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Re.ViCa version by Paul Bacsich and others.
VISCED version by Barry Phillips and others.
POERUP version by Rory McGreal, Diana Quirk and others.
Fusion of versions by Paul Bacsich.
Update by Rory McGreal and others May 17, 2014

>> Full report on Overview_of_Open_Educational_Resources_Policies_in_Canadian_Institutions_and_Governments
>> For PDF version of the report click here

Policies Survey

Policies Survey notes:

In Canada, there are many activities centred on the provision of digital resources, but these are not all necessarily OER initiatives. Several institutions and non-governmental organisations are active in the OER movement, although there is no formal Canadian OER policy or position with regards to expanding the scope of OER. The federal government has embarked on an Open Data initiative "making machine readable data freely available to anyone. . . in order to foster greater openness and accountability, drive innovation, and spur economic growth."

In Alberta, although there are collaborative projects to develop and share digital resources and to provide free resources, these resources are not necessarily OER and are for the most part password-protected. Similarly, Ontario has a password-protected provincial learning object repository, which allows elementary and secondary educators to share their resources with others in the province whilst retaining full ownership of these materials. Although there is interest in sharing, as in other provinces this does not currently extend beyond provincial borders. Quebec supports some small projects using OER, including the shared collegiate platform DECclic.

In British Columbia, the Ministry of Advanced Education sponsors the BCcampus initiative in support of education and training initiatives that promote the use and reuse of educaiional resources in the provincial context. The Ministry has provided over CAD 9 million in direct funding since 2003 to provide licensed educational resources for post-secondary institutions and students through the Online Programme Development Fund. This investment has resulted in the development of reusable instructional materials, including courses, workshops, websites/Web tools and course components. Some of these materials are licensed under a Creative Commons licence, whilst others are licensed through a special BCcampus licence. Athabasca University, BCcampus and the University of Ottawa have worked with Creative Commons to create Creative Commons Canada. The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada has opened up discussions on OER and the inter-provincial sharing of educational resources.

The British Columbia government has undertaken open government initiatives that provide public access to government information and data, giving citizens opportunities to collaborate on matters such as policy and service delivery. Its open government licence enables use and reuse of government information and data. In October 2012, the government announced support for an OER initiative for the creation of courses at the post-secondary level.
Respondents to Policies Survey from Canada highlighted the following challenges to the adoption of OER:
• There is no pan-Canadian agreement on the sharing of educational resources (this is backed up by Canada's response to the OECD questionnaire (1)).
• There are no pan-Canadian studies on the existing OER landscape and its effectiveness, and thus provinces/territories currently say that they do not have access to sufficient data that would allow for properly assessing the economic benefits and potential impacts of OER for all partners and stakeholders involved in the development and procurement of learning resources.
• Although OER could lead to overall savings in the production of educational resources, costs for securing the right to incorporate copyright materials in OER could increase. Third-party copyright material incorporated into those resources would have to be cleared for worldwide use, which costs more than clearing for use in a province or country. The amount of the increase remains unknown as no extensive pan-Canadian research on the amount of copyright royalties paid for the production of educational resources has yet been undertaken (this is backed up by Canada's response to the OECD questionnaire (1)).
• There are concerns around the “integrity” of materials should they be altered and adapted, as departments will not be able to guarantee the accuracy of materials.
• It will be difficult to ensure that materials produced are legitimately OER, as learning resources are typically developed by publishers and third-party content is used in everything from textbooks to exams. Immense resources would therefore be required to ensure that no fully copyrighted third-party content is distributed inappropriately.
• There are also concerns around “accountability” and the use of public funds for the explicit development of resources used outside the provincial jurisdiction.

OER in Canada: Map

Total number of Open Education Initiatives in Canada on Tuesday, 18 February 2020 at 18:41 = 15 , of which:

  • 11 are MOOC
  • 3 are OER

Initiatives per million = 0.43

Loading map...

Partners and experts in Canada

1. Tony Bates of the International Advisory Committee.

2. Erin Mills Senior Researcher, Canadian Council on Learning and Lead author of the 2009 State of e-Learning in Canada report.

3. Michael Barbour (based in the US at Sacred Heart University) author of the 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 iNACOL State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada reports.

4. Rory McGreal, Athabasca University professor and UNESCO/Commonwealth of Learning/International Council for Open and Distance Education Chair in OER, POERUP participant and one of the authors of this report.

5. Terry Anderson, Athabasca University, POERUP participant, expert in elearning and eresearch and one of the authors of this report.

Canada in a nutshell

Canada is a large country occupying over half of the continent of North America, touching three oceans - Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic. Its population in 2011 was c. 34.5 million. The federal capital is Ottawa.

There would seem to be a strong argument that a Commonwealth country of this size would have many points of relevance, generally and in education, to many larger countries in the European Union. While true generally (e.g. for industrial policy) it is not at all true for education - the provinces are the relevant entities. See later for details.

Many if not most Canadian universities have competence in e-learning at least in pockets. Several major e-learning systems past and present have come from Canada, some from academia but most not - for example, in recent years WebCT and Desire2Learn, and many years ago the CoSy and FirstClass conferencing systems used at the UK Open University. We give the main ones below of relevance to an EU audience.

Canada is divided into ten provinces and three territories of which the most important and relevant in e-learning terms are the following:

  • British Columbia, population 4.6 million, thus rather smaller than Scotland but rather larger than Wales and similar in population to Ireland - the bases of the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), two notable institutions in e-learning; and also of Thompson Rivers University (TRU) which now operates the Open Learning Agency for British Columbia. Another university prominent in elearning is Royal Roads University.
  • Alberta, population 3.8 million - the base of Athabasca University, Canada's Open University (similar to the UK Open University).
  • Ontario, population 13.4 million, thus not really comparable to any UK home nation (but approaching that of the Netherlands) - with several illustrious institutions. Some have a long history in distance education (e.g. University of Guelph, which has over 60 online courses [1]), and others (e.g. the University of Waterloo, and the University of Ottawa) have extensive blended learning initiatives. The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) contains eminent researchers in primary and secondary schools e-learning known across Europe and beyond. OCAD University (Ontario Institute of Art and Design) is a leader in supporting OER for inclusive education.
  • Quebec, population 8 million - in particular the Télé-université, an open learning university, which is one of the campuses of the Université du Québec.

For further details on education at the provincial level see CMEC (Council of Ministers of Education of Canada).

The ten provinces are Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. The three territories are Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon.

Further information

For further general information see Wikipedia:Canada.

Education in Canada

For a general description of education in Canada see Education:Canada.

