The OpenETC provides open educational technology infrastructure – WordPress, Mattermost and Sandstorm apps – to the British Columbia post-secondary sector of 25 institutions. It operates on a community contribution model, much like a cooperative, whereby users, in exchange for the free access to the infrastructure, contribute back what they can. This might include helping out with supporting other uses, providing onboarding or documentation, or sharing best practices. The cooperative model has especially benefited smaller institutions who don’t have the resources to support ed tech tools beyond the LMS, and has been an important catalyst in fostering open practices. During COVID, the OpenETC helped several institutions pivot to emergency remote teaching by providing simple tools to faculty and supporting staff.
As a model, the OpenETC provides an alternative to a vendor or shared service model, and by providing open ed tech tools to the public higher education sector supports a shift to more critical reflection of proprietary software and data and privacy protection. Although OpenETC was established in 2017, BCcampus has more recently become an important financial supporter of OpenETC by providing funding for a 3 year pilot. This support also signals a recognition of the importance of open ed tech tools as part of the broader open education movement.
OpenETC now has over 2500 users of WordPress (including SPLOTS) and 1500 users of Mattermost, including 74 Mattermost team sites. One of the key features of OpenETC WordPress is the ability, via the “Clone Zone” to browse fully built sites and clone them with one click. This has an important benefit of reducing the time and expertise required to build a site, while also allowing the community to build on the open education practices of others. In this way, OpenETC fosters re-use in a way that requires little technical overhead or digital literacy, which is a recognized barrier in OER reuse.