The overall theme for the second topic of the course was openness in education, in all its manifestations. The scenario for this topic read as follows: “As the current pandemic situation evolves, a return to full in-person teaching and learning seems highly unlikely and the expansion of online education is likely to continue. How do you think this will cause an increased interest to shift towards open education and sharing of open educational resources? If you decide to open up your courses, what levels of openness would be appropriate from your own and from your institution’s perspectives? Does your university learning management system (LMS, e.g. Moodle, Canvas etc) offer opportunities for openness? What support would colleagues need from the leadership? How would you introduce the idea of openness to your students?” In stark contrast to the first topic, this topic consists mainly of questions, which acted as a starter for our conversations in the PBL group, but left it up to us to decide on a more specific topic to focus on.

In our PBL group we ended up scoping out the different meanings of openness in education. Openness at its simplest may mean just that the educational resources are openly available for anyone to access. However, at a closer inspection, there emerges several different dimensions to the concept. We ran into a very useful paper [1] by Hegarty identifying eight different attributes of open pedagogical practices:

  1. Participatory technologies
  2. People, openness, trust
  3. Innovation and creativity
  4. Sharing ideas and resources
  5. Connected community
  6. Learner-generated
  7. Reflective practice
  8. Peer review

All of these may be applied across courses and between teachers, but also inside courses as organizational principles to foster openness also between students. We gathered our collective thoughts on these attributes and some suggestions on how to implement them in the PBL group into a padlet: link.

Having now understood something about the meaning of openness, we can go back to the questions of the scenario. I feel like openness in my university is not something that is very actively encouraged, but also not explicitly suppressed. Teachers have fairly free hands to choose the level of openness of their courses. I have heard encouragements to make the course materials as widely available as possible on the online platform, probably mainly for advertising purposes and not so much for the lofty ideals of open education. Indeed, even if all the materials would be freely available online, this wouldn’t pose a threat to the production of the main educational product of the university, which is academic degrees. We do have in our school some events for the teachers, where ideas and experiences are shared among colleagues. However, the informal day-to-day coffee room exchanges have diminished significantly in the covid times. Hopefully, also these will pick up speed soon.

In sharing materials online, one should however always be aware of copyright issues. There are some great resources that I learned of, which explain the meaning of different Creative Commons licenses, such as [2]. My main problem in sharing my lecture materials openly is the fact that I use quite a few copyrighted figures from the course textbook and the internet in my slides. All these would need to be replaced by either my own productions or some openly available materials, which seems like quite an overwhelming task at the moment. But, if that was ever to become reality, I think sharing the slides, lecture videos and other materials wouldn’t pose a problem for me otherwise.

The openness in course organization and structure is obviously a totally different subject from resource sharing. I do use some participatory technology to make quizzes and polls during my courses to gather feedback, which does affect the organization of the courses every once in a while. On some courses I have formed study groups to help the students to connect with each other, but activating the groups would seem to require more attention than what I have been able to give so far. Perhaps some problem-based approach would be appropriate, kind of what we have experienced on the ONL course. It would also be very interesting to try to bring some more elements of openness in the form of collaboration and peer-review between the students. However, the details of the implementation would need to be thought out carefully beforehand. Students would need to find the activity purposeful and straightforward, and often they are prejudiced against new methods. Another important point is that the workload of the course team shouldn’t increase much, which is often hard to achieve. Nevertheless, I feel inspired to try something new in the future, which is the first step in the right direction, I guess…


[1] Hegarty, Bronwyn. (2015). Attributes of Open Pedagogy: A Model for Using Open Educational Resources. Educational Technology. July– August. 3 – 13.

[2] Creative Commons guide,

Topic 2: What is openness and how to use it?