What is Open Education Practice?

By its nature, there is no one hard and fast definition of open education practice, but broadly speaking, open education practice (OEP) encompasses teaching techniques and academic practices that draw on open technologies, pedagogical approaches and open educational resources (OER) to facilitate collaborative and flexible learning. This may involve both teachers and learners engaging in the co-creation of learning experiences, participating in online peer communities, using, creating and sharing open educational resources (OER), sharing experiences and professional practice, and engaging with open scholarship.

Principles of Open Education

The general principles of open education were outlined in 2008 in the Cape Town Declaration, one of the first initiatives to lay the foundations of the “emerging open education movement” and to advocate for the freedom to use, customize, and redistribute educational resources without constraint.  The Declaration describes open education as follows:

“Open education is not limited to just open educational resources. It also draws upon open technologies that facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing of teaching practices that empower educators to benefit from the best ideas of their colleagues.”

~ Cape Town Open Education Declaration

It calls upon Educators and learners to actively participate in open education by

“creating, using, adapting and improving open educational resources; embracing educational practices built around collaboration, discovery and the creation of knowledge; and inviting peers and colleagues to get involved.”

~ Cape Town Open Education Declaration

These are all activities that we now recognise as being integral to open education practice.

Open Pedagogy

The Cape Town Declaration is still an influential document and it was updated last year on its 10th anniversary as Capetown +10, which identifies ten key directions to move open education forward.  One of these key directions is Open Pedagogy

Although open pedagogy is generally regarded as one of the key components of open education practice, the relationship between open pedagogy, open practice and open educational resources is contested and has been the subject of considerable debate.  Some scholars argue that open pedagogy must be founded on the use of open educational resources:

“Open pedagogy is the set of teaching and learning practices only possible or practical in the context of the 5R permissions (retain, reuse, revise, remix and redistribute). Or, to operationalize, open pedagogy is the set of teaching and learning practices only possible or practical when you are using OER.”

~ How is Open Pedagogy different?, David Wiley

While others take a much broader approach:

“Open pedagogy is an ethos that has two major components:

  • A belief in the potential of openness and sharing to improve learning,
  • A social justice orientation – caring about equity, with openness as one way to achieve this.”

~ What is Open Pedagogy anyway?, Maha Bali

A considerable body of critical scholarship exists on the nature of open education practice and its relationship to open pedagogy, OER and networked participatory scholarship.  Some of the key debates, discussions and writings are linked in Further Reading below.

However these terms are defined, there is general agreement that open educational practice is highly contextual and continually evolving.

While working through these resources, we recommend bearing in mind some of the broader descriptions of open educational practice

“Open educational practices (OEP) is a broad descriptor of practices that include the creation, use, and reuse of open educational resources (OER) as well as open pedagogies and open sharing of teaching practices.”

~ Openness and Praxis: Exploring the Use of Open Educational Practices in Higher Education, Catherine Cronin, International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning

“Open educational practices, seem to encompass all of the following.

  • Production, management, use and reuse of open educational resources.
  • Developing and applying open/public pedagogies in teaching practice.
  • Open learning and gaining access to open learning opportunities.
  • Practising open scholarship, to encompass open access publication, open science and open research.
  • Open sharing of teaching ideas and know-how.
  • Using open technologies (web-based platforms, applications and services) in an educational context.”

~ Open practices: briefing paper, Helen Beetham, Isabel Falconer, Lou McGill, Allison Littlejohn

Further Reading


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[Featured Image: –open–, Jeremy Brooks, CC BY-NC, flickr]