TLEF snapshot: Open, interdisciplinary learning

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Sustainability Case Studies: A Model for Interdisciplinary Learning and Showcasing of Student Work

The project brings together faculty and students from across departments and Faculties to co-create an interdisciplinary, open educational resource on sustainability and environmental ethics. A “sprint” will be used to start the resource, but students and faculty will continue to add to it later to ensure its evolution and expansion over time.

How did the idea for this project emerge?

Daniel Munro: This project emerged from work that the AMS has been doing to promote the creation and adoption of Open Educational Resources (OER) at UBC, in collaboration with various faculty and staff. Open education has been one of the main priorities for the AMS VP Academic and University Affairs during the 2015-2016 school year, and we have been working to educate faculty and students about the benefits of adopting OER: cost saving for students, as well as opportunities to engage in “open pedagogy.” One of the most exciting forms of open pedagogy for us is when professors design assignments that allow students to contribute to educational resources for wider audiences, such as students in future years who learn from the work of past students. These assignments allow students to take a more active role in being part of UBC’s knowledge-sharing community, rather than simply turning in assignments that only their professor will see. We realized that one of the best ways to encourage uptake of such teaching practices was to create an OER of our own, one that allows students to participate in creating educational content. We chose to create an OER about environmental ethics, given that this topic can be approached from a variety of disciplines, and also since sustainability is a priority for the AMS and UBC.

How will this project help enrich student learning? How will it impact teaching?

DM: Firstly, giving students an open platform in which to contribute their work, to be shared with other students and faculty, is a means of increasing engagement and motivation, and this is made possible by the fact that the resource will be an editable OER on the UBC Wiki. Secondly, this resource will feature perspectives on issues in environmental ethics from a variety of different disciplines that span several departments and Faculties. Because these are complex problems that can be approached from many directions, this is meant to help faculty and students from various disciplines to see how others would approach the same topics. This allows for disciplinary silos to broken down, and for instructors to inject an interdisciplinary perspective into their teaching.

What are your main goals with this project?

DM: Our main goal is to create a resource that is used in many courses across many departments, thus impacting learning for hundreds of students in the ways described above. We hope that these students’ course engagement will be invigorated by an opportunity to contribute to a lasting resource used by future students. We also hope that more students and faculty become aware of the benefits of OER, and the importance of allowing students to take a more active role as scholars who make lasting contributions. Students will also learn about how to use platforms like the UBC Wiki, and how scholarship is evolving through digital and open ways of disseminating research.