onsdag 2 november 2016

Topic 2. Openness

Our web programmer study program to which I give my courses has been open for many years. As a result of that (and hopefully the quality of the courses) it is one of the most popular study programs at Linnaeus university. The study program is open in many ways but not fully open since the examination is only given to students registered on the course.

Open to potential students

As a result of openness, the information about the study program is more complete and easily available compared to other educations we provide. This makes it much easier to share information with potential new students and they can themselves search and get a feel for what the courses in the program will contain before even applying. They can listen to recorded lectures, watch lectures live, browse last year's assignments and in some cases take part of course evaluations (depending on course and individual teacher). They cannot however participate in exams and hand in assignments. Since I give courses with rather generic names it is quite common that students apply to a course but has no idea on the course content or if it is a course for them, that way it is really good that they can take part of last years course material to form an informed opinion before committing to the course.

A potential drawback would be that potential students that do not like how the education is conducted might be put off by the open material and decide to do something else instead of enrolling in our courses. Which is a good thing since they do not spend a year or two of their lives on an education they do not want.

Open to slow students

There are always some students that for some reasons do not finish the courses in time, since the material is kept open and available they can use it between courses and hopefully finish the courses next time the course is given. This is actually really good for students that have disabilities.

Open to alumni students

We have also noticed that a lot of our old students return to our courses after the course finished. They do that for several reasons: sometimes to give something back, perhaps giving a guest lecture. Sometimes they come back to check some details they need in their work or in their hobby projects. I have also been contacted by students that read the study material or listen to the lectures to take part of material in courses that was not part of their study program but they felt an interest in but never wanted to commit to. Some old students give the material to their colleagues at work so that they can brush up on subjects. This makes opening up the material as a service to the society.

Open to the public

I have on a handful of occasions been contacted by citizens that have found my material through other means (I guess google) and are grateful for it being there. They are open learners that perhaps have a hard time studying at the speed we give the courses. I try to answer their questions (if time exists) and usually try to motivate them to find and apply to a study program.

Responsible opening and sharing of material

In order to produce open educational resources, I think the following things are important.

  • Do not claim authorship of things that are not yours, try to find the source of your material and give proper credit!
  • The same goes for images, use google advanced search to find public domain images to use instead of stealing, I prefer to make my own and still give credit to the original source of for example diagrams. I try to include a link back to the source page (for example wikipedia)
  • Release your stuff(I write a lot of programming source code) with a license (perhaps MIT or CC) that shows how other can use your material responsibly.
  • Make sure that all students know when and what is going to be shared, if you have cameras in the lecture hall make sure everyone knows about it and how to place themselves outside of the image.
  • Have options for Students that do not want to be seen or heard to ask questions. We use Slack and that is not recorded, and I instead read the questions and answer them.

Opening your material is a powerful statement

It says: 
  • I welcome critique! 
  • I believe in what I do!
  • I think this is important beyond the university

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