Renewable assignments empower students to contribute to open knowledge, to the knowledge commons. Wiley and Hilton (2018) propose a four-part test for renewable assignments:
- Are students asked to create new artifacts (essays, poems, videos, songs, etc.) or revise/remix existing OER?
- Does the new artifact have value beyond supporting the learning of its author?
- Are students invited to publicly share their new artifacts or revised/remixed OER?
- Are students invited to openly license their new artifacts or revised/remixed OER?”
This test makes renewable assignments a much more yes/no than active learning. Of course, all designs exist on multiple continua, so we can talk about assignment designs that maximize or minimize renewability, student sharing (e.g. a student publicly sharing an assignment in a little-used format might minimize renewability) but for our purposes, it is worthwhile to treat designs as renewable or not.
- Learners in a environmental science course editing or adding to wikipedia pages about environmental sciences.
- Learners creating and posting short, CC-licensed videos to explain the application of key statistical concepts to everyday life.
- Learners contributing question prompts, answers, and distractor choices to an open test question bank.
- Learners writing poetry and music about key cognitive psychology concepts and experiments, and being invited to post their creations with an open license.
- Learners creating open annotations of supreme court decisions.
- A term paper (12 point, double spaced, 15 pages, etc)
- A high stakes mid-term
- A practice quiz
- A robotics competition
Note that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to create passive renewable assignments: The first test is whether the students are creating or revising/remixing (both by nature active modes.)
Open Education’s DOER fellows program hosts an ongoing bibliography of renewable assignment studies. In general, these studies have found that renewable assignments (along with other forms of open education) increase student engagement. So far, few empirical studies have been done directly comparing renewable and non-renewable assignments. However, theories are generally supportive of the idea that increased engagement and increased social impact in renewable assignments will improve student outcomes.