Open Learning

open learning diagram

Image by Giulia Forsythe from flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The 5Rs defining open content.
Materials created by David Wiley, CC by 4.0

If you have ever used YouTube to learn how to do something or used Khan Academy for studying, you've already been learning in the open. In fact, anytime you google something, you are accessing openly available resources - some of which are useful for learning! So what makes open learning a thing? It has to do with using and contributing to openly licensed resources that can be built on or re-used in your own learning. It is also about connecting with communities and networks beyond UBC, by openly sharing your works in progress and building on the work of others.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) have an open license that allows users to engage in the "5Rs": Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, and Redistribute. What does this all mean for you as a student?

The right to make, own, and control copies of the content:

  • Unlike conventional textbooks, OERs are free to access and download for your own use.
  • Unlike online textbooks and course materials that require an expensive access code and expire after your course is done, you can keep your own copy of OERs and continue to use it after the term is over.
  • By adding an open license to your work, you retain your rights as content creator AND you make it east for others to build on your work.

The right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video):

  • Professors can more easily share course content with you.
  • You are free to use OERs in class projects and presentations, such as using openly licensed images on research posters or presentation slides, without breaking copyright laws. Of course, you always acknowledge the source.

The right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language):

  • Because anyone can edit OERs, you can build on the work of scholars and other students by editing or adding to their openly licensed work - in a revision - the original context and meaning is maintained. Of course, you always acknowledge the original source.
  • Professors can create course assignments that have you build on the work of others, allowing you to participate more fully in scholarly discourse. See UBC's Latin American Literature and Linguistics as examples of students collaborating with community experts to author and revise original work.
  • Mediawiki (the platform the runs Wikipedia and the UBCWiki) supports this principle of open by allowing for revision, documenting revision history, allowing for version control (you can revert to an original after revision of you want) and associating users with revision history - so you can keep track of who has edited the work. More about wikis for learning.

The right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup):

  • remixing content allows you to combine resources in different ways which may vary widely from the original context of the work. A common example of mashups include memes, combining open data to create virtual tours, etc.
  • Making a Mashup Friendly Library offers some excellent examples of how libraries can support mashups which lead to really useful community resources. It is an open resource created by a graduate student in Library School at UBC.

The right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend):

  • Rather than turning in assignments to one person, your professor, and never seeing it again, your openly licensed work can be shared with a wider audience of learners who can learn from and build upon it themselves. See examples of open courses and resources at UBC and beyond.

Why Learn in the Open?

"The point of education and research both is about knowledge sharing as the main goal... open allows us to do that in a way that is not so commodified."

Daniel Munro. the AMS Associate VP Academic and University Affairs (2015-16) for UBC-V.

"We are living in a historical moment of transformation and realignment in the creation and sharing of knowledge, in social, political and economic life, and in global connectedness. There is wide agreement that we need new models of education suited to this historic moment, and not simply new models of schooling, but entirely new visions of learning better suited to the increasing complexity, connectivity, and velocity of our new knowledge society." Excerpt from: Connected Learning: Principles

There are many reasons why learners would turn to the open web to learn. These may include: following an interest or passion; connecting with people and expertise; learning how to do something or understand a concept (think Khan Academy or Veritasium).

Learning in the open naturally helps to develop a host of web literacies as we learn to network, collaborate, write, create, build, search, document and publish our work online. The Institute for the Future, Work Skills Summary suggests that these competencies will become more and more critical as we move into the 21st century. Read the report.

Here are more reasons...

The high cost of textbooks and other learning resources (as illustrated in the), may lead you or your peers to:

  • delay the buying of necessary materials or avoid purchasing them all together - which may put you at an academic disadvantage.
  • spend hours copying pages from your friends' textbooks - taking time away from studies.
  • stress out about not having the resources you need to be effective and prepared in your classes.

Open textbooks and learning resources make it possible to access everything you need to learn, free of cost, over the internet. Some examples:

There are many more examples of open learning resources available from universities around the world. Link under adopt and locate.

Have you ever:

  • searched for a video on YouTube to help you learn how to do something?
  • created and uploaded a video that teaches others how to do something?
  • shared your code/project on GitHub
  • spent time on Reddit - accidentally or on purpose to participate in a discussion about something you are interested in?
  • published anything learn-worthy on a blog, Reddit or Facebook?
  • shared or followed a link to learn something from someone you follow on Twitter?
  • contributed to or learned from Wikipedia?

If you have done any of these things, you have participated in the open learning movement in some way. Applying an open license to the work you create is also an important step in contributing to open learning resources. Refer to the How section to learn more...

Learning involves risk taking. When you share your work openly, you are contributing to the building and sharing of knowledge and you are opening up your work for public review. When you are accustomed to learning and creating behind classroom walls and for the eyes of your professor only, working in the open can be both daunting and extremely rewarding. You will want to understand:

  • how your work may be evaluated by others.
  • what your obligations are regarding copyright and appropriate citation of others' work.
  • how you can license your own work (with an open license) to allow others to re-use and build on your work - while attributing you as the original author.

Learning in the open requires us to grapple with issues of trust, privacy and ownership. Check out the resources below for more information on licensing your work and respecting copyright.

Open Data is research data that is freely available on the internet permitting any user to download, copy, analyse, re-process, pass to software or use for any other purpose without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself....In the digital age, data is the raw material on which discoveries are built, and unfettered access to research data, whether in the Life Sciences or the Social Sciences, is crucial to accelerating progress in research.

Open Resources

There are many more examples of open learning resources available from universities around the world.

Open Courses

  • LFS350 asks students to create wiki pages rather than papers.
  • Physics 101 course adds student-created learning objects into course curriculum.

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