Day 12 - Open Collaboration


The purpose of this module is to provide you with an opportunity to explore the following:

  • Examples of collaboration among open educators
  • Tools and Toolkits that empower collaboration
  • Communication channels to help find collaborators

photo of a group of musicians with two violinists in the foreground

Photo by Manuel Nägeli on Unsplash

Hello again! It’s me, Jenni. When I consider collaboration, I consider the life of a musician. There is no profession that I can think of that is more highly and immediately collaborative than musician. I spent many years as a professional jazz and classical singer and there was nothing in my world more thrilling than a live performance that had been well-rehearsed with a group of dedicated colleagues. Every single person on stage, no matter the size of the group, prepared and practiced, alone and with the group for a single moment in time. The sum of our parts was a whole sound experience for the audience. The pressure to be perfect, not to disturb the balance and flow of the performance was tremendous, trust in each other was critical, energy was focused, breathing was timed and tested. Musicianship as a craft is collaboration at its finest. Listening to a recording is a dim echo of seeing a live performance where diverse individuals move and shape sound as one unit. I encourage you to reflect on it next time you attend a concert.

The lessons I carry from my life as a musician transfer to my life as an educator. I am not only open, but also highly collaborative. I am always willing to jump into a project (reasonable time allowing), and I’m becoming more comfortable asking for support and engagement with collaborators when I want to create great projects.

Collaboration is not necessarily easier than working individually. I notice my mistakes more when I collaborate (or at least I worry about them more). I hesitate to ask for contributions from others because I don’t want to bother them, they’re busy. My colleagues do not always organize or write the way that I do. We have differences. I fear feedback, although I know and trust my colleagues, and know that my work is always better when I consider their ideas in addition to my own. This course was designed by me and ten other generous and smart friends. They are friends I have made by being open, being willing to try new things, and saying yes when asked to contribute to their work. The course wouldn’t be nearly as good, or interesting if I had done it all myself. Collaboration is not always faster, or easier, but it is almost always better. Diversity of perspectives, design styles, opinions, and curation in this course have hopefully added up to a learning experience that resonates more effectively for participants because there are multiple representations in the design.

Collaboration Begins with Colleagues

letters C and ) with embedded words in them such as learn, exist, teach, create, host, lead, etc.

Pixabay - public domain

Local Options

One method for learning more about open is to learn with local colleagues. Whatever your education situation, you likely have contact with others in your discipline, and peers at your organization or institution with whom you connect on a regular basis. While your peers may not yet know about OER or OEP, they are educators and have a wealth of experience that can enrich a project. It’s difficult to establish trust relationships at a distance with people you’ve only just met. For practice in collaboration on open work, it may be best to start locally. Local collaboration also gives you an opportunity to test out new knowledge about open by sharing it with others you already know. Of course not all of your colleagues will be interested in open education, it’s always an invitation.

If you’re working at a post-secondary institution and aren’t certain where to begin to find open colleagues to work on a project together, check in with your library. Libraries are often the core of open education and open access thinking and they may have advice and ideas about like-minded colleagues with similar questions. There may already be an OER committee formed that you can join or speak with. If you’re working in PreK-12, you might start with your principal or district leaders to see if there are already OER initiatives underway.

Digital and Distance Options

In module two of this course, how to network was the topic of conversation. This is an obvious step toward collaboration, building a network of educators that share your discipline, your mode of teaching (PreK-12, post-secondary, online, face-to-face), your region, etc. You may wish to extend the opportunity of meeting others in this course to working with them. If someone has described an open project that interests you, do not be shy about asking how you might help. Describe the skills and ideas you have to offer and see what happens.

What Makes a Good Collaborator (or what to look for)?

Read the following article (5 minute read) from SamePage (project management and teamwork software) on the attributes of a good collaborator. These are qualities that you might seek, and perhaps qualities you want to model as part of collaboration. 10 Top Qualities of a Great Collaborator

The 10 recommended qualities are as follows:

  1. Team focused
  2. Generous
  3. Curious
  4. Appreciative
  5. Listens to understand
  6. Seeks to find answers to the bigger questions
  7. Connects the dots or creates the dots
  8. Gives and expects trust
  9. Builds relationships; breaks down walls
  10. Diplomatic

