27 What Open Education Taught Me

Jaime Marsh

Originally published on April 27, 2018
A Keene State College undergraduate reflects on her experiences with Open Education:

So…for those of you just joining me on this 16 week journey through Tropical Marine Biology (and our 9 day trip to Turks and Caicos in 2 days), you might be wondering what all these blog posts are about, and why are we doing them? As a junior, and incoming senior studying Biology at Keene State College, several of my teachers have changed their teaching philosophy to open education. Open education is the philosophy and belief that people, even the world should produce, share, and build on knowledge that everyone has access to. It is believed that open education will promote a higher quality education and community that has been so limited by the textbook companies and licenses.

A stack of legal textbooks with a caricature of the devil on top pointing at the reader
CCBY Michael Horan https://flic.kr/p/gYtuhK

The first “open education” course I took at Keene State College was an Introduction to Neurobiology with Dr. Whittemore. I understood the concept, and like any other assignment, I did it, according to the guidelines given, and produced the work. However, I took it for granted. I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to take over my education like I should have. This past semester I am currently finishing up, I took two courses in which professors taught with the open education philosophy: Endocrine and Endocrine Disruption and Tropical Marine Biology. Noticing a trend in the upper level biology courses and professors new philosophy, I decided to give this open education philosophy a chance. I figured worse that could happen was that, I didn’t have to pay for yet another ridiculously expensive text book. At first, I was hesitant to accept this change, but eventually adapted, and actually learned so much. So, here it goes, what open education taught me:

To Keep An Open Mind

The traditional methods of Powerpoint slides and textbook readings are slowly coming to an end, and that is okay. I was skeptical that this open education philosophy would work, questioned what I was going to learn, before I even gave it a chance. So, I learned to keep an open mind. Education isn’t a way single, one-way, narrow, dead-end street. It is open to possibilities, and many of them, it doesn’t have to be a specific way. Your education is what you make of it, no matter how you may learn, be open to new methods; it is okay.

To Take Control of My Education

Open education comes down to one word: accountability. As a student using the open education philosophy, you chose a topic, do the research, compile it, and make a blog post, such as this one. YOU choose what YOU want to learn, and how YOU want to do it, and when YOU want to do it. Noticing a theme? This is your education, and for the first time, in a very long time, maybe ever, we have a say in what we want to learn. Granted, there are parameters and some guidelines we need to stick to, but the bottom line is, you get to learn what you want to learn, and that is huge; revolutionary maybe. The take away? Don’t take for granted your education, and don’t let an individual, whether a peer, professor, or textbook company, have more control over your education than you do.

That My Professors Are Still Learning Too

This might be one of the biggest take-aways I’ve gotten from the open education method. My professors are still learning too. After going to a talk with Dr. Bonnie Stewart, she said something that really caught my eye. “No teacher that is teaching with open pedagogy, is teaching the way they were taught. They are learning too.” When you think about it, it’s true. This is not how a single one of my professors, whether teaching open education or not, were taught. Even those who are not teaching with this philosophy are still learning, however, these professors who are, are learning this new method of teaching at the same time we are. That really put it in perspective for me, and is an important concept to all open education philosophy courses. And also really awesome, if you ask me.

To Collaborate With My Peers

Being in a Tropical Marine Biology course with eight other students, each writing eight blog posts, on the same general concept on coral reefs, you tend to make connections in your writing with other’s work. In  several of my blog posts I was able to tag my peer’s blog posts, even tagging my own at times, essentially making a spider web of connections allowing us to collaborate and expand our knowledge on the topic, and that is a huge part of education. I also had the opportunity to comment on my peer’s blog posts, give them feedback, but more importantly constructive criticism. I also had several of my blog posts commented on and critiqued. Not only was I able to correct them, but it helped me develop my other blog posts and ultimately my E-port in ways, I would never have been able to if I didn’t have an E-port or if I wasn’t in an open education classroom.

To Trust the System

Another important lesson: to trust the system, don’t fight it, accept it and take advantage of it. This system works, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I learned, and will continue to learn outside the classroom. I have developed an in-depth portfolio for myself that will take me far beyond the classroom, into the work place and potential graduate school opportunities. Your professors, while they are learning at the same time you are, know what they are doing, and are full-heartedly behind the open education system because they believe not just in you, but in a better education for society and the world, and who wouldn’t want to be apart of that?

To Be Proud and Confident In My Work

I have always been a student who hasn’t been fully confident in my work. Constantly worrying if I put in enough time, enough effort, if I did this the right way, I essentially became a perfectionist. I do not like showcasing my work, I especially do not like getting up in front of a classroom and presenting my work, and putting my work on the internet has been no exception. However, this has taught me that it is okay to be wrong every once in a while, and that I should be proud of my work. As any student does, I put in copious amounts of time and effort, you could even say blood, sweat, and tears (probably more tears than anything), but this work we do should be showcased for everyone to see, not just sent on a link to Canvas just for the professor to see. So, be proud and confident in your work!

To Put Yourself Out There and Make Connections

Recently, I had gotten some attention on a tweet I had sent out about Dr. Bonnie Stewart’s talk she had given at Keene State College. Individuals of all kinds including, doctors and professors, even from other colleges, had taken the time to like or retweet my simple tweet. From there, several of those individuals then followed me, so when I complete a new blog post, I have an audience, and hope those same individuals take the time to click on my link and read my post. And sometimes they do, and sometimes they comment! These connections we make today, or even tomorrow can help shape the rest of our lives, so despite how awkward or weird you may feel for putting yourself out there, asking people to read your post, and seeing what they think about it, do it; it can lead to connections, networking, and opportunities. Take advantage!

About the Author

Jaime Marsh is a Master’s of Medical Science student at University of Vermont and a Mental Health Technician at the University of Vermont Medical Center Emergency Department. She hopes to attend medical school where she can study to become an emergency room physician one day.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

What Open Education Taught Me Copyright © 2020 by Jaime Marsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book