Open pedagogy, Open Educational Practices

Venn diagram with open learning and teaching practices in one cirlce and qualities of open learning content in another. Where they cross is called open educational resources (OER)

From Open Practices Briefing Paper (Beetham et al., 2012). Licensed CC BY-NC 3.0


This post is part of my reflection on an upcoming talk I’m giving at Douglas College about open pedagogy: “What’s Open about Open Pedagogy?” In my previous post I started collecting some examples of activities that people have put under the umbrella of open pedagogy. In an earlier post I collated a number of definitions of open pedagogy, and in my next post I plan to dig more deeply into what I think open pedagogy is and what might be “open” about it.

Here I’m going to do a short reflection on possible differences between “open pedagogy” and “open educational practices” (OEP). I have used open pedagogy and OEP interchangeably in the past, and I’m now thinking it might be helpful to consider where they might differ.

How others have described OEP

The following are not in chronological order, but rather an order that makes some logical sense to me as a way to build towards a difference between open pedagogy and OEP.

Ehlers (2011)

I think I may have first read about OEP in “Extending the territory: From Open Educational Resources to Open Educational Practices,” by Ulf-Daniel Ehlers (2011). Here is how he describes OEP:

OEP are defined as practices which support the (re)use and production of OER through institutional policies, promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect and empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning path. They address the whole OER governance community: policy makers, managers/administrators of organisations, educational professionals, and learners (p. 4).

This is the same definition of OEP given in the Open Educational Practices Report by Andrade et al. (2011) (p. 12), which is not surprising since Ehlers was one of the authors of that report.

I wrote the following in a summary of my understanding of open education, from a teaching award application I submitted in 2015:

[According to Ehlers (2011),] Open educational practices . . . involve the use and creation of OER in courses where learners are collaborators and co-producers of the curriculum. Thus, “[t]he pure usage of … open educational resources in a traditional closed and top-down, instructive, exam-focused learning environment is not open educational practice,” according to Ehlers (2011, p. 5), but doing so in the context of a course where students revise such materials and act as collaborators and co-producers of curriculum is.

In another part of the article, Ehlers says that OEP “comprise a combination of open resources use and open learning architectures that could transform learning into 21st century learning environments in which universities, adult learners, and citizens are provided with opportunities to shape their lifelong learning pathways in an autonomous and self-guided way.”

So here, the idea is that open educational practices involve more than content: they involve using OER in courses that provide opportunities for participants in those courses to contribute to the curriculum and shape their own learning.

This sounds fairly close to how some people have defined open pedagogy, though. See one of my posts earlier this year on open pedagogy for a list of various definitions of open pedagogy and how I’ve tried to group them under categories.

Cronin (2017)

Catherine Cronin (2017) also gives a broad sense of OEP as moving beyond content:

Open education practitioners and researchers describe OEP as moving beyond a content-centred approach, shifting the focus from resources to practices, with learners and teachers sharing the processes of knowledge creation.

Cronin addresses my question directly when she indicates that OEP is a broader category than open pedagogy:

Open educational practices (OEP) is a broad descriptor of practices that include the creation, use, and reuse of open educational resources (OER) as well as open pedagogies and open sharing of teaching practices (p. 16).

But still, he states that a variety of scholars have discussed practices she calls OEP under multiple theoretical frameworks, including “open teaching (Couros & Hildebrandt, 2016), open pedagogy (DeRosa & Robison, 2015; Hegarty, 2015; Rosen & Smale, 2015; Weller, 2014), and critical digital pedagogy (Stommel, 2014)” (p. 18). So how some describe open pedagogy may be similar to how she describes OEP.

In her article, Cronin defines OEP as

collaborative practices that include the creation, use, and reuse of OER, as well as pedagogical practices employing participatory technologies and social networks for interaction, peer-learning, knowledge creation, and empowerment of learners (p. 18).

This does fit with a number of views of open pedagogy I’ve seen, where students and faculty engage in cooperative knowledge creation, use social networks for interaction, etc.

Cape Town (2008)

Though they didn’t explicitly focus on the term “open educational practices,” the Cape Town Open Education Declaration did talk about the open education movement being about more than OER:

… open education is not limited to just open educational resources. It also draws upon open technologies that facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing of teaching practices that empower educators to benefit from the best ideas of their colleagues. It may also grow to include new approaches to assessment, accreditation and collaborative learning. Understanding and embracing innovations like these is critical to the long term vision of this movement.

This is a pretty broad view of what we might call open educational practices, and helps me think about how perhaps OEP could be broader than open pedagogy.

Briefing paper from JISC (2012)

This Open Practices Briefing Paper from the UK OER project (written by Helen Beetham and others has a nice explanation of how we might think of the differences between open pedagogy and open educational practices, in the “Open Practices What” section.

There, building from the projects undertaken during the UK OER programme, they note that OEP can include:

  • Production, management, use and reuse of open educational resources
  • Developing and applying open/public pedagogies in teaching practice
  • Open learning and gaining access to open learning opportunities
  • Practising open scholarship, to encompass open access publication, open science and open research
  • Open sharing of teaching ideas and know-how
  • Using open technologies (web-based platforms, applications and services) in an educational context

A bit later in that section they also list some specific examples that go beyond open pedagogy–see the Venn diagram at the top of this post. Some of these are:

  • “re-using content in teaching courses”
  • “using or encouraging other [sic] to use open content”
  • “teaching/learning in open networks”

A number of these do certainly seem to go beyond “open pedagogy” as I have often heard it defined (though there are probably definitions of open pedagogy that include these things too!).

My current thoughts on the difference

When I think of “pedagogy” I think of teaching practices. These can be in an official “course” or in another setting where practices that count as “teaching” take place.

But “educational practices” seems wider than that to me. It need not have to do with what one does in terms of teaching others, but could have to do with other aspects of what one does as an educator.

