Go Open with Canvas

As #OpenEd16 gets underway, I am hoping it will signal the start of a push for Open-with-Canvas at my school. I’m an extreme LMS minimalist, but there is one huge difference between D2L and Canvas that I really do care about: Canvas can be OPEN.

So, that means without a log-in of any kind, you can visit my classes: there’s my live-content demo course at Canvas.Mytholore.net, plus the two classes I teach every semester: Myth.MythFolklore.net and India.MythFolklore.net. I can even link to pages inside those courses, like this page about Twitter Widgets in Canvas.

Real webpages. On the real Internet. The open Internet.

For me, OPEN IS THE KEY. This online educational space is something new, and it is something wonderful, too — and we are all just now learning how to use it. To learn how to use it well, we need to do that in the open, sharing and learning from one another.

Yes, I know: Canvas defaults to closed… I wish it defaulted to open. But that’s never going to happen. Which means: it’s up to US to open things up.

I’ve been teaching fully online courses since 2002, and I have always taught in the open. The whole reason I wanted to teach online was to be part of a community of learners online, working and sharing our work in the open with each other. I was inspired by people like the late, great Bruno Hare who created the Sacred Texts Archive, and all the great people who built the Perseus Digital Library, and other online pioneers who made it possible for me to share a wealth of knowledge with my students at their fingertips. Just as they shared their work online, I shared all my work online as well.

In turn, I also asked my students to share their work online, publishing their Storybook projects on the open Internet. Every semester, they produce beautiful, creative, original work, and almost all of them choose to leave their projects online after the class is over, for which I am extremely grateful. The archive of past student work is the single most valuable asset I have in teaching my classes.

Yet I know that for many faculty the openness of the Internet is a very strange experience. Even though academic life depends absolutely on the sharing of knowledge, that sharing has taken place primarily in the form of print publication and face-to-face encounters, while the online world is something different: sharing, yes, but different ways of sharing, with a culture of sharing that is unlike the hierarchical, top-down, gated-community culture of the academic world.

Still, even in that strictly hierarchical academic world, “openness” is making real inroads, as researchers realize that with open access their research will reach wider audiences and have greater impact. That conversation about open access scholarship is going strong at my school: just look at ShareOK, a repository where faculty can share their scholarly work (I have put four books there from my past life as a Latinist). We also have a Data Librarian (how cool is that?), and there are many other new initiatives in the Library to assist faculty in sharing their research work as widely as possible.

Plus, I am glad to say, the Library is also home to the OpenOU project — and their course grant project allowed me to transform the reading options in my Indian Epics class; thank you, @OUOpenEd!

My hope is that now, with Canvas, we can start to have an even wider conversation about open teaching at my school, helping faculty to see that just as their are great benefits to open access in scholarship, there are also great benefits to open access in teaching. In the coming days, I will write some posts here about specific aspects of openness in teaching, starting tomorrow with a post on open syllabuses.

Meanwhile, I will say a big THANK YOU to all the champions of openness who are gathered in Richmond for #OpenEd16 this week, and I am looking forward to following that hashtag (see the sidebar of this blog) and watching some Virtually Connecting events, enjoying all that good open energy even at a distance.

It’s time to open the door…
and explore the unknown!


Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.