Every summer term I offer the master-level elective module “Current Issues in Theory and Practice of Organizations”. Last year I focused on “Open Organizations and Organizing Openness” with a wiki-based flipped-classroom approach (check out the open access course wiki). In 2020, however, there is no issue more current than the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As result, I teamed up with Elke Schüßler (University of Linz) to design a collaborative open course on “Organizing in Times of Crisis: The Case of Covid-19”. From the course description:
The worldwide spread of the Covid19 virus poses a grand social challenge. Seriously threatening the health of the world’s population and accompanied by huge social and economic disruption, it is one of the largest immediate crises for Western societies since World War II and a humanitarian disaster for humankind around the world. Drawing on classic and contemporary organization theory, this course aims to illuminate many pressing questions surrounding the pandemic, such as how supply chains can be organized to ensure adequate supplies of health material, the strengths and difficulties of open science approaches to the development of a vaccine or capabilities of different forms of organization and coordination to quickly and adequately respond in times of crisis.
Digitalization is affecting not just private sector businesses but also the public sector. At the same time, the whole notion of “public” is changing in the course of ongoing digital transformations. By referring to the “Public Sphere”, this course seeks to capture both these dynamics. Consequently, the course comprises two main parts. The first part focuses on the digital transformation of public sector institutions such as public administrations, public service providers and public utilities. The second part addresses the public more broadly and looks at new forms of platform-based publics as well as provision of public goods with private means.
Didactically this is the first course that I designed following a point-counterpoint format: in each session two students will open with talks representing oppositional viewpoints on the subject before we enter into a joint plenary discussion of the readings.
When presenting in class, students in my courses are required to include at least one “interactive part” involving their fellow class mates. The main goal of this rule is to foster experience-based learning and to make student presentations more varied. How the students involve their colleagues is entirely up to them; collateral benefit of this openness is that I profit immensely from the creativity and diversity of ideas and techniques put forward by the students.
Over the course of the past semester, for instance, I not only saw but experienced various tools for digital interactivity – some of which were really helpful in raising attention levels and understanding. Please find below a selection of three such digital tools, all of which are browser-based and work on laptops, tablets and smartphones alike:
The overall rationale for the structure of the course follows the imperative formulated by Tkacz (2012: 404, PDF) in his “critique of open politics”:
To describe the political organisation of all things open requires leaving the rhetoric of open behind.
As a consequence, the lecture part of the course is organized around different aspects or dimensions of organizational openness such as boundaries, transparency, participation or emergence. The respective readings only peripherally address the issue of openness but rather shall provide the building blocks for arriving at a more precise and theoretically grounded understanding of openness.