In Canada, almost alone among countries in the world, education at all levels is so completely devolved to the provinces that there is not and cannot be a Minister of Education for Canada. (The wikipedia article on Education in Canada gives more details including details of the residual federal responsibilities. See also CMEC.) (sourced from

With the earlier caveat about the devolved approach to education, here are the basic facts. Education in Canada is generally divided into Elementary (Primary School, Public School), followed by Secondary (High School) and Post Secondary (University, College). Within the provinces under a ministry of education (primary/secondary), there are district school boards administering the educational programmes.

Schools in Canada

Canadian education starts with pre-schooling, including kindergarten, which is followed by primary, secondary and post-secondary education (universities and community colleges). Provinces use different terminology for the Intermediate level e. g. “Middle School”, “Junior Secondary” or “Junior High”. Information on public educational institutions in each province is available online at the CMEC website.

For historical reasons, the school system in some provinces includes constitutionally protected separate (Roman Catholic) schools (Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan). Quebec and Newfoundland have recently dropped denominational schooling and BC and the Maritime provinces (PEI, NS, NB) have never had them.

Secondary schooling, known as high school, "école secondaire" or secondary school, differs depending on the province in which one resides. Additionally, grade structure may vary within a province and even within a school division. Education is compulsory up to the age of 16 in every province in Canada, except for Ontario and New Brunswick (where the compulsory ages are 18). Students may continue to attend high school until the ages of 19 to 21 (the cut-off age for high school varies between province). Those 19 and over may attend adult school. Also if high schoolers are expelled or suspended for a period of time over 2 months or so they could attend night school at the high school.

Primary education and secondary education combined are often referred to as K-12 (Kindergarten through Grade 12). This structure may vary from school to school, and from province to province. For instance, Prince Edward Island is the only province that does not provide Kindergarten. In contrast, Ontario and Quebec provides two levels of Kindergarten (Junior/Senior, prématernelle respectively). With the exception of Quebec, the provincial secondary school systems continue up to grade 12 (age 17 to 18). In Quebec, the typical high school term ends after Secondary V, the equivalent to grade 11 (age 16 to 17); following this, students who wish to pursue their studies to the university level have to attend CEGEP (Collège d'enseignement général et professionnel), which is a unique educational institution, between high school and junior colleges. Cegeps are often referred to as "junior colleges". Students take a two or three year community college vocational or professional program, or a pre-university CEGEP program which is for two years (university for Quebecers is three years rather than four years as is the case in the other provinces.

Most provinces have both English and French language (anglophone and francophone) public school systems, and each province is divided into districts or divisions. Normally, all publicly funded schools are under the authority of their local district school board. These school boards follow a common curriculum set up by the province. Only Alberta allows public charter schools, which are independent of any district board - instead, they each have their own board, which reports directly to the province. In Québec, all students must attend a French language (francophone) School up until the end of high school unless one of their parents or older siblings previously attended an English-language school somewhere in Canada (immigrants from other countries cannot use this exception). However this law applies only to public schools, and immigrants to Quebec can send their children to anglophone private schools.

Canada spends about 4.8% of its GDP on education (UK 5.4%). Since the adoption of section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights 1982, education in both English and French has been available in most places across Canada (if the population of children speaking the minority language justifies it), although French Second Language education/French Immersion is availble to English speaking (anglophone) students across Canada.

Private schools

In Canada there is no obligation for parents to place their children in the public school system, and about 5 to 6% of students are registered in the private system. Despite these low numbers, there are more and more private schools in urban areas (high schools, especially). It is not unusual for the wealthy and prominent in Canada to send their children to public schools, especially in the lower grades. A large portion of private schools are religious based institutions. Private schools are also used to study outside the country in more than 25 countries.

Each province deals differently with private religious schools. In Ontario the Catholic system continues to be fully publicly funded, but other faiths receive no such funding. Ontario has several private Jewish, Muslim, and Christian schools, but all are funded through tuition fees. Since the Catholic schools system is entrenched in the constitution, the Supreme Court has ruled that this preferential system for Catholic schools is not unconstitutional. However, the United Nations has ruled that Ontario's system is unfair. In 2002 the government introduced a controversial proposal to partially fund all private schools, but this was criticized for undermining the public education system and the proposal died after the Liberals won the 2003 provincial election.

In other provinces, privately operated religious schools are funded. In British Columbia the government pays 50% of the cost of religious schools provided that they meet rigorous provincial standards. The province has a number of Sikh, Hindu, Christian, and Muslim schools. Alberta also has a network of charter schools, which are fully funded public (not private) schools offering distinct approaches to education within the public school system (note that the province does not grant charters to religious schools). These charter schools have to follow the provincial curriculum and meet all standards, but are given considerable freedom in other areas. In all other provinces private religious schools receive some funding, but not as much as the public system.

Private education is growing in Canada among both rich and poor families and at all levels. Recently, there has been a significant expansion in the number of private universities.


Home schooling, particularly at the primary school level, has been a growing phenomenon in every province, particularly among religious groups. More than 60 000 children are homeschooled in Canada.

Virtual schooling

See later in this report.


The now defunct Canadian Council for Learning published a report in 2009, Elearning in Canada, in which both the strengths and the challenges facing e-learning in Canada were addressed.

Canada has been a leader in online learning, being the first country to use asynchronous conferencing for learning, to establish an e-learning website and course metadata repository the TeleCampus, and to teach MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

Further and Higher education

Post-secondary education in Canada is also the responsibility of the individual provinces and territories. Those governments provide the majority of funding to their public post-secondary institutions, with the remainder of funding coming from tuition fees, the federal government, and research grants. Compared to other countries in the past, Canada has had the highest tertiary school enrollment as a percentage of their graduating population.

Nearly all post-secondary institutions in Canada have the authority to grant academic credentials (i.e., diplomas or degrees). Generally speaking, universities grant degrees (e.g., bachelor's, master's or doctorate degrees) while colleges, which typically offer vocationally-oriented programmes, grant diplomas and certificates. However, some colleges offer applied arts degrees that lead to or are equivalent to degrees from a university.

Post-secondary education in Quebec begins with CEGEP, following graduation from Secondary V (equivalent to Grade 11). Students complete a two- or three-year general program leading to admission to a university, or a professional program leading directly into the labour force. In most cases, bachelor's degree programmes in Quebec are three years instead of the usual four; however, in many cases, students attending a university in Quebec that did not graduate from CEGEP must complete an additional year of coursework. In the past, Ontario had five years of high school (now four years). At that time, a three-year bachelor's degree was common, but these degrees have been phased out in favour of the four-year degree.

The main variation between the provinces, with respect to universities, is the amount of funding they receive. Universities in Quebec receive the most funding and have the lowest tuitions. Universities in Atlantic Canada generally receive the least funding and some, like Acadia University, are almost wholly reliant on private funding.