So, things like reflecting on one’s teaching (and one’s own learning!) in a blog like this would be, to me, an open educational practice…but would it be open pedagogy? I suppose one could say that in doing this I’m “teaching” those who learn from it, but I don’t know if I want to go there. And open access publishing could be considered “teaching” in some broad sense, but it seems to me to fit better under the broader category of open educational practices.

Thus, at the moment I’m thinking that in addition to things having specifically to do with interactions with students in an educational setting, OEP could also include open activities such as open scholarship, open reflections on processes, doing one’s own learning in the open, connecting with other educators, students, and others on open networks, and advocacy around open education and open pedagogy.

But I’m still not super happy with this, and as Rajiv Jhangiani notes in a Tweet listed below, this is shifting ground. So who knows what I’ll think in a week or so.

Comments on Twitter

I also asked people on Twitter what they thought of the similarities and differences. I have started to Storify them, and will add to this list as it grows!



Works cited

Beetham, H., Falconer, I., McGill, L., & Littlejohn, A. (2012). OER Synthesis and Evaluation / Open Practices Briefing. JISC. Retrieved from

Cronin, C. (2017). Openness and Praxis: Exploring the Use of Open Educational Practices in Higher Education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(5). Retrieved from

Couros, A., & Hildebrandt, K. (2016). Designing for Open and Social Learning. In Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning: Foundations and Applications (pp. 143–161). Athabasca University Press.

DeRosa, R., & Robison, S. (2015). Pedagogy, Technology, and the Example of Open Educational Resources. EDUCAUSE Review. Retrieved from

Ehlers, U.-D. (2011). Extending the Territory: From Open Educational Resources to Open Educational Practices. Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning, 15(2), 1–10. Retrieved from

Hegarty, B. (2015). Attributes of open pedagogy: A model for using open educational resources. Education Technology, 4. Retrieved from

Rosen, J. R., & Smale, M. A. (2015). Open Digital Pedagogy = Critical Pedagogy. Hybrid Pedagogy: A Digital Journal of Teaching and Technology. Retrieved from

Stommel, J. (2014). Critical Digital Pedagogy: a Definition. Hybrid Pedagogy. Retrieved from

Weller, M. (2014). Battle for Open. Ubiquity Press.

Open pedagogy: examples of class activities

An upcoming talk I’m giving

On October 26 I’m giving a talk at Douglas College in the Vancouver, BC (Canada) area, with the title: “What’s Open about Open Pedagogy?” It’s part of Douglas College’s Open Access Week events.

I brainstorm by writing, and I figured I might as well share my rough thoughts with others in case they find any of it useful. I’ll also share the slides from the talk here on my blog when they’re finished. I expect things will change significantly once my thoughts get from the rough brainstorm form to the slides!

I’m thinking at the moment of an outline for the talk along these lines (with an intro as yet unspecified, talking about why it’s useful to discuss this at all):

  1. What are some examples of things that people have called “open pedagogy”?
  2. How have others defined open pedagogy? What do I think?
    • I’ve already had a lot to say about this in a series of blog posts earlier this year. You can see links to all of them in the last post, called “Navigating Open Pedagogy part 2.”
    • What are the relationships between open pedagogy, open educational practices, students as producers, and students as partners?
  3. What’s open about open pedagogy?
    • What does “open” seem to mean, such that it can cover open access, open data, open science, open government, open pedagogy… (this is a gigantic topic in and of itself; I won’t be able to do it justice but I’ll make a start)
    • Does that fit the views of open pedagogy from (1) and (2)?
    • does any of this change our views of “open pedagogy”?

Oh my…now that I write that out, I think: this is going to be too much for a one-hour talk plus Q&A afterwards. This could probably be a book. Oh well…let’s see what comes out of my brainstorming and whether it’s feasible.

In this post I am just collating a few examples of what people have called “open pedagogy” activities in classes.

Examples of open pedagogy activitiesicon of a circle of silhouettes of people with an unlocked padlock in the middle


There are lots, so I’m going to briefly list a few I might discuss in my talk–a representative sample of sorts. Not all of the products from these activities are openly licensed, but they do at least fall under “non-disposable assignments,” as discussed below.

Student work adding value to the world: non-disposable assignments

In a blog post from July 2016 David Wiley talks about how many assignments in post-secondary courses are “disposable”–students write them only for an audience of the instructor and/or TA, and once they get a grade the work is disposable because it serves no other purpose. Wiley suggests students are also given “renewable assessments”: “the student’s work won’t be discarded at the end of the process, but will instead add value to the world in some way.”

Tom Woodward says something similar in an interview about open pedagogy published in Campus Technology in 2014: “Students are publishing for an audience greater than their instructor. That matters. Their work, being open, has the potential to be used for something larger than the course itself and to be part of a larger global conversation.”

Examples of non-disposable assignments:

  • Students in the First Nations and Indigenous Studies program at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada do a research practicum in their fourth year, where they work with a community organization to develop a research project that will provide a product useful to the partner.
  • A number of the things listed below are examples of “non-disposable” or “renewable” assignments as well.

Wikipedia assignments

David Wiley mentions these in a blog post from 2013 as examples of open pedagogy. A couple of recent Wikipedia projects from UBC:

  • English 470 students wrote or edited articles on Canadian literature (2017)
  • BIOL 345 students wrote or edited articles on topics around sustainability, climate change, or ecology, focused on Canada (2017)

Students contributing to open textbooks

Wiley mentions this in the same blog post from 2013 as linked above. Some examples:

  • Two books described by Robin DeRosa in which students made significant contributions
  • The Open Logic Project is a collaborative logic textbook authored by faculty and students (mostly grad students, but some undergrads also contribute)
  • Several examples of how students have contributed to open textbooks can be found in the “case studies” section of the Rebus Foundation’s Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students (ed. Liz Mays)

Students making or contributing to other OERs

UBC examples (not all are openly licensed, but they are publicly available):

Some examples in a blog post by Lorna Campbell, from U of Edinburgh: Student Engagement with OER at University of Edinburgh

Students in an ornithology class at Vancouver Island University in BC, Canada, created blog posts about a local bird species that were collated into a collection showcasing birds local to the area: VIU, Biology 325 site. (not openly licensed)

Students in a 4th year course in Indigenous New Media & Digital Storytelling at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, wrote blog posts, created digital stories, and came up with design ideas for exhibits at the new Indian Residential School Dialogue and History Centre at UBC.

