91st ACFAS Conference at uOttawa: French-language OERs are gaining momentum!

Acfas 2024
ACFAS 2024
From May 16 to 17, 2024, the symposium “Les ressources éducatives libres (REL) en contextes francophones canadiens : recherche et intégration aux pratiques éducatives au postsecondaire” was held at the University of Ottawa as part of the 91st Annual ACFAS Conference.

Organized by Muriel Mignerat (Associate Professor, Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa), Mélanie Brunet (Open Education Librarian - Interim, University of Ottawa) and Catherine Lachaîne, (Student Success Librarian, University of Ottawa), and presented in partnership with the University of Ottawa Library, this symposium aimed to “shed light on the development and sustainability of French-language OERs in Canada”.

Open Educational Resources, or OERs, help make education more affordable, accessible, and inclusive, not least because they are free and published under an open license that allows them to be adapted and widely disseminated. OERs also help to overcome the lack of French-language educational resources adapted to various Francophone contexts, a particular challenge for official language minority communities.

However, on a Canadian scale, the production of French-language OERs remains quite modest compared to that of English-language OERs. This is why the University of Ottawa has set a goal of developing French-language OERs as part of Transformation 2030, an objective that is also reflected in the Library's Strategic Plan 2025.

Held both in-person and online, this bimodal symposium on French-language OERs brought together speakers from Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Alberta with aims to “introduce participants to French-language research on OERs [and] to the evaluation of programs associated with their creation, dissemination and use”, and to “promote this work to institutional and government bodies”.

Creating a pan-Canadian interprofessional community around OERs and open education in French

The symposium was also an opportunity to take stock of an exceptional year for French-language OERs: in March 2023, the University of Ottawa Library - in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Research Libraries - hosted the Francophone OER Summit, a one-day event bringing together some 30 practitioners, student leaders, faculty members and librarians from Francophone communities across Canada and Québec. The event was followed by a symposium on Francophone OERs at the 90th ACFAS Conference (Université de Montréal, May 2023), a workshop on French-language OERs at the Open Education Global Conference (Edmonton, October 2023), and an Open Education Month co-organized by various universities in Ontario and Québec (March 2024).

As OERs in French seem to be taking off, Catherine Lachaîne, Mélanie Brunet and Marianne Dubé (Conseillère pédagogique dédiée aux REL et à l'éducation ouverte, Université de Sherbrooke) seized the 91st ACFAS Conference as an opportunity to moderate a discussion entitled “Discussion et réflexions pour mobiliser une communauté interprofessionnelle francophone pancanadienne autour des REL et de l'éducation ouverte”.

Kateri Raymond (Université de Sherbrooke) takes part in a discussion entitled “Discussion et réflexions pour mobiliser une communauté interprofessionnelle francophone pancanadienne autour des REL et de l'éducation ouverte” during the symposium “Les ressources éducatives libres (REL) en contextes francophones canadiens : recherche et intégration aux pratiques éducatives au postsecondaire”, as par of the 91st Annual ACFAS Conference.
Kateri Raymond (Université de Sherbrooke) takes part in a discussion, during the 91st Annual ACFAS Conference.

During this discussion, participants were invited to share their needs and challenges, as well as various measures they felt would ensure the sustainability of the thriving pan-Canadian community that now revolves around French-language OERs and open education.

For Dominique Scheffel-Dunand (Associate Professor, Department of French Studies, Glendon College and Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, York University), the successful partnership between the Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne (ACUFC) and the Consortium national de formation en santé (CNFS), which supports French-language health training in Canada's French-language and bilingual post-secondary institutions, is a good model to build on. According to Professor Scheffel-Dunand, the ACUFC's funding and collaboration model promotes joint activities, which benefits all CNFS member institutions.

Other speakers also stressed the importance of eCampusOntario and la fabriqueREL (Québec), two provincial initiatives that are making a major contribution to the creation and awareness of French-language OERs in Canada.

Such is the case with Yves Desnoyers (FLS Part-time Professor, Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute, University of Ottawa), an OER neophyte: “Just recently, I received an invitation to participate in the eCampusOntario community. I'm going through all the introductory resources. There are a lot of great resources. I've learned a lot from your interactions today. La fabriqueREL is new to me. It's a great discovery.”

For Professor Desnoyers, being an active member of the French-language OER community and creating new resources is also an opportunity for professional development: “I'd like to take advantage of this community, but also contribute to it, because I see big gaps in my field, French as a second language, particularly in terms of quality content. Web activities, for example, could sometimes be improved. This would be a way for me to give back to all those who are interested in what I could produce, or to help teams bring certain projects to fruition”.

OER practitioners are hereby called upon to pursue their collaborations from coast to coast!

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