The Royal Military College of Canada (RMC), is the military academy of the Canadian Forces and is a full degree-granting university. RMC is the only federal institution with degree granting powers.

The higher education systems in Canada's ten provinces have different historical development, organization (e.g., structure, governance, and funding), and goals (e.g., participation, access, and mobility). This makes it impossible to summarise the overall system. The reader is referred to the wikipedia article

Universities in Canada

(sourced from

Canada has more than 70 universities including the large multi-campus Université du Québec which includes the Télé-université (Téluq). There is a self-appointed elite group, the U15, comprising the most prestigious and research-active universities, but e-learning competence is found across the span of universities in Canada.

A selection of those better known beyond Canada including for e-learning (research and/or implementation) would be something like the following:

Polytechnics in Canada

This term is seldom used in Canada (for example, École polytechnique de Montréal, which trains almost 5000 engineers. This term is also used to describe some colleges.

Polytechnics Canada (cf. U15 above) is a cooperative association among eleven research intensive universities in Canada. The term is used in Québec, École polytechnique de Montréal, which trains almost 5000 engineers. This term is also used in BC, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, a member of the OER universitas consortium.

Community Colleges in Canada

There are many community colleges or vocational schools in Canada - for a partial list see


(sourced from

A CEGEP (French: Cégep) is a post-secondary education institution exclusive to the province of Quebec in Canada. CEGEP is a French acronym for Collège d'enseignement général et professionnel, meaning "College of General and Vocational Education". They are comparable to community colleges, but are required to enter university, which is why secondary school and undergrad degrees both are one less year in Quebec.

The purpose of CEGEPs is to make post-secondary education more accessible in Quebec, as well as to provide proper academic preparation for university. There are both public and private subsidized CEGEPs with the public CEGEPs having little or no tuition fee. The CEGEP system was started in 1967 by the Quebec provincial government and originally had 12 CEGEPs. Today there are 48 CEGEPs in Quebec, of which 5 are English language CEGEPs. There are also 50 private colleges, including 6 English language colleges. While CEGEP refers technically to only public colleges, in common usage the term is sometimes applied also to private colleges offering some of the same programmes.

Education reform




The Bologna Process

Interestingly the Rectors of Canadian universities are closely interested in the Bologna Process. A June 2008 statement from AUCC is given below.

Higher education, like most sectors, is transforming itself in step with the ever-advancing trends of the global knowledge economy. A high profile example of this is the reform agenda being implemented by Europe’s universities through the Bologna Process. While the Bologna Process is a uniquely European initiative, its influence and impact on higher education is being felt throughout the world.
Canadian universities continue to be recognized globally for the quality of higher education delivered. They are, however, not immune to developments of the magnitude of the Bologna Process. It is therefore appropriate at this time to respond to this emerging European initiative by at once seizing its related opportunities and facing its challenges.
The internationalization of Canada’s universities includes facilitating the two-way flow of students through international student recruitment and student exchange as well as bringing an international dimension to the curriculum. It is in these areas of student mobility and curricular reform where the Bologna Process will have its greatest impact on Canadian universities.
AUCC members therefore, through this statement, acknowledge the significance of the emerging European Higher Education Area and hereby commit to undertaking a course of action to address the implications of the Bologna Process for Canadian universities and plan a path forward for engaging with our European partners, both old and new, in a spirit that mirrors Europe’s own renewal in higher education.
AUCC, through its Standing Advisory Committee on International Relations and the Board of Directors, has been examining for some time how Canadian universities can best respond to the changes under way in Europe. It began by identifying the following three key implications of these changes for Canadian universities.
Competition in international student recruitment is the primary implication. The Bologna Process, among its other goals, is also a sophisticated exercise in marketing European higher education. As the Bologna countries seek to make Europe a more attractive study destination through its degree harmonization and support for increased academic mobility, they are likely to increase their international student market share at the expense of other leading host countries, including Canada.
Secondly, the impact of the increasing number of three-year undergraduate degrees from Bologna countries on Canadian credential evaluation policies and practices needs to be assessed. The coming influx of three year degrees presents obvious challenges for admission decisions in graduate studies at Canadian institutions and raises questions about the effect this will have on our graduate programs.
Finally, student mobility, through short-term exchanges and study abroad opportunities for Canadian students is an area in which AUCC believes it is imperative to act to take advantage of the emerging landscape of higher education in Europe. The prevalence of the transparency tools in the Bologna Process, such as the European Credit Transfer System and the Diploma Supplement, along with funding programs such as Erasmus Mundus, represent a potential for increased Canada-Europe student mobility and enhanced international curricula through joint degree programs.
As AUCC pursues further action in relation to the Bologna Process, all activities will be informed by the guiding principle of the autonomy of individual Canadian universities to respond to these issues according to their own particular needs and strategies. This exercise is also guided by the acknowledgement of the challenges in pursuing any collective approach aimed at aligning with the European model, given the diversity and complexity of Canadian higher education.
AUCC recognizes, however, that responding to the Bologna Process also represents a unique opportunity to examine 'lessons learned' and best practices in addressing Canada’s internalsystem of credit transfers and mobility among institutions across jurisdictions.
In the spirit of renewed engagement in higher education beyond our borders and given the circumstances related to the emerging Bologna Process, AUCC commits to:
  • Keeping a close watching brief on the progress of the Bologna Process with respect to implementation of reforms and political direction in Europe.
  • Closely monitoring the engagement of other non-Bologna countries such as the United States, Australia and China along with other actors within Canada, such as governmental partners and other higher education stakeholders.
  • Continuing to raise awareness among its membership of key issues related to the Bologna Process through a continued national dialogue within the association, research on good practices and the organization of various information sessions and workshops.
  • Pursuing a policy dialogue with European partners such as the European University Association, to identify ways of seizing the opportunities to enhance Canada-Europe cooperation, especially student mobility, and address any challenges for Canadian universities in the broader Bologna context.

Administration and finance



Although the provinces have responsibility for universities including providing funds, the federal government retains a funding role - and a vital one. A position paper from AUCC describes the situation.