Students creating the curriculum (or parts of it)

In her contribution to the April 2017 topic of “open pedagogy” in the Year of Open perspectives series, Maha Bali speaks of content-independent teaching, where the students ask questions and find readings to help answer them, and then blog about those things.

In the same post Maha also talks about students contributing to syllabi, and also students writing quiz or exam questions (see Rajiv Jhangiani’s post about students writing multiple choice questions in a Social Psychology class); she notes how a Digital Storytelling class, DS106 at the University of Mary Washington, has students contribute assignments for other students to do, in an assignment bank.

Robin DeRosa explains how students created learning outcomes and assignments in a First Year Seminar, in her post Extreme Makeover: Pedagogy Edition (2017). The students also generated a textbook from their work in the course.



Please add your examples of open pedagogy activities, in the comments below…



Some people have added their examples on Twitter. Here they are!


Join us virtually at our session at #OpenEd17

laptop on knees of a person with a dog sitting next to them on a couch

Laptop & dog image licensed CC0 from


I am working with a fantastic group of people on a session at the upcoming Open Education Conference (Oct. 11-13, Anaheim, California), and we are looking for people who want to join us virtually.

Our session info:

Friday, Oct. 13, 3:30-4:25 pm Pacific time (California)

How can we destroy the open education movement? Conversations about ethics.

Openness is a process that requires and benefits from critical reflection. We believe that facilitating and stimulating critical discussion/debate about the contours and direction of the open education movement (OEM) is essential to its flourishing. In this spirit, the proposed session is intended as a space for participants to unearth and critically explore timely, perhaps uncomfortable questions that may not be at the surface of what we are doing as individuals or as collaborators within the OEM. The facilitators in this session do not have answers. Rather, we host an unconventional, interactive format designed to expose difficult topics and support innovative interventions. The session format supports both in-person and virtual (online) attendees working together on outlining and discussing pressing ethical questions in the OEM. This session allows participants to engage in a critical conversation that is liberating, paradigm challenging, constructive, and inspiring.

Session organizers/facilitators (the following list is those who have been active in planning during the last few meetings):

  • Karen Cangialosi
  • Robin DeRosa
  • Gill Green
  • Christina Hendricks
  • Rajiv Jhangiani
  • Jamison Miller
  • Tara Robertson
  • Scott Robison

Tara and I will not be onsite, but rather joining virtually.

We are looking for others who would like to join virtually as well

I volunteer with Virtually Connecting, but this isn’t quite the same thing: those conversations are usually live streamed on YouTube and also recorded; this one won’t be either live streamed or recorded. It’s just a matter of getting more voices in the room who couldn’t attend the conference in person.

There will be a bit of introduction to the session, but most of the time will be spent in small groups doing discussions, and we envision the virtual participants (including Tara and I) being one of the small groups. We will also have a discussion with the whole room, including the virtual participants, towards the end of the session.

Might you be interested in joining us? If so, please fill out this form to let me know and I’ll get in touch with you with details! We may have to limit the group to a certain number of people, so first come, first in! :)

Any questions? You could ask me on Twitter: @clhendricksbc



Use of class time in PHIL 102

I’m teaching PHIL 102, Introduction to Philosophy, Jan-April 2018. I have taught this course many times before (and have blogged about it; see here for posts about the course), and I keep revisiting it and renewing it because I’m never fully satisfied. This year I’m focusing my changes in large part on the question of how best to use class time. See the previous post for some general reflections on that.

Below are some problems I am seeing in PHIL 102 that lead me to wonder about my use of class time and whether I should change it.

General concerns

It’s often not engaging to watch someone talk for long periods of time

icon of a yawning face

Yawn icon from The Noun Project

Even when a lecture is engaging, if it goes on for long enough, it can become boring. And not just students spend time distracting themselves from such things with electronic devices; I’ve seen faculty do it too (and I’ve been known to do so at conferences where papers are read during sessions that I’m just not that into…listening to someone read a paper can be deathly dull).

Instead of only asking students not to be distracted by things on their devices (which I do for the sake of other students getting distracted around them), I want to reduce the amount of time they are passive and thus easily distractable. I’m not saying it isn’t good to practice paying close attention to something for longer periods even when it’s not the most entertaining in the world, but I don’t think the blame should be only on students having a short attention span when they get bored in class. Sitting passively listening to and watching someone talk for long periods of time just often is, in my view, boring. I want to acknowledge that and spend more time asking students to do things.

I am too much in the centre

When I spend a great deal of time standing in front of a large class giving lectures over slides in the background, the signal that sends is that I am the expert imparting knowledge students are to drink in. Don’t get me wrong–this activity is important sometimes, and I do have more expertise than most or all students taking a philosophy course for the first time. I am imparting some of my knowledge, but in my view (and I believe this is widely shared) philosophy is not just about learning what someone else has to say, though you do need to have some of that kind of knowledge to do philosophy well. It’s also about learning how to critique arguments, those of others as well as one’s own, and to contribute to discussions of philosophical issues in a way that helps move the conversation forward towards some kind of resolution.

In addition to providing space for students to learn how to engage in critique and how to effectively participate in philosophical discussions (orally and in writing), I want to de-centre myself a bit more because I learn a great deal from students during classes. It’s not just for the sake of providing them practice, but also because they have useful contributions to make to philosophical conversations.

