In brief: Hacking the university - Lincoln’s approach to openness
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Since 2010 a project called Student as Producer has been adopted as the de facto teaching and learning strategy for the University of Lincoln. This is an attempt to engage undergraduate students in research, and to make research part of the teaching process. It is also a vehicle for demonstrating the value of openness - an idea bolstered by the establishment of numerous other open access initiatives at the university.
Student as Producer is both an institutional strategy and a three-year project funded by the HEA. (At the time of writing, it is in its second year.) It has been used as a framework to bid for funds from JISC for projects that have openness as a central theme. Its stated aim is to “reconnect research and teaching” and allow students to become producers rather than consumers of knowledge. It draws upon the ideas of the Free Culture movement and relies upon initiatives such as science commons, open knowledge and open access, while also providing a practical demonstration of the value of openness.
A progressive use of technology is central to the Student As Producer project and the report details various ways in which Lincoln has used open access resources such as Wordpress, promoted educational resources and the release of open data. It states: “In an environment where knowledge is free, the roles of the educator and the institution necessarily change.”
Other initiatives detailed include the establishment of the Lincoln Academic Commons (an attempt to provide information for staff and students about Open Access and open education), the establishment of an open access journal and the Learning Lab a virtual space for experimenting with and evaluating open source software.
- Student as Producer became a formal HEA-funded project in 2010.
- It was developed by the Centre for Educational Research and Development (CERD) which was itself established in 2007 to lead the University of Lincoln's Teaching and Learning Strategy.
- Student as Producer emphasises the role of the student as collaborators in the production of knowledge and makes research-engaged teaching an institutional priority.
- The author of the report stresses that the work at Lincoln is inspired by “the key academic values that motivated the early academic hacker culture: autonomy, the sharing of knowledge and creative output, transparency through peer review, and peer-recognition based on merit.”
- The author further says that “we see our work as fundamentally a form of hacking using and writing open source software and producing open data with which to ‘hack the university’ and create useful services and positive technological interventions in the research, teaching and learning environment of the university.”
- He also states: “openness remains a distinct theme throughout our work, both in the tools we use and the way we organise ourselves as a distributed, collegial group.”
- A student intern post has been set up within LNCD, a body that consolidates the university’s open projects, to ensure “that the student perspective remains core to the group’s outlook.”
How to follow in the footsteps of Lincoln
- Emphasise the role of the student as collaborators in the production of knowledge.
- Look to establish student internships and employ people from within the student body.
- Establish an academic commons to share knowledge open access and open education.
- Experiment with open source software and establish projects that use and develop open source principles.