Ever heard of open textbooks?

Are you still using commercial textbooks?

Up to the 2017 academic year, the Psychology Foundation module on the Psychology Major Programme of Dublin City University (DCU) used a commercial textbook to compliment the online learning materials provided by the programme team. Life as usual.

 In the 2018 academic year a switch was made from this commercial textbook to an open textbook by the Canadian Edition Open Textbook Project: this textbook was selected because it was high quality in terms of content and structure, and was sufficiently detailed to replace the textbook that had been used. This simple choice has brought to zero the textbook cost for the module, eliminating any issues with students access because of cost or lack of access through the institutional library. Also, the success of this practice has opened the door to, and strengthened the case for, the replacement of commercial textbooks with open textbooks in other modules’ reading lists.

Do you want to know how the DCU team led by Dr James Brunton did it? Check out Practice 3.1 in the OpenGame Handbook of Successful Open Teaching Practices.

Transform your course into a MOOC: Impossible mission ?

Professor Juan Quemada has been teaching software engineering at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) for many years. He was approached by the Spanish MOOC platform MiriadaX, with the request to develop a MOOC .

He took the challenge. The decision paid off: over 200.000 persons have registered in the 8 editions of Juan’s MOOC since 2013. As Prof. Quemada found out, transforming a course into a MOOC was not a technology issue, but deals primarily with deeply revising the concepts and activities of the course, so as to keep the learners’ attention high and, at the same time, to replicate the intensity of the classroom teaching. Three years later, in 2016, Juan and his team consolidated the lessons learnt through the AMMIL methodology (Active Meaningful Micro Inductive Learning), that aimed to improve the quality and effectiveness of self-learning materials used in MOOCs, flipped classrooms and online courses. 

Do you want to know more? Check out Practice 2.2 in the OpenGame Handbook of Successful Open Teaching Practices.

Teaching foreign languages through the use of OER


Dr. Jula Titus, from Yale University, is currently using Open Educational Resources (OER) in her Russian language course , making them available through an openly accessible website. In this particular practice, OER are used to teach Russian by using poems, complemented by additional background information. They also include a glossary of terms, a series of exercises, an audio file of the poem, with direct access to detailed information relating to the poet. Everything is openly licensed and can be used in a variety of academic settings, from traditional to a blended classroom, even in online learning enviroments. Best of all,  it is easily adaptable to other foreign languages!

Do you want to know more? Check out Practice 2.3 in the OpenGame Handbook of Successful Open Teaching Practices.

Enhance your teaching by using open slides-playlist

The word “playlist” brings to mind videos or songs, but it can also be applied in teaching. Leonel Morgado, professor at the Universidade Aberta in Portugal, teaches programming and virtual worlds as tools for learning and business. In order to help his students to better understand the content of upcoming lessons, he produces six-minutes long slideshows introducing the main course concepts, enhanced by a voice-narration to increase the level of authenticity. Apart from being used by his students, these slideshows are then shared with an open license through open-access digital platforms such as SlideShare, YouTube, to encourage public comments and wider dissemination.

Do you want to know more? Check out Practice 2.1 in the OpenGame Handbook of Successful Open Teaching Practices.

Have you ever heard of “open flipped-classroom teaching”?

Professor Anna Förster from the University of Bremen in Germany has revolutionised the introductory course on Computer Science she delivers by adopting an inverted classroom format. She has rearranged the course structure, transforming face-to-face sessions into hackathons, where students  work in groups on practical exercises in sessions of 4-to-5 hours. Further, all the self-study content she produced for the course as well as the content developed by students during these Hackathons is released as OER. They are available on both the university learning platform and Youtube, therefore facilitating reuse and improvement by peer colleagues and students. 

Do you want to know more? Check out Practice 1.3 in the OpenGame Handbook of Successful Open Teaching Practices.

Can MOOCs be used in classroom-based teaching?

Despite MOOCs are usually designed as distance courses, they could also represent a great support to improve classroom teaching.  Educators at TU Delft, one of the world-leading MOOCs provider with over 2 million learners, are encouraged to use MOOCs in campus education, mostly in a blended model. As an example, one of the authors of the MOOC “Introduction to Water and Climate”, launched in 2015, found additional MOOCs from other universities which he considered useful to support his on-campus teaching and started using them using a flipped-classroom approach. 

Do you want to know what it takes to replicate this idea? Check out Practice 1.2 in the OpenGame Handbook of Successful Open Teaching Practices.

Using open textbooks: how easy is that?

