Halfway through a semester, the website offering key content for a course on HTML, the language designed to represent webpages, went down, leaving professors at Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, with the challenge of finding replacement course material.
As Brandon Carson, Learning Technologist Specialist and part-time Professor, undertook the redevelopment of thecourse, his Manager, Briar Jamieson, suggested integrating open educational resources (OER). Throughout his studies, Professor Carson had positive experiences with OER. In particular, two of his professors, in the at University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Dr. Elizabeth Childs in the at Royal Roads University in British Columbia, encouraged and modelled the use of OER in their courses and teaching.
HTML Introduction is offered in three programs at Durham College: Website Creation and Design (Certificate); Business - Entrepreneurship and Small Business (Two-Year Diploma); and The eLearning Developer certificate program is offered through , a consortium of Ontario’s 24 public colleges who partner to share more than 1,200 online courses and several online programs to make them accessible to students across the province and beyond.
Professor Carson searched the web for quality open educational resources applicable to the course and encountered some difficulties, such as dated content. For example, students need to design for desktop and laptop computers, tablets and smartphones, and some of the content was not current enough to include all formats.
On, the free software community site, he found course content that met all of his requirements:
- Developed and constantly updated by industry leaders;
- Included formative exercises with feedback are integrated into all material; and
- Could be copied and pasted for storage within the Durham College learning management system (LMS).>
The Mozilla content is available with Creative Commons licensing so it can be used with attribution and modified, free of charge.
A detailed review of the Mozilla content revealed about a 95% match with the learning outcomes of the Durham course. Professor Carson then organized the open content into an online course structure for each weekly lesson featuring:
- Overview of content to be covered;>
- Learning objectives;
- Links to weekly readings;
- Discussion activities;
- List of assessments and due dates;
- Instructions on moving forward into content, including reflective questions to guide the learning;
- Content, including formative learning exercises in which students enter their own HTML code. The code appears in real time as they enter it and they can repeat exercises as often as they wish. Each exercise also offers a link to the solution;
- Summary statement outlining what student should have learned in this lesson;
- Assessment and due dates reminder; and
- Preview of next week’s learning and upcoming assignments.
Summative assessments were created by Professor Carson and are marked by professors.
The screen shot below features a page of the Mozilla content.
Benefits and Outcomes
Professor Carson, as the course designer, met with the professors planning to offer the course. They reviewed the materials during development and appreciated the content currency, formative exercises, and its continued accessibility due to its presence on the college LMS.
Currency is maintained by reviewing Mozilla content each semester to ascertain if any course content on the Durham LMS needs replacing or updating.
As all materials are available online, there is no need for a course textbook.
Challenges and Enhancements
During the first offering of the course through OntarioLearn, a student used a variety of social media to accuse Professor Carson, as the course developer, of stealing all the course content from the web and claiming it as his own. The student did not understand why they had to pay a fee for stolen materials. The complaint was quickly resolved, offering clear explanations of the purpose of OER and its educational value. Other students responded to the initial complaints on the course discussion board to support the use and quality of OER and the purpose of different copyright options.
From this experience, Professor Carson developed suggestions for anyone using OER
- Provide clear and detailed information for students on the purpose and benefits of OER;
- Provide information on OER to all those involved in the development process, including management and administrative staff;
- Develop an institutional policy on use of OER; and
- Develop a network of OER users, inside and outside the institution.>
Professor Carson strongly supports the potential for colleges and universities to adopt open education approaches, using them as an opportunity to make learning more accessible to all students and the learning environment more equitable.
For Further Information
Learning Technologies Specialist
Centre for Academic and Faculty Enrichment (CAFE)
School of Media, Art & Design
Oshawa, Ontario, Canada