OpenMoments: The Stories

8 A Social Justice Journey Into Open

Jennifer’s Project

Jennifer Lapum, from the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing at Ryerson University, was one of the principal authors on the open textbookVital Sign Measurement Across the Lifespan. This book was designed so that an enhanced resource that incorporated multi-media was available for all first year nursing students. A primary reason for coming to open was to provide students with hands-on practice and videos to prepare them for laboratory simulations and practice. The textbook also includes a variety of activities for students to practice on their own prior to attending class. The textbook also integrates images and videos, and an example is shown below. Many of these videos and activities were designed and created with students.


Coming to Open

Throughout her teaching, Jennifer noticed she had significant problems with the static, traditional textbook. In the field of nursing, she found that there was a steady stream of new information, but she was not always able to relay that information to students through textbooks. The expensive textbooks became problematic and not fully designed for students’ needs. At first, she began to use articles from the library which were free to students. Additionally, there are many available resources through the nursing organizations (College of Nurses of Ontario, RNAO).

“Nursing is both a profession and a practice and so the hands-on skills and the ‘doing’ is really important. The vital signs book is just one example, but there are many open resources that need to be created in the nursing discipline.Over the years, the use of technology in the classroom increased. Working with other colleges (through the collaborative program here at Ryerson), Jennifer included virtual gaming simulations in her teaching. The pedagogical enhancements that technology has to offer combined with the problems with static textbooks are what brought Jennifer to open in the first place. The pedagogical imperative of creating new uses for technology is what drives the use and adoption of OER. Throughout her work in Open, Jennifer has received multiple eCampus Ontario grants. These grants were aligned with her teaching pedagogy. The Pressbooks platform allowed Jennifer to incorporate not only relevant text, but also create videos, interactive components and include gaming simulations to help increase engagement and learning amongst her students. Because of this grant, Jennifer now understands and recognizes her work as using open pedagogy and practices throughout her teaching.

The Vital Signs book has now been used by over a thousand students (as of January 2020) across the collaborative nursing programs. Multiple colleges and universities, including Queen’s University and the University of Toronto, have also used it. The creation of this useful and engaging resource has helped Ryerson disseminate accurate, useful, and reputable information that is beneficial to the community.

The social justice component of creating free textbooks is important in a time of rising textbook costs. For many students, they struggle to maintain their academic workload as well as their financially necessary part-time or full-time jobs. The interactive components of the book help students effectively use the time they have allocated to their studies. Pedagogy is another goal because the open online platform allows for interactive and multimedia components, and multiple ways of knowing, which is a benefit to all varieties of learners. The co-creation of open resources is vital— this was an intentional choice by Jennifer and the other educators so that students were involved in design and co-producing the resource so that it was designed to meet their needs.

Learning from Open

The field of nursing ties together both theory and practice. Thus, traditional textbooks mainly focus on the theory, but require additional work in supervised laboratory components in order to gain the practical skills of nursing. If students were to only read a text or look at images, their technique will never be fully enhanced or corrected when errors are made. To help create the most effective videos and learning tools for students to learn from, the design team turned to their most vital resource: the students. In order to help create the videos and identify the key components that students struggled with, students were involved in every aspect of design and production. They helped script the videos and acted in the videos. Current students appreciate the Vital Signs open book because they can return to the videos to watch repeatedly, and review the questions in order to study. In the past, the single lab demonstration was not optimal because it didn’t provide these repeated opportunities to observe skills and ensure proper understanding from students. These videos now free up time within the lab.

Cover Art from Vital Sign Measurement Across the Lifespan – 1st Canadian edition by Ryerson University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The support from Ryerson was also of importance in producing open resources including the librarians, copyright support, Pressbooks support, and instructional designers. The interdisciplinary team involved helped create a resource that was rigorous and useful. This includes the OER grants that are now available. Since creating textbooks like this is not seen as big R research, there are many grants that are not applicable. Fortunately, Ryerson recognized the usefulness of these projects and helps create the time academically as well as support the creation of these resources. Jennifer is also hoping that by promoting the use of OER, that more educators can learn that they have been using many of these practices all along. With the increased visibility of these practices, we can hopefully encourage other universities and organizations to support the creation and adoption of other OERs.

Some OER practices have been used by educators without the terminology for a long time. If instructors look into the ways they are teaching, they will see a lot of the similar values: reducing cost for students, helping students learn more effectively and efficiently, creating resources that are easy to update, modify, and to share.. It is important to hear other voices when creating these resources. Ask people who have done it before, or who have more insight into certain aspects than you. There are many people who can help within the university from copyright to accessibility — use the resources available.

Advice for Other Faculty

  • Talk to people who have already participated in the design and creation of OER
  • Ask people what the big pitfalls in past projects were 
  • Learn from your mistakes, and ask others what mistakes they learned from
  • Ask the right people for accessibility and copyright expertise
  • Involve students in the design and production of the OER since they are your main user


Jennifer has become a leader in the OER movement since the production of the vitals signs OER. She values the social justice nature of producing OER at a time when students are having to deal with rising textbook costs, and they lead complex lives where they have multiple roles other than being a student. Many students must work in addition to going to school which makes purchasing textbooks a burden. Alongside of this, the traditional, hard copy textbook does not always meet students’ needs. Design and producing OER so that they are interactive, inclusive of multiple ways of knowing, and incorporate multimedia platforms is a huge benefit for students. In a practice profession, such as nursing, OER provides repeated opportunities for students to observe skills at their own pace and based on their own needs.

Since the vital signs OER, Jennifer was the lead author of a new OER that was released in December 2019 and funded by the Ryerson Library: Scholarship of Writing in Nursing Education.  With this OER, she worked with her team to create new content tailored to the nursing student while adapting content from three existing OER. Additionally, with her colleague Oona St-Amant and others, she was involved in leading the production of three other OER including: The Complete Subjective Health Assessment; Interpreting Canada’s 2019 Food Guide and Food Labelling for Health Professionals; and Vaccine Practice for Health Professionals: 1st Canadian Edition – all published in 2019. Additionally, she is currently leading the production of an OER on communication for the nursing professional which will be integrated into nursing curriculum in September 2020. Among other research articles about OER use, she also was lead author on an open access article about designing open access educational resource: Designing Open Access, Educational Resources

Credits: Video, Radial Pulse/Respiration from Vital Sign Measurement Across the Lifespan – 1st Canadian edition by Ryerson University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted. lifeline by Vectors Market from the Noun Project, CC-BY.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Ryerson Open Moments by Erin Meger, Wendy Freeman, Michelle Schwartz, Ann Ludbrook, Maureen Glynn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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