University of Texas at Arlington

Scholarly Communication

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Pioneer of Open Education Presents at UTA

by Michelle Reed June 21, 2017
David Wiley presents at UTA Libraries

Yesterday UTA Libraries in partnership with the LINK Research Lab welcomed Dr. David Wiley, a pioneer of open education, to campus for a public presentation held in the Central Library.

The event kicked off with an announcement about the UTA CARES grant program, sponsored by the Libraries, which recently awarded its first round of grants in support of projects that further open education at UTA. In 2017, the Libraries awarded four grants to Dr. Sharareh Kermanshachi (Civil Engineering), Bret Lathwell (Sociology), Dr. Mohan Pant (Curriculum and Instruction), and Alicia Soueid (Modern Languages). The open educational resources (OER) resulting from each grant will be shared openly via UTA ResearchCommons. Additional information about the projects is available on the UTA CARES’ webpage.

David’s talk, “Unlocking the Classroom: Maximizing the Potential of Open Educational Resources,” began with a definition of “open.” Those new to OER sometimes conflate open resources and public resources. Though both are free for the end-user, creators of resources that are truly open also grant users the permission to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute the content. After establishing this definition, David discussed renewable assignments/assessments and their impact on teaching and learning. Here are five takeaways:

  1. The vast majority of the assignments we ask students to complete are disposable. The ultimate destination for this kind of assignment is the trash or, as David noted as the best-case scenario, a recycle bin. He estimates that undergraduate students in the United States spend about 40 million hours each year producing work that is promptly tossed away after it is graded. This approach may suggest to students that their work is not valued.
  2. Renewable assignments, on the other hand, offer an opportunity for student work to live beyond the classroom in a way that adds value to the world. The key to renewable assignments is the integration of open licensing. When we remove the restrictions of copyright, we can think about teaching and learning in new ways. An emphasis on sharing student work (rather than disposing of it) allows teachers, future students, and others to build on, revise, and improve student-generated content.
  3. When students are asked to share their work openly, the way they approach their coursework changes. Students consistently report that they are motivated to spend more time on renewable assignments because they know their work will make a difference for someone else, and they tend to worry less about their grades. Engagement skyrockets. Learning becomes a genuinely fun and collaborative activity.
  4. Teachers sometimes assume that only graduate-level or advanced students are capable of engaging meaningfully with renewable assignments. David demonstrated that this assumption is false by sharing multiple examples from graduate, undergraduate, and middle school levels. He emphasized that every group of students can do this kind of work if given the right opportunity.
  5. David warned against dictating that students openly license their work. Rather, teachers interested in incorporating renewable assignments in their courses are encouraged to discuss licensing with students and to provide alternate options for students who do not wish to share their work. This provides an opportunity to have a conversation with students about their digital identities and about how what they share online shapes the way they are perceived by others.

UTA faculty and staff interested in incorporating renewable assignments into their courses can contact Michelle Reed for assistance.

"Students will never do exactly what you expect them to do. They will always do something more awesome than what you imagined they would do."

Note: The image for the pull quote used on this page was created by Starline - The quote is from David Wiley regarding the impact renewable assignments have on students.