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Dale Coleman

By Dale Coleman – Instructional Designer & Open Education coordinator, Tacoma Community College

The 2019 Cascadia Open Education Summit was a landmark event in regional capacity building around open education initiatives. Open advocates, practitioners, and learners from the Greater Pacific Northwest and beyond gathered at the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Harbour Centre Campus in Vancouver, B.C. to assess the terrain, plot a course, and forge ahead into the future of collaborative open education practice. Born from the BC Open Textbook Summit, and held in conjunction with BCcampus, Lumen Learning, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC)and Open Oregon, this event was a demonstration of the power and potential of regional solidarity in pursuit of our common goals to improve quality, equity, accessibility, and affordability in higher education using OER, Open Pedagogy, Open Access Publishing, and Open Source software.

Cascadia Open Education Summit LogoThe summit kicked off with back-to-back introductory highlights that effectively set the tone for the event. The first was a rousing welcome from Tsawaysia Spukwus (Alice Guss), who led conference attendees in collective dance, recognizing both the indigenous nations in our midst and our own burgeoning confederation of practice. The second early splash came from B.C.’s Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training, Hon. Melanie Mark, who announced that BCcampus will receive $3.26 million in funding for OER initiatives in British Columbia. She emphasized the effect of organized advocacy, helmed by the British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS), who met provincial leaders at every campaign stop pressing the importance of OER initiatives in B.C. higher ed.

Thus the stage was set for a regional summit that was radically optimistic, while maintaining a sober-minded understanding of the potential and promise, as well as the systemic, material, and attitudinal challenges that face a rapidly growing open education movement. What follows is a summary of selected sessions and events. For a comprehensive rundown of presentation speakers and summit events, visit the 2019 Cascadia Open Education Summit event page.

Video from the first day of the summit, including Alice Guss’s welcome, and both keynotes, can be found in SFU’s Recording Archive.

Select Sessions and Resources

Keynote: Heather M. Ross: The Open Engine That Could

In her morning keynote, Educational Developer Heather Ross demonstrated openness as practice by delivering a comprehensive examination of the open education effort at the University of Saskatchewan. She shared what she and her team got right, what they learned, next steps, and (critically) their failures. In a moving demonstration of leadership as vulnerability, Ross shared how her professional struggles impacted her personal life, and spoke poignantly about the need to talk about our failures as openly as we do our successes.


  • Look for partnership opportunities, both inside and outside your institution.
  • Find and celebrate your faculty champions. Instructors listen to other instructors.
  • One person can’t do it all. Ask for help and recruit collaborators.
  • Successes tend to be shared, while failures are individualized. Sharing our failures as well as our successes allows us to learn faster and be bold.
  • Next steps for open education: homework systems, collaboration, open pedagogy, OER repositories, increased adoptions (revisit old gaps and early-skeptics).

Keynote: Dr. Karen Cangialosi: Open Pedagogy, Radical Optimism, and the Ideas We Haven’t Yet Heard

Presentations Slides

Do not confuse Dr. Karen Cangialosi’s “radical optimism” with some Panglossian belief in inevitable progress. Quite conversely, Dr. Cangialosi’s optimism-as-praxis is rooted in struggle, discipline, and clarity of purpose. Her afternoon keynote contextualized contemporary conversations about open pedagogy within the broader landscape of critical pedagogy, feminist and queer theory, and decolonization discourse. She also presented a model demonstrating how open pedagogy attacks the systemic problems that undermine education. Open movements are about student agency, community and collaborations, and increasing access to (the attaining, creation, and sharing of) knowledge, and, ultimately, power. To recognize this is to recognize the transformative potential of this moment, which is certainly grounds for optimism.

Open Pedagogy Flow chart


  • Open education is about students and learning. We shouldn’t begin our conversation by talking about books and resources.
  • Open is about access to the creation, sharing, and attainment of knowledge. It is about engaging students as participants in their own education, with agency and voice.
  • We need to recognize the open ecosystem: OER, open pedagogy, open science, open access, open data.

