“As educators we need to share our teaching material to as wide an audience as possible”Name: Costas Papadopoulos
Position: Assistant Professor in Digital Humanities & Culture Studies
Expertise: Digital Humanities, Digital Archaeology, Digital Heritage
Institution: Maastricht University
Country: The Netherlands
More info: Home Page Twitter Video
ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1072-5198
An interview with Costas Papadopoulos on 31 August 2021
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your work with Open Educational Resources or Open Pedagogy more broadly?
I am Assistant Professor in Digital Humanities and Culture Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, at Maastricht University. I have a background in Archaeology, but I am specialized in Digital Archaeology, primarily in the field of virtual pasts, including 3D visualization and virtual reality. I’m interested in how we can use the so-called modern technologies as a way to better understand and interpret facets of the past that may be unknown nowadays. My research has essentially two strands: 3D visualization, which I have been working on for a long time; but then from 2015 I have also been working on Open Educational Resources, and that was when I joined Maynooth University in Ireland, long before I came to the Netherlands. My work on Open Educational Resources at Maynooth started with a project that was about building a platform for Open Educational Resources for the digital arts and humanities, what is called and is known as #dariahTeach.
When you started working on the #dariahTeach platform and on Open Educational Resources for that platform, did librarians support you in that job? Were there topics and activities you ran into for which you could have used the support of a library?
No, unfortunately not, and I’m saying ‘unfortunately’ because libraries are major advocates of Open Education, Open Source and so forth, especially in the United States, probably in Europe a bit less. But no, we did not have support in the strict sense from a library.
I think it’s both. When it comes to expertise that librarians have, especially in Digital Humanities, we work and discuss a lot of issues that have to do with archiving, for example, preservation. I think libraries have a big say in that and, probably, they are more knowledgeable than many other people in the field who talk about these things, because it comes from their own practice, essentially. So I think it would have been really useful to have a more active conversation or active contribution by librarians. But, of course, I have to say, we did have discussions with local librarians, of course. It was not something that was developed completely outside and separately from the library world, but what I’m talking about is a kind of a more active involvement and contribution.
The program is running and you have this platform, you created Open Educational materials for your students. Who do you think has benefited most from this project or platform?
One thing to note for the resources we’re developing is that it’s not that we’re putting pdf’s online.
Well, just to give you a bit of context and explain why we developed these Open Educational Resources. First of all, just to say that the first phase of the project was funded by an Erasmus+ Grant and the PI of the project was Susan Schreibman back then, who was also in Ireland, now also in Maastricht. And then, of course, there were other collaborators in lots of different countries. So the reasoning behind this platform was that, in Digital Humanities, we develop lots of workshops and training activities and we give them in let’s say workshops, summer schools and so forth, but on the one hand, there’s no place to put all these resources. So each person produces their own resource and maybe they put it on a hard drive. Maybe some may put those on slideshare or on some other sharing services, but typically you wouldn’t be able to find these materials, at least not easily, online, unless you contact that person directly.
Of course, there are many who haven’t studied Digital Humanities, and let’s say there are those who want to upskill, they want to enhance their digital skills, and they’re trying to find resources. An important thing to consider is to what extent these resources are trustworthy – that they’re of some quality, of a certain standard, that they are pegged to certain educational requirements and systems, things like ECTS and so forth. So what we tried to do in #dariahTeach was to give a more formal structure around these resources, both as a place to create them and host them, but also to have them in a way speak to some European standards. We thought that both of these were really important.
When it comes to our audience, it was – and still is – on the one hand, lone learners, so somebody who just wants to tech up or have some interest in the subject matter. On the other hand it could be teachers who may want to use these in their classrooms with students, and also just students themselves or any other person or stakeholder who may have some interest in what these areas would cover.
One thing to note for the resources we’re developing is that it’s not that we’re putting pdf’s online. I think that’s the main difference, in terms of what we have been doing and directing, is that we are constructing the whole course. And these are courses that are taken in an asynchronous way, so it’s not like MOOCs where we say it will run from, you know, the 15th to the 28th of September and we’ll be there to support you, you will be able to ask questions and so forth. It’s exactly the opposite, so they are always available, of course, they are free, so they are accessible to everybody. And you can actually go through the course yourself.
