Intro to Open Pedagogy
What can Open Educational Resources (OER) do for you and your students?Jessica Critten, MA, MLIS | Division for Teaching Innovation and Program Strategy Feb 27, 2023
What is Open Education?
March 6-10 is Open Education Week! This week the global education community celebrates all things Open Education, including specifically Open Educational Resources (OER) as well as open pedagogy. If these are new concepts to you, or if you just want to learn more, read on!
When I first heard about the concept of ‘Open Education’ I admittedly found myself kind of confused. I struggled to find shared definitions of the concept that resonated with me, and worried that it was another shiny passing fad in the higher education landscape. I began my career as a librarian, so my point of reference for the ‘Open’ movement related more to Open Access, which advocates for free, openly accessible research. It’s a set of practices and tools, yes (licenses, agreements, policies), but it’s also an ethos, that information that can benefit people should be shared with them without barriers to access, as opposed to being hidden behind paywalls and available only to those with the privilege of being able to pay for them directly, or through their association with academic libraries or other research organizations.
Like open access, I realized open education is also a set of practices and tools and an ethos. Those practices include the creation and adoption of open educational resources (OER), which are learning materials that are freely available for use, adoption, and adaptation, as well as open educational practices (generally just referred to as ‘open pedagogy’), which often use open content and technologies (often OER) to make education more collaborative, accessible, and equitable. The ethos is fundamentally democratic, that when something is open, more people are invited in; that making something accessible empowers people to participate and grow.
As a set of practices and tools (and an ethos!) open education can help improve and increase access to learning through reducing costs, personalizing and adapting learning experiences, building community, and encouraging innovation and the adoption of immersive, high-impact learning practices. Below, find more information about OER and open pedagogy as a starting point for incorporating ‘open’ into your teaching and learning practice.
Open Educational Resources (OER)
OER include a wide range of (often digital) resources such as textbooks, videos, assignments, quizzes, learning modules, lesson plans, and other educational materials.
Why adopt OER? As we note on our CU Denver OER webpage:
OER will contribute to CU Denver reaching its goal of being an equity-serving university, helping students engage in a participatory culture of learning.
OER materials are a sustainable form of relevant educational materials, updated constantly to meet changing circumstances, dynamic, and completely free to all users.
OER has been shown to foster innovation, reduce costs, and boost student success (CDHE).
OER allows for Redistributive Justice (cost savings and accessibility for students), Recognitive Justice (representation of marginalized communities), & Representational Justice (who gets the privilege of telling the stories of marginalized groups) (Lambert, 2018).
OER helps decolonize faculty’s curriculum and makes sure students can bring their lived experiences and voices into OER (Jasmine Roberts-Crews) and is an important contributor towards UN Sustainable Development Goal 4.
OER gives users permission to retain, revise, reuse, remix, and redistribute (the 5R’s) all OER materials.
Changing a course to incorporate OER can feel like a big, time consuming task. We encourage you to start small: Can you replace a paywalled scholarly article with an open access one? Curate freely available readings from the web? (Being mindful, of course, that not everything on the web is ‘open, so please be mindful of copyright restrictions.) Bring in novels and stories from the public domain? Locate freely available data sets, case studies, or business cases?
Also, you may consider assigning learning materials that students can access through the library. Although these materials may not be fully considered an “OER” as there is cost involved (resources are not free, they are paid for and licensed through university funds and tuition) they present a smaller initial cost to students taking a course.
OER are just one part of the larger conversation about open education. Once you’ve adopted an open resource…what are you going to do with it? How are you going to use it to affect more positive learning experiences for students? Open pedagogy is fundamentally about engaging students and building community by bringing them in to author and critique course content, structure, and policy.
What might this look like in your own classroom? Like with OER, you can start to answer some of these questions in small ways. You don’t have to start with a complete revamp of your course! Maybe try to incorporate one open assignment, or add an open element to an existing assignment. There are so many resources at your disposal to help, no matter if you decide to make a small change, or go all-in with ‘open’. Here are some examples of possible open pedagogical practices to integrate into your courses:
Open resource creation or editing: Have students create their own course texts, summaries, videos, or assignments. They can also edit or annotate existing course materials to personalize their learning, or bring those materials into conversation with larger world events (or other course materials). When appropriate, students can even license their own original works using Creative Commons licenses, which are useful (and frequently used) tools in the open movement. Students can also share these resources on OER curation sites like OER Commons.
Wikipedia edit-a-thons: Researching, editing, and drafting Wikipedia entries is a great way for students to see how their work can have an impact outside of the classroom.
Open blogs: Students can have a shared class blog, or individual blogs where they create resources or responses that are engaged with course content as well as of interest to a general reader. This is another way to bring learning into the world, and emphasize the usefulness of what students are learning in the classroom.
Open research/analysis: Many scholars now participate in open peer review, and open editing to reveal the process of research and editing to the world. Students can use tools like hypothes.is or Persuall for this kind of commentary and engagement. Students may also consider doing an analysis of open data sets that they can use open data visualization tools (like Tableau Public or Datawrapper) to display.
Community Engagement: In your discipline, are there opportunities for students to work with a local organization or community group to address a real-world problem or issue? This could be a semester-long individual project, or something students all work on together.
Create a final course artifact: For individual students, this could be a portfolio of open projects, website, or a blog that tells the story of their journey and growth in the course. A final course artifact could also be something that brings together the work of the entire class, perhaps in a website, wiki, or shared class blog. One of my favorite examples of this was for a public history course where every student researched the history around a family recipe, and all those recipes were added to a cookbook that everyone received at the end of the course.
Like so many other approaches to teaching and learning, open education is not without its own issues or considerations and is not the sole answer to the question about how to improve student engagement. For one, ‘open’ as a value is often put at odds with another equally important value: privacy. Also, even though it has as a central goal to reduce financial barriers to learning, it’s also not without its own costs: it takes time, energy, and (yes!) money to create, find, remix, and integrate open materials. It takes time that we often do not have to re-do syllabi, assignments, quizzes, and videos. It can be more of a commitment to build meaningful courses with this ‘open’ ethos. It’s certainly more difficult to do all of these things on your own.
And so, if you are interested in learning more about open education, OER, and/or open pedagogy, we encourage you to find a community. Open Education Week is a great time to get started exploring online events and resources. CU Denver has a new OER Committee and will be reaching out to the campus soon to work toward building more awareness and engagement with OER moving forward. In the meantime, keep an eye out for opportunities to participate in workshops and communities of practice, attend conferences, or even apply for grants.
If you’d like to find OER to bring into your course, you can reach out to Auraria Library to participate in their OER Consultation service. If you are interested in learning more about open pedagogical practices and how to incorporate them into your courses, you can also sign up for a chat with an instructional designer from TIPS.
Thanks to Ronica Rooks, Dennis DeBay, and Miranda Eggar for writing, compiling, and organizing the section ‘Why adopt OER?’ for the CU Denver OER website.