In Canada, as in most other well-established federal systems, including the United States, Australia, Switzerland and Germany, constitutional jurisdiction for education rests with the regional, provincial or state governments. However, in all of these federations, the central governments have come to play major roles in support of higher education. They have done so in large part because of the strategic importance of these institutions in educating people for the knowledge economy and in performing research. In Australia, for example, the federal government is now the primary source of funds, not only for university research but also for the operating budgets of the universities. In the United States, by contrast, the state governments remain the primary source of operating funding for public universities and four year colleges, but the federal government is the most important source of university research funding and effectively reduces some of the pressure on university operating budgets by paying for faculty time devoted to federally-funded research.
Despite the Constitution’s exclusive grant of powers to the provincial legislatures to “make Laws in relation to Education” and “in and for each Province”, the federal government in Canada has shown an interest in higher education since the early years of Confederation and especially, since the First World War. The overriding goal of federal investments in higher education, particularly since the Second

World War, has been to maximize universities’ contributions to economic growth, competitiveness and social development in Canada as a whole. To this end, the investments have sought:

  • to support growth in institutional capacity to provide access to growing numbers of students;
  • to promote accessibility for students through student assistance measures;
  • to develop university research and graduate education and, especially in recent years, to build internationally competitive research capacity in the universities; and
  • to promote Canada’s interests internationally in relation to, and through, higher education.
With regard to the last of these objectives, the federal government has made a number of investments over the years, including the Canada Corps University Partnership Program and Students for Development Programs (now suspended), the Canada Research Chairs Program, and Human Resources and Social Development Canada’s International Academic Mobility Programs. In general, however, these have lacked overall policy coherence and sustained commitment.
On the student assistance, research and graduate education objectives, the federal government has made major investments over the period since the Second World War, and especially since 1997, in recognition of the strategic importance of university education and research in a knowledge economy. In particular, the large research investments since 1997 have had a very positive impact on the health of Canada’s university research environment. At the same time, international competitors have also been investing in university research and major challenges remain in this country. The first of the objectives, increasing universities’ institutional capacity to take on more students, was at the heart of federal investments in the period from 1945 to 1967, first through direct grants to universities and then through the cost-shared program.
With the creation of the EPF transfers from 1977 to 1995 and even more so, the creation of the unconditional and undifferentiated CHST transfers in 1995, the federal government has paid little overt attention to this objective. No portion of the CHST or the subsequent CST is designated specifically for postsecondary education.

Quality procedures

There is no quality process at the national level. Quality processes are controlled by the educational ministries in the different provinces. In the Atlantic region, four provinces collaborate on curriculum at the secondary and primary levels. Independent quality councils for the post-secondary level exist in the provinces. However, the interprovincial Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission is responsible for quality control at the post-secondary level for the three Maritime provinces (NS, NB, PEI).

Internet in Canada

Internet in Education


Copyright law in Canada

Copyright in Canada is based on British Common Law and as such considers exceptions for fair dealing as being integral and as much a part of the law as the protection of author rights. It allows for authors or their assignees a privileged monopoly on the use of their works that lasts up to 50 years after the author’s death.

Copyright law in Education

Canada passed new copyright legislation in October 2012. While expanding the concept of fair dealing to include education. The new law has been heavily criticized for its restrictive interpretation of technology protection measures (TPMs) or “digital locks”. It prohibits the breaking of the digital lock even for legal purposes like fair dealing. The main advance for education has been clarifications put forward by the Canadian Supreme Court in its interpretation of fair dealing. This more open interpretation provides much more flexibility to educators and institutions in making fair use of educational resources. For example linking in the Internet to copyrighted works is no longer problematic as many once thought; nor is copying portions of work into course packs for use by students.

In 2004, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled on the interpretation of fair dealing, noting that it must be given a “large and liberal interpretation”. They introduced this six point test on whether or not a dealing is fair:

  1. Purpose: education, research, parody, sampling etc is permitted
  2. Character: Were multiple copies made?
  3. Amount: What percent of the work was copied?
  4. Alternatives: Were open resources available that could have been used?
  5. Nature: Was it published? Was it confidential?
  6. Effect: Does it negatively affect the market of the work?

In July, 2012,the Supreme Court ruled on the “Copyright Pentalogy”, a series of copyright cases. The judgement was very favourable for education in Canada. The major implications for education are summarized:

  • Copyright law is not just about protection the author; it also is about dissemination to the public.
  • Technological neutrality: The law is neutral in terms of whatever technology is used. This allows users to move technology from one platform or device to another.
  • Fair dealing was once again stressed as being integral to copyright law, and it must be given a "large and liberal interpretation".
  • Instruction and research are essentially the same. Copies of reasonable amounts of works can be duplicated by the instructor for class use.
  • "Research" is not restricted to "creative purposes". It can be personal interest.
  • The user's purpose is paramount in deciding whether copying is “fair”. And
  • If copying increases the sale of work, then it does not have a negative impact.

OER Initiatives in Canada

Canada has important areas of expertise in OER, mostly on the tertiary level, which are beginning to be built upon or replicated more broadly. Canada commented also that there is no federal government strategy at present, but there is activity at the provincial level in Western Canada.

Other than the western Canadian initiatives on OER (see Regional initiatives below), there are not yet any governmental policies to support OER. With only the western Canadian exception, there are few other signs of any significant OER-related activity across Canadian governments, institutions or industry.

OER initiatives in Canada tend to focus on access and availability issues as opposed to development of practice and policy and/or initiatives to encourage use and re-use. This state of affairs was supported by UNESCO and Commonwealth of Learning (COL) research and literature on the experiences of other jurisdictions, that OER creation, licensing, costs, business models, etc. are neither widely known nor well understood, especially by policy makers and institutional managers. These factors, and the degree of confusion surrounding terminology related to open educational resources, open source, open access, openness and accessibility - and the relationship between each to OER are important for an understanding of the broader Canadian landscape.

The need to connect OER with other open educational initiatives is essential to create a full picture of the activities informing policy and practice in Canada. In this regard, Paul Stacey (formerly at BCcampus) now of Creative Commons - a non-profit organization that "enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools," - has worked intensively on what he terms the Creative Commons opportunity and has developed a map of what he views as "the opportunity sectors which are undergoing change through use of open licences" and the activity and new public/business models emerging across:

  • open educational resources;
  • open access;
  • open user generated creative works;
  • open data;
  • open GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums);
  • open government;
  • open policies, practices and guidelines;
  • open licences;
  • open licence tools (i.e., Creative Commons), embedding them in authoring and search engine platforms;
  • open standards; and
  • open source software.

Stacey reflects on the impact of openness, suggesting there is indeed "a lot of open" and many opportunities to work in an open environment whose full potential has not been tapped. It is notable that although OER is at the top of Stacey's list, it is nonetheless only one in a group of elements related to open education.

And, although the Canadian government's promotion of open access to all ended in March, 2012 with the termination of its 17-year-old Community Access Program (CAP), providing access to computers and the Internet to citizens in communities across the country, there is a federal program underway to promote the growth of the open data movement through the introduction to businesses and citizens of an open data pilot project with three streams: open data, open information and open dialogue.

The anticipated benefits of this pilot project include:

  • support for innovation;
  • leveraging public sector information to develop consumer and commercial products;
  • better use of existing investment in broadband and community information infrastructure;
  • support for research; and
  • support for informed decisions for consumers.

