Open Education Week: Rethinking Open Education

Series: Open Education

Event Date & Time

  • March 28, 2017
    5:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Event Description

The Failure of Access: Rethinking Open Education

There is little formal evidence that open education has an impact on increasing access to learning or making education more equitable; instead, the emerging picture is that open education has been largely embraced as a tool by those already privileged with access to education and learning resources.

The use of open re-use licenses and Internet technologies have long promised to reduce barriers to education by making it more distributed, equitable, and open. Indeed, the promise of open education can trace its roots to the the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations 1948, which states “everyone has a right to education.” The seminal 2007 Cape Town Open Education Declaration underscores and goes beyond this promise by declaring that open education and the use of OER contribute “to making education more accessible, especially where money for learning materials is scarce. They also nourish the kind of participatory culture of learning, creating, sharing and cooperation that rapidly changing knowledge societies need.” The 2012 UNESCO Paris OER Declaration [pdf] recommends that governments “promote and use OER to widen access to education at all levels, both formal and non-formal, in a perspective of lifelong learning, thus contributing to social inclusion, gender equity and special needs education.”

However, the question of who is benefiting from open education is still open. The OER Research Hub in their 2013-2014 Evidence Report [pdf] found that over 65 percent of informal learners using OER had at least a college diploma, with over 20 percent having a postgraduate degree. These demographics echo the demographics of learners found the type of open access courses with the highest profile, MOOCs, where multiple studies [pdf] have shown at least 80% of MOOC participants have a bachelor degree or higher. At least one Harvard professor has noted: “MOOCs aren’t digital keys to great classrooms’ doors. At best, they are infomercials for those classrooms. At worst, they are digital postcards from gated communities…More than a revolution, so far this movement reminds me of a different kind of disruption: colonialism.” Even for those privileged with access to higher education, open education does not seem to be impacting barriers related cost; the rate of tuition at Canadian post secondary institutions has been increasing faster than the rate of inflation.

Is open education succeeding in being a transformative movement that makes learning more accessible? What are the criteria and successes that should be used to measure if the open education movement is a success? What more needs to be done? This panel will explore the goals, failures, and successes of open education.

As a collaboration between Simon Fraser University (SFU), University of British Columbia (UBC), BCcampus, British Columbia Research Libraries Group (BCRLG) and the Public Knowledge Project (PKP), this event will explore the goals, failures, and successes of open education.


  • 5:30 – 6:30 Registration and reception
  • 6:30 – 7:15 Welcome and keynote speech
  • 7:15 – 7:30 Break
  • 7:30 – 8:30 Panel discussion

Event Location and Details:

  • This event will take place at the SFU Vancouver Harbour Centre, which is located at 515 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC
  • Reception will take place in the Teck Gallery Lounge with light appetizers and beverages (coffee, tea, juice, etc.) served
  • Registration and main event will take place in Room 1430
  • A video recording of the keynote speech and panel discussion will also be made and shared after the event.
  • This event is free but registration is required. Please register at


Keynote speaker:

Dr. Ishan Abeywardena, Advisor – Open Education Resources, Commonwealth of Learning

Dr. Ishan Abeywardena joined COL on 1 January 2016 as Adviser, Open Education Resources. Dr Abeywardena comes to COL from the Open University of Sri Lanka, where he was Director of International Academic Relations and Acting Director, National Online Distance Education Service (NODES).  Prior to that, Dr Abeywardena served as a Senior Lecturer in Information Technology at Wawasan Open University (WOU), Penang, Malaysia (2009 to 2013) and was Deputy Dean at the School of Science and Technology, WOU from 2013 to 2014.

In addition to his academic experience, Dr Abeywardena has held several key technical positions in the UK information technology industry. Dr Abeywardena holds a PhD in Computer Science from University of Malaya, Malaysia, master’s degrees in Engineering Management and Wireless Enterprise Business Systems from Brunel University, UK, and a BSc in Computer Science from Bangalore University, India and is a member of several professional bodies within the technology industry. A computer scientist by training, Dr Abeywardena’s research interests include educational technology, open educational resources (OER), eLearning, MOOCs, open and distance learning (ODL) and mobile application development.


Juan Pablo Alperin – PhD, Simon Fraser University
Juan Pablo Alperin is an Assistant Professor at the Canadian Institute for Studies in Publishing and the Associate Faculty Director of Research with the Public Knowledge Project at Simon Fraser University. He believes that research, especially when it is made freely available (as so much of today’s work is), has the potential to make meaningful and direct contributions to society, and that it is our responsibility as the creators of this research to ensure we understand the mechanisms, networks, and mediums through which our work is discussed and used. A list of his publications and presentations can be found at, and he can be found on Twitter a @juancommander.

Christina Hendricks – Professor of Teaching, Philosophy, UBC
Christina Hendricks is a Professor of Teaching in Philosophy at the University of British Columbia-Vancouver. She is part of an “open pack” team of faculty, staff and students at UBC who practice and advocate for open education through facilitating workshops and maintaining a website about open education at UBC (, among other activities. She was a Faculty Fellow with the BCcampus Open Textbook program in 2014-2015, and an Open Educational Resources Research Fellow with the Open Education Group from 2015-2017. Her CV and other information about her work can be found at Twitter: @clhendricksbc

Jenna Omassi – Strategic Support Advisor, VP Students’ Office at UBC
Jenna Omassi has been involved in advocacy efforts around OER and open textbooks since the Spring of 2015 when she served as VP Academic & University Affairs for UBC’s student society, the Alma Mater Society. Through her time in that position, she worked with counterparts at other student societies and within UBC to bring awareness of OERs to students, and helped to facilitate more adoptions and creations of open content at the university. This advocacy culminated in a ‘OER Student Toolkit’, supported by BCcampus, which acts as a roadmap for student groups to get involved in OER advocacy. Jenna currently works as a Strategic Support Advisor for the VP Students’ Office at UBC, and has continued to be an advocate for OER.

Tara Robertson – Accessibility Librarian, CAPER-BC
Tara Robertson is a librarian who doesn’t work in a library. She likes figuring out how things work, why they break, and how to make them work better. She’s passionate about universal design, intellectual freedom, feminism, all things open, and Fluevog shoes.


Brady Yano – Assistant Director of Open Education, SPARC
Brady Yano provides support and leads special projects across SPARC’s Open Education portfolio. His passion for open began during his time as a student leader at Simon Fraser University. Recognizing textbook costs as a barrier to accessing a post-secondary education, he saw open textbooks as the solution. From his position in student government, Brady organized a campaign called “#textbookbrokeBC” to raise awareness and expand support for Open Educational Resources (OER) on campus. Building on this success, Brady worked with student societies at other institutions and provinces to launch similar campaigns. Brady has presented on his work promoting OER at multiple conferences and workshops and co-created the BCCampus OER Student Toolkit. He also served on the board of the Simon Fraser Student Society for two years.

As the newest addition to the SPARC team, Brady works to advance the impact and reach of SPARC’s Open Education program. This includes working with libraries to develop and expand OER programs, developing new resources, and giving workshops and presentations on campus. His portfolio also includes support for communications, policy advocacy, and event planning.

This event is part of UBC’s Open Education Week.



Venue Website:

515 West Hastings Street, Vanouver, BC, V6B 5K3, CANADA