But the more I stand in front, front-and-centre, the more I could be giving off the message that it is my view they should be paying attention to, that what they are there to do is to learn what I am saying and be able to repeat it back. If much of the class time is like that, it wouldn’t be surprising if students want to focus on things like “what do I need to know for the exam?” rather than “how can I use what we have learned to address a problem or do some activity?”.

I don’t mean to suggest that 90% of our class time is spent with me lecturing in front, but I still think quite a bit is, maybe too much. PHIL 102 usually has two, 50-minute “lectures” and one, 50-minute “discussion” per week. TA’s often run the discussion meetings, so the “lecture” meetings are when the faculty has the chance to do the majority of the “teaching.” As a result, I tend to focus more on lecture during the “lectures” than I might otherwise, wanting to “get certain things across” to everyone in the same way.

It’s possible, though, to take some of that me-in-the-centre stuff and move it outside of class, such as through videos where I do some of the lecture material or explain instructions for assignments or how to practice certain skills, and want to get the same message to all students (with the caveat that I need to be mindful not to simply add more time to students’ out-of-class workload but balance the new out-of-class activities with less other out-of-class activities).


More specific issues

Students sometimes struggle with reading texts outside of class

Many students struggle with trying to do the readings on their own, outside of class. This is not surprising or strange–some of the texts we read are complicated, some are written in a style that is not entirely clear to 21st century ears, and philosophical writing can be quite different than most of the writing many students have encountered in their secondary education classes.

icon of an open book

book icon, from The Noun Project

So if I ask them to do the reading on their own, and then they come to class and I explain it to them, and they are having trouble doing the reading on their own, what is the most likely result? They stop reading on their own? That seems a rational response, especially given how many classes and other responsibilities many students have, on top of having to get used to the new atmosphere of university (for many students in my first-year course).

What to do? I’m thinking of using some class time to have students work through difficult texts together and come up with ideas in groups about what the main arguments are. Groups could share their ideas with another group, or with the larger class, and we can decide together what we think the text is saying. Then we can approach it critically.

Somehow I need to set up the in-class activity so that reading the text ahead of time is necessary for doing it well. It’s not very effective when engaged students have to be in a group with others who are not keeping up in class or doing the readings, so the engaged students end up doing everything. Something like the idea of “readiness assurance tests” for team-based learning could possibly work here.

Taking useful notes on philosophical readings can be difficult

This is related to the above point, of course; if they aren’t motivated to do the readings outside of class, and if those readings are challenging, then it can be difficult for them to take effective notes. Yet, having effective notes on the readings can be a big help when writing essays or studying for exams. Essays are usually better if students understand the texts more deeply than only getting what is said by me or others during class time.

It would be useful for me to spend some time talking about reading and taking notes on philosophy texts, and providing them with a way to practice doing so. This might encourage them to do it on their own, outside of class. I’ve considered requiring students to submit notes on some readings, at some points during the class, but the large size of the class and the lack of time for TAs or me to read all of those makes it very difficult.

Here is a nice list of suggestions for students when reading, marking up texts, and creating summaries of philosophical works: How to read philosophy, on the Falasafaz blog. And here is a video based on that blog post, with a little more advice, by Christopher Anadale. These are things we could talk about and practice in class.

It is also possible to get peer feedback on some note-taking practice…see below for one way to do it.

Many students could use more practice writing

One thing that came out of the student evaluations for PHIL 102 last time I taught it (see my reflection on those) is that students wanted more help in writing essays. I give a lot of written advice, and students engage in peer feedback on writing, but it might help if they could have more practice writing somehow.

One thing to do, and that students have said they want, is to create opportunities for rewriting essays. That is in the works for January (it’s something I’ve done in the past but somehow have gotten away from and shouldn’t have). That takes place, rightfully, outside of class time so students have more time to reflect, draft, re-draft, edit, etc.

Another thing I’m considering is opportunities for students to practice writing, and get feedback from peers, during class time. This would provide immediate feedback and could lead to questions being raised by students that they wouldn’t have otherwise thought of until they were outside the class. This way they can get some of those questions addressed in the moment.

There is a new tool at UBC called ComPAIR that could be useful for doing this. It allows students to type in some text in response to an assignment (could even be as long as a whole essay) and then each student compares two responses by others to say which they think best fits the parameters of the assignment. They can also provide feedback to the original author. This can all be done anonymously. I wouldn’t have them write whole essays in the tool during class time, but maybe something like a paraphrase of an author’s argument in a section of their text, or a sample introductory paragraph for an essay the student is going to write, with a sample thesis statement…or the like.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the relevance of philosophical texts to one’s own life

I am a sucker for ancient texts. I love teaching works by Plato, Epirucus, Stoics; and I’m going to add one or two works from ancient Chinese philosophers next time too. It can be especially challenging for some students to see why we should be reading texts from over 2000 years ago. But they do have value or they wouldn’t still endure, and I do think they have relevance.

I could tell them what I think that relevance is, or we could work together or in smaller groups to gather their ideas on this question. That is better not only for keeping attention in class as noted above, but also because they know a lot more than I do about the relevance of these works for their own lives (or lack thereof).


I’ve managed to brainstorm a few ideas for how to use class time in PHIL 102 outside of lectures, to address certain issues I’d like to ameliorate in this class. Time to create a weekly plan and put these and similar ideas into it to make sure it happens in class! If I remember, I’ll share that plan here on my blog when it’s ready.


How best to use class time? (11 years later)

photo of a classroom with empty desks and chairs

Classroom by Victor Björkund, licensed CC BY 2.0 on Flickr.

Eleven years ago, during the summer I first started this blog (2006), I wrote a couple of posts about the use of class time: What is class time for? Part 1 and Part 2.

