16 Open Pedagogy and Practices

Openness in education brings potential for co-creation and learning through active participation in how knowledge is produced.[1]

Learning Outcomes

  • Explain how copyright restricts pedagogy
  • Learn the differences between open pedagogy, open practices, and OER-enabled pedagogy and describe how open licensing enables each
  • List examples of open pedagogy in practice

Why It Matters

Do you remember when smartphones were first released? They were full of infinite possibilities compared to earlier phones. Before smartphones, we could only call and text. After smartphones, we now take videos and pictures, play movies and music, surf the web and read email, and call and text. Some long-time users of older phones had difficulty taking advantage of all the capabilities offered by new phones. They were too accustomed to the limitations of older phones. In some cases, these users only called and texted on their smartphones. (Maybe you know someone like this!)

Many educators have a similar problem with OER. They’ve used education materials published under restrictive licenses for so long that they struggle to take advantage of the new pedagogical capabilities offered by OER. Open pedagogy, open practices, and OER-enabled pedagogy are all about the teaching and learning practice and tools that empower teachers and learners to create and share knowledge openly and learn deeply.

Three Definitions

The open education movement is still discussing and debating what it means to think about teaching and learning practices in a more inclusive, diverse, and open manner. At least three major definitions have emerged from this discussion.

Term and Source


Open Education Practices (from Cronin and MacLaren’s 2018 Open Edu Global presentation) Use, reuse, and creation of OER and collaborative, pedagogical practices employing social and participatory technologies for interaction, peer-learning, knowledge creation and sharing, and empowerment of learners
Open Pedagogy (from DeRosa & Jhangiani’s chapter in the 2017 Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students): An access-oriented commitment to learner-driven education and a process of designing architectures and using tools for learning that enable learners to shape the public knowledge commons of which they are a part

More at http://openpedagogy.org/open-pedagogy

OER-enabled Pedagogy: (from Wiley, 2017 blog post) The set of teaching and learning practices only possible or practical when you have permission to engage in the 5R activities.

Personal Reflection: Why it Matters to You

If you’ve used OER in the past, have you taken advantage of the permissions offered by their open licenses, or did you use OER just like you used your previous, traditionally copyrighted materials? In other words, did you do anything with the OER that was impossible to do with traditionally copyrighted materials? Why or why not?

Acquiring Essential Knowledge

It’s well established that people learn through activity. It’s equally well established that copyright restricts people from engaging in a range of activities. When juxtaposed like this, it becomes clear that copyright restricts pedagogy by contracting the universe of things learners and teachers can do with education materials. If there are things learners aren’t allowed to do, there are ways learners aren’t allowed to learn. If there are things teachers aren’t allowed to do, there are ways teachers aren’t allowed to teach.

You can learn about how this restriction on what teachers and learners can do impacts teaching and learning by reading this blog post about driving airplanes on roads.

Fly away in a Robinson r22 beta by Archangel12 / CC BY 2.0

OER-enabled pedagogy is the set of teaching and learning practices that are only possible or practical in the context of the 5R permissions that come with OER. OER-enabled pedagogy describes all the new ways that Creative Commons licenses allow learners to learn and all the new ways they allow teachers to teach.

Disposable and Renewable Assignments

Do you remember doing homework for school that felt utterly pointless? A “disposable assignment” is an assignment that supports an individual student’s learning but adds no other value to the world. The student spends hours working on it, the teacher spends time grading it, and the student gets it back and then recycles it. While disposable assignments may promote learning by an individual student, these assignments can be demoralizing for people who want to feel like their work matters beyond the immediate moment.

OER-enabled pedagogy can be used to create “renewable assignments” — assignments that both support individual student learning and add value to the broader world. With renewable assignments, learners are asked to create and openly license valuable artifacts that, in addition to supporting their own learning, will be useful to other learners both inside and outside the classroom. For example, classic renewable assignments include collaborating with learners to write new case studies for textbooks, create “explainer” videos, and modify learning materials to speak more directly to learners’ local cultures and needs.

Explore examples of OER-enabled pedagogy in action, including David Wiley and Robin DeRosa’s examples of learners adapting existing materials to create new textbooks. In both of these cases, teachers had learners create their own textbooks, which then had Creative Commons licenses applied to them. Other examples of OER-enabled pedagogy in action include Murray and Azzam’s assignments that had learners significantly improve articles on Wikipedia. When they completed these assignments, learners created open artifacts useful to both in supporting their own learning and the learning of other learners and educators. These examples of OER-enabled pedagogy have learners creating assignments that allow them to interact with the greater community and ensure that the assignments are renewable, not disposable artifacts.

A couple of other interesting examples of renewable assignments are a remixed explainer video that a student made about blogs vs. wikis, and the DS106 assignment bank, which is a hub for student created, CC-licensed content. Additional examples of open pedagogy are available on the Open Pedagogy website.

Final remarks

If you use your smartphone the same way you used a flip phone, getting a new phone served little point. Likewise, when we use OER to support learning in exactly the same ways we used old all rights reserved materials, we may save learners money but miss out on the transformative power of open. As you prepare to use OER in your teaching, think about new things that are possible in the context of permission to engage in the 5R activities.


  1. This chapter is adapted from The Creative Commons' CC Certificate Resources, Chapter 5: Creative Commons For Educators, published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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Getting Started with Open Educational Resources Copyright © 2019 by Mahrya Burnett, Jenay Solomon, Heather Healy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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