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OERlabs, OpenLabs, labs und (learning) workshops - an approach of explanation[Bearbeiten]

The following remarks can be traced back to the following article: Hofhues, S. & Schiefner-Rohs, M. (2017). Vom Labor zum medialen Bildungsraum: Hochschul- und Mediendidaktik nach Bologna. In C. Igel (Hrsg.), Bildungsräume 2017. Reihe Medien in der Wissenschaft (S. 32–43). Münster: Waxmann.

It is possible that the question of the "labs" will shape the OERlabs project like no other. We are constantly asked, in different contexts, what the OERlabs mean to us or how we can breathe life into the labs in the participating organisations (i.e. universities, schools). It is therefore no coincidence that at an early stage in the project we investigated different laboratory concepts in more detail and turned to the concept of labs primarily as a metaphor: Too different are the ideas of laboratories in the subjects, too diverse are also the opinions that exist about learning in laboratory format. If we speak of labs in English, we are by no means referring to the direct translation as a laboratory. Rather, various ways of interpreting the Lab concept are addressed, based on the actors themselves.

Looking back on the OERlabs project, the decision to use the concept of lab metaphorically proves to be effective: in this way, the communicative negotiation (not to be confused with communicative validation) about the design of labs acquires its own value. For example, it becomes natural or even normal to deal with didactic, organizational and not least technical questions (in the sense of problems) and to find answers to the questions (in the sense of problem solving) oneself. Not least for this reason, the answers to one's own questions must be different: They can be found again in small but feasible OER solutions, in seminar and teaching concepts, in free educational offers and in utopias of tomorrow's education. The differences between the University of Cologne and the TU Kaiserslautern, which are obvious after the project period, can also be explained with this metaphorical access to practice.

At the same time, we don't want to conceal this, these negotiation processes require the ability to engage subjectively with them and to deal with one's own ideas and expectations of teaching and education. However, under the pressure of performance and time in the current education and science system, this becomes a challenge for most participants. Accordingly, we have asked all actors to do something with the lab metaphor, namely to deal with the indeterminacy of education in the context of OER. We assume that this constant debate characterizes what is possibly publicly understood as 'digital education' and manifests itself in the form of open practices in teaching and learning. In principle, however, we also make it possible in such a way that diverse (not only didactic) scenarios can become OERlabs. The latter is not least important for the systematic integration of all university actors (i.e. teachers, students, administration) and also shows how participative university development is linked with ideas of didactics and vice versa.

So far we have not found out whether the mentioned connections and open questions of school or university development are easily registered in concepts for laboratories and learning workshops. Our interpretation of existing concepts is that they are usually initiated in favour of didactic innovation, i.e. pedagogical (university) school development. This goes hand in hand with ideas regarding good teaching, whether with or without media, which are also effective at the level of the overall (higher) school (Hofhues & Schiefner-Rohs, 2017[1]). So we know that especially the currently popular term "laboratory" obscures the view that the discussion about laboratories and learning workshops has a much older and especially the term "laboratory" a considerable scientific tradition. If concepts of a scientific laboratory experiment are adopted unquestioningly, at least that which is more closely understood in pedagogy and didactics in a (learning) workshop is lost: Especially in teacher education, learning, teaching and research workshops have a longer tradition, although they mainly address the transfer of the (pedagogical-didactic) method repertoire into practice as well as individual processes of appropriation (e.g. of learning materials). The latter are of importance when the OERlabs serve as a mirror for specific routines of action.

It is therefore decisive that the OERlabs in the educational sciences were set up less as a form of gaining knowledge than as a metaphorical or symbolic code "to create alternative spaces of knowledge acquisition" (on possible laboratory concepts in the specialist sciences see Hofhues & Schiefner-Rohs, 2017, [2]). This distinguishes the observable practices of action as well as OERlabs' procedures from those of laboratories which were described by Knorr Cetina (1988) as "local contexts of action [...] which are specialised in a limited way in certain production processes" (ibid., p. 84). Therefore, at least four laboratory forms can be recognized in the OERlabs:

  • OERlabs as a physical place to confront expertise.
  • OERlabs as places of encounter.
  • OERlabs as a symbolic space for appropriation and open educational practices.
  • OERlabs as a training and innovation space for Third Space actors:

The trends towards "more" laboratories must be viewed just as critically as the hopes for "more" media use in teaching itself (Schiefner-Rohs & Hofhues, in Druck[3]). It could be helpful to reconstruct the meaning of the laboratory concept in the subjects and disciplines and then to ask how laboratories fit into the structure of the discipline, the degree programme and the university. It is undoubtedly also important to initiate these discussions before initiating the laboratories - not afterwards. initiation of the laboratories - not only afterwards. In addition, general didactics and pedagogy offer explanatory approaches that are sometimes even sobering in view of the goal perspective of academic teaching and learning at universities: Quite a few of them contribute to the fact that laboratory concepts in university and media didactics are rather one-sided and, against the background of a trend towards schooling at universities, unquestioned, trend-setting and euphorically adopted.

After all, laboratories in general and OERlabs in particular serve not only the acquisition of knowledge, but (also) professional enculturation (Wansleben, 2007, p. 282). If this reflection on teaching and practical developments is not possible during studies, laboratories and (learning) workshops remain the result of formal lesson planning. In teaching practice, they become largely predetermined places of learning and lag behind the creative possibilities of media educational spaces. A rogue, who suspects behind this fad in university and media didactics the further naturalisation of academic teaching and learning after Bologna.


  1. Schiefner-Rohs, M. & Hofhues, S. (in print). Shaping forces. Media and technology(s) at universities. In J. Othmer, A. Weich & K. Zickwolf (Ed.), Media, Education and Knowledge at Universities. Springer: VS (further data available on request).
  2. Schiefner-Rohs, M. & Hofhues, p. (in print). Shaping forces. Media and technology(s) at universities. In J. Othmer, A. Weich & K. Zickwolf (Ed.), Media, Education and Knowledge at Universities. Springer: VS (further data available on request).
  3. Schiefner-Rohs, M. & Hofhues, S. (in Druck)). Shaping forces. Media and technology(s) at universities. In J. Othmer, A. Weich & K. Zickwolf (Ed.), Media, Education and Knowledge at the University. Springer: VS (further data available on request).