer. That intervention will require a staff member to take over the admin of the blog, and for the student to give explicit consent for it to be kept. That is consistent with data protection law, and respects that the copyright for this work belongs to the student and they should have agency over that. So it will be interesting to see how this unfolds over time… What I would also say is that after I wrote about this on my blog, I found an academic paper from Cornell about Snapchat which looked at some of the same considerations “Automatic Archiving versus Default Deletion: What Snapchat Tells Us About Ephemerality in Design” ( it picked up on some observations around what they called “Performance with Less Self-consciousness Behaviour”. That could well be an effect of the tighter personal networks that the platform observes, but there was definitely something about playful, slightly more risk-taking behaviour that seemed to bear out the same thinking. The other thing that connects with this is that at the same time, my colleague Prof Sian Bayne was concluding a research project on the YikYak platform (for those that remember it was an anonymous chat platform very heavily used in Universities and Colleges). She was lamenting the loss of what was for some a space where some conversations about the realities of life at Uni could be discussed. She tied this to Amy Collier’s work around Digital Sanctuaries and published a piece for WonkHE (a UK website for academic policy nerds) which is a good summation of her thinking –“…with its closure, universities lost something – a light touch, hyperlocal, ephemeral and low-stakes peer network where students could ask stupid questions, raise difficult issues and support each other through awkward times.” T – It’s interesting that you bring up Snapchat, which promised ephemerality but didn’t live up to the promise. Your retention policy for WordPress seems to be be a good way of communicating both an expectation and a promise perhaps, which is a step towards building trust.   How does trust come into this, whether it’s YikYak or Snapchat or pop up tech?   AMS – I love that you mentioned trust as that’s very relevant to the moment too. We thought a lot about the balance of trust versus control within our blogging service and made a deliberate decision not to lock the technology down super-tight, but to go for an approach that makes clear our expectations for use, and to devise a take-down policy to clearly and quickly deal with the very small number of issues that might ever occur. That approach I think leaves the maximum amount of creative possibility open to our students and staff – the joy of a blogging platform like WordPress is the extent to which you can make it your own. I’m going to park the question of how much trust we should have in commercial companies that provide free services to us – I think we’ve seen over and again that they aren’t trustworthy, and we should reflect on the nature of the transactions we’re engaged in.  You know that my colleague Jen Ross is about to start up a new project with Amy Collier that also focuses on trust issues in institutions – check out the site here:“‘After Surveillance’ is about imagining and developing trusting alternatives to visibility & surveillance in higher education.” I was also given a lovely little book by visiting colleagues from the University of Aarhus. It’s called “Trust” by Gert Tinggaard Svendsen and looks at the role that trust plays in Danish economic prosperity. He talks about trust in the workplace, the “gift exchange” that comes with trust and the “social debt” that such exchange builds up. That to me sounds like how you build community and is at the heart of how our institutions should operate. I worry about the extent to which we trust our students – plagiarism detection systems, fear of being filmed in lectures, fear of students writing rude things on blogs. That’s not to say bad things don’t occasionally happen, but in my experience it doesn’t happen often.   T- I know you’re involved in Apereo and Esup-Portail, which provide open source technology to higher ed. Do you think there’s a place for pop up tech in those structures, and do you think that there is more space to engage with the trust issue in contrast to trust in commercial software (where there has been good evidence to suggest that the Silicon Valley business models aren’t working in our best interests when it comes to the type of trust we are needing in higher ed)?  AMS – I think there’s one very obvious trust issue in open source – that the code is open to inspection, scrutiny and critique. It’s not a panacea, and of course it can be modified in implementation, but I think starting from a point of transparency is not a bad place to begin. For me, engagement with Apereo and ESUP-Portail is about fostering community and ownership around open software projects and believing that we can own more of our own business and probably have a better handle on what works for education than Silicon Valley companies might. Beyond that, I think the question of whether ephemeral tech is required or not is probably a pedagogical one – what are we trying to achieve and will it help?I don’t draw a hard distinction between open source and commercial software because there’s plenty of commercial software that’s based on open source. Many of the big platform companies release various of their projects under open source licenses and make quite a deal about it. More broadly, the question of trust in any software though is about the detail of implementation – ultimately it’s not a technology question – it’s about human motivation. You can do decidedly shady things with open source, which is a criticism Pat Lockley will level at open source licenses (“for any purpose”).

