Novak Rogic is the Web Strategy Manager at the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT).

Novak Rogic

He is responsible for university’s open publishing platforms. He is interested in supporting students move from being passive learners to active producers through sustainable technological platforms and flexible educational frameworks.

1. Can you give us a snapshot of the Centre?

The Centre focuses on integration of technology into teaching and learning, professional development in teaching and learning, development and delivery of distance education courses and programs and other technology-enhanced learning opportunities and, through the Institute for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, scholarly approaches to curriculum and pedagogy.

As a central service unit, the Centre offers a range of services that address needs of individuals, academic units and the University as a whole. These include:

  • Delivering research-informed programs and services that support professional growth.
  • Partnering with academic and administrative units to design, plan and develop educational experiences that enhance learning.
  • Providing strategic consultation, facilitation and project coordination services in support of major research-informed pedagogical and curriculum initiatives.
  • Collaborating on projects that strategically investigate, develop, pilot and evaluate educational technologies.

2. What’s your role at UBC? Who do you work with?

My group (Scott McMillan, Enej Bajgoric and Loong Chan) and I are responsible for UBC’s open publishing platforms, specifically:

  • The UBC Wiki (UBC’s own community wiki that is serves as course space, a personal and collaborative notebook, a documentation hub, and a Wikipedia-like space for general information about the University.)
  • UBC CMS (a robust content management platform that comes at no cost to end users.)
  • UBC Blogs (a hosted platform used for many different purposes from course blogs and e-portfolios to student clubs and instructor profile sites.)

We support UBC Faculties respond to their faculty members and student teaching and learning needs.

Through these extendible platforms, we are able to support strategic UBC programs, like flexible learning. And, with the help of people like Will Engle, who supports open education strategies, we help to increase access to learning at UBC.

With over 22,000 registered users on UBC blogs, 12,000 wiki users, and over 700 web and course sites, this work is having a significant impact on teaching and learning at UBC.

3. Can you tell us about the open source WordPress platform that UBC uses?

Part of our role is promotion of open teaching practices. We try to mirror that approach in our own work: The CTLT is a big open source contributor; we support and encourage the re-use of anything we develop.

Most of our code is available on GitHub. In the WordPress Plugin Repository, there have been over 200,000 downloads of the plugins we developed.

UBC CMS hosts over 700 websites built by end users or faculty support groups at no cost to end user. Our analysis completed a few years ago showed (and this was a very conservative estimate) a direct savings of over $2M.

But even bigger value is that hundreds of UBC faculty members and thousands of students are empowered in their teaching and learning. Students and instructors can make their teaching and learning openly available, evaluate and “like” each others work, follow or mention each other, and comment on good material.

By building this capacity at the University, we can understand the landscape change, adapt to it and enable more flexibility – that is required for both teaching and learning. And this online change creates also change in physical world – for example by adopting a flip classroom model we may not need huge classrooms in the near future and we could repurpose them for smaller, more, well, flexible spaces.

4. What are some of the more innovative projects you’ve worked on? 

UBC is rolling out its Flexible Learning initiative and it is fantastic to see so many interesting ideas and projects coming from faculty members. And here is where it gets even more interesting – the role of web developer and educational technologist has changed a lot lately; it is almost like we all wear entrepreneurial hats.

We see flexible learning as a great opportunity for the university to catch up technologically and adopt some proven Web 2.0 practices like Lean Startup. The “We can’t afford to plan” logic has helped us with development of sites such as the award-winning Phylo: The Trading Card Game and the Faculty of Medicine’s This Changed My Practice.

When we first created UBC wiki, we didn’t envision portals like the Math Exam/Education Resources wiki  emerging. But they have and people love it because the underlying technology is open, capable, user-friendly, and simply awesome. This simple wouldn’t be possible with proprietary Learning Management Systems.

Medium is the message and that is the message to all the decision makers regarding what technologies the university should commit too. So what we need is, as George Siemens puts it: open, accessible, buildable, improvable, extendable, re-mixable, content, curriculum, pedagogy and learning systems.

5. What are some of the trends that you’re keeping an eye on – with respect to educational technologies and learning platforms? 

My personal favourite and the topic of my graduate work is the Student as Producer, which is a framework that Mike Neary at the University of Lincoln, UK established.  This framework promotes the role of the student as collaborators in knowledge production.

At UBC there is a lots of innovation happening, from Jon Beasley-Murray’s early work around teaching with Wikipedia, to work of David VogtEduardo Jovel, and CTLT’s director Simon Bates, to name a few. This work provides a lot of benefits and is a natural alignment with today’s academic approach.

If work is done in the open, under creative commons license, the benefits to student are clear: the quality of the work is significantly higher than the typical assignment handed in (and sometimes written) minutes before the due date.

It gives learners ownership and control over their work. And, the work can be openly displayed promoting both UBC and the student. It contributes to public knowledge and offers the potential of increased interaction with both the local and broader global community. Open work allows for further improvements, republishing and remixing.

At the end of the day it is also helping the university’s marketing effort in a straightforward and honest manner; the best way to promote a university is let work of its people speak for its self and benefit the world.

Notable Quotes:

With over 22,000 registered users on UBC blogs, 12,000 wiki users, and over 700 web and course sites, this work is having a significant impact on teaching and learning at UBC. ~Novak Rogic

UBC CMS hosts over 700 websites built by end users or faculty support groups at no cost to end user. Our analysis, completed a few years ago showed (and this was a very conservative estimate) a direct savings of over $2M. ~Novak Rogic

UBC is rolling out its Flexible Learning initiative and it is fantastic to see so many interesting ideas and projects coming from faculty members. And here is where it gets even more interesting – the role of web developer and educational technologist has changed a lot lately; it is almost like we all wear entrepreneurial hats. ~Novak Rogic

When we first created UBC wiki, we didn’t envision portals like the Math Exam/Education Resources wiki  emerging. But they have and people love it because the underlying technology is open, capable, user-friendly, and simply awesome. ~Novak Rogic

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