Improving accessibility with open resources

Here at the end of Open Education Week 2020, I would like to let you know that the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT) is committed to making the resources we create open and accessible.

One of the CTLT’s values is “sharing”: “We engage in and facilitate knowledge exchange in a spirit of generosity by sharing insights into pedagogies and technologies and providing a platform for discussion and research.” We have a long history of sharing resources, software, and more, both within UBC and beyond.

For example, we collaborated with MOOC provider Edraak to adapt our course Teaching in a Blended Learning Environment for learners in the Arab world, working with them to translate the content into Arabic and making changes where needed to better contextualize it for Edraak’s audience. Learning technology tools and applications we create in house, often in collaboration with UBC IT in the Learning Technology Hub (LT Hub), are shared publicly as open-source software. For example, ComPAIR is an open-source, peer review application that asks students to consider two peer assignments at a time and compare their strengths and weaknesses, leading to better comments than if they reviewed only one piece of work.

You can see more of the Learning Technology Hub’s open-source software projects on the UBC Github repository, such as several WordPress plugins that the staff at the CTLT and UBC in the LT Hub have created and contributed back to the WordPress community. The Wiki Embed plugin, for example, facilitates open sharing of our resources by making it possible to develop content on the UBC Wiki (which anyone with a UBC Campus Wide Login can edit) and seamlessly embed it into multiple WordPress websites, such as those used by the CTLT, the Library, or other units or departments. You can see this in action in the open education toolkits on the Open UBC site.

The CTLT also creates numerous guides and other resources about teaching and learning that are shared with an open license. Frequently, we apply a Creative Commons license that allows others to freely reuse, revise, and redistribute content as they wish. The following are just a few examples:

Further, you may not have realized it, but the CTLT has had a Creative Commons license on its website since 2014. At the bottom of each page on the site, it reads: “Except where otherwise noted, this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.”

One of the CTLT’s other values is “respect”: “We practice equity and fairness by listening for understanding and supporting inclusivity. We show consideration and appreciation for those with whom we work.” One of the ways we are expressing this value is by working to ensure that our online and physical spaces are accessible. This includes making sure our website and other digital resources adhere to web accessibility standards (e.g., Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) and that everyone can participate equally in our in-person workshops and events. We are actively working on this goal in multiple ways, such as developing and ensuring adherence to a new respectful space statement for our events.

Given our current and past practice, and our values, we are now publicly committing to the following goal to further enshrine our values in our everyday practices:

At the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, we create open and accessible educational resources, tools, and practices. When we co-create these with faculty, staff, students, and community partners, we encourage public sharing with an open license when agreed upon by all contributors.

I want to clarify at the outset that the first part of CTLT’s Open Access statement applies to resources, tools, applications, etc. that we create on our own at the CTLT, such as many of the examples above. If we collaborate with others to create teaching and learning resources, including course content, it will always be up to our collaborators to decide whether they want to release the work publicly with an open license or not—which is what the second sentence is meant to convey. We recognize that there may be numerous important reasons why public, open sharing may not be appropriate for work we co-create with partners. We do, however, strongly encourage making teaching and learning resources and content accessible by, for example, adhering to digital accessibility guidelines.

This is an aspirational goal, meaning we’re not there yet but are working towards that end. In the coming months, we will be curating many of our open and accessible resources and tools and will share that collection with you, as we add to it over time. And we will report back in a year, in Open Education Week 2021, on progress towards the above goal.

In the meantime, we would be happy to hear any questions or comments you have about this endeavour. Does the wording of our statement clearly capture the meaning we hope to convey? Are there some areas you would especially like to see us focus on in working towards this goal? Do you have any questions about what we’re trying to do so? Please let us know!