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University Of Freiburg Makes Digital Teaching Toolbox Available

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“The goal of the toolbox is to create a central port of call that combines all the fundamental information about digital teaching and ILIAS,” says Leon Widmaier from the E-learning Department of the University of Freiburg’s IT Services, which oversees the toolbox among other things. The toolbox was initiated at the E-learning Department by Dorthe Hutz-Nierhoff back in 2019 – in other words before the start of the corona pandemic, because the subject of digital teaching was already gaining in importance. Since November 2022 the complete toolbox has been available as “OER”, i.e. an Open Educational Resource. This means that besides being available to anyone via the public area of the ILIAS teaching platform it is also available via a Baden-Württemberg platform – the central OER repository (ZOERR).

Easily exchanging knowledge for free
“If we make our Digital Teaching Toolbox available then it is socially useful and saves other universities a lot of work that we’ve already done,” says Widmaier. He believes the project is also a practical application enabling the trialing of publication of own content as OER. “It still needs more work,” he says. For example, rights need to be clarified and a license for use laid down. The Freiburg toolbox is now under a Creative Commons license, which allows anyone to import, use and further develop it, provided the original author name – i.e. the E-learning Department of the University of Freiburg’s IT Services – is given, and provided the Creative Commons license is retained.

This is exactly the idea and attraction of an Open Educational Resource, says Widmaier: “OER has the goal that knowledge can be exchanged easily and for free, and further developed – other universities can use what’s already there, and use their energy to improve it and share it themselves.” So everyone benefits in the end.

An element of digital transformation
This is why the toolbox will not be a one-off case. Since the middle of last year, Widmaier is responsible for OER through the 4D – 4 Dimensions of Digital and Didactic Development project which aims to support digital ongoing development of teaching at the University of Freiburg. The project is funded by the federal government through the Stiftung Innovation in der Hochschullehre. The four dimensions referred to in the title of the project are students, teachers, the university organization and the social context. OER belongs in the latter category. Widmaier also advises and support teachers who want to publish their own projects as Open Educational Resources.

“The basic idea of OER matches the educational objective of public universities,” says Dr. Christian Kny from the University of Freiburg’s department of teaching strategy and digitalization, who coordinates the 4D project. In the case of projects like the toolbox, it is often worthwhile to make the work widely available, including to other universities, rather than regarding each other as competitors. This brings people in contact and allows an exchange, which can lead to benefiting from others’ work in turn. For example, digital introductions to certain topics could conceivably be adopted and adapted from others, rather than developing them from scratch, with the time this saves being used to provide more intensive support for students.

Digital elements can complement face-to-face sessions
“We aren’t trying to force the university to become digital,” says Kny. It also isn’t about replacing personal contact with technology, as was partially the case during the corona pandemic: “We look to see where digitalization can offer a worthwhile addition and new possibilities,” explains the project coordinator, “For example, a face-to-face course may be improved by incorporating interactive self-learning elements.” Promising teaching projects in relation to digitalization will be awarded prizes by the project with the “E-IDA” teaching awards, which teachers at the University of Freiburg can still apply to enter until December 31, 2022.

And anyone who is looking for initial ideas, suggestions and instructions can also find them in the Digital Teaching Toolbox, which is a constantly-growing project, says Widmaier, and will continue to be so after publication as an Open Educational Resource: “Unfortunately it doesn’t update automatically, but we are steadily working towards this.” Updated versions will in future also be available to the public on the Central OER repository (ZOERR).