‘A Stepping Stone’ – open resources to support (UofL) educators in their emergency transition to online teaching

Joerdis Weilandt, Brandy Old, and Kristi Thomas

Shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UofL campus and courses went online in the duration of a few days, the Teaching Team at the Teaching Centre brainstormed ideas for how to best support our faculty and instructors in conducting the challenging task of (re)-designing their courses for emergency online delivery. The result is the online course called Fit for Online Learning, which designed as an initial stepping stone in the building of comprehensive digital teaching competencies enabled its participants to experience online learning from the student perspective as well as it assisted them in the creation and facilitation of meaningful academic learning experiences for their own U of L students online.

Three of the team members speak to a few aspects relating to their textbook writing experience below.

Can you tell us briefly what your Open Education Project is about?

Jördis Weilandt: Five Teaching Team members collaboratively designed an online course and wrote the accompanying course text, which has since published in the Alberta Open Education Collection, where it is available under the CC-BY-NC-SA license, thereby granting anyone permission for access, reuse, and any modification under the same open Creative Commons license. As per request from course participants, the original comprehensive textbook version is now also available in light form, meaning excluding most of the academic references and containing fewer assignments.

Both the online course and the textbook resource include 5 modules that cover topics like community engagement and designing assessments for online learning. The structure of the modules allows the participants to explore theoretical frameworks behind online learning ing to provide practical steps towards teaching in that modality. In addition to reflecting on pedagogical preferences and preparing concrete elements for online courses, course participants can connect with their peers to share expertise and resources.

Why does Open Education matter to you? 

Jördis Weilandt: Having gone through academic schooling in the Federal Republic of Germany where a Master’s degree cost me less than 2000 Euro (including 2 exchange years at 2 different universities in Europe and Asia), I am still shocked to see how expensive post-secondary education in Northern America is. These high costs must prevent many citizens from fully participating in the advancement and sharing of academic knowledge, skills and competence. With the climate crisis, world hunger, poverty and great social inequalities in place, we are currently not equipping all members of society equally to establish secure livelhoods by addressing pressing matters on the local and global levels. Similarly to Robin deRosa (2020), whom I admire for her persistance and impact I think that in times of shrinking public funding for education and an increasing dominance of the publishing industry, Open Education is,

“is a way for us to unflinchingly name the ways that our students and our colleagues are prevented from exercising their ideas, contributing to the shape of knowledge, and changing the structures of an academy that insidiously validates the status quo. And open is a way to highlight a thorny path to something better.”

What did you take out of the experience of creating an openly accessible resource?

Brandy Old: Creating an open education resource was a valuable experience for me as I was able to collaborate with my colleagues at the U of L, but also connect with other individuals while building the resource. Working with others who bring valuable perspectives to the table was very impactful and important for me. I was able to learn from others and also share their work more broadly. Being able to open our work for others to use around the world was a key component of our delivery for this resource because COVID-19 brought about extreme changes in education. Knowing that any person who is teaching can work through this tool is vital in reducing barriers to learning.

What recommendations do you have for people new to OER?

Brandy Old: As this was my first experience working with creating OER, I was very unfamiliar with the size of the community that supports OER and the infrastructure already in place. If you are looking to get started with OER, I would recommend you get connected and start talking to people. The wealth of knowledge held by champions of OER is incredible and will save you a lot of time.

How did you go about creating the resource?

Kristi Thomas: I collaborated with my colleagues using Pressbooks and Moodle as our resource hub.

What was involved in the collaborative open resource creation?

Jördis Weilandt: Before designing the course, we decided on five essential themes around online teaching to help people identify priorities for their own courses. We then divied up those five modules among the five members in the teaching team to work on independently first. We each read through academic articles and other work to support the design of our modules and create learning activities modelling evidence-based online teaching. As time was limited to four weeks of preparation of an entire course in addition to the course resource, we had to work fast and furious on the drafts, which we then edited collaboratively. The technologies we use made this collaborative work very easy. We wrote our text drafts in Pressbooks, a digital authoring tool that in addition to text can embed multi-media rich elements such as video, pictures and interactive quizzing activities. All five of us could smoothly work on our drafts, while at the same time suggesting changes to each other’s work. We decided for Moodle as the hub for all course-related interactions among us and the course participants because the data is securely housed on our U of L servers.

As we started offering the Fit for Online Learning course, we also started making changes to both the learning environment as well as the textbook resource. In the first round, the course duration was too short for the amount of content and tasks we had designed, which is why we then increase the duration as well as create a lighter version of the comprehensive text we had written. The feedback from participants was helpful in guiding us what changes to implement for future cohorts, so that starting from round 2 there was less of an overwhelm in people thinking they had to follow the suggested pace and do all the suggested activities. Instead, people are free to choose their paths and dedicate as much or little time they have available to (re)designing their courses and specific elements for an online delivery.

Did you get any feedback on the resource from its users?

Kristi Thomas: Yes. The resource was quite well received from faculty. They stated that it was a useful resource to help them develop their online teaching skills.

References:

Robin DeRosa. Foreword In: Clifton, A. and Hoffman, K. D. Open Pedagogy Approaches. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://milnepublishing.geneseo.edu/openpedagogyapproaches/front-matter/foreward-by-robin-derosa/

U of L Teaching Centre , Meadows, J., Old, B., Reid, E., Thomas, K., & Weilandt, J. (2020). Fit for Online Learning. https://doi.org/10.29173/oer6

U of L Teaching Centre , Meadows, J., Old, B., Reid, E., Thomas, K., & Weilandt, J. (2020). Fit for Online Learning Light. https://openeducationalberta.ca/itfol-light/

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Digital Teaching and Learning at the UofL by Joerdis Weilandt, Brandy Old, and Kristi Thomas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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