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Open Science and Open COVID pledge for education

What does a better – more equitable, more hospitable, more flexible, more creative, less oppressive, more impactful – post-pandemic education system look like? What does teaching and learning look like in such an environment? What does scholarship look like? Speculative futures work in education aims to imagine answers to such questions, but, what are some steps individuals and institutions are taking now toward imagined futures?

Open Science has been described as a key to responding to COVD-19. Whether in vaccine search or medical equipment design, open science is critical. It also has a critical role in education – in teaching, learning, and scholarship.

I encourage you to explore the following initiative:

“The Association for Learning Technology (ALT) is proud to support the launch of the Open Covid Pledge for Education, covering all forms of research, data and know-how that can support the COVID-19 response in education around the world. The creation of the Open Covid Pledge has been co-ordinated by Helen Beetham, Researcher and Consultant, and ALT Member.”

You could start small (e.g., by depositing a pre-print of a paper in a repository or publishing your next paper in an open access journal). For example, I learned about OSF in June. OSF is an open source project management tool supporting researchers throughout their entire project lifecycle. I’ve seen some use it as a place to host pre-prints, data, and insrtruments. To explore its use, I deposited the survey instrument and outputs from the Canadian Pulse survey to a project there:

Zed Creds at Royal Roads

There’s a lot of work happening in the province of BC around OER and Zed Creds/Degrees, much of it facilitated by government funding, the expert guidance of BCCampus, and early adopters such as Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

With my colleagues Elizabeth Childs and Jo Axe, we’ve been slowly transitioning our MA and Graduate Diploma in Learning and Technology into Zed Creds. A press release yesterday announced that we completed the process.

For our students, this means no textbooks to purchase and greater transparency on the full cost of their program.

For our faculty, this means more freedoms to work with OER than with copyrighted materials to achieve desired outcomes.

For the field of educational technology, this means that we now have an example of an MA degree that is completely textbook-free and mostly OER-based. Zed Degrees aren’t just for other disciplines and aren’t just for diplomas/certificates.

So you want to publish your #edtech or digital learning book in an open access format?

Every now and then someone asks me whether I know of any non-commercial publishers that don’t charge thousands of dollars in OA fees to publish open access books in the field. In this post, I’ll share two such efforts that I support:

  1. A new venue for your open access book publishing in our area is Not only is this project ingenious, I believe it will quickly scale and grow into something extraordinary. I have a long personal and professional connection to the people running this project, so take that prediction with a grain of salt. If you’re interested in publishing with them, contact them at
  2. Athabasca University Press publishes the award-winning Issues in Distance Education book series. Partly because AU Press is one of the few university presses that publish books in open access formats in our field and partly because I’d like to help expand the conversations that we are having in our field I recently agreed to co-edit this series with Dr. Terry Anderson. If you’re interested in publishing with AU Press feel free to contact me. As far as my personal interests go, I am keen to support and see more books from:
  • Under-represented authors, such as women and people of color, whose perspectives and research on topics pertaining to digital education challenge the dominant ways of thinking.
  • Authors who are interrogating various aspects of the history of the field.
  • Authors who are conducting rich ethnographic work (e.g., What’s life like as an instructional designer? What’s it like at an online program management company?)
  • Authors who are conducting critical investigations of various aspects of the field, such as for example, interrogating discourses pertaining to online learning, or interrogating issues relating to power and privilege.
  • Authors whose work provides practical recommendations for addressing the significant challenges and tensions that our community is facing.

Are there any other non-commercial open access publishers in the area that you would recommend?

A list of Z-degrees and Zed Creds

On Twitter last week I asked whether anyone had created a list of available a Zed Creds and Z-Degrees. As a way of definition BCcampus writes: “a Zed Cred/Z-Degree is a set of courses in a specific program area that allows a student to earn a credential, such as an associate degree or certificate program, with zero textbook costs by way of using open educational resources and/or free library materials.”

It’s easy to find lists of colleges and universities working on these, but much harder to find specifics (e.g., what are the main credentials? what are the main disciplines? and so on). Through Rajiv Jhangiani, I learned that Richard Sebastian had created one such list of Z-degree, Zed Cred, and OER Degree programs. If you cite this list, please use the following attribution: Created by Richard Sebastian, Achieving the Dream.

So, there’s a list and we can all help improve it.

