Tactics and strategies to build institutional capacity for open educational practices

Hello everyone! I’m Rajiv Jhangiani and I have the privilege of serving on the Board of Directors for OE Global (elected in 2023). As the Vice Provost, Teaching and Learning at Brock University in Niagara, Ontario, Canada, I am working to build institutional supports for open educational practices. This is why, for example, our newly approved academic plan pledges support for the creation, adaptation, and adoption of open educational resources. However, for more than a decade now much of my work has focused on building the capacity of post-secondary institutions to support educators who wish to embrace open educational practices (OEP). This of course included my work at Kwantlen Polytechnic University where my colleagues and I developed Canada’s first zero textbook cost programs along with a robust OER publishing program and supports for open pedagogy.

I am currently involved in a study of all universities, colleges, and Indigenous institutes in Ontario to determine their capacity to support OEP, along with the maturity of their existing supports. This research, which is supported by the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada, builds on earlier research in British Columbia wherein some colleagues and I developed an institutional self-assessment tool known as the ISAT.

In recent months I have been working in partnership with Robert Luke (CEO, eCampusOntario), Catherine Lachaîne (Interim Head, Learning and Student Success, University of Ottawa), and Oya Pakkal (Graduate Student, Department of Psychology, Brock University) to update and refine this tool, drawing also on related work in the Netherlands. We look forward to sharing this new instrument (known as the ISAT2), which will be openly licensed and made available online in both English and French.

The goal of this applied research is to not only identify and articulate institutional capacity and maturity levels, but also to provide guidance in the form of specific strategies that post-secondary institutions may adopt in order to advance their institutional supports. This is why I have been spending time reflecting on tactics that are especially impactful within different institutional contexts. For example, at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, the integration of zero textbook cost (ZTC) course marking into the student information system was transformational in making ZTC courses visible to students at registration as well as enabling the analysis of institutional data on student enrolment, persistence, and course performance in a way that would demonstrate the impact of the ZTC initiative on educational outcomes. And at Brock University, the university’s collective agreement with the Brock University Faculty Association recognizes the creation of OER during the tenure and promotion process, as follows:

Evidence used to demonstrate the quality and effectiveness of teaching in support of an application for tenure or promotion may include, but is not limited to, the following items, with selection and weighting of the items as appropriate to the candidate’s teaching activities:

iv. innovative methods in teaching and other contributions to the teaching activities of the University, which may include the development of open educational resources;”

Of course, effective tactics and strategies are often context-dependent and reflect the type (e.g., research-intensive vs. teaching-intensive vs. vocational, etc.) and especially the local culture of the institution. For example, whereas KPU enjoys a large community of OER adopters, Brock University has a relatively small number of educators committed to working with OER. This is why we launched an OER Adoption Grant program at Brock over the last year, which provides our instructors with a small stipend that recognizes the effort involved in shifting away from commercial textbooks to OER. Moreover, this new program was entirely funded by the Brock University Students’ Union in its first year, which reflects the challenging budgetary circumstances faced by Brock and other Ontario universities.

This leads me to my question:

What are some effective tactics and strategies to advance institutional capacity for OEP that you have witnessed in your institutional or regional context? I am especially interested in tactics that are relatively low-effort or that are one-time projects but that pay significant dividends over time.


My experience in universities and at the high school level is similar to that of those present here. However, the perspective with which I am working in recent years involves a different view, not only integral but also of the conscious BEING.

This involves creating unique units that can be used or connected with others to co-build something else that is required. The concept of modularity or fractality is used as a basis.

Therefore, an academic plan clearly involves a general objective to be achieved and it is the combination of these fractals that creates the specific learning experience that is intended to be achieved.

With this perspective in mind, an academic plan can be designed using different educational practices and, from the characteristics of Open Education, this is greatly enriched.

The key now is to clearly locate a particular area where to start. Since this fabric is so complex, it is best to start with a strand.

All the best in 2024!!!

Many thanks, Rajiv for the thoughtful and important Board View post… maybe having the slot over the holiday break was not ideal for drawing in responses? Still this is well worth engaging with.

I was curious what kind of results cam from the first iteration of the ISAT tool? What are the improvements that are being folded into the newer version?

The projects you have led and others referenced are commendable for a clear commitment of support for OEP at the institutional level. I’d be curious if there are also some effective approaches that operate at a smaller level, that allow educators to get that small taste or OEP that energizes them to take more.

I go way back to some conversations with a faculty innovator I knew well at Maricopa, who described his path from going with the easy to implement publisher provider materials to organizing and arranging his own through open resources.

What stood out was the way he describe his relationship with his materials and teaching, like he was more engaged and activated because he had a more direct hand in the making-- somewhat like the change in our approach to food when instead of the easier purchased or restaurant produced food versus how we are more motivated when we learn say how to so a small dish from scratch.