Open infrastructure and open education practices

One of the questions that I’ve been percolating and discussing with my OpenETC collaborators is the extent can you do open and engage in open education practices without open infrastructure. The timing is perfect, as I’m about to embark on a two week guest speaker gig for the MET course Planning and Managing Educational Technologies for Higher Education. This is the third year I’ll be doing a guest speaker spot in this course, and while in the previous years I focussed on the institutional organisation of educational technologies, this time I’m going to focus on the growing importance of considering open educational technology as part of the educational technology infrastructure of an institution. For starters, if you’re looking to get academic about this topic, there’s not a lot out there in terms of research. And if you want to begin discussions about open ed tech with IT and colleagues at your university/college/institute, Moodle will inevitably be mentioned. Let’s just park Moodle for the purposes of this blog post, since as I’ve argued elsewhere, you can’t get far when the topic of ed tech starts and ends with an LMS. It’s worth starting with a recent publication on how institutions are selecting and using platforms for the creation and delivery of OER. This is a timely study, and as the author puts it: In order to determine best practices for platforms and OER, we first need to understand how institutions are currently using technology in the creation and delivery of OER content. To facilitate this, we surveyed higher education institutions to understand what tools are currently being used to deliver OER, how these tools are selected and evaluated, and perceptions regarding how these technologies help to support processes surrounding the creation, revision, and use of OER.  The study is a survey of 33 US institutions and in this small sample, shows a majority of OER content being created in the LMS, with faculty members being largely the decision makers in the selection of the tool. As we can see from the table above, the choices are well represented by proprietary systems and tools. And even though WordPress/Pressbooks/Github make a presence, this list hardly suggests that there’s a rich ecosystem of tools being used. In the introduction, the author touches on the tension between open content in proprietary platforms and the cognitive dissonance that this presents. I wish the discussion had underlined this point a bit more, since I think that the question about how institutions should be more strategic about those platforms is an important one. “While some critics have argued that Cengage’s approach is not a good approach to the stewardship of OER — placing open content in a locked down, proprietary platform — it brings up an important opportunity to differentiate between OER content and the platforms or technologies by which it is delivered. What values should OER platforms hold? How should institutions of higher education select platforms for the delivery of OER? How can they be strategic about the use of those platforms?” While research on OER enablers and challenges fairly consistently point to the importance of technology as an enabler, this rarely gets discussed or connected to the larger question of the distinction between proprietary and open source technologies in enabling or inhibiting OEPs. I think this is a really important question to be asking ourselves if we are encouraging a move towards OEPs. OER content authored in the LMS may suffer from a lack of discoverability from other users at the institution, and if this is the case, institutions may want to more carefully think about their strategy regarding technology to support the distribution of OER content. As a starting point for how open infrastructure can substantially enable OEPs, there are two notable examples with a BC connection. Open Journal Systems (OJS) is open source software that more than 10k journals use, most of which are open.  As this report outlines, the Public Knowledge Project started here in BC in 1998 and produced OJS, which launched in 2001. Since then we’ve witnessed a substantial shift in the academic publishing paradigm, for which we have John Willinsky and many others to thank. Would this have happened without an open source platform? I think that answer is a hard NO, and the academic publishing retaliation in offering Green access is an indicator of this. It’s hard to imagine how our sector would have had the same success with open textbooks if we didn’t have BCcampus support for both the initiative, but also for providing a Pressbooks service. What this means in plain terms is that if a BC institution produces and open textbook, it can be built in the BCcampus Pressbooks service and added to the collection. There are now 272 books in the collection, extending beyond the 30 BC higher ed institutions. Imagine if open textbooks had to be hosted by every institution on an institutional Pressbooks install, or worse, distributed by individual faculty through the LMS. Point being, the impact of an initiative like open textbooks is conditional on having access to the systems that are required to support it. So where does that suggest we should go if we want to extend this success further? Around the time that the OpenETC was forming, Ben Werdmuller wrote about the challenges of proprietary educational technology and the potential for open source and consortiums to create a new ed tech landscape. While many of the points he touched on were concurrent discussions we were having as a trio of ed tech administrators at our respective institutions, our conversations looked to cooperatives and platform cooperativism as a solution to a sector-wide problem. He writes: What if institutions pooled their resources into a consortium, similar to the Open Education Consortium (or, perhaps, Apereo), specifically for supporting educators with software tools? In 2015, Educause – who serve as a guiding beacon for many CIOs at our institutions – dropped a new acronym (NGDLE, or Next Generation Digital Learning Environment) on the ed tech community in what is an attempt to provide new language for a post-LMS reality. For some of us, it felt like old news and presented a largely uninspired future, as Clint Lalonde points out in his blog post where he also underlines an important point about NGDLE and vendor driven solutions: My caution is if the only options we put in front of faculty to carry out one of the core functions of our institutions are commercially driven options, then we’re not only missing out, but are locking ourselves in to a vision of edtech that is completely vendor driven. We are not putting all the edtech options on the table; options that often have much more involvement and development input from actual educators than many vendor solutions. This connection between open source software and the NGDLE is taken up in a more recent Educause article and is written in a way that may have potential to reach CIO ears. By its nature an NGDLE is not something that can simply be purchased. Academic institutions need to own an NGDLE as it develops and shape it to their institutional context. Open-source software, with its rich affordances for innovation and range of support options, can play a significant role in this shaping. Participation in a diverse community, coupled with the natural affordances for customization provided by open-source software, creates rich soil for innovation and problem solving. So where does that leave us? For a current example of open ed tech in action we can turn to David Lane who provides one of the most helpful and detailed unpacking of what open educational technology actually looks like for the OERu and what it requires in terms of resources. We can also look to the gap that ReclaimHosting began addressing in 2013 in providing a managed hosting and shared hosting service to higher education of over 100 apps, many of which are open source. There’s a lot of room for conversations about open ed tech in higher education that still need to happen. For example, what are the social justice considerations? What kind of open source technology literacy is needed at the leadership level so that decisions can be informed? Where are the institutional case studies who have moved to a more open source ed tech ecosystem? Or as Anne-Marie Scott has surfaced at the end of this post, what do we need to be wary about in considering open source more broadly? Development of open source technologies from companies like Google or Facebook were paid for with advertising revenue, which was likely generated through the exploitation of data. Can we really say open source web infrastructures are built on principles of fairness, openness, freedom?

