College of the Rockies instructor collaborates on open education resource project

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College of the Rockies University Science instructor, Katie Burles, co-authored a geography lab manual, that will be available for students to use, free of charge, for the fall semester.

Geography laboratory manual available free to students across the province this fall

College of the Rockies’ University Science instructor, Katie Burles, worked with geography faculty from nine B.C. post-secondary institutions to develop an online open educational resource that will be used by students across the province, free of charge, this fall.

“In three short months, we developed a 22-assignment lab manual that will be used for the College’s Geography 101 course, and similar first-year physical geography courses around the province,” Burles said. “Best of all, students will not have to pay for a lab manual.”

Burles, along with Crystal Huscroft from Thompson Rivers University, initially envisioned the concept of sharing ideas, materials, and labs between instructors across B.C. This quickly evolved into responding to the need for online geography lab resources as a result of the sudden shift to online learning necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Soon, more than 14 faculty members from post-secondary institutions across B.C. were collaborating on the creation of assignments that were not limited by the traditional correct/incorrect response activities. Their goal was to develop a tool that provided a more authentic evaluation of student understanding. The resulting labs and tutorial were then reviewed by additional B.C. geography instructors and a trial version of the manual was developed.

This manual will be shared with geography instructors across the province for use starting in September and will be tweaked, if necessary, as a result of feedback from both faculty and students. After this initial run, it will be made more widely available through BC Campus’ OpenEd site.

“I think this project demonstrates an incredibly positive side of the pandemic,” Burles said. “Instead of us all developing online resources independently, we worked together to create an invaluable online teaching resource.

Burles has also received College of the Rockies Common Faculty Professional Development funds to continue to work on open education resources over the upcoming year.

“Open textbook resources have saved B.C. students over $19 million in textbook costs since 2012,” said Darrell Bethune, Dean of University Studies. “The geography lab manual is a great example of faculty collaboration to reduce financial barriers to education. Every student who uses this manual will benefit tremendously from Katie’s hard work and that of her colleagues.”

Learn more about College of the Rockies’ Geography and other University Science courses.


About College of the Rockies
For more than 40 years, College of the Rockies has provided post-secondary education that meets the needs and aspirations of the people, industry and businesses of our region. Each year, we welcome more than 10,000 full-time and part-time students into a full range of programs, including: skilled trades, university studies, adult upgrading, early childhood education, health and human services, business, office administration, tourism, hospitality, recreation, fire services, continuing education and contract training. Through smaller class sizes, highly-personalized instruction and dedicated support services, our students are primed to succeed in the job market, or in the next stage of their academic journey.


Media Contact:
Heather Jackson
Manager, Communications and Marketing
College of the Rockies