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Making Open Learning Come Alive: Takaya Yamazato of Nagoya University Talks About Engaging Students in OpenCourseWare

Jun 20, 2011

Dr. Takaya Yamazato is a professor at Japan's Nagoya University, where he also heads the OpenCourseWare (OCW) team. The Education Insider caught up with him after the 2011 OCW Consortium conference to learn more about Nagoya's unique approach to putting course materials on the Web.

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By Megan Driscoll

Dr. Takaya Yamazato

Dr. Takaya Yamazato received a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Japan's Keio University. His main research areas as an engineer include wireless communications and visible light communications. He brought this expertise to bear at Nagoya University, where he started working in e-learning in the Center for Information Studies in 1998. Six years later, he helped launch the Nagoya University OCW program. Today, Dr. Yamazato teaches in Nagoya University's Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences while also helping other instructors develop teaching materials for the university's OCW and OER projects.

Q. You recently attended the OpenCourseWare Consortium's conference as a representative of Nagoya. What is your personal philosophy regarding open education?

A. The philosophy of OCW, to make teaching materials freely available to everyone via the Internet, is great. Everyone agrees to do that. But the issue is who makes or compiles all teaching materials. Some of them are not designed to publish through the Web. They are designed to enhance teaching and learning, but just putting them online may be useless.

Say you click and see just a broken dirty toy as a teaching material. You may be disappointed. But in class, the lecturer uses the toy very meaningfully to catch students' attention. The toy was from the Tohoku region just after the tsunami disaster, and the lecturer uses the story of how he got the toy to engage his students.

My philosophy is that teaching materials may be nothing if their stories aren't compiled with them. This is why we add teaching tips to our OCW site. By providing these tips, students can see some interesting tricks that instructors use to make a lecture more interesting.

Q. Nagoya is currently a member of the Japan OpenCourseWare Consortium. Do you feel that this spring's conference will help Nagoya and other members of the JOCW strengthen your own OCW programs?

A. Yes. I learned good practices from other universities, and hope to adopt some of those unique ideas to improve our OCW site.

Q. What percentage of Nagoya's courses are currently available on your OCW site and how many are offered in English as well as Japanese? What are your most popular OCW courses?

A. As of May 1, 2011, we have published 211 Japanese courses and 61 English courses that are translated from the Japanese courses. So far, 17% of faculty members published their course materials though our OCW sites. This means that we have so far published four percent of the whole university's courses, which number about 5,000.

The most popular course is 'Board games, A to Z.' The objective of the course is to acquire basic knowledge and skills for research, reasoning, negotiation and expression through foreign board games. The lecturer, Prof. Takaya Arita, wrote in the teaching tips that 'playing these games involve so many activities regarding literacy, such as understanding the rules, explaining the rules to others, discussing strategy through playing the game and understanding foreign culture.' The course benefits from the positive impact of using a game in a class, adding to students' enjoyment and a positive learning environment.

Q. In addition to OpenCourseWare, what other types of open educational resources (OER) does Nagoya currently offer? What are Nagoya's future plans for developing your OER?

A. The Center for the Studies of Higher Education offers interesting materials for teachers and students. For teachers, they offer Teaching Tips and Seven Suggestions for Teaching and Learning at Nagoya University.

For students, they offer Study Tips.

You can also view a collection of research article, presentation materials and teaching materials on the Nagoya Repository.

Q. Nagoya currently offers the Global 30, one of Japan's few programs designed for international students. What types of degree programs are available for Global 30 students and how do they fit into the university as a whole?

A. Interested students can visit the Global 30 website to find out more about the program.

For feature articles and research highlights covering some of the latest research activities and achievements of the six Nagoya University Global Center of Excellence (GCOE) programs, please visit Nagoya University Research.

Q. Do you feel that offering more OCW and OER will help extend your international reach? What other benefits do you think participating in open education has had and will have for Nagoya?

A. Yes, offering more OCW and OER will help extend our international reach.

Lecturers learn from other instructors' open educational materials, and some course content inspires other courses. It also allows us to see a greater variety of materials and ways of teaching. These are great in terms of improving the teaching and learning at Nagoya.

Q. Finally, I'd like to offer you the opportunity to share anything you'd like about Nagoya University and your work in open education.

A. Another unique item that's offered on the Nagoya University OCW site are the one-minute class introductions. These video summaries provide short introductions to each class by an instructor. Students can see how he or she explains their classes in his or her own words. Together with the teaching tips, these items present the instructor's thoughts and insights on teaching the course, which is a testament to his or her dedication. We believe that they are useful not only to students but also to other lecturers.

Please visit the Nagoya University OCW site to find out more.

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