Successful investment in open teaching resources in Umeå

Published: 2022-12-20

“This isn’t rocket science. Everyone can create a MOOC; everyone can make a film!” 
Anna-Karin Åsander’s enthusiasm is infectious when she talks about the Umeå University Library’s work with open teaching resources. The 30-or-so participants in SND’s webinar get to learn the basics and to try the ROAST method for themselves. 

Anna-Karin Åsander, Umeå University Library
Anna-Karin Åsander and her colleagues at Umeå University Library will continue to develop open teaching resources.

The first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) from Umeå University Library, “Basic course in information search”, was launched almost a year ago. In this course, which is open to everyone, free of charge, and available in both Swedish and English, students learn to make smarter searches in search engines and to find scientific articles. Each course chapter is based on short videos with related exercises and various types of quizzes. 

“It’s important that it’s fun to take a course. That’s why we’ve made an effort to make it attractive with interactive exercises, as that makes you learn better. We’ve noticed that you can never have too many exercises, students always ask for more”, says Anna-Karin Åsander. 

A one-year project 

The background to this basic course is that Umeå University were looking for a department that might be interested in creating a MOOC, and the department for Scholarly Communication at the university library were quick to accept the offer. The university had set aside a budget for the project, and Anna-Karin Åsander and her colleagues Mattias Lennartsson and Therese Nilsson spent one year developing the course. The group had plenty of time to dedicate to the work, in total approximately equal to a full-time position. 

“We spent a lot of time on the pedagogical foundation for the course and documented our work very carefully. This comes in handy when we create more open training resources; it will make it much quicker to develop them”, says Anna-Karin. 

Can be applied to any discipline 

Anna-Karin Åsander says that open training resources and the methods for creating them can be used in any discipline. During the project, they also developed a methodology that has been called the ROAST method: Ringa in (Define) the field, Learning Outcomes, Learning Activities, and Skapa Tasks (Create Tasks). 

There are a few things that it might be good to think about before starting the practical work with an online course: 

  • Which is the primary target audience? Students? Doctoral students? Researchers? Administrators? Librarians? The contents of the course will be more focused and more relevant to the participants if it’s addressed to them. 
  • Which online course platform will you choose? The choice will be informed by factors such as what types of interactive exercises you plan, whether the participants shall register and be given a certificate after the course, whether it shall be possible for the developers of the course to do the design and layout themselves. 
  • How will the course be accessible for the participants? Will they be able to take it on their own, regardless of time and place? Or shall it be done in fixed-term parts in real time with meetings? 
  • Will the participants need any prior knowledge? Be specific about which knowledge they need to have for a course on an advanced level. If it’s a basic course – make sure to give pedagogical explanations to all terminology.  

More open training resources coming in Umeå 

The work with developing the course on information search has given Anna-Karin and her colleagues a desire for more, and they are currently working on two new open training resources: one on open access, copyright, and creative commons aimed at researchers and doctoral students; one on plagiarism and reference management for students. 

“We had so much fun when we created the information search course, especially when we created the exercises, and have had good feedback from students. It’s also good to know that colleagues around the country have appreciated using it, and that it’s inspired them to develop courses of their own. It’s important that we get this type of resources out there, and that we share them with one another. We’re colleagues, this isn’t something we should all be doing on our own; it’s work that we could do together, says Anna-Karin. 

Do you want to know more about how Anna-Karin Åsander and her colleagues worked on their MOOC? See the PowerPoint presentation from the webinar. (In Swedish.)