To me, open education is an exciting thought. Openness in the sense that the educational material used can be shared and reworked by anyone other than the person who created the material. Openness in the sense of giving the opportunity to follow a course without difficult application procedures.
But something that is not as often associated with open education is the openness for student-active thinking.
I mean the openness to see learners as co-creators of their knowledge, but also as co-creators of open learning resources and our collective knowledge. It may for example be that teachers and students together creating teaching materials such as The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature, created by Robin DeRosa and her students. It may also be students creating or improving Wikipedia articles as part of their education. At UC-San Francisco, for example, Amin Azzam, professor of psychiatry, has given his students the task of improving Wikipedia articles to learn communication and at the same time improving public access to good health information.
But what about the quality if we allow students to create educational materials? Mountain Heights Academy is a school in Utha, USA, which has switched to open educational resources (OER) and started inviting students to contribute their own OER. According to a study by Wiley et al. (2017) it shows that students’ results were significantly better than before the studied school started with student-produced open teaching materials.
Their concept is based on offering students the opportunity to improve their grade if they provide a tutorial video for a task. Several students usually contribute each year and after the teacher has reviewed them, some of them can also be part of the course’s official course content. More then 5% of the corse content was created by students when the study took place.
The fact that students’ contributions can lead to better results may be due to that they are spurred by the opportunity to contribute, but it may also be because they use the ability to transform and form signs for their understanding (Selander, 2008). According to Selander (2008) understanding is clearly associated with a capability to use signs and form new combinations of signs and he mentions the opportunity to show ”how” one understands as a key issue.
When students create a tutorial or improves an Wikipedia article they have to transform what they have read or heard to a new multimodal form. I think it is good to give students the opportunity to explain their understanding of the content as open learning resources and thus deepen their own learning. Good for their learning and good for others who can learn by OER and share OER. I think we have traditionally been closed to the idea that students can contribute qualitative course material, so now is the time to become more open in our view of students as active, creative and involved.
Selander, S. (2008). Designs for Learning – A Theoretical Perspective. Designs for Learning, 1(1), 4–22. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16993/dfl.5
Wiley, D., Webb, A., Weston, S., Tonks, D (2017). A Preliminary Exploration of the Relationships Between Student-Created OER, Sustainability, and Students Success. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(4)
URL 20181115: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/rt/printerFriendly/3022/4222