I don’t know whether the fact that I’m still dealing with a version of the same question this many years later means I’m just failing or that it’s a hard problem. I believe the latter, though!

In those posts I wondered what is the best use of the limited time that we have to have students together in a room (if we teach face-to-face courses, that is). What I was used to from my own courses, and what I did when I first started teaching, was to use that time to: (1) do a lecture in which I explain the assigned readings, clarifying complicated points, heading off potential misunderstandings, and then also either offering a critique or inviting students to offer critiques; and also (2) often I would find ways to engage students in a discussion of some philosophical question. This latter would be either the whole class together (depending on the size of the class), or small groups.

Even in 2006, my third year at UBC (my sixth year of teaching after the PhD), I was wondering about (1). Not that I think that is a bad thing to do, but I was wondering how much time I should spend on that, because:

  • Why should students spend time reading (let’s face it, often difficult) texts when they can come to class and get it explained by the prof?
  • My conception of philosophy, especially for students who may take one or two philosophy classes but won’t be majors, is that it could go beyond reading writings by others and discussing them. I think philosophy is valuable and useful beyond the academy, and doing courses in which all students do is read what others have said and critique it can give a narrow view of what philosophy and philosophical activity are and could be. That’s what professional philosophers do, but most students in my 100 level courses won’t become professional philosophers.
  • Does it really help students learn how to understand and critique complicated arguments if the instructor usually does it for them? Some modeling is necessary, of course, but more practice than I used to give (and frankly, more than I currently give) could be pedagogically useful.

Revisiting the question

Now, here I am in 2017, still addressing a variant of the same question: what is the best use of that limited face-to-face time? What do we need to be in the same room together to do, and what can be done without being in the same room together? (The success of many online courses says there may be a great deal that can be done separately, asynchronously, online).

I asked this question in a shorter way in a recent blog post, but am here digging in more deeply.


I remember vividly coming back from a one-year sabbatical to teach Introduction to Philosophy in the Fall of 2013 and thinking, as I was standing in front of a large class, why am I wasting everyone’s time by standing up here and talking over a power point presentation? Do we all need to be here in the room for me to do that, or could this be a video they watch outside of class if all I am doing is talking at them?

Now, to be fair, I didn’t even then just talk at students for lengthy periods of time; I have for awhile now had a common practice of breaking up lecture with activities where students were doing something other than just listening and taking notes. But I wondered how much of my lecture needed to be given “live” and how much would be better if it were asynchronous.

There can be a great value in being able to go back and review certain parts of a lecture that you are struggling with, or that you missed because something else caught your attention for a bit (which happens all the time to many people, especially if it’s a long lecture).

Still, I’m not suggesting I or anyone else stop lecturing in class entirely. It can be useful to remind students of various things, to introduce background information for an in-class activity, and more. It’s just that I want to be more reflective about what kinds of lectures I give inside the class and what outside, and why.

One way to think about this is to focus on the kinds of activities that really need everyone in a room together at the same time, and use the inside/outside class time lectures most efficiently to support that: what needs to be said during the class to support that activity, and what works well outside?

And I should say that it’s very important to consider student workload: moving what was done during the class to outside adds to the outside-of-class workload, and this can mean that things that used to be outside of class, like reading assignments, may need to be reduced to avoid creating unsustainable workloads for students.

One thing I’ve done a bit, and want to do more, is to create videos for background information that is helpful to know when reading the text outside of class. Things like historical context or other information helpful to understanding what is going on in a philosophical text can easily be given outside of class, especially if there is a way for students to raise questions about the video and have them be answered relatively quickly.

I have also created a series of videos on the Trolley Problem that were meant to replace a fair bit of the lecture I used to give, so that we could more quickly get to discussion of the problem (which is always very lively!).

The main difficulty I have found in doing more of the “lecture” work outside of class is finding the time to create decent quality videos. Some things I’ve made are nothing more than screencasts of me going through slides, which is pretty boring.

What are some other good uses of the time we’re in a room together?

I’m brainstorming by writing; here are some ideas.

  • Discussions of philosophical questions: These can be done online, asynchronously, but it can also be of value to have the conversation move along more quickly, with people talking together. There is probably value in doing both in-person, synchronous discussions and asynchronous ones, since the latter provides a venue for those who like to think through their ideas before voicing them, and those who for other reasons aren’t entirely comfortable discussing philosophical questions live and in person.
  • Individual, timed assessments: If one wants to be able to control what students can see and use during a quiz or exam, it’s easier to do if they’re all in a room together (which isn’t to say that exams can’t be invigilated online, just than if one has face-to-face time, this seems like a useful way to spend that time because it’s easier than trying to do such things online.
  • Hands-on or other activities that require a particular space/place: Sometimes learning needs to happen in a particular place because it has certain equipment, or because the learning is about that place, or because being in a space affects learning in a way that wouldn’t happen without being in that space. Most of my teaching doesn’t fall under this category, though if I thought hard I might come up with more opportunities for this to be useful in my philosophy courses.
  • Peer instruction: I’m using this term in a general sense, to cover various ways in which students help each other and themselves learn (I’m not sure this is a good term to use, but I’m going with it for the moment). Again, this can be done outside of class, online, but if there is face-to-face time, having students work together can be a good use of that time (rather than having them all sitting in a room at the same time listening to something for 50 minutes).What I’m thinking about as peer instruction includes:
    • peer feedback on assignments
    • group assignments/projects
    • group exams (e.g., two-stage exams)
    • team-based learning
    • think-pair-share and similar exercises
    • classroom response system questions (clickers and the like) answered individually and then answered again after discussing with other students
    • groups creating quiz or exam questions
    • presentations by students to the class, alone or in groups
    • discussions, as above

There is a great deal of literature in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning showing the value for student learning of many of the activities in the above list under “peer instruction,” and as this is an informal blog post for the sake of thinking through my own ideas, I’m not going to try to list all that literature here. Suffice it to say that many of these are not only things that are good uses of us being in a room together, they are also shown to be of value for student learning.

