Students construct knowledge by critically analysing information from various sources and formats, including data. Being capable of analysing and interpreting raw data is increasingly important and can be seen as key to the development of transversal skills, which are defined by UNESCO as “critical and innovative thinking, inter-personal skills; intra-personal skills, and global citizenship”.
If one of our goals as educators is to develop these transversal skills in students, towards enabling them to function as citizens, to actively participate in the discourse and debates of society, then we propose that Open Data can play a key role. Open Data is produced and used at various levels in research, governance, policy making and civil society. In educational and academic contexts, Open Data can be understood and used as an Open Educational Resource (OER) to help support the engagement of students and researchers in analysing and collaborating towards finding solutions for contemporary real-world problems, chiefly by embedding Open Data and Open Science principles in research-based, scenario-led activities. In this way, students can experience working with the same raw materials scientists and policy-makers use.
We will report on a series of case studies of the use of Open Data as OER with a particular focus on good practices identified by these educators. We can suggest educators embracing Open Data in the classroom must consider the following elements:
• Focus: define the research problem and its relation to the environment students.
• Practicality: match technical applications and practices to expected solutions.
• Expectations: set realistic expectations for data analysis.
• Directions: support in finding data portals which contain appropriate information.
• Training: provide training materials for the software students will need to analyse the data.
• Location: use global, local and scientific data which is as granular as possible.
• Modelling: develop model solutions to guide students on the challenges and activities.
• Collaboration: support students to work collaboratively and at multidisciplinary level.
• Communication: support students in communicating their findings to local or wider communities.
While there is already a degree of consensus in the academic and political levels on the value of Open Data for researchers, it is necessary to establish educational models and good practice in the use of Open Data as OER, and therefore enable students to become critical and engaged citizens.