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Academics aim for educational history in Chilliwack

Wayne Podrouzek helps create test questions at the Great Psycholgy Testbank Sprint at Cheam Mountain golf course Saturday. Podrouzek is from Chilliwack, has a doctorate in psychology and teaches at the University of the Fraser Valley. - Greg Laychak
Wayne Podrouzek helps create test questions at the Great Psycholgy Testbank Sprint at Cheam Mountain golf course Saturday. Podrouzek is from Chilliwack, has a doctorate in psychology and teaches at the University of the Fraser Valley.
— image credit: Greg Laychak

Tucked in a corner of the Cheam Mountain Golf Course clubhouse, twenty academics pored over textbooks and tapped away on laptops Saturday in an effort to make educational history.

The participants, who all have doctorates in psychology, gathered from around British Columbia to create a body of high-quality test questions for the Open Textbook Project.

“These are freely licensed textbooks that are available for faculty to use and to replace publisher’s content—which can often cost $250 for a textbook for a course,” said Clint LaLonde. “We’re trying to lower the cost of education for students.”

LaLonde is the manager of open education at BCcampus, a publicly-funded organization committed to developing and promoting more transparent and accessible education resources.

After two days of collaboration, the group wrote 851 questions covering 15 different subject areas for the first-year psychology test bank. The event was dubbed a “sprint” because of the speed with which such a large amount of material was created.

LaLonde said their work will be shared with an open textbook project in the U.S. called NOBA project, distributing the benefits around North America.

The material is customizable by professors, and easily distributed to and viewed on students’ electronic devices. Printed and bound versions are also available for those who still prefer a physical copy.

“People are here because they believe in the project, they believe in the importance of open education,” said Rajiv Jhangiani, a doctor of psychology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

“This has not happened before, so there’s no template for what we’re doing. In many ways we were aware that we were breaking new ground and this was a grand experiment... it seems to have worked really well.”

Jhangiani hopes the model they’ve created will be duplicated elsewhere, in other disciplines.

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