H5P as homework system

3 min read

I left this as a comment over on JR Dingwell’s blog as a response to his post Textbooks, The Printing Press, The Internet, and OER Revisited but thought I would include it here as it reflects some of my thinking around one potential path I’d like to explore as part of the Open Homework System(s) project. You can read the entire post, but here’s a brief summary of the key points of his post that prompted my comment.

In his post, JR makes a number of very good points, including his desire to see the work happening in the open education space around homework systems as way to take better advantage of the pedagogical affordances of the internet, and provide something more than randomly generated “drill n’ kill” question sets. 

No pressure 🙂

But JR does provide some examples of work he has done on feedback loop type activities, including work he has done using H5P, which reflects some of my recent thinking around the OHS project. Here is my comment.

While I do see the value in having systems that randomly generated question & answer sets for disciplines that utilize practice heavily (like math and some other STEM areas where open source tools like WeBWorK are heavily utilized already), it’s tools like H5P and the close alignment of H5P interactions with content within an open textbook that get me quite excited.

Specifically, I’d like to see an extension to some of the Pressbooks-enabled open textbooks we (BCcampus) have created as part of the open textbook project, and am looking in our collection for some potential candidates to enhance with (human) developed H5P interactivity pieces. As you point out, I think that having these kind of closely aligned learning activities designed and developed specifically to support the content in the open textbook are useful ways in which we can both improve learning using the open textbook, and extend the adoptability of those textbooks. And, if we collaboratively create questions and activities with instructors using some sprint methods, a great way to build some digital skills capacity within our system among instructors while making stronger learning resources.

While I agree that this kind of development is not necessarily something that pushes the boundaries of open pedagogy and leverages new pedagogical potentials of the internet, it does slowly build out networked infrastructures and capabilities across the system. And I do see these types of H5P learning interactions as discrete shareable open learning objects (for lack of a better term). H5P does allow the sharing and embedding of learning interactions which is an affordance that the internet does make easier.

So, while not perhaps pushing the boundaries of internet-enabled pedagogies, I do see H5P as an important next step in the evolution of open textbooks to something closer to what our original vision was of open textbooks back in 2012 when I started working on the OTB project at BCcampus – a truly interactive learning experience for students.

One Comment

dingwalljr August 26, 2019

Thanks for the comment over on my site Clint, and for sharing your thoughts here too. I’ve been a big fan of H5P since I was introduced to it (through a webinar BC Campus hosted if I recall), and have worked to promote it for use in a lot of different contexts. In addition to the calculations example I mentioned in my post, we’ve also used a number of other content types here. A few that come to mind were the documentation tool for a journaling activity, interactive videos for knowledge checks with geology videos (which after the purchase of zaption a number of instructors were happy to see), drag and drop for organizing information, to timelines (check out this drama example https://sites.usask.ca/dram108/module-3-evolution-of-western-theatre/western-theatre-from-the-greeks-to-21st-century/) and so much more.

Another neat thing I’ve seen starting to happen with Pressbooks and H5P is newly adopted books replacing the static end of chapter questions with H5P interactions. I was thrilled to learn about an adoption of an opentextbook I worked on (http://www.procomoer.org/) which was developed in GDocs, that ported the materials to Pressbooks (https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/profcommsontario/). When my team created the book we debated about how to make interactive knowledge checks and left them static because we couldn’t find a tool that would work for us (didn’t know about H5P at the time). It’s awesome seeing the work move forward and include elements our team hoped would be there eventually.

One thing I appreciate quite a bit about H5P is that it’s platform agnostic (well in a way I guess). The fact that it can be used as a plug-in in three other platforms, in addition to H5P’s own platform has made this tool so much more usable. Transporting content items from place to place has been so easy too, which is where I see it enabling principles of OER. “Retain” can be an issue with so many online platforms, and what we realized one semester was how important hosting your own H5P really could be. The main H5P site had service disruption one fall and our activities all still worked because they were on our own WP instances. Huge sigh of relief.

I think H5P also hits on an important area for OER and Open Pedagogy developments because it has a robust set of tools with a low barrier for entry, but the ceiling isn’t capped thanks to the source being open. For example, the accordion tool didn’t have all of the rich text editor elements I needed for a whole bunch of activities. After crawling the forums I discovered that with a customized WordPress plug-in one could add these features. I don’t know anything about creating WordPress plug-ins, but managed through the help on the forums to create my own and implement the custom changes needed for our activities. Someone who has actual programming ability could do so much more with it. I think through adaptations and creative additions to the H5P framework it could go to even more interesting places.

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