Tag Archives: student as producer

Engaging students with OER

Near the end of May I worked with Jon Festinger and Will Engle to do a 1.5 hour workshop on how using and creating Open Educational Resources (OER) can have pedagogical value in courses (beyond saving students money, which is also important). You can see the basic abstract for the session in the wiki page embedded below.

Click here to see our slides for the workshop, on Google Slides (or see below).

We also created a wiki page for the event, which has numerous link to resources. We also tried to get small groups to post answers to discussion questions on the wiki, but as the event was held in the late afternoon, a bunch of people left when it was time to do the small group activity (I guess many instructors, like many students, think the “real action” is in the presentation rather than the group discussion!).

The wiki page for the workshop is embedded below.


About this session

"Increasing Student Engagement through Open Educational Resources" is a workshop held during the CTLT Institute in May 2015.


Open educational resources are educational materials (text, video, audio, and more) that are licensed to allow others to reuse, revise, remix, redistribute, and retain them free of cost. There are numerous pedagogical benefits to both using OER and creating OER in courses; this workshop will focus on a few of them, including the following.

Asking students to create OER in courses means, in part, asking them to create things that are available to and of use by other students in the course (both past, present and future) and by people beyond the course. Assignments that are read only by an instructor and/or teaching assistant can seem to be what David Wiley calls in a blog post “disposable”: “assignments that add no value to the world – after a student spends three hours creating it, a teacher spends 30 minutes grading it, and then the student throws it away” (Resource here). If, instead, student work is adding value to the world, contributing to a larger body of knowledge that can be used by others, it is much more likely that they will be engaged in working on it and try to make it as good as possible. Examples of such assignments could be student blog posts, student-created web pages or wiki pages, videos, and more that others can see/hear/interact with and learn from. Another example that will be discussed in the session is having students edit an open textbook and share their edits openly.

Using OER in courses means asking students to read/watch/listen to/interact with educational materials for the course that are publicly available and licensed for reuse and (often) revision. Finding and assigning OER can allow for presentation of material in different ways: e.g., a textual resource can be augmented through finding and using a diagram, an image, a video, another text that explains things differently, etc. This can help both engage students and improve their understanding of course material. Further, if the OER are licensed to allow revision, students can edit them or mix them with other resources to create something new, both helping their own leaning and contributing OER for others to learn from.

In this session we will all discuss together the various kinds of open educational resources, including open textbooks, how to find OER for your courses, and several of the pedagogical benefits of creating and using OER.


Will Engle is a strategist for open education resources at UBC's Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology. He engaged with projects that are leveraging emerging technologies, approaches, and pedagogies to support open learning. With a background in library science, Will is interested in understanding and supporting the removal of barriers that limit access to education, information, and knowledge.

Jon Festinger, Q.C. (LL.B., B.C.L. 1980 McGill University) is a Vancouver, British Columbia based counsel and educator. He is an SFU Professor of Professional Practice and a faculty member of the Centre for Digital Media. Jon has taught media, entertainment and communications law topics at the UBC Faculty of Law for over two decades, as well as teaching at various times at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism, the Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law and the University of Victoria Faculty of Law. He is the author of the first edition of “Video Game Law” published by LexisNexis in 2005, co-author of the 2nd Edition published in 2012. The open and on-line components of his courses can be found here & here. Jon was named a member of Creative Commons’ “Team Open” in 2014.

Christina Hendricks is a Sr. Instructor in Philosophy at UBC, and she also regularly teaches in the Arts One program. She has been a proponent of open education for several years, having participated in and few open online courses and been part of the design and facilitation team for others, including one with Peer 2 Peer University called Why Open?, and a course on Teaching with WordPress. She uses as many open educational resources in her teaching as she can, and posts many of her teaching materials as open educational resources herself.

Agenda and session outcomes


  1. Introductions--to us, to you
  2. Defining openness and open educational resources (OER) in groups
  3. Discussion of openness and OER
  4. Presentation on pedagogical benefits of OER and open courses
  5. Groups: take a "traditional" assignment and discuss how you might use what we've talked about today to transform it (and why)
  6. Conclusion

Session outcomes

By the end of the session, you should be able to:

  • Give a definition of “open” and/or open educational resources
  • Explain at least two pedagogical benefits to using and/or creating OER in teaching & learning
  • Explain one or more courses/projects at UBC using/creating OER
  • Say how you might adapt an activity or assignment to make it more "open," and why this would be pedagogically a good thing to do

Group activities

Click on your group number to go to the page where you can type in your answers to the questions in the group activities during the session.

To see all the groups' notes from the activities, click here: http://wiki.ubc.ca/Sandbox:Student_Engagement_Through_OER/Group_Resource

You can also see how the group wiki pages look when embedded into a WordPress site, here: http://willdev.sites.olt.ubc.ca/

Resources, links from the session or relevant to the session

Slides from the session

The slides used during the session can be found here (on Google Slides).