Temporary conclusion

The point of this post is just to allow me to work through my current thoughts, via writing, about what kinds of things work well inside and outside of class.

I want to take these reflections and apply them to my Introduction to Philosophy course I’m teaching in January, but I’ll start a new post for that in order to keep this one to a manageable size!


Join the CC open education platform!

Over the past couple of months I’ve been involved with a new Creative Commons initiative, the Open Education Platform. I first learned about the new CC platforms from a Virtually Connecting session with Cable Green and Regina Gong, at the Creative Commons Global Summit in April 2017. That’s where the first draft of the CC Open Education Platform Working doc was created (we are now on version 2). This is an exciting initiative that has the potential to connect people from many parts of the world to make progress on important goals. Yes, many people are already doing this, but for me, I’ve mostly been working with a relatively small group of people from only certain parts of the world, and this is connecting me with more; one of the explicit goals of the platform is to ensure that we are including people from many different geographical areas.

Here is an invitation letter that was recently sent out to many open ed and OER email lists. Please see the letter and links for more information about the CC Platforms, the Open Ed platform, and how to get involved!

Greetings Open Education Colleagues:

In early 2017, the Creative Commons Global Network (CCGN) completed a consultation process of renewing and reorganizing itself to support a strong and growing global movement. The year-long process resulted in the CCGN Global Network Strategy. Part of the new strategy is to establish defined areas of focus, or “platforms,” which will drive CC’s global activities. Platforms are how we organize areas of work for the CC community, where individuals and institutions organize and coordinate themselves across the CC Global Network.

In the spirit of openness and to effectively strategize, these platforms are open to all interested parties working in the platform area and adjacent spaces. That’s why Creative Commons invites you to join the CC Global Network Open Education Platform!

WHY join?

  • Stay connected to global actions in open education resources, practice, and policy.
  • Identify, plan and coordinate multi-national open education, practices and policy projects to collaboratively solve education challenges with an amazing group of open education leaders from around the world.
  • Secure funding (from Creative Commons and other funding sources) for the open education projects we collectively select.
  • Contribute to global perspectives on open education to strengthen advocacy worldwide.
  • Connect your country / region to global open education initiatives.
  • Be on the forefront in implementing Creative Commons’ global network strategy.
  • Meet annually, in-person, at the Creative Commons Summit with members of the CC Open Education Platform to celebrate successes, share best practices, and plan for the next year.
  • Explore, practice, and share innovative methods for inclusive and open engagement with educators, learners and governments around the world..

WHO should join?

  • Open education advocates working in the areas of open educational resources, open educational practices, and/or open education policy.

WHAT are we working on right now?

  • Reaching the right people (you!) to build a strong open education platform.
  • Developing decision making and engagement structures.
  • Defining the goals and projects the CC Open Education Platform will pursue.


Joining the CC Open Education Platform is easy and free:


  • Sign up for IM (Slack or IRC):


      • Slack: sign up: (it will send an invitation email), then sign up to the #cc-openedu channel
      • IRC: to join the #creativecommons-openedu IRC channel, connect via Freenode.



  • Attend and participate in the monthly meetings.
    • The next meeting is October 18: 8:00pm / October 19: 9:00am (PDT, UTC -7).
    • Note: every meeting has two different times – so everyone can attend one of the meetings during local daylight hours.


Please join the e-mail list and IM channel, introduce yourself and we’ll see you at the next meeting!

Grading rubrics in philosophy

This is a quick post designed to collect links to grading rubrics in philosophy, for the sake of putting them together in one place for graduate student TAs in our department to refer to if they want to see some examples.

Here is a recent version of a grading rubric for essays that I use in my courses, including Introduction to Philosophy and an interdisciplinary course called Arts One. I’m including a PDF version and also an MS Word version in case anyone wants to use and edit it (Word is often easier to edit). It is licensed CC BY, which means you can use it and change it if state that it’s adapted from mine as the original source.

Hendricks Philosophy Paper Rubric (PDF)

Hendricks Philosophy Paper Rubric (MS Word)


Daily Nous had a post in May 2017 with what they called “An impressively detailed philosophy paper grading rubric,” by Micah T. Lewin.



Mara Harrell of Carnegie Mellon has created this rubric (MS Word) for marking philosophy essays, which is even more detailed than the one above.


This paper marking rubric by Melissa Jacquart includes point values for each cell, which is also an option. Giving points for each part of the rubric can make marking quicker, though it also be somewhat problematic because it’s hard to include every aspect of what makes a good paper in a rubric, and sometimes it’s how things work together that leads to a better essay even if some parts are not as strong as one might like.


The Teach Philosophy 101 website has a list of rubrics (including some of the above) that has some not only for grading essays, but also for other kinds of assignments.


I’d be happy to hear about other rubrics not on this list!



Students and open education

For an article I am writing this week, I’d like to showcase work by students relating to open education and Open Educational Resources (OER). I’m writing this brief post mostly to gather comments from others on examples I don’t know about!

Here are a few things that come to mind:

  • Student advocacy on campuses and what it has accomplished: there has been some great stuff happening at UBC due to student advocacy around OER, and I’ll talk about that. What else has student advocacy accomplished?
  • Students creating OERs: I will speak about work I know of here at UBC where students are creating OER, including Wikipedia projects and also other open educational resources. What else is out there?
  • Students contributing to open textbooks: Yes, open textbooks are OERs, but I’m separating them out here just for now. I know that Robin DeRosa has involved students in creating open textbooks, and this blog post from the Conversations on Open Education for Language Learning blog talks about a couple more (by students in classes with David Wiley and Lixun Wang). What other such projects do you know about?
  • Anything else that would fall under students working to create, revise, or promote OER?

Please provide your ideas in the comments!


