Topic 2: Open Learning – sharing and openness

Cassiopeia A is a supernova remnant in the constellation Cassiopeia. Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO From:  

“Reaching more people.”

For this topic, the word I would associate with the idea of “sharing and adopting an open approach to sharing ” (or allowing it to be shared by others) is the word Reaching More People

Three words actually. 

In courses I create as part of my teaching in the university, “knowledge” is shared to students but “teaching materials” are shared with no one in particular. The knowledge shared with students is what they receive as the content of the course while the teaching material used is usually not the focus of their study. By teaching material, I mean the overall design of the course, which include the rationale for the choices of certain assessment methods, the particular flow of the contents, the teaching techniques employed to encourage student learning and many other components designed into the course. So there is the course content and there is the teaching material.  

Sharing the course content (i.e. from me to my students) and the sharing of the same  course content from my students to other students, whether these are internal or external students to the university) is usually what I what comes to my mind when talk about “sharing and openness”. For this, the idea of openness is exciting to me in that with social media, such as YouTube and TikTok, it is possible to easily share course content to a large audience worldwide. 

However, to be heard is another side of the coin in “sharing and openness” that makes or breaks the idea of sharing content with the world. With so many people offering so many of the same content, it is a crowded place in the Internet. Not knowing how YouTube algorithm works means that my desire to share my knowledge with the world could only be a desire and nothing more. In the world of YouTube or other social media, not knowing how to work along their search engine optimization algorithm, they will likely sideline your noble attempt and only be assigned a far corner of the digital universe much like a star waiting to be discovered. 

So desiring to share openly in the digital world and to have people hear what you are sharing are really the two hands that need to clap together. This is unlike the scenario in the university where my contents are shared to a captive audience of 100 to 200 students.   

I have a YouTube channel aimed at sharing knowledge related to numerical methods (which is a branch of engineering and mathematics commonly used for predicting values of discreet points of an object based on the solving of linear or differential equations). The process of preparing the content to make it YouTube-worthy was fun but not without its share of frustration. The only thing that kept me going was the thinking that someone out there might find this burning ball of gas and finds it useful, then decided to share to his friend and friend’s friend and so on and on. As it gets shared multiple times, some sort of chemical explosion would occur and who knows it will get viral and ….I will become known as…. the sensational, the unpredictable, the unfathomable, Master of the Numerical Methods! The only nation in this world where this sort of desire meets reality is in the realm of imagination.

Now coming back down to reality, the fact of the matter is that the probability of that happening is even smaller than being discovered. Perhaps I should realistic and focus on changing the world one student at a time and hope for the best while continue to produce high quality content to share with the world. With this selfless thought, I could keep frustration and disappointment at bay and not eye ball the viewer counter every now and then for sign of life. 

Another thought on the sharing of course content. In recent times, it has come to my knowledge that my course materials (and those of my other colleagues) are available on sites such as or and I have certainly not uploaded them there. My only conclusion is that present or former students of my course have uploaded it for the benefits of new incoming students. Bless their hearts. Strangely though I like the idea of openness when it comes to knowledge and education, I don’t like how my course notes is shared in the “dark alley of the Internet“. (tsk, tsk). 

Or perhaps I shouldn’t be concerned since it is helping some desperate students doing a similar course somewhere out there and simply needs better notes to help them get that A*.

Is there a solution to eliminate such “dark-alley transactions” over something as addictive as a potential high A* grade? 

May I suggest that being open about knowledge by making the course notes downloadable from legitimate sites without charge covered under the Creative Commons license [1] to way to go? Personally I have benefitted from course notes published by other colleagues from universities abroad either from their own website or other proper channels and have wondered why they are so generous and open about their creative work. Although the knowledge itself (numerical methods) is common textbook knowledge, it is the presentation of the knowledge, the application examples, the worked solutions and explanations that make the material unique to the content creator and therefore qualify as a piece of creative work. I don’t want my creative work to be copied or “improved-on” without properly crediting my effort. 

Perhaps this is the same struggle many educators [2] have when considering making their work open to the public, open in the sense that there is no barrier to access and all the questions, skepticism and implications involved. Perhaps also, for me, I have put too much emphasis on wanting to be credited so something which, to be really honest, the result of learning from other people through the years over coffee or tea [3,4] without crediting them or being asked to do so. 

Furthermore there is really nothing significantly new I have contributed that is really ground-shaking and of the scale of a supernova. Perhaps I should just relax, chill and just enjoy the process of sharing openly. What’s good may return to me but if it doesn’t just be thankful I played a part in it, whether it is credited to me not.       

That’s a nice place to end today’s reflection.

  2. Weller, M. (2014Weller, M. (2014). Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory. London: Ubiquity Press.

  3. Ellis, M. (2008). An introduction to the coffee-house: A discursive model. Language &  communication28(2), 156–164.


Topic 2: Open Learning – sharing and openness