Purpose

Open Learning Design: A (draft) Manifesto

Recently, my colleagues Cindy, Rie, and myself undertook an exercise to map the frameworks and principles of Open Learning Design, which is at the intersection of our separate portfolios on Learning Resource Design and Open Education Initiatives. Since one of the principles in this area is that education is a political act, we’ve thought it would be fun to draft a manifesto for Open Learning Design. We hope to refine it, so, as always, comment and critique are welcome.

Sharing is the foundation of the University.

Sharing is not a functionality within the University; rather the University is the functionality of sharing within its community.

Embedded within the vision and values of the University is that it “supports scholarly pursuits that contribute to knowledge and understanding within and across disciplines, and seeks every opportunity to share them broadly.”  Teaching and learning is at the heart of these scholarly pursuits and, as Teachers and Learners, we must seek every opportunity to share broadly, for, as others have noted, “we share our work in education so that one day we might become free through education.”

As Teachers and Learners, we understand that open practices enhance teaching and learning.  

As learners, we understand we have the greatest capacity to learn when we are free to share in the shared knowledge of the University. Free, as Wiley defined, to access, to reuse, to revise, to remix, to retain, and to redistribute that knowledge, those materials, that help us learn.  We also understand that learners contribute to this shared knowledge and that we should, as Bruff describes, not merely be passive consumers of knowledge but producers, engaged in meaningful, generative work of the University.

As Teachers, we understand that knowledge does not equal understanding and that meaningful learning is authentic learning.

We understand that good teaching requires empathy and that authenticity is grounded in the expertise of the learner in their own learning. We strive to make our students be co-collaborators and co-producers of the curriculum. We work to build trust through honest collaboration for, as Neary states, the capacity for students as producers is “grounded in the human attributes of creativity and desire, so that students can recognise themselves in a world of their own design.”

As Teachers and Learners, we design for sharing and we create for understanding.

We are not wasteful. We are not afraid of failure. Understanding is developed through opportunities to iterate and practice across time and contexts, applying feedback to refine and deepen. Understanding requires self-awareness, practice, reflection and feedback. Understanding is supported by who you know and have access to through your networks, and good educational design facilitates connections.

As Teachers and Learners, we understand that we are one community. We understand that our community is not the University but rather that it is the community which forms the University. Sharing broadly is the means to remove the artificial barriers between the University and the community.

Education is the means that allows the individual, as Freire states, to “deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”  The University’s role is to share this education broadly.

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presentation

Student as Producer, Rethinking Technology (Slides)

Novak and I recently had the opportunity to present twice at this year’s Open Education conference. Overall, the conference was great, and while it was filled with amazing presentations that I’m still mulling over, the true value of the conference was the people, the conversations, and the networks that were formed and re-enforced. Sort of like higher education. But, also sort of like higher education, I’m focusing on content here by posting slides.

Our first presentation was an expanded look at case studies at UBC that have embraced the Student as Producer model. The student as producer model, which came to our attention from work done at the University of Lincoln, emphasizes the role of the student as collaborators in the production of knowledge. In this model, the university’s approaches to learning and research are closer aligned; for example, students, similar to researchers, are asked to share their work beyond the walls of the classroom and not just with their immediate instructor or adviser. There’s a lot of amazing students and instructors at UBC who are doing pretty neat things and it was fun to talk about the approaches and philosophies that support and enable this work:

Our second presentation was entitled “Rethinking Technology’s Role in Sustaining the Future of the University.” My part of the presentation was highlighting a bit of the future trends or issues that are being fretted about and looking at approaches that work. Basically, for me, it comes down to two themes: 1) our systems and management of technologies need to empower and enable all users; and 2) we need technologies that better support open. As Novak’s Law states: The best way to promote a university is to expose the work of its people, including students, staff, and faculty:

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BCopenEd, Student as Producer

Case Studies on the Student as Producer (Slides)

“In the end, an essay or an exam is an instance of busywork: usually written in haste; for one particular reader, the professor; and thereafter discarded.” – Jon Beasley-Murray, from Was introducing Wikipedia to the classroom an act of madness leading only to mayhem if not murder?

Novak and I recently had the opportunity to present at ETUG’s Fall Workshop on the topic of “Case Studies for Students as Producers.” In the Student as Producer model, as Derek Bruff has eloquently distilled from Mike Neary’s conceptualization: “students should move from being the object of the educational process to its subject. Students should not be merely consumers of knowledge but producers, engaged in meaningful, generative work alongside the university’s faculty”.

This idea of positioning student work as as a collaborative and valuable resource alongside that of faculty members is an important driver of uptake for some the tools and technologies, such as UBC Blogs and the UBC Wiki, that support open education initiatives. Here are a couple of the amazing open projects working using these tools to support students as producers:

  • Some instructors in the Arts One program are asking their students to critique or analyze readings and lectures on blogs. The use of blogs takes the writings out of a closed loop with only the instructor reading and responding to a student’s work. Instead, the students are sharing their critiques and thoughts openly on the internet, where they are contributing to the scholarly conversation of classic texts of the past two millennia. Furthermore, the student blog posts are syndicated via rss to the Arts One Open site, where the student content appears along side the instructor content, creating a rich and robust extension of the course. Clicking on any given tag, such as Borges, gives amazing and growing archive of online lectures, podcasts, essays, and critiques. Finally, since the students are blogging on their own personal blogs, they control their content, which they can delete, edit, or move to a new space at will.
  • Similarly, in LAW423B: Video Game Law, students can author directly on the public facing course website, allowing them to create and post content along side the instructor. This content is not just limited to the student and instructor, but is on an open website that is quickly becoming a highly trafficked and widely-read resource about a specific topic. Thus, students are sharing their work and being read by leaders in the video game law community.
  • Students in FNH200 are asked to author collaborative open wiki and video projects, thus students are not only sharing their work with instructor, each other, and, well, the world, but also future students who will take the course. This is important because, as it turns out, current and past students are setting the bar for the quality of future projects. The quality of the student work is being elevated as students are able to review and reference previous years projects, build upon them, and develop what is effectively an open knowledge base on food science (and their work is being incorporated into he course).

And here’s our slides for our presentation:

We broke pretty much every rule there is about using slides effectively in a presentation (bad design, low colour contrast, mismatched fonts on walls of text, etc) but I’m going to position that strategy as intentional effort to highlight the artistry of the projects we’ve been fortunate to witness and support in one way or another.

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