Overview of Open Educational Resources Policies in Canadian Government and Institutions

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Full title

Overview of Open Educational Resources Policies in Canadian Government and Institutions

Page length: 21 pages

Date: 2012


Diana Quirk, TEKRI, Athabasca University

Rory McGreal, TEKRI, Athabasca University

Terry Anderson, TEKRI, Athabasca University


This paper reports on the status of Open Educational Resources (OER) policies in Canada, in particular government and higher education institutions, consisting of a POERUP (Policies for OER Uptake) country report on the existence of policy documents designed to support OER in the different provinces and their institutions. With the knowledge that there are not yet any governmental policies to support OER, open textbooks and few related activities in Canada, this report describes initiatives and/or policy statements that are currently being considered - or perhaps even in developmental stages - in higher education institutions and government.

Although, it was anticipated that there might be some direct and observable evidence of OER policies, apart from emerging trends related to open access/open data initiatives, with few exceptions, there are no signs of any significant OER-related activity across Canadian governments, institutions or industry. In the quest to determine how and where OER were being created, assembled, used and repurposed - and if there were accompanying policy statements - this approach has proved to be insufficient. The information necessary to provide a fuller and more accurate picture of what is happening in Canada had to be related to what was occurring with respect to open educational practices (OEP) themselves. OEP refers to "the range of practices around the creation, use and management of open educational resources with the intent to improve quality and innovate education" (OPAL, p. 4, 2011). The questions asked of all respondents and their answers were therefore critical to provide an indication of Canada’s level of openness and strategies not limited to OER, but to also include OEP.

Indeed, Ehler (2010) found that "many current OER initiatives focus overwhelmingly on access and availability of Open Education Resources … and not enough on helping individuals and organizations to develop Open Educational Practices …" (as cited in Opal, 2011, n.d.). Although it was expected at the start (and ultimately confirmed) that there are few significant OER initiatives taking place in Canada, those that exist do indeed 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 further complicated by respondents' confirmation (supported by UNESCO/Commonwealth of Learning (COL) research and literature) 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 —influenced a shift in the focus of this paper, therefore, to describe only in general terms the Canadian landscape of OER policy and instead review in more specific terms Canadian activities and events related to OEP and indirectly OER.


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