Irwin DeVries, the recently retired Interim Associate Vice-President, Open Learning, has been formally recognized for his outstanding leadership and contributions to accessible and open education.
As a leader in the field, DeVries has been instrumental in helping to make post-secondary education more available to everyone, by championing open educational practices including open online learning, distance education and open educational resources. Thus, he has received BCcampus’ first Award for Excellence in Open Education. (BCcampus facilitates innovation and collaboration in teaching, learning and educational technology for BC’s post-secondary system.)
“Students everywhere are looking for high-quality open, flexible and affordable higher education opportunities and credentials,” DeVries said. “Too many students today are unable to afford the exorbitant prices of commercial textbooks and end up going without, with a negative impact on the quality of their learning experiences and achievement.”
Not only has he been consistent in his push for the adoption of open educational resources such as textbooks and software in Open Learning (OL) courses, DeVries also has over 25 years of experience in higher education and in open and distance learning. He holds a PhD in Education (Curriculum), with a focus on open educational practises. Further, he was largely responsible for TRU’s founding membership in Open Educational Resources universitas (known as OERu) and recently collaborated with his colleagues at TRU to acquire a grant for a Zed Cred program at TRU, which will enable students to earn a credential while using free resources from libraries and open textbooks.
And he’s a mentor for many—colleagues, co-workers, and students alike.
Brian Lamb (Director, Innovation, OL), a colleague and friend of DeVries, said, “He’s lived with an open mind and heart, defaulting to a collaborative and generous way of working and being.”
DeVries’ career took him from the book publishing industry into education. He has worked at the Open Learning Institute of BC (a precursor of OL), UBC, the Justice Institute of BC and the Certified Management Accountants of BC before returning to OL to serve as the Director, Curriculum Development and later as the Interim Associate Vice-President.
He continues to research, write and present in the area of open and distance learning and the use of OER and is currently teaching in the Royal Roads University online MA program in education, focusing on the use of technology in higher education. His research pursuits include a project with colleagues from the UK on the history of open education research; a collaboration with Michelle Harrison, OL, on advocacy for open education practices; and co-editing the International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education.
All of this is DeVries’ idea of retirement, since according to his blog he doesn’t golf, watch TV or just do nothing.
His legacy at TRU includes supporting the TRUSU open textbook initiative, internal funding to develop open textbooks, the Zed Cred program, OL’s use and promotion of OER and the impending rollout of the first year of OERu studies at TRU—all of which will help perpetuate TRU’s mandate to provide open education.
“With its history of quality teaching and open learning approaches to campus-based and online learning, TRU is uniquely mandated and positioned to provide open and flexible learning for students from all situations and walks of life,” DeVries noted.
“We are very proud to work with BCcampus and our partner institutions in BC and globally to advance the cause of meeting learners’ needs in innovative ways. I am very honoured by this award, and would like to share any credit with my amazing and talented colleagues at TRU—Open Learning and campus—who believe in and work to provide access to higher education for all learners,” he concluded.
The credit to DeVries is well-deserved, as those who benefit from his continuing work in open education will agree.