The British Columbia government has undertaken open government initiatives that provide public access to government information and data, giving citizens opportunities to collaborate on matters such as policy and service delivery. Its open government licence enables use and reuse of government information and data. In October 2012, the government announced support for an OER initiative for the creation of courses at the post-secondary level (see below).

Respondents to a Policies Survey from Canada highlighted the following challenges to the adoption of OER:

  • There is no pan-Canadian agreement on the sharing of educational resources (this is backed up by Canada's response to the OECD questionnaire (1)).
  • There are no pan-Canadian studies on the existing OER landscape and its effectiveness, and thus provinces/territories currently say that they do not have access to sufficient data that would allow for properly assessing the economic benefits and potential impacts of OER for all partners and stakeholders involved in the development and procurement of learning resources.
  • Although OER could lead to overall savings in the production of educational resources, costs for securing the right to incorporate copyright materials in OER could increase. Third-party copyright material incorporated into those resources would have to be cleared for worldwide use, which costs more than clearing for use in a province or country. The amount of the increase remains unknown as no extensive pan-Canadian research on the amount of copyright royalties paid for the production of educational resources has yet been undertaken (this is backed up by Canada's response to the OECD questionnaire).
  • There are concerns around the “integrity” of materials should they be altered and adapted, as departments will not be able to guarantee the accuracy of materials.
  • It will be difficult to ensure that materials produced are legitimately OER, as learning resources are typically developed by publishers and third-party content is used in everything from textbooks to exams. Immense resources would therefore be required to ensure that no fully copyrighted third-party content is distributed inappropriately.
  • There are also concerns around “accountability” and the use of public funds for the explicit development of resources used outside the provincial jurisdiction.

Canadian universities are becoming familiar and comfortable with the concept of open access and are actively sharing scholarly research and data through university repositories; author funding to assist researchers minimize or avoid open access fees levied by publishers; support for open university presses such as Athabasca University Press (AUPress) and limited titles from University of Ottawa Press; and participation in the development of the Canadian Creative Commons licences.

The concept and activities of openness are clearly evident in the many Canadian universities and community colleges developing programs and policies to broaden open access and designing, developing and building learning object repositories (e. g., Athabasca University, Memorial University, Concordia University, University of Calgary, etc.).

Of these, Athabasca University - sometimes referred to as Canada's "First OER University" - was the first Canadian institution to adopt an open access policy in 2006, revised in 2014, which recommends

...that faculty, academic and professional staff deposit an electronic copy of any published research articles (as elsewhere accepted for publication) in an AU repository.

In 2009, The University of Ottawa adopted "a comprehensive open access program that supports free and unrestricted access to scholarly research." Some of the initiatives in its open access program include a promise to make accessible for free, through an online repository, all its scholarly publications; an author fund designed to minimize open access fees charged by publishers; funding for the creation of digital educational materials accessible by all online, for free; and commitment to publish a collection of open access books and research funds to continue studies on open access.

Other universities are following suit. University of Toronto/OISE, for instance, adopted a formal policy on open access in March 2012, referencing the Open Data pilot (Government of Canada initiative). Nonetheless, while the concepts of openness and open access appear to be gaining considerable ground, and in spite of the apparent endorsement by government, their growth - similar to that of OER - is threatened by lack of public funding.

While openness can be seen as a growing trend, specific or detailed Canadian OER initiatives, in many sectors, are difficult to isolate. Few Canadian institutions are visibly working on OER practices and/or policy development. Nevertheless, the western region of Canada does have real projects and initiatives in progress and is engaged assembling, developing and using OER (see Regions below).

National OER initiatives

Open Data

The Canadian federal government has initiated an Open Data pilot project using an open government licence, which is similar to the Creative Commons attribution licensing allowing for remixing and non-commercial uses. In April 2014, Industry Canada launched Digital Canada 150, which aims to support “connecting, and protecting Canadians, economic opportunities, digital government and Canadian content.” Canarie is a federally funded corporation that is “a vital component of Canada’s digital infrastructure supporting research, education and innovation.” Along with National Research Council Knowledge Management and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, it is supporting Research Data Canada in “ramping up” its activities to meet researcher needs in the co-ordination and promotion of research data management. The strategy includes developing open science and open data to facilitate open access to the publications and related data resulting from federally-funded research in easily-accessible formats.

As previously stated, education in Canada is a provincial responsibity. Nationally, no initiatives are possible unless individual provinces collaborate with each other. On the other hand Creative Commons Canada is supporting open licencing; the Council of Ministers of Education Canada (CMEC) have signed onto the Paris Declaration on OER; the Tri-Council group of federally financed research funding agencies have all agreed on a common open access policy; and a growing number of Canadian institutions are joining the OER universitas initiative.

Creative Commons Canada

Born from the global open education movement, the creation and use of OER benefits from the development and use of Creative Commons licences, which provide the legal framework to share these resources. A non-profit organization, Creative Commons "develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation." It has created a set of free licensing tools permitting authors/developers to share, reuse, and remix materials (including, but not limited to OER) with an explicit "some rights reserved", but others clearly allowed, approach to copyright.

As an affiliate of the larger body, Creative Commons Canada (CC Canada) is a collaborative initiative comprising the Samuelson Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), BCcampus and Athabasca University. Working with members of artistic, education, government, private business, cultural, scientific and technological groups, CC Canada aims to

advance the mission and goals of Creative Commons and communities it supports and enables, through the advancement of public education and outreach about CC licenses, tools, technology and programs, among other things, for the purpose of cultivating a cultural commons of shared intellectual, scientific, educational and creative content.
(CC Canada, 2012)

In addition to helping users choose licences and find cc-licensed work, CC Canada is a proponent of open government and the philosophy that government data should be accessible, shareable and re-usable under open licences by everyone. It is actively involved in this pursuit, studying how CC licences can be used by governments to make data available freely for public use.

Another CC Canada project is being spearheaded by its legal team at CIPPIC, which is researching the development of user-friendly tools that will provide comprehensive knowledge to users on how to analyze and use different open licenses. CC Canada has also launched a series of conferences (salons) country-wide to raise awareness of CC and its potential among different constituencies including educators, writers and artists.

In May, 2014, the new CEO of Creative Commons worldwide, Ryan Merkley, was appointed. He is Canadian and lives in Toronto.

Council of Ministers of Education of Canada (CMEC)

The CMEC is an organization of the 13 provincial or territorial ministries of Education. They met in Iqaluit, Nunavut in 2013 and there unanimously endorsed the UNESCO Declaration on OER. This Declaration played an important role in the growing support for OER across Canada. In response to the Declaration, OER were discussed for the first time at a national meeting in 2012. The Ministers "reaffirmed their commitment to open access to knowledge and education and to the need to adapt teaching and learning practices to the new realities of the information age." The Declaration followed by discussions at CMEC has been instrumental in the establishment of OER initiatives in three western provinces.