Community as infrastructure: Building a scalable, sustainable approach to open textbook publishing

Presentation Slides

Zoe Wake Hyde introduced attendees to Rebus Community, and their effort to create a collaborative, community-driven platform for OER creation and knowledge-sharing. Drawing from the successful open-source software development model, Rebus, a non-profit funded by the Hewlett Foundation, has an ambitious plan to combine project workflow and collaboration tools with a worldwide community of OER creators, editors, designers, and reviewers. Their new platform is polished and sleek, and if they are able to grow their contributor base to a point when serious network effects begin to kick in, they may be on to something big.

OER Advocacy for Students, by Students

It was encouraging to see the central role that students played in this summit and not just in the realm of the rhetorical or symbolic, as is often the case when practitioners, organizers, and theorists gather to talk about education. Actual students were actively participating and lending their voice as co-creators of knowledge throughout the event. The clearest and resounding voices were those of the BC Federation of Students (BCSF). The BCSF issued a clarion call for inclusion in more sophisticated conversations about open pedagogy. While cost-savings are still a powerful motivator for students, they are beyond ready to talk about openness as praxis — who owns and has access to knowledge, the co-creation of teaching and learning, and open practice as equity work. Empowered students should be the engine of the open movement.


  • We need to empower students to advocate for themselves, by reminding them of their power.
  • Student unions and associated bodies already have mechanisms for mobilization and empowerment. If you aren’t including them in your effort, why not?
  • Make space for students to tell their own stories and encourage their peers.
  • Rural institutions, in particular, can benefit from open movements when connected to existing systems of support.
  • Don’t shy away from big conversation about open pedagogy with students. They are ready!
  • Ongoing support is needed to ensure continuity and sustainability amidst student turnover

Centring Student Voices in the Open Education Conversation

Presentation Slides
Game Materials

Arley Cruthers and her students from Kwantlen Polytechnic University presented a perspective-taking game that was one of the most talked-about sessions of the summit. In this game (link to materials above), players take the perspective of a student who is making difficult financial and life decisions while trying to maintain academic performance. According to all accounts, this game was a powerful demonstration of the reality of student experience, and the power of OER to alleviate real life-impacting burdens on students. The fact that it was presented by a group of engaged students surely helped make the point more salient.

Strategies for Scaling and Sustaining OER Initiatives

Presentation Slides

Day two of the summit was the “Day of Action” featuring longer, hands-on sessions that were full of opportunities to collaborate and practice with conference attendees. The session on scaling and sustaining OER initiatives was a round-robin series of small group discussions focusing on five specific factors:

  • Making the case for OER
  • Measuring impact
  • Building awareness and enthusiasm
  • Supporting faculty through change
  • Sustaining Change & Impact

These are the mission mandates that emerge in rough order as open initiatives transition from the “startup stage” to the “scaling stage.” Initial efforts trend toward making the case for OER and gradually move into change management and sustainability. This workshop was also jam-packed with practical resources (below), including a handy self-assessment for OER sustainability.


  • Making faculty feel like they are bad teachers is not an effective way to gain buy-in. Focus on the benefits to learning and equity, and work with faculty to implement their vision.
  • The initial focus should be on proving value and creating an “appetite for change.”
  • Understand that different stakeholders are persuaded by different arguments and metrics. Use your data and craft your pitch, accordingly.
  • Understand the constraints of skills, time, availability, and project support.
  • Faculty will never be copyright licensing experts. Let campus experts handle CC-licensing, and train faculty on the pedagogy.
  • Align OER with the strategic plan to make value more clear.
  • Culture building will always be more effective than stipend incentives.


Designing for Open: Educational Design and Open Pedagogy

Presentation Slides

This working session was another opportunity for group engagement around the creation of an “Open Pedagogy Starter Kit.” The presentation introduced the conceptual foundations of open pedagogy, along with a number of practical examples and tools. Participants then created collaborative documents that addressed a fivefold framework for support.


  • Students have the opportunity to be co-creators of their own learning.
  • Equity work is a solid foundation and entry point for open pedagogy.
  • The Five R’s for Open Pedagogy (Jhangiani 2019)
    • Respect
    • Reciprocate
    • Risk
    • Reach
    • Resist


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