Examples of open courses or OER

A list of some examples can be found on the open.ubc.ca website, here: http://open.ubc.ca/learning/

Please add other examples that you know of, below!



Open Education

Creative Commons licenses

True Stories of Open Sharing

Watch some amazingly true stories of open sharing--the great stuff that can happen when we share our work openly: http://stories.cogdogblog.com/

source: http://wiki.ubc.ca/sandbox:Student_Engagement_Through_OER

“Students as Producers” Assignments in Intro to PHIL

For the blended learning course I’m doing on teaching a blended learning course, we were asked to think about possible assignments that could fit the “students as producers” model, where that involves projects that “encompass open-ended problems or questions, a authentic audience and a degree of autonomy” (according to the text in the course). Here’s a nice overview by Derek Bruff of the idea of “students as producers.”


Here are two ideas for “student as producer” assignments for my Introduction to Philosophy course (PHIL 102).

1. Shared notes on the reading

One person in each small group (of 4-5 students) is responsible for taking notes on the reading and posting them before any lecture on that section. Students will sign up for specific dates to finish their notes by.

Notes must include:

  • A statement of what you think the main point/main conclusion in this section of the reading is. If there is more than one, pick just one of the main conclusions in the reading. Refer to a page number where this conclusion can be found (or section and paragraph number, if the reading has no page numbers).
  • How the author argues for this point: give the reasons/premises the author gives to support the conclusion. Refer to page numbers where these premises can be found (or section and paragraph numbers, if the reading has no page numbers).
  • Give one or more comments about what you’ve discussed above: is there anything you disagree with? If so, why? Or, is there something in it that you find particularly interesting? How? Or, do you have any questions about it?

These notes must be typed and shared with the class, on the class blog [insert URL for where to share them]. Be sure to tag the post you’ve written with the last name of the author (e.g., Plato, Epicurus).

Anyone in the class can review the sets of notes for each author, which is a great resource for reviewing the text! Any student can respond to a question posed in one of the posts, or make a comment in response to what a student has said about the reading; you don’t have to just do it for the person from your small group.


Since the above is only partly open-ended (sections (a) and (b) are not very open-ended), I thought of another assignment as well.


2. What would it be like to live like an Epicurean or a Stoic?

For this activity, you will need to imagine what it would be like to live as either an Epicurean or a Stoic (choose one). You’ll need to describe some aspects of your current life and then how they would change if you lived as either an Epicurean or a Stoic. For example, you could consider how the following might be different (or anything else you deem relevant):

a. What you choose to study/what your career might be

b. What you spend your money on

c. What your day to day routine is like, the main choices you make each day and how they might change

Write a blog post on the class blog describing how your life would be different if you were an Epicurean or a Stoic. Discuss at least two ways that your life would be different. Include in your post a reflection on whether you think this would be a good way to live or not, and why.

  • Be sure to tag it either “Epicureanism” or “Stoicism,” and put it under the category “Live like a…”
  • Your blog post should be at least 400 words long, but no more than 900
  • Refer to the text with page numbers or section/paragraph numbers to show where the author says something that justifies why your life would be the way you say it would

This activity will be marked on a three-level scale:

  • Plus:
  • You have described at least two aspects of your life that would be different and why, with specific page or paragraph references to at least one of the texts we’ve read
  • You have included a reflection on whether you think this would be a good way to live or not, and why
  • the blog post is between 400 and 900 words long
  • Minus:
  • You have described only one aspect of your life that would be different, and/or
  • You have not adequately explained why your life would be different, and/or
  • You have not given specific references to the text(s) where needed to support your claims, and/or
  • You have not included a reflection on whether you think this would be a good way to live or not, and why
  • The post is less than 400 words or more than 900 words long, and/or
  • The post is late, without an acceptable excuse for being so (one to six days late)
  • Zero:
  • The post was not completed, or
  • It was completed seven or more days late


How are these related to the “student as producer” idea?

I was thinking of “student as producer” as having to do with students making things to share with a wider audience, producing content that would be useful to others. The first assignment does that for other students in the course; the second, if the blog posts are on a public site rather than a closed site (which my class blogs usually are), may provide information that could be interesting and useful to a wider audience trying to understand what Epicureanism and Stoicism are all about.

I was also thinking that the second assignment could be considered a kind of “authentic assignment,” in that many of the ancient philosophers thought that the purpose of philosophy was to change your life, to cause you to live in a better way, to be happier. I considered making them actually live like Epicureans or Stoics for a day, but I’m not sure one would get much out of just one day of doing so. Maybe a week would give you a taste, but that may be too much to ask! So I decided to do a simulation instead.

I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on how I might make either one of these assignments more useful to students or a wider audience, or more “authentic.” I considered adding a collaborative element to the second one, having them do it in groups, but I got stuck on whose life they would start with to consider how that life would change if lived as an Epicurean or Stoic, and then I got stuck on how they’d share the duties for writing the blog post about it. Any suggestions here would be great!