1.1 What is Open Education?

"Open education" is a phrase that encompasses a number of different activities in education and, depending on who you speak to, can mean different things to different people. One useful definition of open education comes from UBC, which define open education as a "collection of practices that utilize online technology to freely share knowledge. "

Under the umbrella of open education, there are a number of specific ways in which this sharing of knowledge happens in higher education. These practices can include:

  • Publishing research in open journals (open access publishing)
  • Releasing data to be reused by others (open data)
  • Using, sharing and collaboratively creating software and computer code (open source software)
  • Flexible admission policies to institutions or courses (open admissions or open registration)
  • Student assignments that promote student publishing or participating on the open web (open teaching or open pedagogy)
  • Sharing of teaching and research practices (open scholarship)
  • Sharing and reuse of teaching and learning materials (open educational resources) including courses (open courseware) and textbooks (open textbooks)

While this is not an exhaustive list, it should give you an idea of the types of activities that the phrase open education encompasses.

Why Open?

While the above definition and list should give you an overview of the type of practices that open education encompass, it doesn't answer the questions "Why Open?" and "Why do educators choose to take on these activities and call themselves open educators?".

To help answer the question Why Open?, please watch this TedX Talk from Dr. David Wiley (14:55) and read the article Openness in Education by David Wiley and Cable Green (pdf).

Discussion Prompts

  • What does open education mean to you? Are there activities in the list that are part of your regular educational practice? What are they and why do you participate in them? What value do they bring to your educational practice?
  • What roles do you think digital technologies and the internet have played in making open education possible? Are there types of open educational activities that are dependent on digital technologies and the internet?
  • Thinking of your own teaching practice, have you ever revised learning content to make it better suited for your course? Why did you revise it? Did you have to get permission before you revised it?


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