Free Range Edtech

Author: tmorgan

Welcome to Alan Levine, OpenETC Community Coordinator

In the past three years, the OpenETC community of users has grown considerably, as more faculty and staff in BC higher education are exploring teaching practices using WordPress and Mattermost.  This growth signalled the importance of future planning, and led the OpenETC administrative team to create a high-level, three year roadmap. In 2020, BCcampus provided a pilot funding commitment to support the roadmap.

As part of the roadmap, one of the pre-COVID goals was to develop the OpenETC community by providing more resources and fostering a growing culture of mutual support and contributions.  As many of you know, the OpenETC model is a little bit unusual… there is no 24/7 helpdesk, there is no IT department or vendor behind the scenes.  OpenETC runs on community contributions, not unlike a take one, leave one box at your local charity shop.

However, it is important to do this right, and we felt that we needed someone with some dedicated time to model and nurture the community in this direction.  We are thrilled that Alan Levine (@cogdog), SPLOT creator extraordinaire, has come on board to lead the community building over the next few months.  Alan has long been part of the ETUG community, and you may have also come across his work with BCcampus in helping with the BCcampus H5P Kitchen project.  In addition to having fantastic technical and photography skills, Alan is a well-known online community builder and we will be drawing on all of his expertise to help us with this next step.

So what exactly can you expect in the next few months?  As the OpenETC Community Coordinator, Alan will help us ensure a sustainable community is built around the OpenETC in keeping with the OpenETC model that is founded on co-operative principles.

Some of things that Alan will be doing are:

  • Running sessions for educators to introduce the OpenETC and how the model works
  • Running sessions to demo various aspects of the OpenETC toolkit and its application to teaching and learning
  • Monitoring and responding to Mattermost chat channels (Town Square, WordPress, etc), supporting community members to solve their own problems
  • Communicating planned changes to the OpenETC toolkit
  • Soliciting feedback via focus groups, polls, running pilots etc on aspects of the OpenETC toolkit
  • Gathering and coordinating contributions back to OpenETC
  • Showcasing exemplary open education practices
  • Identifying and developing (and helping the community to develop) various self-help resources as required.


This is an ambitious list, but our goal is to make the OpenETC as efficient, sustainable, and collaborative as possible.  There is no OpenETC without the BC post-secondary community who share, contribute, and support each other and together we can build an alternative for open ed tech supported teaching and learning in BC.

Do you have any feedback on this list?  How do you see the priorities of this role?  Feel free to leave your comments.

Examples of open education practices enabled by OpenETC infrastructure

For some time I’ve been wanting to share some examples of what open education practices (OEP) enabled by open ed tech looks like in practice.  OpenETC provides open ed tech infrastructure to the BC higher ed sector in the form of 3 types of services:  WordPress, Mattermost, and Sandstorm click and go apps.  The most visible examples of OEP are in the WordPress part of OpenETC, since Mattermost (open source Slack) is a more private class or group space, and Sandstorm uses-in-practice aren’t visible to us as administrators. So this is a round-up of a selection of uses of WordPress in OpenETC.

WordPress E-portfolios

Last year, the biggest uptake for OpenETC was in the area of WordPress for e-portfolios. OpenETC provided a couple of templates for e-portfolios that could be cloned with one click, making it easier to get up and running.  KPU was the first to go down this path and we worked with some faculty and a student who also created some onboarding documentation that is now part of the OpenETC resources.  The impact of the WP e-portfolio approach was shared at ETUG in 2019 by Anne Marie McClellan and student Anthony Radjkovich. Since then e-portfolios have been popping up at other institutions.

Simple course sites – course supplement, showcase student work, alternative to content in the LMS

An obvious use of WordPress is for simple course sites to supplement a face to face course, or to replace what would normally be tucked into an LMS.

One of my favourite examples that I like to share that really underscores the Open ed tech for OEP connection is this example from UNBC.  The community news write-up provides the context, and the course site is a rich resource of the community-based research and artefact collection that students undertook.  has

  • Showcases the work of students in TRU Law’s Animals and the Law class
  • If a course was a podcast, this simple site would be that. You won’t find text here, just audio.
  • This Capilano University course site for a course on Electronic Literature also connects students to the LMS, probably for the assignment dropbox)
  • There’s also a nice collection of English course sites from UNBC from one prof who wanted a space outside of the LMS and found OpenETC easy to use.;;;

Education-related Websites

Douglas College gets meta and uses openETC to create its Open at Douglas site

A paper published by a UNBC Physics instructor needed a website to accompany a paper presentation at a conference and this site was created as the ancillary resource for the paper presentation

An intriguing site from a UFV history professor that reads like a book

This beautiful site from Jason Toal at SFU is a self-contained resource on how to Teach Visually


From Camosun, a workshop on the ethical dimensions of ed tech

An H5P Studio from UBC The linear structure of this template navigates really well.

Mattermost + WordPress

In my mind WordPress  (for course content) combined with Mattermost (for communication and activities) is a powerful and simple combination for online teaching. But what do students think?

UNBC’s English 201 was taught by Grant Potter (a co-founder of OpenETC).  “I used Mattermost in 2018 and 2019 with my Digital Humanities course.  Didn’t receive a single email the entire course, students 100% preferred the Mattermost space … it was where they shared links to work on their sites, asked questions, and connected with each other.”

At Camosun, the teaching and learning centre is using WordPress for their eLearning Blog, tutorial site, and soon to be built out asynchronous workshop site:, They will also soon be using Mattermost to support their new Teaching and Learning council to have between meeting conversation and collaborations.


I get really excited about SPLOTS because they are truly a minimal effort WordPress template that makes it easy for students to contribute without giving up their personal information. The SPLOT examples in OpenETC are mainly text-based, but the SPLOT family also includes an image-based template (great for more visually-oriented courses) and a new audio version that allows you to record audio directly in the SPLOT! I can’t wait to see what educators do with that one.


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