Examples of Collaborative Open Projects

Collective Writing

The Open Faculty Patchbook - Collectively Sharing Ideas and Workload

This collective teaching advice project started as an idea on a local college campus in Ontario (S.S. Fleming College in Peterborough), and rapidly went global. Multiple authors submitted blog posts on the topic of teaching advice for the benefit of new-to-Fleming college faculty members. It turns out that anyone can learn from these examples, and anyone can contribute new examples. It’s a living collaboration that raises the boat for all teachers. There is also a new version, the Open Learner Patchbook where learners share their experience and advice. If you think learners aren’t ready to be co-creators, this patchbook may change your mind! Terry Greene is the ring leader for these works @greeneterry

Collaborative Textbook Creation

Rebus Foundation and Rebus Community are now testing a Beta version of a collaborative open textbook tool (project management). Thus far, Rebus has been involved in connecting educators to collaboratively build several open textbooks. More about their work can be found at this link: Rebus Foundation Projects

Rebus-community-created open textbook: Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Blog Post (approximately a 10 minute read) 8 Things We Learned About Making Open Textbooks from Making Media Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Learners as Co-Creators

Dr. Robin DeRosa worked at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire (in the United States). She tells the story of the open textbook she created in partnership with her undergraduate students on her blog post: My Open Textbook Pedagogy and Practice This work is an exceptional example of what’s possible when you have the time and space to trust learners with the scholarly work of your discipline.

Here’s the book in progress Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature

Open Research

complex illustration depicting the multiple projects and findings of the ROER4D project

The ROER4D Global OER Research project is an outstanding example of regional research collaboration. Review the multi-year project beginning with a link to their Infographic here: ROER4D Map, to get a sense of the scope and level of collaboration. The full project and reports were just completed in December of 2017 so the data and opportunities for further research are current and relevant.

Communication Channels to find Collaborators

In the Building Open Community module for this course, several opportunities for building a network were described. These opportunities are just as applicable to finding and partnering with collaborators.

Twitter - If you search for OER in the Twitter search box, see what bubbles up. You can tell high quality community members by the excellent work of others that they link to and share in their posts. It’s worth scouting around and reading profiles to find possible collaborators with similar interests and disciplines.

eCampusOntario (for Ontario educators only) - email to join our ECHO listserv, and subscribe to our newsletter. Other excellent newsletters to subscribe to are: BCcampus ; and Open Education Consortium - Open Education News

Creative Commons Open Education Platform - CCOpenEdu - recommending this platform as a way to connect with hundreds of open global educators. The listserv is a great channel to ask questions.


image of a small herd of elephants walking

Photo by Slim Emcee (UG) the poet Truth_From_Africa_Photography on Unsplash

While the origin of the following quote cannot be confirmed, it’s still good wisdom: “If you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” It sums up the idea that it is often faster to accomplish tasks (such as curating and adapting course resources) on your own. However, if you want to increase your expertise, communicate, empathize, (and often laugh) with other people in your discipline, hold yourself to a higher standard of preparation, connect more effectively with your learners, and share workload over time, collaboration on curation, adaptation, and creation of OER presents many opportunities for all of the above.

Day 12 Activity

Option 1: Partner up. Connect with someone (or a group of others) in the course that will partner with you on an activity. Create a Google Doc or other shared digital document and work together to create a post on the benefits and challenges of collaboration in your experiences. Choose someone to post it and credit all the creators. If you’re feeling extra fancy you can choose a Creative Commons license and ensure that your work is shared more widely.

Option 2: Going solo. It is completely possible to collaborate on works you create yourself, then invite collaborators to give feedback for improvements. A tried and true pathway. Adapt or create a small OER, post it in the discussion forum or elsewhere and invite ideas for ways to improve it. Be specific about the type of feedback you’re seeking.

Option 3: Reflection. If collaboration makes you uncomfortable, if you’re not certain what talents and expertise you have to offer in a collaborative process, if you’re shy, if you’re annoyed by collaboration (it can be annoying), do some reflecting on your concerns and preferences. Go past your professional life, into your personal areas of expertise, your hobbies, activities you enjoy doing with others. Is there anything there worth noting that might inform professional collaboration? Take some notes just for yourself.

Explore More

Watch the following 15 minute TED talk on connecting chickens to collaboration: Cultivating Collaboration: Don't Be So Defensive! With Jim Tamm

An American perspective on higher education collaboration by Roger G. Baldwin and Deborah A. Chang: Collaborating to Learn, Learning to Collaborate.


All content for Making Sense of Open Education Day 12 by Jenni Hayman is licensed with a CC BY 4.0 International license (unless otherwise indicated with citation and/or attribution).

Last modified: Tuesday, 5 Jun 2018, 12:14