How Openness moves us from innovation to transformation

Next week thirteen of the nearly thirty participants in the MELO 3D project will head to the Sloan-C/MIC conference Las Vegas to present on various facets of our two year project. This has been a fun, inspiring and exciting project for me and I’m looking forward to sharing some of our experiences with the broader online learning community. In our various meetings, training sessions and activities over the past year, I’ve come to realize just how important taking an “open” perspective can be in education. Even when faculty, departments and projects are collaborating across units or institutions, by taking the perspective that your team is going to adopt “open” practices you can really shift the project from something innovative to something truly transformative. This is what I’ve seen happen with the MELO 3D project.

Let’s Share

When we talk about “open,” often folks often envision different things. Are we talking about free? Are we talking about legal? Are we talking about public? When I started working with this team last year, they were all on board on some of the basic concepts of Open. This is, after all, the third year of the project. They wanted to be able to use and adapt learning objects created by other institutions or faculty members for their own classroom needs. They wanted to publish their own learning objects in places (public websites) that could be seen by others. They wanted their own efforts to contribute to the broader collection of resources available to the global learning community and they wanted to share best practices across institutions. Finally, they wanted to be able to build off each other’s work within the university,  to catalyze each other to use technology more effectively, and to develop resources to boost common skills (literacy, math, and analytical skills).

To do all these things, however, they realized there was a piece missing: open licensing and the OER perspective. It’s one of the reasons they invited me into the project and this last year has seen an explosion of possibility and creativity from different team members. You see it in the way Dr. Witgen uses a wiki to create an ‘interactive syllabus’ that is responsive to each cohort of students’ needs, interests and challenges. You see it in the way Dr. Calixto uses podcasts to address just-in-time learning needs. You also see it in the way the Organic Chemistry team took much of their work and put it in public online spaces, allowing students to become co-teachers by using Voicethread to analyze each other’s work.  And these are just a few of the examples from the disciplines participating in this project.

Let’s Share Well

Much of this work was enabled, I believe by putting the pieces of Openness together. By thinking about the intent of the resources being developed (to be shared with others and allowing them to adapt the resources), the purpose of the resources (to address students’ needs in dynamic classroom settings and engage them as participants in the learning process), and the delivery of the resources (in public, findable spaces that allow others to see the process of creation, not just the product), the MELO 3D team has embraced open education in effective, transformative ways. This project (and the Open.Michigan initiative) is one of the reasons working at the University of Michigan is so rewarding–our university trusts its community to do great things, and gives us the resources to do it. The MELO project has been funded for several years now through LSA’s NINI grants. These are a great way to jump-start innovation. LSA’s consistent support of this project has shown how projects can evolve from innovation to transformation by iterating, learning, responding and inviting others to collaborate.

I’m looking forward to spreading some of the energy from this group to the broader community at the upcoming conference (and, of course, getting some good food experiences in along the way).

What This Looks Like

You can see the abstracts to all our conference presentations online:

Integration of Technology Into Undergraduate Education through Cross-Disciplinary Pollination (winner: Effective Practice award)

Deconstructing a Puzzle Using Writing and Technology

Online Learning Objects: Affecting Change through Cross-Disciplinary Practices and Open Technologies (winner: Best in Track award)

You can access, download, remix and reuse all of the MELO 3D open educational resources from the Open.Michigan collection:



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