Open and Invisible Labour

I had the chance to attend SFU’s OA week panel on Open But Not Free: Invisible Labour in Open Scholarship.  I love a session title that suggests there’s going to be some critical engagement around open because I think it’s important to keep advancing the field.  I appreciated that this was an almost all female panel, […]


I’ve had a few days to percolate over the amazing experience of #oer18.  I attended this conference for the first time last year and #oer17 was so transformative that I opted for another round of a small conference in an interesting venue with lots of provocative and critical conversations about open.  This year didn’t disappoint, […]

#OER18 and some historical branches of open

I’m headed to #OER18 in a few days where I’ll be presenting alongside Viv Rolfe (with contributions from Tanya Dorey-Alias who sadly can’t be there) on the historical branches of open.  We connected about this last year, having a shared fondness for things that we forgot about open and it’s various branches or tentacles, and […]

Decentralized structures and the innovation agenda

In a few of my posts on innovation, I’ve talked about the role that teaching and learning centres have in supporting an institutional innovation agenda, and where they can run into trouble.  In my last post, I argued that without proper prioritization, innovation can become an add-on watered down initiative that the centre is tasked […]

Prioritizing Innovation in the Organizational Structure

It’s been a while since I wrote a series about the topic of innovation in higher education.  Here they are from 2015: About those innovation jobs…7 Rules About Innovation First steps in Creating a culture of innovation in higher education – Figuring out what innovation will mean Removing barriers to innovation – the teaching and learning centre […]

OER in other languages – a project update of sorts

It’s been 5 weeks since I started the Other Language OER site and what started as  part whim, part experiment, part inspired by following the #opencon stream, has evolved into an itch that that gets me on a daily basis.  My goal was to post one OER per week from another language than English but […]