KPU dean recognized for supporting open education

Thu, Jun 7, 2018

Dr. Diane Purvey, dean of arts at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), has been recognized for her support of open education by one of the movement’s biggest backers in British Columbia.

BCcampus, which supports post-secondary institutions in B.C. to adapt and evolve their teaching and learning practices, named Purvey a winner of the Award for Excellence in Open Education for her support for creating freely available content that improves the learning environment.

The organization noted that under Purvey’s academic leadership KPU offered Canada’s first Zed Cred, an academic qualification – in this case a certificate of arts – that required zero textbook costs. She has provided moral and financial support for faculty to pursue open education initiatives, and advocated for open education at conferences in Vancouver, Ottawa and Burnaby.

“Diane has embraced open education initiatives in the Faculty of Arts, the broader institution and beyond KPU,” BCcampus added in its award announcement.

Purvey expressed surprise at receiving the award, saying she has strong support from faculty and senior leadership for her work to provide opportunities and remove barriers for others.

“It’s a huge benefit having all those levels of support – faculty, the registrar’s office, the library – everybody being in support and then, upstairs, the senior leaders. They understand open education, they’re familiar with it,” she said.

Students taking a Zed Cred can use an open educational resource, such as digital texts compiled by faculty, or library materials, or even no textbook to complete the qualification with zero textbook costs.

Explaining the driving reason behind her support for open education, Purvey pointed to an academic study by Rajiv Jhangiani, of KPU, and Surita Jhangiani, of the Justice Institute for British Columbia, which showed many students weren’t buying academic texts because they couldn’t afford them. Having access to open education resources helps Zed Cred students to perform better, she said.

“We like to think of it in terms of every student who gets a Zed Cred is given a $1,000 scholarship because they don’t have to buy textbooks,” said Purvey. “I want to be able to make sure that every student who comes to KPU has the opportunity to be successful, and if we can ensure that they have that opportunity then we’re doing a great thing.”

Open education resources have many other benefits, including the ability to be quickly updated by faculty and made instantly available to students, said Purvey.

“Faculty can remix, repackage, do whatever they want to make it really lively and interesting,” she added. “There’s way more faculty ownership and our Zed Cred students no longer have to experience buying a text and only being asked to read half of it, because now it’s been edited down to all that’s relevant. It’s way more adaptable and creative. And you can read it off your phone too.”

For now, the KPU’s certificate of arts remains Canada’s only Zed Cred, but Purvey will keep looking for new opportunities to share the open education message.

“I would love it if people could look at KPU and one day say, ‘KPU, that’s where they have the Zed Creds’ and we have one in every faculty; that it’s just part of our DNA.”