Blog 2: Topic 2

Sharing and Openness

Photo by Sophie Elvis on Unsplash

In this blog post, I will consider two things that, in my experience, prevent university teachers from sharing their teaching (materials) online and perhaps even prevent them from considering any such possibility. One is that there are many courses which are taught in the same way from one term to another, on the basis of materials created by predecessors. The other is that the staff of a particular department is often expected to behave in sync, meaning that everyone is expected to teach and share materials in approximately the same way regardless of topic and course contents.

If I am simply told to teach a course on the basis of pre-existing materials, I do not necessarily even know who has created those materials. That means that I do not know whose work I would be sharing if I made any of them available to a wider public. This kind of practice also effectively prevents me from being very creative to begin with. I know that I am expected to deliver my group(s) exactly the same information in exactly the same form as my colleagues do. Of course if I teach any such course several times, I begin to improvise to some extent and add information that was not originally among the materials I received. It also tends to be possible to discuss the teaching of these kinds of courses with colleagues, which in theory means that we could discuss whether we could make any of the materials open to the public or even turn the course to a MOOC.

Here I nevertheless come to my second point. Even if the course was entirely of my very own design, I would not dare turn it to a MOOC without discussing my decision with colleagues. It is likely that if I wanted to teach my course in a new way, the idea would be met with some resistance. It would thus be unlikely that I could simply proceed. Rather, I would need to prepare to defend my idea in detailed discussions with several people and still, the idea could be rejected. I know this because I have discussed the teaching of several courses with various colleagues and it is very important to some colleagues that we all have approximately the same approach to teaching. In my understanding, they think that if one of us does things in a different way, it creates pressure on others to change their approach likewise.

Consequently, even if I would like to share and be open, there is a limit to how open any single member of staff can be as long as the system does not favour openness. I am aware of other limits such as copyright of pictures, articles and books, and of further challenges to openness, but decided to limit my discussion to a couple of issues here. These issues could even be regarded as one and the same: the systems which I have experienced in two different countries seem to favour a rather traditional approach to teaching. This is something that can only be changed by people in power.

4 reaktioner till “Blog 2: Topic 2

  1. I think you focus on a very interesting subject: Why do universities not share more? You see the main factors as tradition and socialization. But how do we then change this? You say that if you teach the same course again, you could change it somewhat. You also think reflection with colleagues could be a way of developing this. I could not agree more. I think pedagogical development, whatever kind it may be, takes time. You must do it step by step, in small steps, and discuss the development with colleagues.

    You also see a problem with this stream-line between colleagues: “they think that if one of us does things in a different way, it creates pressure on others to change their approach likewise”. Isn’t that a good thing? I wonder: Could this be discussed?

    In conclusion you say: “This is something that can only be changed by people in power.”. But where does the power come from if not FROM the people…?
    -Thank you for sharing this so openly!

    Gillad av 1 person

  2. Thank you Lotta for your comments! What comes first to my mind is that I have discussed relatively small changes to teaching with my colleagues, and even that can sometimes take a long time and still not lead anywhere. I am for democracy and openness in this respect and do not like the idea of people being forced to any kind of behaviour but, at the same time, I can see that there could be occasions when some change was necessary and had to be implemented from above, because the speed of negotiations I am familiar with is so slow. It has also happened to me when I was responsible for the teaching of a course that when a colleague did not like my advice s/he spoke to the person above me and they decided I was wrong. That was one of the occasions when I realized that I am rather powerless.

    Gilla

  3. For me Heli the question that comes to mind is, ‘While content may be the same can people teach in the same way’. I doubt that very much as we all come with different influences and perspectives which has an impact on how we present the same material. In other words it is open to interpretation of the presenter.

    ‘Powerless’ – never. Small change is better than no change. Change is a process not an event. Take care.

    Gillad av 1 person

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