Findings summary

This page offers a findings summary in a bulleted list – please follow the links to find a discussion around each of these questions

What factors led to the development of the classes? – follow this link for a discussion

It is important to try to capture this, particularly for other institutions who may want to adopt and adapt some of the models for their own context. In some ways one could argue that like many innovations, serendipity played its part as the combination of the right people at the right time made things happen. However we can attempt to tease out some of the key factors that had an influence on course developments. Factors include:

  • the Open Media Classes were not developed in a vacuum but were an integral part of a range of activities at Coventry, such as the Research activities at the Disruptive Media Unit, a series of open access and editable publications by Professor Gary Hall, the development of bespoke mobile applications, as well as collaborative activities with other art schools. These activities fed into and supported each other and generated a culture of openness and innovation
  • being open to adopting ideas and practices from outside the traditional HE sector – which supported questioning of existing academic practice and enabled innovation and experimentation
  • the need to respond to changes in the nature of media professions – a reconsideration of the educational needs of media professionals (particularly reflecting the impact of developments in open licensing/piracy, networking in a global context, and social media)
  • changes in the global and UK higher education landscape around open practices in research and teaching and the emergence of different models for open online networked courses
  • changes in the education approaches from the ‘broadcast’ of content model to one of creative collaboration, curation and re-appropriation (Shaw, 2014)
  • acknowledgement that existing approaches were not as effective as they could be and a desire to improve the courses and the student experience
  • a competitive marketplace where other educational institutions had developed their own niche – and a recognition that Coventry needed to do the same
  • impact of individuals with particular research or practice foci can not be underestimated – individual champions and people with different perspectives have had an important influence on how courses developed at Coventry – for example Jonathan Worth joined the team with a commercial photographer background and was given space to question traditional academic practice
  • how the team came together at a particular time can not be replicated elsewhere but bringing individual innovators together can support creative responses to problem spaces
  • institutional openness to change and new approaches – innovation needs space to experiment and acceptance that some failure may occur
  • funding available from Jisc (through the UKOER Programme) to enable experimentation and innovation with open educational models and open content
  • trust has been an important aspect of the open classes  – trust from the institutional managers to allow innovative approaches, trust from academics that Departmental Managers will navigate the institution on their behalf, and most importantly trust in opening the courses to outside contributors
  • as with most innovations risk management has been important and the initial low profile approach has meant that the institution was not concerned about high profile risk management (cf large scale MOOCs) – this allowed space for innovation

What kinds of institutional and departmental structures, strategies, policies and processes can support these models? – follow this link for a discussion

Coventry Open Media Classes were developed incrementally over time which allowed iterative responses and small steps to be taken. This approach did not, therefore, require wholesale institutional buy-in but allowed the team to test things out and take smaller risks. The kinds of policies, processes and strategies that are impacted by open courses include:

  • Shaun Hides developed an Open Media Policy in 2009 which has underpinned the developments and innovations. This policy identifies five key elements that underpin teaching on the Open Media Classes – Tactical, Sustainable, Engaged, Visible and Collaborative. Policies such as these are essential to support developments and can offer staff a tangible blueprint to support changing practice.
  • issues around ownership of open content requires clarity of policy and practice at an institutional level and at the point of contact by course participants
  • understanding of open licensing by all participants is important both in terms of participating in the course and for future professional practice of students – this needs to be integrated into the classes as part of the digital literacy element
  • using free online resources and tools negates the need for significant IT support but this approach needs to balance effectively with institutional technologies and systems
  • open courses need to be validated and supported institutionally through existing mechanisms – although Coventry started by adapting classes in existing courses they have reached a point now where they submitted a new open MA course based on the open course models which was accepted and approved institutionally
  • the team are introducing new courses which align with the institutional strategy on graduate enterprise and employability with a clear focus on ensuring that courses aim to equip students with appropriate skills for the changing creative media professions

What kinds of support do staff need to implement these new open connected approaches? – follow this link for a discussion

  • managerial support to be experimental is vital
  • teaching activities do change with these models – so aggregating and curating content becomes necessary and may be balanced with additional input from external specialists in guiding and supporting students – responding to posts/ comments and conversations may happen outside ‘normal’ work hours – staff need to be committed to open approaches, to being experimental and to troubleshooting as new approaches are tested
  • trying out very different models can be challenging for staff who are also learning how to adapt with new technologies and teaching approaches  – staff need appropriate support mechanisms to share their experiences and responses to the new approaches
  • time to learn/adopt new technologies and time to look at other models is important to allow staff to adjust to new open approaches
  • one way to ensure staff engagement and buy-in is to employ staff with an openness or willingness to  be experimental with their teaching approaches, to question their own practice and to look outside their own practice to what is happening in the wider context
  • staff need to be competent and confident about their own digital literacies and may need to build their own online presence as exemplars for students