Update Aug. 21, 2017: Several people replied on Twitter instead of in the comments below, and in order to keep all of the contributions in one place, I’m embedding the tweets here.

Mobile teaching and learning

On July 26 I participated in an elearning symposium at the University of Washington-Bothell, virtually, on the invitation of Todd Conaway. There were numerous presenters, many from far and wide, including Alan Levine in Arizona and Viv Rolfe in the UK.

Each of the presenters only had 15 minutes to speak, on something related to the symposium’s theme of “Learning Everywhere.” And since several of us were coming in virtually, we didn’t see the rest of the symposium. Fortunately, Todd did a writeup of the whole day, in a blog post.

I wanted to share here what I said in my 15 minutes, in case it’s useful to others.

college students sitting on stone steps of a building, three of them with phones in their hands

People of Berkeley – Meeting Place, shared on Flickr by John Morgan, licensed CC BY 2.0

The title and description of my short presentation were:

Teaching & learning on the go: students and faculty

Our students are learning pretty much everywhere: on the bus, at coffee shops, walking around town…. What can we as teachers to do facilitate that learning? And what can we ourselves do on the go in our teaching and learning practice? Christina will provide a few ideas on these questions, and ask for participants to share their thoughts too.

So yeah, that’s what I had planned. But I didn’t get to that last part of people sharing their thoughts too. I finished what I had planned to say with maybe 1 minute left, so there wasn’t time for discussion while I was there. 15 minutes is hard to squish things into, and I probably took on too much for that time slot. But anyway. Here are my thoughts on the two questions above, expanded a bit from what I actually said in the symposium.

What can we do to facilitate students learning on the go?

Or at least, to avoid hindering it.

How are students learning on mobile?

I use my smart phone a lot. Or at least I thought I did, until I realized how much more students in my classes were using them. I use my phone for email, for social media, for maps, for looking up things on the web… but when it comes to doing a deep dive into things I’d consider part of my “work,” I usually switch over to a laptop or a desktop computer. I still feel like there are things (like writing a blog post!) that are much easier for me to do on a computer interface rather than a mobile one.

But a couple of years ago I watched students in a class reading and commenting on their peers’ essays on their phones. These were 1500-2000 word essays–fairly substantial ones that required a lot of scrolling. But rather than lug a laptop around, they preferred to do it on their phones. And they were not terribly pleased when the particular reading/commenting platform didn’t work very well on mobile.

I have witnessed students taking notes during class on their phones. When you think they are doing social media or texting during class, they might be actually taking notes!

And I am told, though I haven’t seen this myself, that students have complained when they are trying to do academic work on their phones on the bus, on the LMS, and their data signal cuts out in certain “dead zones” on the bus routes. This means they lose what they have already put into an assignment–like a discussion board post or a quiz.

I spoke with someone at our teaching and learning centre who said that medical and dental students working in clinics have wanted to access the LMS on mobile while they’re doing this work, to find an article or something else relevant to what they’re doing at the time. So having a good mobile interface was important.

Many students are truly learning everywhere: on the bus, in cafés, sitting outside on campus between classes, on breaks at their workplace…. And it may be more likely they’d use a phone than a tablet or laptop in many of these spaces/places because the phone is with them at all times, and has a data plan (not everyone has a data plan for their tablets).

How can we facilitate this learning?

The first step is one I didn’t really think about carefully until I started working on this presentation. But now it seems obvious: look at your course site on a phone! Honestly, I’ve had course sites on WordPress for years and I think only once or twice have I looked at them on my phone, and only when I needed to look something up really quickly on the go. I haven’t checked for usability on a small screen. For example,

  • Some of the items below may be less relevant if you’re using an LMS and don’t really have much choice in how things show up on mobile, but it’s useful to see what the site looks like for students on a phone regardless.


  • What do the menu items look like on a phone? Do you have a super long menu with many sub-items, like I do on my WordPress courses? How does that play out on a small screen?


  • What do threaded discussions look like? Sometimes when I’m reading blog posts or articles on my phone the threads end up getting pushed more and more to the right side of the screen to the point where some of them end up being really narrow, with just a few words on each line–very annoying to read.


  • How does the text look on a phone? The html text should hopefully be large enough to be readable (and most course sites are now able to be responsive to screen size to facilitate that). But do you have large blocks of text that look not so large on a big screen but seem to scroll endlessly on a small one? Do you need them to be that large?


  • Are you giving readings in PDF or Word that are near impossible to read on a phone? Do they have to be in PDF or Word? Could they also be in some other format that is easier to read on a small screen, like copied and pasted into a page on the site itself? This is often better for screen readers anyway–they may not be able to read PDFs well.


Another thought that came from someone I talked to at our teaching and learning centre: consider whether it’s really necessary to assign students to have long discussion board posts, which are hard to do on mobile. And when the data or wifi cuts out sometimes you lose the whole thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost comments on blogs when I’ve tried to save them and something has gone wrong and it takes me back to the comment page and my comment is gone. It’s really frustrating, and to the point now where I tend not to give comments if I’m on a phone, unless it’s something short I don’t mind writing again if it’s lost. If it’s pedagogically important for students to write long comments, then okay, but consider whether it is necessary. Maybe they could write more, shorter comments instead, and reply to others?

There are likely many other things to consider, and I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!


What can instructors do on the go in their teaching and learning practice?

This part got cut pretty short in the presentation, but that’s okay because it’s the part I had the least to say about. Again, I feel like I do most of my work on a laptop or desktop. And while the laptop can be taken practically anywhere, it doesn’t really feel any different to me than a desktop. The OS is the same, the capabilities are the same. I guess having a laptop with me most of the time means I can work pretty much anywhere, anytime, but to me that is a dangerous thing (work creeping into personal life!). Still, here are a couple of thoughts about what mobile learning allows me to do in my own teaching and learning practice.

