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Open Educational Practice - extended post


Open Educational Practice and Open Educational Resources


I decided early in the unit to unpack the different concepts around Open Educational Practice (OEP) and Open Educational Resources (OER) before I could determine how they might apply to my own practice. It was useful to understand OEP as the removal of ‘unnecessary barriers to learning’ (Butcher, with Kanwar & Uvalić-Trumbić, 2011).

The simple idea of OEP as the removal of barriers and therefore as better pedagogy has stayed with me, and I have become increasingly aware of open and closed activities within my teaching practice.  So, for example, one small consideration of barrier removal led me to think that very simple signposting (ie linking) to online reading (as opposed to offering a traditional reading list) might result in students more readily engaging with recommended texts rather than sourcing inappropriate material of their own from a Google search.  

This helped me to separate out ‘OEP as better pedagogy’ from ‘OER as tools to support this’. And it was useful to understand that OER can refer to a range of activity including ‘lesson plans, quizzes, syllabi, instructional modules, simulations, etc’ (Gurell 2010) with the consideration that they are made ‘freely available for use, reuse, adaptation, and sharing’ (Gurell 2010). That OER might be paper-based is also a useful distinction, but of course, online channels clearly present greater opportunities for ‘openness’.

Once the OEP/OER distinction was clearer, I was less daunted. The high profile examples of online OER have dominated popular discourse to the extent that I felt OEP required the delivery of OpenCourseWare (OCW) like that of MIT or the myriad other institutions who are offering Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) via platforms such as Coursera. It has been refreshing to consider that the  ‘reimagining of education’ may be considered in relation to small interventions in my practice at a time when Friedman (2013) and others have suggested the ‘reimagining’ requires the wholesale introduction of the MOOC. Indeed it has been interesting to consider how the MOOC may not be removing barriers to education in the way it has purported (Christensen and Alcorn, 2014).  

Opportunities for OEP/OER

Proponents of OER are often quite evangelistic in suggesting it provides ‘almost limitless possibilities for collaboration and meaningful partnerships between teachers and learners in co-designing and co-creating learning materials and activities’ (Gurell 2010).

Whilst the opportunities for OER might be limitless in the online sense, the commitment to OEP must surely come first. As colleagues have noted in forum posts and workshop activities, a ‘build them and they will come’ approach may be unsuccessful without first facilitating a human network of interactivity that might enable ‘co-designing and co-creating’ to take place. So I see facilitation as the main contribution I can make in my own practice. Assisting the move towards what Lessig (2008) describes as a ‘thee-regarding’ rather than a ‘me-regarding’ environment (p.151), or what Gauntlett (2011) describes as the ‘Web 2.0 communal allotment’ ( p.6).

Net pioneers often misunderstand the need to facilitate sharing cultures amongst audiences for whom ‘sharing’ is not obvious. Viewing students as ‘digital natives’ (Prensky, 2001) is unhelpful for those students who are perplexed by the use of the sharing tools on offer. Prensky (2012) has subsequently acknowledged this and the ‘visitors and residents’ analogy (White, 2013; 2014) goes some way to assisting. I can see an opportunity therefore for using this latter concept in an exercise with students in moving them towards a better understanding of co-creative open practice.

Barriers to OEP/OER

The IP implications of implementing OER in education have been widely discussed (Atkins et al, 2007; Casey, 2003). My course team has external industry experience of IP and so whilst they may view many of these discussions as education ‘coming of age and joining the rest of the media industry’ (Casey 2003 p2), thought and discussion is still required. The application of Creative Commons licences to OER resources has not been discussed at this level and would require consideration.   

There remain moral rights to consider: for staff in the context of a shift from ‘this course is mine’ to ‘this courseware is for (open) mining’ (Atkins et al 2007 p6); and for students in the context of their learning in a co-created visible space.

The moral leap for staff becomes greater if their content is more widely promoted online. Staff may expect a level of recognition for their contribution to any enhanced University reputation, delivered as a result of the free circulation of their content (the OCW project is credited with improving MIT’s reputation - Abelson, 2008 cited in Gomez et al p.30), especially if they feel that institutional enlightened self-interest is masquerading for philanthropy. This feels like a conversation yet to be had at many institutions if the OER project is to extend beyond Intranets and Extranets.

Students often fear their work being exposed in an open context. I have witnessed student reluctance to assessed course blogging, and also the ‘trolling’ of students as discussed by Parvis et al (2010) who suggest an institutional moral duty of care.

This final consideration may therefore support a half-way house to openness where students become more comfortable in a safer institutionally-open, internet-closed arena such as UAL’s myblogarts, or Moodle. Until students have truly accepted the concept of open ‘co-creation’ (which may build through the course towards year three) I am therefore thinking of situating my own OEP/OER project within the Moodle environment .



Atkins, D., Brown, J.S., & Hammond, A,L. (2007) A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities. Report to The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Butcher, N. with Kanwar,A. & Uvalić-Trumbić, S. eds. (2011) A basic guide to open educational resources (OER). Vancouver: Commonwealth of Learning

Casey, J. (2003) Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in networked e-learning: A beginners guide for content developers. JISCLegal. [Internet] Available from: <> [Accessed 30 April 2014]

Christensen, G. & Alcorn, B. (2014) A lesson in learning. New Scientist, 8 March, p. 24

Coursera (2014) Our mission [Internet] Available from: <> [Accessed 20 April 2014]

Creative Commons (2014) About the licenses. [Internet] Available from: <> [Accessed 27 April 2014]

Friedman, T.L. (2013) Revolution hits the universities. New York Times, 26 January [Internet]. Available from: <> [Accessed 10 April 2014]

Gauntlett, D. (2011) Making is connecting; the social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. Cambridge: Polity

Gomez, S., Callaghan, L., Eick, S., Carson, S., & Andersson, H. (2012) An institutional approach to supporting open education: A case study of OCW at MIT. In Proceedings of OpenCourseWare Consortium Global 2012, Cambridge UK. pp29-37 [Internet] Available from: <> Accessed 30 April 2014]

Gurell, S. (2010) OER handbook for educators 1.0. Wikieducator. [Internet] Available from: <> [Accessed 30 April 2014]

Lessig, L. (2008) Remix; making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy. London: Bloomsbury

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2014) Open Course Ware [Internet] Available from: <> [Accessed 10 March 2014]

Parvis, S., Paterson, J. & Murray, K. (2010).The seminar transformed: use of blogs to enhance face-to-face learning at different levels. Discourse 8(3); The HEA Subject Centre for Philosophical & Religious Studies.

Prensky, M. (2001) Digital natives, digital immigrants – part 1. On the Horizon, 9, 5, 1-6

Prensky, M. (2012) From digital natives to digital wisdom; hopeful essays for 21st century learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin

White, D. (2013) Visitors and residents mapping activity. [Internet] Available from: <> [Accessed 15 April 2014]

White, D. (2014) Visitors and residents. Part 1. Jisc Netskills/University of Oxford. [Internet] Available from: <> [Accessed 13 April 2014]

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