Open education and open pedagogy

29 March 2023

This week’s tip will give our Lincoln community a brief primer into open education: what it is, why it’s important, and how it can be incorporated into your teaching.

Earlier this month, education institutions the world over celebrated Open Education Week.

What is Open Education?

Open education is an umbrella term to cover a few specific types of “openness.” Most pertinent to tertiary education are open educational resources (OER) and open pedagogy. OER are freely accessible, openly licensed learning materials that can be used, adapted, and shared by educators and learners worldwide. Openly licensed resources can be in the form of textbooks (not to be confused with eBooks), journal articles, videos, and more. A common place to search for open textbooks is the Open Textbook Library.

Open pedagogy is the teaching practice of using the open licensing of those resources to teach in new and innovative ways. When your teaching material is openly licensed, you can copy it, remix it, make derivates of it, and more. A central tenant of open pedagogy is student-generated content. Here’s a common example of an open pedagogy project: instead of assigning students an essay to write, they edit or rewrite a chapter or section of the course textbook, which they are legally able to do because of the open licensing. This then becomes a tangible artifact of their learning that lives beyond their time in your classroom or uni as a whole.

Why is Open Education Important?

Textbook prices have greatly outpaced the rate of inflation over the past decade. Even when textbooks are marked as required by examiners, students often choose to forgo buying the book because they do not see the value for the cost. OER eliminates this barrier to learning. OER ensures that all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, have access to the learning material from day 1 of classes. Open education is about access.

It is also about teaching and learning in new ways, as highlighted by the open pedagogy example above. Here’s a series of (hopefully) uncontroversial statements that we can all agree with – the progression of which can help highlight the value of open pedagogy:

  1. We learn by doing
  2. Copyright limits what we can do (making copies, creating derivative works, etc.)
  3. If students learn by doing, and copyright limits what we can do, then copyright limits learning
  4. Open licensing maintains copyright but establishes permissions of what you can do
  5. OER enables new ways to engage and learn

How Can I Participate in Open Education?

There are many ways!

  1. Consider adopting an open textbook for your course.
  2. Consider creating an open textbook.
  3. Revise assessments to reflect open pedagogy practices. The Open Pedagogy Notebook can provide examples.
  4. Attend our workshop on open education on 4 April.