Looking Back, Thinking Forward

The future lies in personal learning networks and paths, learning that blends experiential and digital approaches, and free and open-source educational models.

Anya Kamenetz
DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education

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Over the past six weeks I have been participating in the OERu’s Digital Literacies for Online Learning course (LiDA 101). I recently completed the final Learning Pathway, “Learning in a Digital Age.” Upon completion of this module I was able to use SimpleNote a digital, open-access note taking tool, summarize an academic publication to support my research, identify a range of academic and study skills in a mind-mapping exercise, and confidently discuss the future of higher education in a digital age with particular emphasis on the implications for academic and study skills.

Due to my other teaching commitments, administrative duties, and research responsibilities I was unable to complete this module as quickly as I had hoped. This meant that each time I started I had to review the previous material to ensure that I was able to move on. Fortunately, this allowed me to spend a bit more time thinking about the material presented and also connecting some of the ideas to the current state of higher education as impacted by the global pandemic and sudden pivot to remote delivery and online teaching.

Which brings me to the realization of how closely linked many of the ideas I have been learning about in this course, are to some of my other research interests. In her TEDx Talk “DIY U” Anya Kamenetz explained the 2010 crisis facing post-secondary institutions and the disruptions they faced. I teach at a community college so many of her comments on the need for open education to support contract academic faculty and make resources more affordable for students deeply resonated with me. We have come along way toward realizing some of Kamenetz’s visions (especially in BC where open education has been embraced), however nearly 10 years later we are not that much further from the structural challenges Kamenetz outlined. Fortunately, however, the unique circumstances of 2020 may be forcing an unprecedented disruption to how we teach and learn in a way that will provide the opportunity to more fully realize the open, tech enabled communities of practice she advocated for in her presentation.

When researching academic skills for learning success I remembered a LinkedIn post one of my colleagues recently shared (figure 1). According to the World Economic Forum’s “Top 10 skills of 2025” the jobs of tomorrow will require problem solving, self-management, working with people, and technology use and development skills. Seeing these competencies made me think about how important it is for us to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the pivot to online learning. It left me wondering more about how these skills could be further cultivated by a radical rethinking of our core beliefs about teaching and learning and need for drastic systemic change in post-secondary education.

I am grateful for the tech skills and research methods I have learned in LiDA 101. Stay tuned for my next research project!

Annotated Bibliography

Bloom, M. (2019). Assessing the Impact of “Open Pedagogy” on Student Skills Mastery in First-Year Composition. Open Praxis, 11(4), 343–353. https://doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.11.4.1025

Research Question

“Does switching to ‘open’ assignments from ‘throwaway’ assignments have a significant impact on student skills mastery?” (Bloom 2019).


Ultimately this study found, that with all factors considered, minimal shifts to open pedagogy had no impact on skill mastery.


In his study Bloom compared the performance of students in five sections of English 101 where a control group was previously provided with “traditional assignments” and an experimental group was given “open assignments”.

Key findings

  1. Bloom discovered several flaws with the experiment
  2. Moderate shifts toward open pedagogy had no impact on skill mastery, and no harm was done in disposing of the “disposable assignment”


While more challenging, the renewable rhetoric assignment nonetheless provided students the opportunity to use prior knowledge and extracurricular skills in the demonstration of their rhetorical prowess, which some students found exciting and others found frustrating.


        Bloom’s own criticism of his study raises important points about the study of open educational practices and demonstrates a refreshing self-awareness that serves as a counterbalance to any issues with his methodology. His findings appear in a reputable publication with a peer-review process.

Gibson, D., Ifenthaler, D., & Orlic, D. (2017). 13. Open Assessment Resources for Deeper Learning. In P. Blessinger & T. Bliss (Eds.), Open Education: International Perspectives in Higher Education (pp. 257–279). Open Book. http://books.openedition.org/obp/3582 (N.d.).

Research Question

        Can an Open Assessment Resources (OAR) repository streamline and support formative assessment?

Using a six core operational services of higher education (content, interaction, assessment, credentialing, support, and technology) this essay proposes the Open Assessment Resources (OAR) model of free automated formative assessments.


Gibson and Orlic propose six core services of higher education, content, interaction, assessment, credentialing, support, and technology, and two trends of scale and uniqueness to consider when providing automated and semi-automated formative assessment. The goal of this model is to support future research topics including but not limited to assessment construct validity, predictive analytics for constructive feedback, modification an adaptation of assessment modules, effects of teaching to authentic tests, and equity of treatment for subgroups.

