Reclaiming ProComOER

Reclaiming ProComOER

February 12, 2023 Off By JR

I’ve worked as an instructional designer (or very adjacent roles) in higher education for over ten years. Over that time, I’ve had the opportunity to work on hundreds of courses and projects involving staff training, knowledge bases, tutorials, etc. When I look back on the projects I’ve worked on in that time, the ProComOER is one of the most memorable and arguably impactful I’ve ever worked on.

In the mid-2010s, I was getting my footing as an ID and looking to get Open Education moving at my job. I worked with a few other individuals at the university to raise awareness of OER, but overall it was one of those “off the side of your desk” things. I came across a job posting for an instructional designer at Olds College that spoke a little bit about a project they needed an ID for, but without so many specifics. When I met with the team at Olds, after introductions, the first thing they asked me was, “what I knew about open educational resources.” I don’t necessarily believe in signs, but wow! what an opportunity. So I moved from a permanent role to take on an intensive eight-month project solely focused on creating OER, which became ProComOER.

The team was fully distributed, my first taste of truly remote work, and working towards creating not only an open textbook (all the rage at the time), but also an abundance of ancillary resources to go along with it. We wrote up activities and created videos and slides, rubrics, assessments, question banks, and infographics. The whole nine yards. We used Google Docs to collaborate but also distribute the resources. Over the years, I’ve received a bit of criticism about that decision, but in 2016 it made sense as a one-stop shop where we could author, distribute, and allow others to download copies of their own (even editable ones!). Even now, there aren’t many tools that are quite that flexible with as low a barrier to entry.

Since its release in 2016, the materials in ProComOER have been used in numerous courses, serving thousands of students – thousands at Olds College alone, let alone the other adoptions and adaptations that have happened over the years. One of the reasons I consider ProComOER one of the most impactful projects I’ve ever worked on is this fact. The only other project that comes to mind that has had a large (probably larger) audience is the Indigenous Canada MOOC. However, I came to that project very late in its development, primarily just assisting with a pilot and first delivery, so I cannot necessarily consider it a project I’ve worked on so much as assisted.

Years have gone by since the release of ProComOER, and the WordPress site we developed to accompany the GDrive folders eventually went defunct. I figured that because others had already migrated it to Pressbooks or retrieved materials from BCCampus that maybe the WordPress site was not necessary anymore. How wrong I was.

In my new role, outside of higher ed, I met a new coworker for coffee. We exchanged a bit about our career journeys, and I mentioned the blip of time I spent with Olds College. Immediately they asked about what I did there, and I told them about ProComOER. They knew the book; they, in fact, used it for courses they taught at Yukon University (formerly college). I was so surprised! To this day, I’m still learning about former and new adoptions of the work.

This coworker mentioned they were disappointed that access to the website went down as their class lost access to the materials. This forced me to take a hard look at my assumption about access to the materials. So I’ve spent a little bit of time this weekend putting together another site to serve as a hub for the OG resource. I hope others find it and find it helpful. Although I’m not explicitly in the OER game anymore, it’s still close to me in some ways, this project in particular.