Tri-Agency Open Access Policy

The three Canadian research funding agencies, namely the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) have agreed on a draft policy supporting open access in scholarly publications. The agencies strongly support knowledge sharing and mobilization as well as research collaborations domestically and internationally, and so understand the importance of open access supporting the free exchange of knowledge.

OER universitas in Canada

The OERu is an international consortium of more than 30 institutions/organizations on five continents supporting pathways to learning using OER that lead to real world credentials. To support this, the OERu members are collaborating on the development of assessment and accreditation of learners policies, methods and applications.

There are six OERu members in western Canada and one in Ontario. These include BCcampus, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Thompson Rivers University in BC; Athabasca University, ECampus Alberta, and Portage College in Alberta; and Contact North/Contact Nord in Ontario.

Regional OER initiatives (Provincial OER initiatives)

Western Canada

The most important development in Canada for the open movement in 2014 was the tri-province Memorandum of Understanding on Open Educational Resources. The three western provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan have agreed to “cooperate on the development of common OER”. This includes facilitating cooperation among the provinces in sharing and developing OER; identifying, sharing and encouraging the use of OER; and by using technology, foster an understanding of OER issues.

British Columbia

This MOU initiative was led by the British Columbia Ministry Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology (MAE) influenced by BCcampus. In November 2012, the MAE announced that they will collaborate with post-secondary institutions in implementing an open textbook policy in anticipation of their use in B.C. institutions, supporting students taking 40 of the most popular post-secondary courses. The development of this open textbook initiative has gone ahead with input from B.C. faculty, institutions and publishers through an open Request for Proposal process co-ordinated by BCcampus. In 2014 the number of Ministry financed OER courses was increased to 60.


Following from this MOU, the Alberta Ministry of Advanced Education and Innovation announced an OER initiative, pledging $2 million for OER development, promotion and sharing. The CollabOERate Grant Program will provide publicly funded post-secondary institutions within the province of Alberta with the opportunity to apply for funding to support the assembly, use, development, implementation and evaluation of OER to support teaching, learning and research. This is seen as

“a long-term strategy to help reduce, over time, the costs students face for a post-secondary education. By reviewing and recommending how to integrate open educational resources at post-secondary institutions, this initiative will encourage flexibility and access for all Alberta learners.”
- Alberta Premier & Minister of Advanced Education and Innovation, David Hancock

Previously, Alberta, without making direct commitments, has been actively supporting OER-related initiatives for several years. In 1999, the Campus Alberta Repository of Educational Objects (CAREO) was funded to promote the sharing of open learning resources within Alberta. Unfortunately, these initiatives were not funded after the initial investment and eventually were closed. Another limited project that is still extant is the Alberta Core (Collaborative Online Resource Environment) and the LearnAlberta.Ca site at the K-12 level. These are limited quasi-open initiatives, restricting the openness on some resources to provincial or institutional teachers similar to the BCcampus so-called BC Commons licence (see below). CanCore Learning Metadata Resource Initiative was yet another early open education initiative in Alberta, which resulted in the creation of metadata implementation standards for learning objects.

Through its Access to the Future Program, the Alberta Department of Enterprise and Advanced Education has been financially supporting OER initiatives at Athabasca University. These include a project to promote OER within the university and search out and identify reusable objects for courses and support for the AU UNESCO/COL/ICDE Chair in OER, who is charged with promoting the use of OER institutionally, provincially, and internationally.


The government of Saskatchewan, as of June, 2014 was working on an OER open textbook initiative for Saskatchewan universities and colleges. It has been heavily lobbied by student groups and has been following the initiatives in BC and Alberta closely.


The Ontario government currently uses a password-protected learning object repository (LOR) to share resources amongst primary and secondary teachers, and to manage ownership and copyright. Although Ontario has worked with people to develop policy related to accessibility, and there is a degree of activity province-wide at different institutional levels with respect to OER, to date there is no evidence that any provincial policy related to OER is being considered. On the contrary, their recently announced “Ontario Online”, which is a collaborative Centre of Excellence in technology-enabled learning is not supporting OER development. The Ministry has allocated $42 million to this initiative, which joins Ontario colleges, universities and training institutions in an effort to maximize online learning opportunities for students. Unfortunately, the “Shared Online Course” fund of $8.5 supports restrictively licensed resources rather than OER.


In Quebec, the government has differed from other provincial governments regarding copyright protection in education and so has not been inclined to be supportive of OER initiatives. Quebec, as Canada's only officially unilingual French-speaking province, has a thriving local francophone cultural industry, unlike the anglophone provinces that tend to rely on US cultural imports. So, the protection of the French language culture in Quebec is a paramount concern, and as such the government is much more concerned about protecting their publishers and authors than they are about supporting open content for their educational institutions. They officially and legally use the term "droit d'auteur" (author’s rights) to translate the term "copyright" rather than the more precise “droit de copie” (copy right), This is more in keeping with the European custom emphasizing the rights of the publishers and authors over the rights of learners and other consumers. Membres du Comité sur le droit d'auteur de l'Association nationale des éditeurs de livres [Members of the committee on author's rights {copyright} of the National Association of Book Editors] have been particularly vocal in expressing their opinions. And the Quebec government has been alone of all the provincial and territorial governments in Canada opposing the educational exemption to copyright.

However, perhaps leading to a recommendation by the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, whose conference was hosted in February, 2013 in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, there is renewed interest in Québec in the promotion of ‘des ressources éducatives libres’ (REL = OER). The Québec Ministère de l'Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport du Québec is financing the website brer – banques de ressources éducatives en réseau, which is hosting French language OER. THOT CURSUS is another Québec organization that has implemented an OER repository.

Institutional/Organisational OER initiatives

Athabasca University

There is significant OER activity at Athabasca University. AU was the first university in Canada to join the OpenCourseware Consortium (now the Open Education Consortium - OEC), and as of 2014, was still the only Canadian institutional member. The province of Alberta and AU have been chosen to host the 2015 OEC Conference. AU was also given an OEC ACE Award in 2014 for its highly visible OER research website, the OER Knowledge Cloud. AU has also made available courses and course modules including multimedia objects at the AU OEC site licensed for use, generally with a Creative Commons Attribution licence.

AU is home to the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute (TEKRI), and the UNESCO/COL/ICDE Chair in OER, which promote the use of OER at the institutional, national and international levels. The Chair is a member of the board of the OER Foundation, which hosts the OER universitas (OERu), an international consortium of universities, community colleges and other organizations supporting pathways to accreditation using OER. Athabasca University is a founding partner in the OERu and a partner in the re-launch of Creative Commons Canada described above.

