The sharing of teaching concepts creates (inter)national awareness

Dr Maximilian Heimstädt talks about his experience with Open Science

Photo of Dr Maximilian Heimstädt
Photo: Sascha Friesike

Three key learnings:

  • The sharing of open teaching concepts –syllabi – creates awareness in the national and international scholarly community.
  • Open Courses about current research topics offer opportunities for digital teaching in the future.
  • Open Access enables journalists and science outsiders to read research findings. This in turn raises the number of potential cooperation partners outside the science system and improves knowledge transfer.

Do you provide your teaching materials as Open Educational Resources?

MH: I upload syllabi under open licence because I find it highly convenient when other people do so. A syllabus is basically a teaching concept that I got to know in the US. What is the topic? What should the students learn? Why is it relevant right now? It also includes a weekly plan and reading list. Sharing one’s own syllabi is something I have first seen US scientists do on Twitter. For me it was totally interesting to see how others plan their teaching. That’s not something you’re allowed to see normally. If you’re lucky your mentors will pass on such a teaching concept. But to see how a topic that interests me is taught elsewhere in the world is fascinating. I could take so many literature tips out of it. And that’s why I thought I would do the same the other way around. I uploaded it to my website and posted tweets about it. And I told the people whose literature I used about it.


MH: For different reasons. For one thing, I wantedcolleagues to become aware that I’m working on the same topic. Then I know that non-tenured researchers in the USA can mention it in their tenure paper if their articles are used for teaching elsewhere. I feel that I am helping and communicating that their research is being noticed in Germany. Those tweets with a syllabus have been incredibly popular. I think that’s a really good practice. I think it would be great if there were repositories for this. It would be incredibly useful to have a place where I could find ten syllabi on how people are teaching introduction to organisation theory.

How do you  benefit from sharing teaching concepts?

MH: I have published a syllabus for a course entitled “Algorithms and Organizations”. It was shared pretty often. It resulted in a colleague coming up to me who lived quite near to me although he had his job at the other end of Germany. He offered to give a talk in my lecture. So the course improved even more because I had a research talk. This could surely be useful in digital teaching, too. For instance, if students from other institutions see the syllabi and their own university doesn’t offer such a course, they could ask if they could attend anyway. After all, it’s in the interest of the scientific community.  

In 2015, you have published a paper together with Leonhard Dobusch on “Open Educational Resources in Germany: status quo and perspectives”. What role do Open Educational Resources play in economic research in 2021?

MH: We didn’t study this systematically for universities in 2015, but for teaching in schools. But I’m observing a grassroots development at universities. Leonhard Dobusch for instance has created a course called “Organising in Times of Crisis”, a collaborative Open Course for master students in business administration, management and organisation studies. Elke Schüßler from Linz collaborated in this, and others like Thomas Gegenhuber, Daniel Geiger from Hamburg or Ali Gümüsay from the HIIG in Berlin or Hannah Trittin-Ulbrich of Leuphana University in Lüneburg. They all are organisation scientists from Germany and Austria. To my mind that’s a model for the future of teaching. This open course is great because I can now use it in my own teaching. I don’t know many economics textbooks that are under an open licence. I think it’s important that established scientists should advocate for freely licensed textbooks. More and more teaching is done in English, especially in business studies. But our textbooks are in German which means we have to buy expensive US American or British textbooks. After a few years a new edition is published and universities have to throw out the old ones. That’s a waste of resources, I think.

Do methodological discussions towards openness play a role in teaching?

MH: I have made good experiences with explaining to students how an article is generated. We talk not only about content, but also about the path from having an idea to publishing in this or that journal. I have got very positive feedback about this, too, because it is usually not covered in seminars. Students are very much interested in “how the sausage is made”. Neither is this kind of critical discussion included in courses teaching scientific working practice. At best they teach how to tell the difference between scholarly literature and “grey” literature. There’s nothing about the genesis of articles or textbooks. I think such a critical approach to texts and text genres will help students later in their daily jobs.

When did you become interested in Open Science?

MH: For my PhD thesis I researched transparency and digital openness in municipalities. I also came into contact with civil society organisations which have been advocating more digital openness in science very early. From very early on, organisations such as the Open Knowledge Foundation have been asking if we should still be following the path dependency of an analogue science system in these digital times or if now is not the right moment for a path break. My research on Open Goverment Data in municipalities was a good occasion to reflect on my own approach to data, how I want to use them. I then started to look at the broad range of Open Science terminology. The first topic that I studied intensively was Open Access. A young researcher needs to learn how publishing markets work and what concepts have been developed by the Open Access movement since the early 2000s. At present I am very much interested in the potentials of Open Peer Review for economics.

Which benefits to do you gain from Open Access?

MH: I receive requests for cooperations or press interviews based on articles I have published in Open Access journals or as postprints. In this way articles are accessible to the public if the topics are current and urgent for society. Many of these requests are made by people who do not have access to subscription journals. If I hadn’t published them in an Open Access journal, these people couldn’t have read the article. I communicate my Open Access articles and postprints not only through our press office, but also through my own Twitter account and other social networks. It’s an illusion to hope that colleagues, media or potential cooperation partners constantly keep their eyes on all postprint repositories. If you want to be visible you need to do it yourself.

Do you mainly use Twitter or other channels as well?

MH: Until now I have mostly used Twitter, but recently I’ve also been more active on LinkedIn. On Twitter it’s more the science community and journalists whom I want to reach, with LinkedIn it’s the practitioners.

Thank you!

The interview was conducted on April 12, 2021.

About Dr Maximilian Heimstädt

Maximilian Heimstädt is an organisation researcher and head of the research group “Reorganisation of science practices” at the Weizenbaum Institute in Berlin. His research is about new forms of work and organisation in science which are often summarised under the term “Open Science”. He is interested in “openness” as practice and design principle of organisations. In his PhD thesis he studied the collaboration of civil society and administrations in implementing Open Data strategies. Maximilian Heimstädt is a mentor in the Open Science Fellowship of Wikimedia Germany, Volkswagen Foundation and Stifterverband (an association of German foundations).





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