Imagine if instead of having to buy a textbook for their courses, your students could simply download for free the course content as an open book on the web. Also, imagine if during the course they could annotate the book online and propose improvements and modifications, for example in case a paragraph is not clear or an exercise could be improved. Finally, the textbook would improve year after year, thanks to the students’ contributions. As the experience of Prof Iaconelli shows, this is easier than you could think.

You could even integrate your own book with high-quality content already written by other professors, so you could share your textbook with an open license, for the benefit of other colleagues. From a technological point of view, this is as easy as using a word-processor and is doable in any subject, including maths and engineering.

Do you want to know more? Check out Practice 1.1 in the OpenGame Handbook of Successful Open Teaching Practices.

What competences should open educators have?

On the 2nd of March, in occasion of the Open Education Week, the OpenGame project was presented during the “OER and Open Pedagogies” Webinar organized by EDEN. The presentation focussed on the Open Education teachers competences framework, and raised a lot of interest and questions.

The majority of the participants agreed on the fact that, despite the high interest raised by Open Education in the last years, especially since the launch of the first MOOCs, and despite the consistent efforts of researchers to collect and analyze Open Educational Practices, it is not clear what is the competencies set that an educator should posses in order to work in the open.

Apart from mapping the past efforts done to identify these competences, the OpenGame team has worked to identify this set of competencies starting from the grassroots open practices that educators are implementing, asking the simple question: “which competencies do I have to master in order to replicate such a practice?”. We have identified more than 80 practices and selected 24 for a deeper analysis, and out of these real life cases we have extracted 8 key competences: 4 in the field of OER and 4 in the field of open teaching practices, meaning “teaching with OER” and beyond.

The OpenGame Competencies Framework will be published through a Handbook, that will include also the practices that have inspired it, in June 2020.

The OpenGame project is funded by the European Commission Programme Erasmus +, managed by the Spanish National Authority SEPIE, and coordinated by Universidad Internacional de la Rioja (UNIR).

Let’s go open!

The sad and tense current situation we are living through has made many be aware of the importance of open knowledge being made available. In all countries teachers are needing to teach online. For that, they need access to more educational resources that they can share with other teachers and their students or pupils.

Many editors, newspapers, and more generally providers of knowledge have decided in the past few days to make their resources freely available. But it is still unclear if this is just a momentary offer or if they propose that teachers can really use this material in those conditions made clear by the recommendation approved by UNESCO in November.

It is important here to recall what is known as the 5 « R »s of open educational resources: making learning material open means giving each user the opportunity and right to

  • Reuse, that is how he wants,
  • Revise, that is to modify the resource for his own requirements,
  • Retain, that is to keep copies on any support,
  • Remix, that is to use several OER to build a new one,
  • Redistribute, that is to share the original resource or the newly created one.

The ability to make sure everyone is aware of his rights is done through the use of a license: the Creative Commons licenses offer the right amount of alternatives for everyone to share in a straightforward way.

With an offer which would be limited in time, the confusion created would be huge: students would be encouraged by their teachers to make use of the new material. Then one day –and we hope this day will arrive as early as possible- the Coronavirus crisis will be behind us and what is to happen? Will all this material cease to be shareable? Will the publishers ask the teachers to use it no longer and to ask all those with who they have been sharing to do it no longer?

What are some of the great OER repositories and projects supposed to do? Accept this material, recommend it? And then be told they can do it no longer?

What is OpenGame supposed to do? Include these offers in the game we are preparing to train all teachers to become open educators? Or stay away because in doubt if the material we would push becomes one day proprietary again?

No. The answer is simple, the material should be shared with a license which is there to stay.

This is a unique opportunity to change the rules: we ask the publishers (those who have not done it yet) to publish the material they want today to share as Open Educational Resources with a Creative Commons license.

Kick off of RESONATE Project, specialized in Sustainable Water Management

Last 5th November 2019, the kick-off meeting of RESONATE project- Development of Professional Courses in Sustainable Water Management, took place in Skopje (Macedonia), where UNIR participates as a member of the partnership.

The project is financed by the European Commission Programme Erasmus+ through the call ‘Strategic Partnerships for vocational education and training’ (KA202). Coordinated by the Civil Engineering Institute Macedonia, the project started in October 2019 and will last for 24 months.

The project aims to provide comprehensive engineering knowledge and develop professionals’ scientific, communication and problem-solving skills through a combination of practical, hands-on courses, industry projects and theoretical foundations. During the first phase of the project, the required skills and practical knowledge will be identified. After the analysis phase, the project contemplates the design, implementation and certification of different professional courses.

A team of researchers from the School of Engineering and Technology will carry out the project at UNIR and will be responsible for the analysis of educational programmes and courses in the area of Sustainable Water Management, apart from collaborating in other project tasks.


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