Open class curriculum design and delivery – follow this link for a discussion

  • move from broadcast model to collaborative and connected interactions
  • inclusion of open students, working professionals and enthusiastic amateurs in conversations and feedback
  • listening to students as they engaged in the new models and adjusting as necessary (for example providing a safe authenticated space (forum) for feedback)
  • engaging with the language of openness and the culture of remixing that is emerging through open licences such as Creative Commons
  • focusing on visual and digital literacies as applied learning
  • development of mobile apps to support open approaches to learning
  • by adopting freely available proprietary platforms, issues of access and interoperability were minimized though not completely removed – clearly each platform/space comes with constraints. However, the ethos of the classes encourage a form of crowd-sourcing approach and a ’beta-version’ stance. The Open Classes always remain in their development phase. If staff, students, or other participants identify issues, limitations or problems, they are both able and encouraged to suggest fixes, alternative spaces and new ways of solving problems.
  • specific ‘external’ contributors and participants were invited depending on the nature of the class and the schedule which quickly established a network of connections, since one contributor brings with them an existing series of links and networks. This helped to develop the network beyond the class but raised issues about maintaining the network once the class finishes
  • as the face-to-face delivery of the module comes to an end, the Open Class enters a lower level of activity from which it will need to be ‘woken’ at the next iteration – this is done via blog posts, Twitter and some emailing. The Open Class team maintain the site and respond to contributors, the schedule for the active and dormant stages is also publicised on the home page of the class. This also offers a period of review.
  • the curricula of media courses has been changing to reflect the needs of professional practice and the impact of social and networked technologies – these courses reflect those changing needs and have seen a move towards understanding visual literacy, incorporating digital storytelling and other digital literacies
  • the impact of peer assessment and feedback on learners needs to be considered – such as the authenticity of feedback from open participants – an important role of lecturers is that of moderating these and maintaining positive interactions
  • incorporating open professional practice has become part of the course and is modelled by the approaches taken in the open classes so students will develop an online presence, engage with ownership and licensing issues and become open practitioners through the use of open and free technologies
  • the move towards new fully open courses (UG and MA) is a reflection that the models and approaches adopted for the ten week modules, are transferable and scalable across the whole curriculum

 What was the impact of the classes on the various stakeholders? – follow this link for a discussion

  • there has been significant media coverage about both the classes and the changing photography profession.
  • much of the media coverage highlights numbers of students registering on the courses and participating on the various platforms
  • there has been a significant impact on the standing of the Media Department within the University and the wider HE arena, and on the staff who have led and worked on the courses with awards, media interest, job opportunities and promotions
  • the recent Open Media MA was approved quickly and described as the ‘most interesting proposal seen in a long time’ which reflects an acceptance at institutional level of the approaches developed by the Open Media Classes
  • student feedback is generally positive but some students do struggle with notions of open practice (particularly in relation to their courses) – several students have indicated that they have had increased opportunities to enhance their professional networks and build an online professional presence
  • 60% of graduates go straight into employment – noting the changing business models of the media industry with freelance models dominating – by the 2nd year of UG degrees students are already established as freelance businesses
  • student applications to the course have significantly increased and the course is noted as the ‘hardest course to get onto’ – although some of this is the result of wider constraints such as institutional limitations on student numbers, room size, etc.
  • impact on open students and professionals is evident in their blog posts and contributions to the course – they themselves benefit from their participation in and access to the classes. Each group benefits from the expanded capability to curate content, and resources, and links, enabled by the use of these platforms, as well as benefitting from the enhanced opportunities they can capitalise upon as a consequence of their extended peer networks. Initially the team selected participants who are to some degree at least ‘in sympathy’ with their open approach
  • open practices and the languages surrounding this have become standard practice for the department across all courses
  • the team at Coventry have developed a sophisticated understanding of developing open practice and see this as being much more than being about open content (emphasising open networking, open research and academic practice, open collaboration). The classes reflect this and encourage students to consider their future practice as media professionals. Their approaches bring together changes in open media practice and changes in open educational practice.

How transferable are the models to other institutional contexts and subject disciplines? – follow this link for a discussion

  • It is important to note that the models described above are not definitive and that there is no ONE model. Each course was adapted as appropriate to the course content, student needs and changing needs of open media professional education.The open classes have informed the re-approval of the Photography Bachelor of Arts Degree course , a new BA in Digital Media and an open Masters course (launching Sept 2015).  Coventry are working to examine how these models can transfer to other departments and courses. Other institutions and individuals are also currently taking some of the models an applying them in different contexts.
  • The development of the Disruptive Media Lab in 2013 provides tangible evidence that the University endorses the activities of the Department, which has been given an entire floor of the Library and significant funding investment over three years to develop the Lab which will focus on – openness (research and teaching), co-creation and game based approaches, the flipped classroom and online/distance learning.
  • It is important to note that for the team at Coventry these open models are not aiming to become the ‘norm’ but are part of an ongoing investigation into how HE might respond to continuing political, economic and social changes and challenges. Whilst others could adopt elements of these models they have not been presented to the wider community as a single solution – they have been as much a part of the process and not simply a product.

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