AU is particularly well suited for participation in the assessment and accreditation of informal learners, as is the goal of the OERu initiative. The Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) program (known in the UK as Recognition of Prior Learning – RPL) at AU has been a feature of this open university for many years through the Centre for Learning Accreditation. Through PLAR, the university awards credit towards a degree or certificate based on the recognition of learning acquired through life experience, job training, workshops, seminars or other experience. AU also has a well-established Challenge for Credit policy that allows people to demonstrate that they are proficient in the subject matter of a specific course, without having to take that course. Credit is given based on a challenger's knowledge of the course content and the payment of a testing fee. Transfer credits from other universities across Canada, the USA, and internationally are readily recognizable at AU. And, it is the only Canadian university that has US accreditation (through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education) and so AU credits are likewise generally recognized across North America and internationally.

As previously mentioned, AU policy on open access already exists, and emphasizes the belief that access to information and knowledge defines both the classical and modern university; to this end, it encourages making results of research accessible to everyone and has made a public commitment to Open Access research publishing. This started with the AU library in 2005, with the implementation of AUSpace, a DSpace repository of scholarly articles, theses, and other documents produced in the AU community.

In addition, AUPress at AU was the first open access university press in Canada. It publishes all titles under open access licence and in multiple formats including print (at a cost) and PDF (no cost). In a research paper comparing AUPress sales using data from Amazon, the print book sales of AU Press compared favourably with sales of other restriced licence university presses in Canada (McGreal, Shen, McNamara, 2012).

In addition, the Athabasca University Graduate Student Association (AUGSA) developed two policies it has proposed to government around open access. A draft document, designed for provincial government action, asks for the introduction of policies to support OER and the delivery of publicly funded research findings back to the public in Open Access publication formats, as well as legislation for the integration of OA with authors, institutions and other funding agencies.

A second draft policy to the federal government includes requests for the three federal research funding councils (SSHRC, NSERC, CIHR) to adopt a policy to ensure that all findings produced with publicly funded research are made available in Open Access formats; calls upon individual researchers to publish in Open Access journals and/or deposit their peer-reviewed manuscripts in Open Access repositories; requests academic institutions to adopt policies that mandate researchers to publish all their post-refereed manuscripts in an Open Access format; and supports the creation, maintenance, archiving, promotion, standardisation and interoperability of Open Access repositories at the institutional and national agency level. In addition, the AUGSA report Canada's Contribution to the Commons makes several recommendations to administration and faculty in support of OER. These include adopting open practices, incentivizing OER, open access publishing, and using open textbook. The efforts of AU students in supporting OER were a major reason for the Alberta government’s support of OER and along with students in Saskatchewan and BC led to the Tri-province MOU on OER.

Editors from AU's scholarly journal, the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL), were instrumental (through appeals and lobbying) for the SSHRC aide to scholarly publication program to reverse itself from discriminatory funding prohibiting funding for OA journals to the current policy that supports not only OA journals, and now promotes open access more widely.

AU staff are building an inventory of existing OER produced and used in AU courses. Training for faculty and staff in the identification, evaluation, selection and adaptation of OER for adoption as learning resources in courses is currently being implemented, and there is an extensive list of OER activities undertaken and underway for internal and external audiences, including, but not limited to:

  • an OER Open Education Consortium website;
  • an open access database, AuSpace;
  • OER research;
  • a mapping exercise of international activity related to OER;
  • open education/open access activities (presentations, workshops, conferences, etc.);
  • the OER Knowledge Cloud;
  • the OER Global Graduate Network;
  • OER awareness survey (internal);
  • OERu courses, e-texts and AU press book on OER;
  • OER evaluation (development of a matrix to assist internal staff to evaluate OER); and
  • Open Education MOOC.

AU researchers/course designers developed as an OER an English Second Language Grammar course for use on mobile devices as early as 2006 and they have also adapted and delivered its first online graduate course adapted and developed entirely from an existing Australian OER in Green Computing. In addition, AU has delivered MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) on Change and Open Education. These were made available freely online.

Finally, AU President, Frits Pannekoek is working on the idea and development of "The Best First Year Online" - an OER option that:

would consist of a digital repository of the world's best courses for a generic first-year university program….The courses would all be made available online - fully accessible, totally free, completely adaptable, always changing and, to ensure intellectual excellence, peer reviewed. They would represent the best pedagogy in combination with the best available content.
(Pannekoek, n.d., p. 6)


BCcampus, arguably the most active collaborative Canadian organization in the OER arena, is a publicly funded service which has turned to open concepts and methods to create a sustainable approach to online learning for BC public post-secondary institutions. BCcampus was created to enhance students' ability to not only identify, choose, register for, and take courses but also to apply any academic credits earned against credentials from a selected home institution; it was also intended to benefit institutions through the rationalisation of demand for academic opportunities from students with the supply of online courses from BC public post-secondary institutions.

BCcampus has been the leader in Canada in promoting OER and were instrumental in forging BC leadership on OER at the CMEC. The also played a major role in the BC Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology’s decision to support the Open Textbook Project, which they are implementing. BCcampus hosted a working forum on OER for senior post-secondary institution representatives in Vancouver in October, 2012 with the objective of developing a common understanding of what OER could mean for BC and building a shared vision of how to develop and use them. The session also studied ways BC can take advantage of the promise of OER and specifically, open textbooks. This led to the announcement by the MAE that they will collaborate with post-secondary institutions in implementing open textbooks. As mentioned above (see BC government) the Project started with 40 open textbooks at the postsecondary level and now is committed to 60.

A founding member of the OERu consortium, BCcampus is a leading proponent of OER. It has been operating a provincially limited "open" course programme since 2003. Supported by annual Ministry funding for a cumulative total to 2014 of more than $10 million through the Online Programme Development Fund (OPDF). This follows from previous Canadian course development programmes initiated by Contact North/Contact Nord and TeleEducation NB in the 1990s.

The OPDF provided developers with the option to license their work under the global terms of a Creative Commons licence or, in what might be seen as a strategic move to promote OER, to use a BCcampus licence, which restricts sharing to a local environment (the BC public post-secondary system) and audience (post-secondary faculty and staff only). This, according to Stacey (2006), "provided developers with an opportunity to experience sustainable development benefits through sharing on a local level, amongst peers, before considering the larger global context." More than 90% of the OPDF developers have taken this BC-only route. Proponents contend that this provincially-confined openness step has reduced fears that the sharing and reuse of one's material comes with a loss of control over authorship, while promoting critical knowledge of how open licences work in relation to copyright in a sheltered BC environment. However, as these fears recede, there will be more use of national and international Creative Commons type licences. On the other hand, the BCcampus licence could be seen by others as an unnecessary concession to recalcitrant faculty.