But, we had an interesting conversation on Twitter that I am going to rehash here, partly because it relates to the list, partly because my Twitter posts are automatically deleted and that conversation will eventually consist of fragments. David Wiley asked: “Are you looking for programs that use OER (even if there is some cost to students) or programs that are completely free to students (even if there is some All Rights Reserved content used)?”

This question relates to ongoing effort in the field to disambiguate terms and intentions. Both Z -degrees and OER degrees may be one and the same and may cost zero to students. But, they may also cost zero to students and consist of entirely different (non-OER) materials. A Z-degree for instance may consist of copyrighted library resources that require no additional costs to students to access (e.g., a seminal piece of work that faculty deem necessary to include). Library resources aren’t “free,” of course as students pay for them through tuition and fees. But beyond cost, the core argument here is that the permissions that OER enable are expected to lead to more effective and worthwhile teaching and learning experiences.

And here’s the final caveat: Imagine a typical course that uses a commercial textbook. Now consider that course being redesigned such that it exclusively uses library resources. Imagine an instructional designer and a librarian working with a faculty member (or two) to identify resources, define learning objectives, create activities, and align assessments. The permissions that the library materials allow won’t match the ones that OER allow, but the benefits of OER use reported in the literature don’t always just come from OER – they also come through the redesign process. This is not a dispute with OER. Rather, it’s an argument for instructional design. Or, learning design, or learning engineering. Alas, disambiguating these terms is probably best left for a different post altogether.

Searchable directories relevant to educational technology

Contact North | Contact Nord keeps a number of non-exhaustive searchable directories relevant to educational technology leaders, practitioners, and researchers that are really useful, especially because they can be downloaded in csv format. Below are links to the ones I could find on their website:

Open Access Educational Technology books

I want to tell you about a new site that Royce Kimmons is launching:

This aims to become go-to location for open texts related to educational technology, instructional design, learning design and technology, and related fields. If you’d like to add a book to this collection, bring it to the attention of Royce!


Tri-council guidance on using online public data in research

I am often asked whether there are Canadian ethics guidelines on the use of online public data in research. The  relevant section from the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans is provided below. I believe that researchers should take further steps to protect privacy and confidentiality pertaining to public data, but with regards to accessing and using public online data, this is a start.

A sample project to which these guidelines may apply is the following:  The researcher will collect and analyze Twitter profiles and postings of higher education stakeholders (e.g., faculty, researchers, administrators) and institutional offices (e.g., institutional Twitter accounts). This research will use exclusively publicly available information. Private Twitter accounts (ie those that are not public and involve an expectation of privacy) will be excluded from the research. The purposes of the research is to gain a better understanding of Twitter metrics, practices, and use/participation.


=== Begin relevant Tricouncil guidance ===

Retrieved on December 12 2014 from

REB review is also not required where research uses exclusively publicly available information that may contain identifiable information, and for which there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. For example, identifiable information may be disseminated in the public domain through print or electronic publications; film, audio or digital recordings; press accounts; official publications of private or public institutions; artistic installations, exhibitions or literary events freely open to the public; or publications accessible in public libraries. Research that is non-intrusive, and does not involve direct interaction between the researcher and individuals through the Internet, also does not require REB review. Cyber-material such as documents, records, performances, online archival materials or published third party interviews to which the public is given uncontrolled access on the Internet for which there is no expectation of privacy is considered to be publicly available information.

Exemption from REB review is based on the information being accessible in the public domain, and that the individuals to whom the information refers have no reasonable expectation of privacy. Information contained in publicly accessible material may, however, be subject to copyright and/or intellectual property rights protections or dissemination restrictions imposed by the legal entity controlling the information.

However, there are situations where REB review is required.

There are publicly accessible digital sites where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. When accessing identifiable information in publicly accessible digital sites, such as Internet chat rooms, and self-help groups with restricted membership, the privacy expectation of contributors of these sites is much higher. Researchers shall submit their proposal for REB review (see Article 10.3).

Where data linkage of different sources of publicly available information is involved, it could give rise to new forms of identifiable information that would raise issues of privacy and confidentiality when used in research, and would therefore require REB review (see Article 5.7).

When in doubt about the applicability of this article to their research, researchers should consult their REBs.

=== End relevant Tricouncil guidance ===

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