Open Practice and Co-Creation

Engaging peers and students in the co-creation of learning opportunities is an important aspect of open education practice.

OER Commons describe the open education movement as follows:

“The worldwide OER movement is rooted in the human right to access high-quality education. The Open Education Movement is not just about cost savings and easy access to openly licensed content; it’s about participation and co-creation. Open Educational Resources (OER) offer opportunities for systemic change in teaching and learning content through engaging educators in new participatory processes and effective technologies for engaging with learning.”


~ OER Commons.

Co-creation is explored in a recent Teaching Matter’s article by Tanya Lubicz-Nawrocka, from Moray House School of Education, An introduction to student and staff co-creation of the curriculum.

Co-creation can be defined as

“a collaborative, reciprocal process through which all participants have the opportunity to contribute equally, although not necessarily in the same ways, to curricular or pedagogical conceptualisation, decision making, implementation, investigation, or analysis”


~ Cook-Sather, A., Bovill, C., & Felten, P. (2014). Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching: A guide for faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Put more simply, co-creation can be described as student led collaborative initiatives, often developed in partnership with teachers or other bodies outwith the institution, that lead to the development of shared outputs.  A key feature of co-creation is that is must be based on equal partnerships between teachers and students and “relationships that foster respect, reciprocity, and shared responsibility.”

From a pedagogic perspective, co-creation enables

“active, experiential and problem-based learning, and facilitates student engagement. This helps students to develop new skills and confidence, learn how to apply knowledge, and has the potential to guide their career decisions and increase employability.”


~ Collaboration and Co-creation, University of Bournemouth.

Co-creation of curriculum activities and learning opportunities has been shown to benefit both teachers and learners in a number of ways:

(a) fostering the development of shared responsibility, respect, and trust; (b) creating the conditions for partners to learn from each other within a collaborative learning community; and (c) enhancing individuals’ satisfaction and personal development within higher education.


~ Lubicz-Nawrocka, T. (2018). Students as partners in learning and teaching: The benefits of co-creation of the curriculum. International Journal for Students As Partners, 2(1), 47-63.

Geosciences Outreach and Engagement Course

One successful example of open education practice and co-creation in the curriculum at the University of Edinburgh is the Geosciences Outreach and Engagement Course.  This optional project-based course for final year Honours and taught Masters students, has been running for a number of years and attracts students from a range of degree programmes including Geology, Ecological and Environmental Sciences, Geophysics, Geography and Archaeology.  Over the course of two semesters, students design and undertake an outreach project that communicates some element of the field of GeoSciences.  Students have an opportunity to work with a wide range of clients including schools, museums, outdoor centres, science centres, and community groups, to design and deliver resources for science engagement. These resources can include classroom teaching materials, leaflets, websites, smartphone/tablet applications, community events, presentations or materials for museums and visitor centres. Students may work on project ideas suggested by the client, but they are also encouraged to develop their own ideas. Project work is led independently by the student and supervised and mentored by the course team and the client.

This approach delivers significant benefits not just to students and staff, but also to the clients and the University.

Students have the opportunity to work in new and challenging environments, acquiring a range of transferable skills that enhance their employability. They also gain experience of science outreach, public engagement, teaching and learning, and knowledge transfer while at the same time developing communication, project and time management skills.

Staff and postgraduate tutors benefit from disseminating and communicating their work to wider audiences, adding value to their teaching and funded research programmes, supporting knowledge exchange and wider dissemination of scientific research.

The client gains a product that can be reused and redeveloped, new partnerships are formed, new education resources created, and knowledge and understanding of a wide range of scientific topics is disseminated to learners, schools and the general public.

The University benefits by mainstreaming community engagement and embedding it within the curriculum.  The course also provides the opportunity to promote collaboration and interdisciplinarity across the University and helps to forge relationships with clients.

In the words of GeoSciences Brian Cameron, MBE:

 “the University and the students create a legacy of knowledge transfer and cooperation that benefits all.”

The Geosciences Outreach and Engagement course has proved to be hugely popular with both students and clients.  The course has received widespread recognition and a significant number of schools and other universities are exploring how they might adopt the model.

Here’s just one quote from a student, Rebecca Astbury, who participated in the course;

“Geoscience Outreach and Engagement is one of the most interesting courses I have undertaken in my 5 years at Edinburgh. Not only do I get the opportunity to find new and exciting ways to inform people of all ages about Geosciences, I’m also learning valuable skills to enhance my future career after university. This course has taught me that everyone has a different way of learning, and instead of following one strict path, we should expand our ideas on how to effectively communicate science to the general public.”

A key element of the Course is to develop resources with a legacy that can be reused by other communities and organisations. Open Content Curation Interns employed by the University’s OER Service repurpose these materials to create open educational resources which are then shared online through Open.Ed and TES where they could be found and reused by other teachers and learners.

Further Reading

Bournemouth University, Collaboration and Co-creation.

Campbell, L.M., (2017), Crossing the Field Boundaries: Open Science, Open Data & Open Education, Open World.

Cook-Sather, A., Bovill, C., & Felten, P. (2014). Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching: A guide for faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Graham, C., Cross, A., Cameron, B., Myers-Smith, I., (2017), Building Student Capital Through Student-Led Outreach, Engagement and Learning Development.

Institute of Academic Development, (no date), Geosciences Outreach Insight Paper.

Lubicz-Nawrocka, T., (2019), An introduction to student and staff co-creation of the curriculum, Teaching Matters Blog.

Lubicz-Nawrocka, T., (2018), Students as partners in learning and teaching: The benefits of co-creation of the curriculum. International Journal for Students As Partners, 2(1), 47-63.


Campbell, L.M., (2016), Open Education and Co-Creation.

Back to Networked Participatory Scholarship |  Up to Menu  |  Forward to Risks of Openness

[Featured Image: –open–, Jeremy Brooks, CC BY-NC, flickr]