Award-Winning Virtual Learning Resource Provides Students with Practical Tools for University Life
The open access project supported by Trent University, Ontario Extend: Liberated Learners, is receiving the Open Education Resource (OER) Award, an annual international award that recognizes outstanding contributions in the Open Education community.
Co-designed for and by students, together with faculty and staff from Trent and other universities, Liberated learners is a free educational resource to help students navigate the university experience.
“It was important that we develop this with learners, not just for them,” says Terry Greene, senior eLearning designer at Trent Online and project lead. “So, it was fundamental to bring together a team who understood that our goal was digital learning with heart and humanity first and foremost.”
The Liberated Learners project aimed to strengthen the digital fluency of students to create deeper learning experiences. It allows them to make the most of any learning situation they find themselves in, and builds on the Ontario Extend: Empowered Educator program, which prepares educators to teach in the digital realm.
For students, by students
The development team involved students from every stage in the post-secondary education journey, such as those just coming into university and mature students coming back into the sector, to truly shape the course and to help students succeed. The project engaged students, as well as staff and faculty, from Trent University, Brock University, Seneca College, University of Windsor, McMaster University, Cambrian College, and Nipissing University.
“What we learned was that if you set students up for success, they'll give you amazing stuff,” says Terry. “I think we succeeded in creating an environment where the learners could create something great.”
Liberated Learners includes animated module intros, graphic design elements, and English to French translations – all created by students. Another exciting feature is Liberated Learner Beats, music created by students in Seneca College’s Independent Music Production and Songwriting programs specifically for students to listen to while they study.
“I actually listened to the Liberated Learner Beats when I was doing the final edits and crafting the Pressbook, so the music informed the final product as well,” adds Terry. “For those who do not have the time to go through all the modules, there is also a takeout menu, again designed by students, to direct users to chapters that address their specific questions."
An authentic resource addressing real problems
During the design phase students were asked to share “wicked problems”, which are problems that often leave you feeling like you are struggling alone. Their input covered many topics, such as struggling with time management, imposter syndrome, finding a balance between schoolwork and other responsibilities, and burnout.
“Seeing that people are in the same boat as you, and seeing their own stories adds a degree of authenticity,” says Terry. “These stories are all published on the Liberated Learner: Wicked Problems website and informed the content and activities we’ve put together to help people with similar problems or barriers to figure out ways to get through them.”
The four Liberated Learner modules include several practical tools to help students navigate “wicked problems”, such as an empathy map in the Collaborator module or designing an infographic in the Technologist module.
Laying the foundation for collaboration
Collaborating across seven institutions and with over 100 students can be a daunting task, but Mr. Greene believes that they built a valuable network for future collaboration.
“This project really brought us closer as a network, so if one of us encounters an issue in our day-to-day work, we can reach out to each other and tap into the pool of expertise,” says Terry. “The fact that seven institutions were involved in developing this resource will likely also impact the uptake of Liberated Learners by other institutions.”
As an open resource, anyone can access and use Liberated Learners and the development team hopes to incorporate it into their summer programming for incoming students.
This is one of several Trent projects that received a total of nearly $1 million through the Government of Ontario’s new Virtual Learning Strategy (VLS). The VLS is being delivered through eCampusOntario, a non-profit organization assisting post-secondary institutions in developing and testing open-access resources and online learning tools to advance the use of education technology and digital learning environments.
About the Open Education Awards for Excellence
The Open Education Awards for Excellence provide annual recognition to outstanding contributions in the Open Education community, recognizing exemplary leaders, distinctive Open Educational Resources, and Open Projects & Initiatives.
Posted on November 11, 2022