First, when I think about learning everywhere, one thing I think about is people being in many different places learning together. And I’ve done a lot of that, with online video meetings. I have an online meeting 4-5 times a month, it seems, working with people in various parts of the world on projects, or having conversations with people who are at a conference through something called Virtually Connecting (a way for those who can’t attend a conference to talk to some of those who are there), or just having a conversation about teaching and learning or other things. And of course, there are things like open online courses that bring people from lots of different places together to learn (the courses ETMOOC, Open Education, and DS106 are just some of the ones I’ve taken).

I also think about bringing people from elsewhere into the classroom, virtually. Last Spring, in an interdisciplinary, team-taught course called Arts One, we brought comics artist and visual theorist Nick Sousanis in to give a one-hour guest lecture, virtually. It worked really nicely, even though we were in a terrible room where he could only see about 1/4 of the students at any given time because of the room setup. The elearning symposium at UW-Bothell I was speaking at was another great example–bring in people from various parts of the world to speak at your professional development workshop!

I spoke with someone at our Teaching and Learning Centre who provided another idea for what can change in our teaching when we and students have access to mobile technology. She had spoken with a professor who asked students to take their phones outside (they were actually locked out of a building for a little while for a fire alarm I think) and take photos of something that represents a concept they were discussing in class. This sort of thing could be adapted to many different learning contexts, I think.

Finally, I was trying to think of what I do on mobile that is just actually better done on mobile than on a desktop or laptop, and there are two things:

  • There are apps that you can use to make a video out of a set of slides, with a voiceover, that allow you to draw on the slides while you’re recording. And this is done nicely and easily with a finger or stylus on a table. Educreations is one such app, though I haven’t tried it–I have heard of it and gotten an endorsement from someone I trust. But it does cost a fair bit of money if you want to use its best features. There used to be an app called PlayBack (I think) that did something similar and was much cheaper (you didn’t have to sign up your students, either). It doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
    • There must be other such things out there but I can’t find them. Help?


  • I have spent hours sometimes meticulously creating diagrams on Power Point slides with shapes and lines/arrows. And then I have to move something and the whole thing gets screwed up. Drawing on a tablet is much easier. Paper by 53 is a drawing app that has “smart shapes” where you draw something like a circle or triangle and it snaps into place as a nice-looking circle or triangle, and you can easily add lines and such as well. It just looks nice and you can save as an image file and upload to a slide. Of course, you can’t edit it from the slides then, but you can do so easily from the Paper app.

There are people who do a lot more on mobile than I do. I recently met Amy Burvall, who said she does all her slides and videos on a phone or tablet (if I got that correctly). She does the drawings in drawing apps, puts them together into videos and adds music and voiceovers on mobile apps, creates gifs on mobile apps, etc. I’m not there yet!


Anyone else have ideas on how you teach and learn on the go, with the affordances of mobile technology?


Open Case Studies project

I am involved in an OER (Open Educational Resources) creation and sharing project called Open Case Studies that started about a year ago. I’m writing this post to give a general overview of the project to introduce it to new people who might want to participate.

This post will generally follow the format of a couple of presentations I’ve already given recently. Here is a set of slides from one of them, that goes over the basics of the project.

Motivation for the project

This project started from an idea by Daniel Munro, who was in 2015-2016 the Associate VP Academic for the student association at UBC, the Alma Mater Society. He wanted to start a project that would allow for several things:

  • Creation and adaptation of OER by both faculty and students at UBC, to be shared for revision and reuse by others
  • Interdisciplinary discussions and activities–students and faculty working across disciplines
  • Students avoiding “disposable assignments” and instead creating things that add value to the world; this is also connected to the idea of students as producers of knowledge rather than just consumers

You can see more about the objectives of the project on the “about” page of the Open Case Studies project website.

Project in a nutshell

Our project and site involve both faculty and students creating or editing case studies that are openly licensed (CC BY) to allow for revision and reuse by anyone with no restrictions except an attribution to the original source. See here for more about CC BY and other Creative Commons open licenses.

We held a two-day sprint in May 2016 in which faculty and students wrote the first set of case studies. You can see all about that sprint in my blog post about it.

How the case studies have been used in courses

In the 2016-2017 academic year, several faculty members used the case studies in their courses at UBC. There are many ways to do so! Here is what has been done so far:

  • One faculty member has assigned a case study “as is” in a course
  • One has asked students to add “action plans” at the end of one of the case studies (see here)
  • Several have asked students to write their own case studies
    • See the Forestry case studies on our site
    • And also this case study from Civil Engineering
    • A class in Gender, Race and Social Justice had students write case studies too, but they’re not on the site because we haven’t yet sought permission to give them a CC BY license. You can see them on the UBC Wiki, here.

We have a teaching guide for the project that shows some examples of assignment instructions faculty have used with the case studies. See the “sample assignments” on the Teaching Guide page for the project.

We are particularly interested in developing interdisciplinary activities involving the case studies. So far students in single disciplines have been approaching the case studies from those disciplines. But we would love it if students could approach existing case studies from a separate discipline and add their own perspectives. There are places in each case study where such perspectives can be added.

Or perhaps two classes could work together on creating case studies from two (or more) different disciplines.

Help with implementing open case studies into courses

This project is funded in part by a Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund grant from UBC, which allows us to hire graduate assistants to help faculty design and implement assignments.

We also have access to help from the UBC Library and the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology in creating resources to help students understand how to write or otherwise contribute to the open case studies.

So anyone from UBC who would like to join has access to help in implementing open case studies into their course (at least for the next year or so)!

Anyone can contribute

We have focused most of our efforts so far on UBC faculty and students, but we are also opening out the project to anyone who would like to join in, from any post-secondary institution.

We are working on creating a form for people who are interested to fill out that will be posted on the site, but for now, please just email me if you would like more information or think you might be interested:

And be sure to check out our website!