The BC OPDF achievements include the creation of more than 350 courses and nearly 400 course components leading to 47 credentials, although less than 10% of these are openly licensed, most being under the BC Commons licence and restricted for use only by BC post-secondary institutions. Interestingly, Athabasca University, although situated outside the province in Alberta, has been recognized officially as a BC documented university, and so also has access to these BCcampus licensed materials.

As projects complete their development cycle, they are licensed for sharing and uploaded to the BCcampus Shareable Online Learning Resources repository (SOL*R), which enables the licensing, contribution, and access to free online teaching and learning resources. SOL*R adheres to the principles of sharing, discovery, reuse and remixing of learning objects (from individual activities to full courses) from a variety of disciplines and subject areas. SOL*R also has a search engine that enables one to search for resources by field of study, subject area, contributing institution and other attributes.

Specifically in support of OER, other BCcampus initiatives are underway. This includes the major Open Textbook Project announced by the BC Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology. Another initiative is the implementation of an OER initiative around apprenticeships for the trades in partnership with BC's Industry Training Authority. BCcampus is also working with the North American Network of Science Labs Online (NANSLO), building on the success of the Remote Web-based Science Laboratory (RWSL) and open educational science courseware previously developed by BCcampus.

Thompson Rivers University (TRU) Open Learning

TRU houses the former BC Open University as its distance education wing, called TRU Open Learning. It is working with several of OERu partner institutions providing initial prototype courses to be released as OER. TRU Open Learning, like AU, has a robust PLAR system that includes challenge examinations and transfer of credit, which makes it a key partner for OER initiatives nationally and internationally.

OCAD U Inclusive Design Research Centre (OCAD-IDRC)

IDRC, a research and development centre at OCAD U in Ontario, consists of an international community of open source software developers, designers, researchers, advocates and volunteers working collaboratively to ensure that emerging information technology and practices are designed inclusively. The learning technologies and products that have been developed and distributed by IDRC are distributed under the GNU General Public License meaning that the code is open source and requires users to share product on the same liberal licensing that they have acquired it.

A key project, FLOE (Flexible Learning for Open Education) is one of the Centre's biggest initiatives. It has received substantial funding from the Hewlett Foundation and the European Commission. FLOE takes advantage of the fact they have a set of curricula that is openly licensed that can be repurposed and reused to make content accessible. This makes FLOE heavily dependent on OER. OER present an optimal learning environment to meet the needs of all learners, including those with disabilities. FLOE advances the strengths and values of open education and encourages pedagogical and technical innovation. FLOE also promotes OER for their content portability, ease of updating, internationalization and localization, content reuse and repurposing, and more efficient and effective content discovery.

FLOE's work is international and broad: to support adoption in Africa and other areas where mobile devices are more prevalent than internet access, FLOE is acting to create critical tools and services for delivery of OER via audio-only, text messages and the small screens found on popular cell phones. These same tools and services are intended to support accessibility, adding a compelling motivation for OER adoption of inclusive design.

FLOE's goals include:

  • development of an engaging outreach and awareness program for both the OER community and the accessibility community;
  • supporting OER producers to create and label transformable content, and OER repositories or portals to match learning needs with suitable OER; and
  • assisting the OER community in meeting the commitment to inclusive learning

Contact North/Contact Nord

Contact North/Contact Nord is Ontario's distance education and training network. It works to provide programming from public college, universities and schools with a focus in smaller towns, rural and remote communities. Contact North works with Ontario institutions to help develop strategic, cost-effective and focused approaches to online learning. CN/CN is attempting to create OER, modelling the BCcampus approach. They published a major position paper on OER, "Open Educational Resources (OER) Opportunities for Ontario" which "set(s) out the case for the implementation of an Ontario OER initiative, noting their benefits for post-secondary education in Ontario. CN/CN has also published an OER primer as a video series.

Téléuniversité - Université du Québec à Montréal (TéLUQ)

TÉLUQ has a policy on the dissemination of educational resources - Politique de gestion de la diffusion des ressources d'enseignement et d'apprentissage (REA). These policies relate to learning content in general and could include OER, but are also designed for proprietary content. Because TéLUQ faculty retain the intellectual property of all original material they produce for teaching, institutional policy has limited impact on what professors do with their material outside TÉLUQ. The LICEF - Laboratoire en Informatique Cognitive et Environnements de Formation is a research centre at TÉLUQ, which is hosting the Banques des ressources éeducatives en réseau (brer), a repository of French language OER.


Depending on one's perspective of time, OER are in a gestational period. The term “OER” was only coined in 2002 by UNESCO. However, while this may provide some wiggle room for countries, which have not yet fully involved themselves in or embraced the concept, it does not bear scrutiny by others who are trying to forward the cause or lead the field. Ultimately, Canada has only just begun to establish an OER presence in the international arena and has considerable work to do before it does.

As predicted, the findings of this report suggest that, with some notable exceptions, there are only a few organizations in Canada currently working to develop and establish higher level government policy, standards and protocols related to OER. Canadian institutions are involved in many and diverse activities centred on the provision of digital resources, but these are not necessarily OER initiatives. Work underway with respect to open access, and openness, falls under this same category. It is perhaps an indication why the 2012 Paris OER Declaration has a clear and direct focus on the promotion, research and reinforcement of strategies and policies related to OER, as opposed to activities related to openness and open access.

Nonetheless, while activity in the OER arena by major educational, provincial and national institutions may appear insignificant, there is a degree of activity and interest at the individual level that is difficult to quantify, but has the potential to lay the foundation for mainstream adoption of policy and practice. Groundwork for the growth of OER in Canada has been laid by the Western provinces. This bodes well for the future of OER initiatives in the rest of Canada.

Canadian Open Access Policies

The following Canadian institutions have been listed in the Registry of Open Access Repositories:

  1. Athabasca University [2]
  2. Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) [3]
  3. Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance(CBCRA) [4]
  4. Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR)[5]
  5. Canada Proposed Funder Mandate Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada(NSERC) [6]
  6. National Research Council of Canada (NRC) [7]
  7. Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) [8]
  8. Fonds de la Recherche en sante Quebec (FRSQ) [9]
  9. Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (CHSRF0 [10]
  10. Queen's University Library [11]
  11. Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance (CNCRA)[12]
  12. Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) [13]
  13. University of Toronto [14]
  14. University of Guelph Faculty of Environmental Sciences [15]
  15. Concordia University [16]
  16. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada [17]
  17. International Development Research Centre (IDRC) [18]
  18. University of Ottawa [19]



1. Hylén, J. et al. (2012), “Open Educational Resources: Analysis of Responses to the OECD Country Questionnaire”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 76, OECD Publishing.

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