Gone with the web? Share your learning material and lose it forever – or not

After the second week we had a reflection week, which is a great idea from the ONL organizers to help participants gather their thoughts and catch up! However, at least I ended up catching the other things but ONL, because… no deadlines, less self-discipline.

Our second topic was about open learning and sharing which sparked interesting discussions in our PBL group. To many of us, open learning material, textbooks, videos, and sharing were quite new themes and we had not been practicing very much of openness ourselves. We were curious but somewhat reserved.

I had used a few open resources for preparing my teaching, because there is quite a lot material about chemistry online. My perception was that the quantity overwhelms quality in open chemistry material. Over the course of the topic 2, while reading the literature and the background information, I first realized that “going open” is a trend. Maybe not so much in chemistry yet, but certainly in humanities and societal science. I was surprised by the research results [1, 2] that open material can be better than the commercial “old school” textbooks, for example. Encouraged by this finding, I wanted to find “if there are any seriously taken” chemistry textbooks out there open. I found a very good open resource, openstax,[3] which provides titles that compare well to those commercial textbooks I have been using. Wow! I started seriously to consider using that resource on my own courses.

Using open material as a resource for your teaching is one thing to adapt to but the next, more “serious” and harder-to-take, step is to open your own material. Looking at that, I feel today quite reserved like many of our PBL colleagues. This is definitely an interesting opportunity, but I see it as something that could happen after some time. Especially a model where part of the course material is published and opened is appealing from the advertising point of view. It would be a good opportunity to attract more interested students to the elective course I am teaching. At this point (in the middle of adaptations related to the pandemic), opening my learning material is however too much, I feel. Now I have to allocate my resources in making the online/blended/hybrid learning experience as good as possible. Once the pandemic is over, I will think of the opening question again. Learning about how to use creative commons license was very useful. With CC licensing there are clear principles in place which should be respected.

The controversial nature of topic 2 was clearly visualized by our PBL group presentation [4], which refined to a fun but realistic comic strip where two teachers have a debate on the benefits and disadvantages of opening and sharing the learning material. At least to me, the comic strip reflects well on my own feelings: which way to choose after all?


[1] John Hilton III et al. Review – Open Education Group (openedgroup.org)

[2] Hilton, J. Open educational resources, student efficacy, and user perceptions: a synthesis of research published between 2015 and 2018. Education Tech Research Dev 68, 853–876 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-019-09700-4 and references therein

[3] OpenStax hosted by Rice University

[4] https://share.pixton.com/qrv7hkb

Posted by Ville Miikkulainen

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