A Lens on… Open Education

In this series of articles, the Educational Technology team will be providing an insight into existing practice using technology for learning and teaching at Falmouth University and also at projects being undertaken within the wider HE sector. Our first looked at the process of Feedback and our second looks at Open Education.

The term ‘Open Education’ refers to the ethos and practices of removing barriers to, and providing and promoting new opportunities for learning. It is more about an approach and a mindset than a set of technologies or a way of teaching and is focussed around the learning community rather than the didactic teacher-student relationship. Catherine Cronin’s excellent presentation, Navigating The Marvellous which presents openness within the context of higher education and the social and technological practices of modern learners and educators.


The last few years have seen the rise of ‘Open’ on the educational agenda, in part due to the buzz around MOOCs being a disruptor to education. However, most mainstream MOOCs have been institutionalised and bent to fit existing educational practices, so we’re seeing the buzzword become less relevant. Open Education and Open Educational Resources in contrast are becoming more so, as the worldwide Open Education Week site conveys . The affordances that technology offer Open Learning have been seized around the fringes by Open Educators that seek to exploit technology and challenge educational paradigms.

Open Educational initiatives like #PHONAR, Creativity for Learning in Higher Education, #RHIZO15 and the ability to remix other open courses on P2PU are examples of community or learner centred curriculums. These approaches put the web to use as it was originally intended, for the sharing of information.


The conversation around Open Education is active in Scotland, with practitioners who have instigated Open Badges projects and in Wales where this years #OER15 conference is being hosted. The DigiLit Leicester project, who we talked about in our ET trends for 2015, also hosted the first OER Schools conference earlier this year, helping schools and colleges to further understand the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) and how to create and promote their own resources.Cable Green’s keynote from #OER15 addresses the current and future state of OER and the benefits to education and society.

Whilst researching this post, I came across a previous project that took place at Falmouth a few years back called Openspace, which promoted sharing of Open Educational Resources and corroborates existing research into the field. It states that OER use can aid recruitment, enhance institutional reputation and catalyse collaboration and uptake of new technologies. The Openspace website is no longer active, but if anyone at the institution is interested in how technology can support Open Educational practice, get in touch with the team.

A Lens On… Feedback

In this series, the Educational Technology team will be providing an insight into existing practice using technology for learning and teaching at Falmouth University and also at projects being undertaken within the wider HE sector.Our first installment looks at the process of Feedback.

Feedback is a process that aids learning based on a dialogue about an assessed activity, this could be through a face to face tutorial, email, commenting on a google doc, could be a one off or a continued discussion and could be between lecturing staff and students or amongst peers. The NUS charter on Assessment & Feedback calls for a choice of feedback methods for students and that it is timely. Use of learning technologies can support this.

We’ve discovered some great examples of use of technology in the feedback process at Falmouth; from peer assessment activity in the VLE, through use of iPads and bespoke computer programming to speed up the process and use of video to aid lesson observation in the PGCHE. The Educational Technology team also piloted the use of Turnitin’s Grademark facility with some courses at Falmouth University and received positive feedback from staff and students about it’s use.

This presentation from JISCs assessment and feedback project showcases a couple of approaches towards using technology to support the feedback process and details some of the issues faced and lessons learned. Of particular interest is the suggestion that values and approaches towards dialogic feedback and reflection should be introduced to students early on in HE to aid understanding of the process.

A study undertaken at the University of Liverpool to replace text with audio feedback found that it was successful in meeting student expectation and led to more detailed feedback and timely response. Apps like audacity, soundcloud, audioboo and kaizena for google docs support the use of audio as feedback. The University of Sussex are currently undertaking a three year project to encourage adoption of online submission and feedback methods and are also making use of Grademark. Their site informs staff and students about the process.

In addition, rapid feedback methods like exiticket and polleverywhere facilitate an overview of student understanding and promote use of mobile devices for learning and tools like Twitter and todaysmeet can be used in similar fashion as a backchannel. For further information read a description of exit ticket methodology and some examples.

A timely #LTHEchat took place in January around the language of feedback and conversation arose around feedback in formative and summative assessment and use of feedforward to help students understand how they might do better in future assessment.

These are just a few initiatives and conversations around feedback in higher education, please feel free to send us a link to your own project and Falmouth Staff are welcome to contact the team about any of these examples they might like to apply to learning and teaching in their own areas.

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