Courses are divided into sections, into pages, into chapters, like what you would get in a book, but not in a book format, of course. And there are a lot of different ways to check yourself and check your knowledge and your understanding. We have developed quizzes, interactive content, we have recorded lots of videos, but they are not video-based as the MOOCs are. So there’s a lot of texts, there’s lots of theory, there’s lots of sources and so forth, so I would say it’s an amalgamation of different modalities of content and also theory and practice.
Can you say anything about the experiences with this of either students or teaching staff?
What was really impressive is that we had people coming from all over the world, people who wouldn’t have the chance under normal circumstances to access a formal education; Or, if we would have done these events physically, probably they wouldn’t have been able to travel from Australia, for example.
#dariahTeach has been used a lot and I can give some examples of this. Not everything has been used, probably, because I think there are too many and I will probably start with ones that have been recently developed, especially during COVID.
We used certain courses that were developed under #dariahTeach with our students here at Maastricht University in the form of a flipped classroom. So we use these courses as a way to, for example, introduce theory. So Susan Schreibman has one course in the Masters called “Design Thinking and Maker Culture” and a certain course in #dariahTeach was used to introduce the theory of design thinking. As well, for a course that was about creating digital collections I got together with Susan and we used one course that I developed in #dariahTeach as a way to introduce the more practical elements of the digitization process. So it was always used as a flipped classroom method. In this case, we would assign the open resources as a ‘reading’ and then students go through them at their own pace, at home, and then we’ll come back in class and essentially apply the knowledge and skills they obtained.
The second phase of #dariahTeach is called Ignite, and it just finished a few months ago. With Ignite we developed additional courses, this time to target more the cultural and creative industries and particularly students at Masters level who do not have access to, or don’t have adequate technical skills. We ran several events including a summer school and we used #dariahTeach as the curriculum. They were online because of COVID, and thus they were free for everyone to attend. What was really impressive is that we had people coming from all over the world, people who wouldn’t have the chance under normal circumstances to access a formal education; Or, if we would have done these events physically, probably they wouldn’t have been able to travel from Australia, for example.
Based on your experience, what would you say are some key successes for Open Education?
Well, one other thing that may be worth highlighting is that, we have tried to use #dariahTeach with professionals from the creative and cultural industries. So we’re expanding our audiences. However, I think what has been really interesting is that we had some examples of collaborators who were not part of the original grants, but in a way, joined #dariahTeach later.
So we have an example of a professor from Hungary, who actually co-developed a course with his students. We have a very nice example from Spain, a professor in digital humanities, who used our existing courses on #dariahTeach as a course assignment to translate the #dariah courses into Spanish, and so reaching a much wider audience than was possible before. I think one of their successes is that it has generated a lot of different audiences and lots of different uses, probably beyond what we originally planned.
What are your plans for the future?
I think one of the other goals is to expand our audience geographically.
One of the things has to do, of course, with funding, so we should look for and we’re actively looking for other sources of funding to further develop our platform. We have also spent quite a lot of time and energy and, of course, part of our budget from the previous grant, also to redesign the interface, because also interfaces are really important in Open Education; I think we have to compete with big names and big platforms that have very user-friendly interfaces as well. So I think we need to also do something towards that respect, when it comes to Open Education interfaces.
I think one of the other goals is to expand our audience geographically; because quite often we see that there’s materials we get statistics for and see that they are used in Europe and North America as well, but I think we have to do some extra work and effort to also involve others that are probably less represented or have less opportunities in education. I also think in terms of expanding who uses this material in terms of professions. So we have started already working with museum professionals, for example in heritage, who would like to expand their skill sets, let’s say. That’s something that’s definitely another aim. And of course it’s more and more to work with educators, with teachers, to demonstrate how we have used those in our classes and how they could use those in their classes. And of course expand the audience by also doing other things, including translations, for example, or having others not part of our original team to develop their own courses as well, so these are all plans and some of these we are doing at a smaller scale. When the funding has ended, of course, it’s more on a volunteering basis, it’s more difficult to progress quickly in this case. But definitely this is something that we are looking forward to continuing to work on.
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