Key findings

  1. Trends of scale and uniqueness are two interrelated components of the role of higher education. For example, the development of learning experiences that are unique to one institution but scalable to the world demonstrates quality of offerings, interactions, products, teaching excellence, and student satisfaction. Both scale and uniqueness have different impacts on the six dimensions of higher education services they define as content, interaction, assessment, credentialing, support, and technology.
  2. Their key findings are illustrated in this model:


The core idea proposed here is that an open assessment resources (OAR) approach has the potential to increase trust in and use of OER in formal educational systems by adding clarity about assessment purposes and targets in the open resources world. P. 260


One limitation of this study is that it does not address challenges of assessing deep learning processes. Many of the art history assignments I am considering align with higher level learning objectives related to collaboration, problem-solving, creativity, analysis, and metacognition.  This source is credible in part because it has been included in a peer reviewed publication.

Reference Management Tools

When I started my doctoral project in 2009 I did not use any sort of reference management tools. Instead I had elaborate, unwieldy Word Documents that got messier and messier with each chapter. My dissertation, “Homeliness and Worldliness: Materiality and the Making of New Netherland and New York, 1609-1750” critically investigated the intersecting topics of domestic interiors, women’s history, cultural production and global consumption to explore how Dutch colonial projects intellectually imagined and physically built homes overseas.

One of the maps cited in my dissertation, Nicolaes Visscher, Novi Belgii Novæque Angliæ: nec non partis Virginiæ tabula multis in locis emendata (1685).

Needless to say, I wish I would have known then what I know now about reference management tools. In the hour that I have been using it Zotero has proved to be a relatively easy to use, and efficient tool for helping me cite my sources.

See attached for a short paragraph I wrote and cited using my new found Zotero tools!

Evaluating online sources

Source evaluation–the determination of information quality–is something of an art.  (Robert Harris 2018)

The sheer volume of information available can make evaluating online resources daunting. In “Evaluating Internet Research Sources,” Robert Harris makes the case for adopting a skeptical attitude toward the extremely wide variety of material on the internet. He makes one analogy I was particularly fond of, suggesting that in order to corroborate information, one must become a discerning conoisseur:

In the art world, several paintings by Vincent van Gogh have sold for more than 50 million dollars each. At such a price, there muist be the temptation for unscrupulous people to paint forgeries. So  how can the buyers be confident that they are getting a genuine Van Gogh? The answer is provenance. Provenance is a list of previous owners, tracing back to the original buyer from Van Gogh himself. Provenance answers the critical question, “Where did this painting come from?” (Harris 2013).

File:Vincent van Gogh's famous painting, digitally enhanced by rawpixel-com  2.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Vincent van Gogh, Irises (1889) digitally enhanced, original from the J. Paul Getty Museum. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Harris also provides a CARS handy nemonic device for source evaluation, reminding researchers to consider:

CCredibility (trustworthy source, author’s credentials, organizational support, known or respected authority)
AAccuracy (up to date, factual, detailed, exact, comprehensive, audience and purpose reflect intentions of completeness)
RReasonableness (fair, balanced, objective, reasoned, no conflict of interest, absence of fallacies or slanted tone)
SSupport (listed sources, contact information, available corroboration, claims supported, documentation supplied)
Adapted from Harris (2013)

For my research I selected Matthew Bloom’s “Assessing the Impact of ‘Open Pedagogy’ on Student Skills Mastery in First-Year Composition,” in Open Praxis (2019).

As a faculty member and OER scholar at Maricopa community College, Bloom proves to be an authoritative source, and he published his findings in a reliable, peer-reviewed journal. It appeared recently (2019) meaning it is reasonably up to date, and has detailed analysis of the experiment and findings. Furthermore Bloom seems to be aware of any issues in the methodology demonstrating he has engaged with the subject thoughtfully and has been truthful in considering the impact of his assessment. Finally with a comprehensive list of references he provides convincing evidence for the claims made and other sources to support and document his research.

My selected article easily meets the criteria proposed by Harris in his test of source credibility, The CARS Checklist for Information Quality.

#LiDA101 #DigitalLiteracy #diglit #opened #oer #oep

Bloom, M. (2019). Assessing the Impact of “Open Pedagogy” on Student Skills Mastery in First-Year Composition. Open Praxis, 11(4), 343-353. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.11.4.1025

Harris, R. (2013, December 27). Evaluating Internet Research Sources. Retrieved from http: //www.virtualsalt.com/evalu8it.htm