In September 2017 I was the lead facilitator of a three-part assignment redesign program to support open educational practices at Vancouver Island University. The goal of the program was to support faculty in redesigning a current or creating a new assignment that focuses on students engaging in personalised learning. Essentially we were hoping to support assignments which allowed students to build new knowledge together around an authentic problem, scenario, or situation. Termed “non-disposable assignments”, these allow students to share their learning and build their knowledge and skills through a social learning experience leveraging digital technologies. As much as appropriate, the works that students create using this approach are made available to their peers and the community at large.
A group of faculty joined us for three 90 minute sessions throughout the term where we explored readings, frameworks, and examples to inspire the new assignment. The supporting website for the program was designed using WordPress and hosted open educational resources, open access articles, links, and media artifacts to support our work. The three sessions were blended with pre-readings, online discussion, reflective posts, and in session time to flesh out the details of a their new assignment.
Throughout the three-part workshop we also asked that participants collectively exposed their reflections and learning to others in the group by posting to the WordPress site. Faculty took up this opportunity and shared regularly throughout term. Each participant was assigned as an author on the site and could freely publish reflections. We used the Subscribe2 plugin to ensure that participants were notified when a member of the group posted to the site. This also allowed them to control their notification settings. Continuous reflections throughout the term led to rich conversations in the face-to-face meetings and asynchronous discussion in comments.
Our participants were at various stages of engaging with more open educational practices. Some went all in, designing projects which involve students creating a collection of open educational resources, while others considering more incremental ways of engaging. I believe that open education can be used as a design philosophy (or even methodology) allowing multiple and incremental ways to enact more open teaching and learning practices.
I believe that one of the challenges in rethinking assignments in this way is finding inspiration. To address this I created a series of video case studies from faculty who are engaging with open pedagogy in some way.
I am happy to share the website and resources we used to support this initiative so that others might run a similar program. Session descriptions and slides can be found for both session one and two. Session three was feedback from participants on their new assignment designs which can also be found through the reflections on the site. I hope that I will be able to continue this program in the Fall term, grow the collection of case studies, and continue to advocate for open educational practices.