:sync: StoryToGo - Building Global Connections, Opportunities and Sustainability in the Middle of a Pandemic

Authors: Erica Hargreave, Lori Yearwood, Kevin Ribble
Institutions: BCIT / UBC / StoryToGo / Ahimsa Media, StoryToGo / Ahimsa Media, BCIT / StoryToGo
Countries: Canada, United States

Topic: Global Collaboration, Strategies, & Policies in Open Education
Sector: Lifelong Learning
UNESCO Area of Focus: Sustainable OER
Session Format: Lightning Talk


Sometimes it takes everything falling to pieces, to gain perspective and place your focus where your heart was telling you to. In our case and in the case of StoryToGo (a digital site designed to bring a global community of creatives together to explore and discuss storytelling today), it took a pandemic!

When the pandemic hit, we saw the world around us, especially online, start spiralling into a state of anxiety and fear. Our first instinct was, “we can help calm” - which we did with both open and free resources that we’ve been building over the past few years, and that others have built. When that immediate need settled, we realized that this was the time and space to finally be building the StoryToGo teaching platform. You see not only did we see a number of our colleagues in creative endeavours unable to do their regular work, but we also realized that courses around contemporary storytelling that help people to dream, create, and move forward is exactly what the world needs just now. This has made us dream bigger in the development of the StoryToGo Classroom site too, including kids programs, a health and wellness studio, a culture hub, and a teacher resource centre into this online educational site.

In building and strategizing, we have had a few goals that are important to us. They include having open and free courses, diversity (in courses and in instructors), being global with instructors and ideas from different parts of the world, and creating revenue and sustainability for our instructors. That last part means that not all of our courses are open or free, as our instructors cannot pay for their rent and food on goodwill alone, but everyone is contributing in some way to the open and free that we are building into the platform.

In this session we will explore strategies for building a teaching site and open educational resources sustainably with open technology, bringing a global community together around a shared vision, solutions to the development of open and free outside of institutions, and balancing the creation of open and free education with the financial sustainability of our instructors - both from our experiences with StoryToGo and that of the broader creative community throughout the pandemic.


Learning Management System, Teaching Platform, WordPress, Sustainability, Global Collaboration

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Hello Everyone,

So the pandemic lit a bit of a fire under me to build an educational portal that Lori, Kevin and I had been talking about for years. Due to a number of realities that the past few months have brought, that educational portal has gone from what started as a simple and small vision to one that has been expanding to deal with an ever growing list of needs, including BCIT’s last minute need of needing an alternate space to host their first online kids summer camps.

In this sessions, I will share what we’ve been building with the StoryToGo Classroom, the tools we are using to build it, our future vision for it, and how we are balancing open, free, paid, and private classes as we shape a sustainable funding model with the StoryToGo Classroom to help create a bit of financial sustainability for the artists we are building with.

If you have specific questions you’d like me to address in this Lightning Talk, please let me know. And anyone who’d like to come and play and create with us in the StoryToGo Classroom, please reach out, as we are actively seeking educators and creatives to build with us.

Thanks. Looking forward to sharing more on Wednesday.

~ Erica

Oh, and here is a link to what we’ve been building with the StoryToGo Classroom: https://storytogo.ca/classroom/

And a tease to where we were with this project, this past February before the pandemic hit: https://www.youtube.com/embed/4lyS_-faXjo

Session recording:

Thanks Jure. Very much appreciated.

Hello Everyone,

Thanks to all who attended our Lightning Talk this morning on the new StoryToGo Classroom.

If you are interested in creating with us, please get in touch.

Just to review and add to what I shared earlier:

The original intent of this teaching portal was to create a space to develop and share courses (open and paid, public and private classes) in contemporary media and storytelling.


The pandemic lit a fire under this project and has caused it to evolve. The plan now is to build it a bit more light a community centre with:

  • Our Media Courses

  • Kids Camps, Courses and Field Trips

  • A Health and Wellness Studio

  • A Teaching Lab

  • A Culture Hub

For the techies, I’ve stubbornly been working to find a solution that allows me to build the site with WordPress to keep operating costs sustainable. Currently that solution is the LearnDash LMS plugin built on top of a StudioPress theme.

Our current funding is coming from private classes in some unexpected areas (a cheerleading school, running BCIT’s first online summer camps on the platform, and currently film productions in Vancouver for set school) and grants to fund new OER courses and experiment with the web monetization model.

Long term my hope is that from the site’s portion of the paid courses, along with the operating and marketing costs, that will help fund the maintenance of the open courses (and the development of some new ones).

Instructor / Course Developer-wise we are getting a mix of creators, including @DanDubien :

  • Artist and Media types looking for a new opportunity and to build a new income source for themselves

  • OER Developers looking for a home for their open courses that will be maintained and will share their content

  • Educators looking to develop a different sort of course, often more relaxed, or teach different things

At any rate, I’d love to invite anyone who is interested in creating - whether open content, paid course, or private group courses.

Also if anyone wants more details on how we are building, working with our instructors and course developers, our experiments with the web monetization model, or on the tech side of things, I am always happy to share.

~ Erica