Centennial’s Take on Global Citizenship Goes Worldwide as an Open Educational Resource
While the adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is typically true, the latest iteration of Centennial College’s Global Citizenship: From Social Analysis to Social Action (GNED 500) textbook may be the exception. The cover artwork of the free, interactive, online Open Educational Resource (OER) captures people in what appears to be the routine of daily life. But the bike riders, newspaper readers, hand-holding couples, and those simply interacting with each other have something in common. They are all global citizens — a theme that defines the College-mandated general education course.
A collaborative effort by a team of Centennial faculty, staff, and students, this new OER aims to provide students with the skills, knowledge, and education to achieve a greater global consciousness and to strive towards social change.
“The updated information in this OER is timely,” says Paula Anderton, a professor in Centennial’s Humanities and Social Sciences department and GNED 500 coordinator. She also served as the OER project lead and a content contributor — along with nine other faculty members. “The world keeps getting more complicated. It’s not just a matter of what students need to understand about it, but how they can understand it.”
Since it was first piloted in 2007, GNED 500 has become a key initiative in Centennial’s
Signature Learning Experience (SLE), which focuses on global citizenship, equity, and inclusion. In addition to equipping students with the aptitude to achieve a greater global consciousness and to strive towards change, the course addresses employer demand for graduates with an understanding of global issues that contributes to their leadership and interpersonal skills.
“The team thought critical thinking practice was just as important as updating the content, so that’s a strong element in this online textbook. These are skills that will be useful to students well beyond this course,” says Anderton.
Meera Mather is the Humanities and Social Sciences department chair. She initiated and led the past and current iterations of the GNED 500 textbook — which 37 faculty members use to teach 8,500 students annually. Mather says the process of creating the OER, which began in January 2020, was to ensure students are studying the most relevant material. She also wanted the new content and format to reflect student and faculty feedback. For this, Mather turned to Centennial’s internal community.
“We wanted students and faculty perspective not just on the content but also on how it was written and what sort of things we needed to change,” she says. “We did surveys and focus groups, and their feedback was invaluable. After our faculty analyzed the data, students’ feedback was embedded. For example, in the previous textbook we studied identity after social analysis. Students said we needed to bring identity to the forefront to understand what informs us before we get into social analysis.”
Mather then brought together a group of faculty content contributors and a support team. It included a professional graphic designer, a copyright services librarian, a copy editor, and Centennial College graphic and visual arts students who had taken the course to serve as illustrators. The student artists were tasked with creating artwork that reflected the various themes of the OER textbook.
“It was a highly effective team,” says Mather. “For me, as a chair, seeing the collaboration, shared knowledge, ideas, and perspectives being presented in a respectful manner, it means a lot.”
Adds Anderton, “We had to work together, critiquing each other’s work and ensuring the modules gelled. We did it during a pandemic, over Zoom, and I was so proud of the team. We really bonded over the challenge.”
The resulting OER consists of 10 chapters presented in the unique, yet cohesive, voices of its contributors. Its accessible format includes interactive features such as Youtube videos, voiceovers, and concept pieces. Global Citizenship’s textbook also considers Universal Design for Learning (UDL) — which guides the development of flexible learning environments and learning spaces that can accommodate individual learning differences. Combined, these features address various learner needs and ensure the OER is relevant to today’s learners.
“We think it’s important that this OER textbook is free to students,” says Anderton. “That reflects the equity principles we are teaching in the course.”
The OER has other advantages as well. It is easy to update, which, says Anderton, is crucial for a course based on current events. And, because it is available to anyone in the world, the GNED 500 textbook serves as a contribution to global citizenship.
Written By: Izabela Szydlo