Working group helps to build an open educational resources library

From scanning paper documents to searching for available electronic substitutes, in 2020, adult literacy instructors scrambled to digitize their teaching manuals and tools. A sector with a long history of relying upon binders and books on shelves struggled to avail itself of quality digital teaching resources, and the AlphaPlus team discovered the extent of the challenge.

“During the pandemic, we noticed instructors’ difficulties with getting content and resources to learners electronically. At the same time, we realized the potential to leverage technology to open up more equitable access to free, quality literacy and numeracy resources,” explains Christine Pinsent-Johnson, policy and research specialist in education and technology at AlphaPlus. “We started experimenting with several solutions, including creating and curating online resources through HyperDocs. However, the response told us we needed a different, more collaborative approach.”

Working group complements research and library expertise

Christine and her colleague Guylaine Vinet, organizational development specialist in education and technology, started exploring the idea of open educational resources. While well equipped for digital library building — Christine as a researcher and Guylaine as a librarian — they recognized the value of forming a working group to shape their project’s scope, approach and contents.

“We started with a basic idea and knew we needed user guidance regarding the project’s viability, format choices, how we should organize materials and the relevance and usefulness of what we were assembling,” says Guylaine. “For educators to use the resource, we needed to know what works best for them.”

Christine and Guylaine assembled a group of instructors from school boards and community groups, representing urban and rural communities across the province. Members work in program areas ranging from workforce development to academic, with diverse learner groups.

The working group first met in May 2022 and started by forming terms of reference and the optimal formats for resource curation and sharing: Google Drive and a microsite. In June, the group established criteria for resources to be included. For example, materials must:

Be free and ad-free.

  • Include modifiable text.
  • Be shareable and reproducible.
  • Include ready-to-use materials with instructional activities.
  • Have tips, ideas and strategies for educators to implement.

With the scope defined and a full suite of parameters established, Christine and Guylaine began their search of over 100 collections and lists from Canada, the U.K. and Australia. They gathered resources that met the criteria and involved the working group in content review. One working group participant, Karin Meinzer, instructor for the West Centre at PTP Adult Learning and Employment Programs, reflects on her experience:

“As an instructor, there aren’t many day-to-day opportunities to connect directly with colleagues in the field. I always like to say yes to projects such as this because of the exposure it gives me to new ideas and things happening outside my tiny sphere!” 

Working online has made me hyperaware of the limitations on sharing published materials. Good, open-source material is hard to find, and it’s even harder to come by the time and the skills needed to assess the usability of materials. I am so glad that Guylaine and Christine are evaluating materials for the field and organizing them in an accessible way.

Karin Meinzer

Open educational resource prototype now available

The result of the working group’s efforts to date is not simply another collection of resource links but a fully vetted collection of workbooks, modules and activities that address a full range of instructional topics. A prototype is now available covering the first two of 10 topics the working group identified: (1) reading instruction workbooks and modules and (2) general knowledge content. The prototype will be delivered in English, with research underway to explore a French option.

“This working group has created a good opportunity for educators to get together, talk with each other over a shared interest and produce a body of work. All educators in Ontario will soon be able to access a library of open educational resources ready to download, use and save,” says Christine. “Having input from the working group made us more confident about the end product, and the success of this experience means we will be looking for working groups in the future.”

Let us know what you think of our open educational resources prototype. Do you have suggestions for additional resources? Would you like to participate in future steps as an educator advisor? Get in touch with us.



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