Embracing Open Pedagogy

If a central gift that OER brings to students is making college more affordable, one of the central gifts that it brings to faculty is agency. OER can help us rethink our pedagogies in ways that center on access. We can ask broader questions that go beyond “How can I lower the cost of textbooks in this course?”

There are many ways to begin a discussion of “Open Pedagogy.” Although providing a framing definition might be the obvious place to start, we want to resist that for just a moment to ask a set of related questions:

  • What are your hopes for education, particularly for higher education?
  • What vision do you work toward when you design your daily professional practices in and out of the classroom?
  • How do you see the roles of the learner and the teacher?
  • What challenges do your students face in their learning environments, and how does your pedagogy address them?

This recording from February 2019 was the kick-off of the Open Pedagogy Webinar series, co-hosted by the SUNY Center for Professional Development and the Open Education Consortium. It features a lively conversation between Robin DeRosa and Rajiv Jhangiani, two prominent advocates for OER and Open Pedagogy.


Revising Your Pedagogy as Learner-Centered

When faculty use OER, we aren’t just saving a student money on textbooks: we are directly impacting that student’s ability to enroll in, persist through, and successfully complete a course. In other words, we are directly impacting that student’s ability to attend, succeed in, and graduate from college.

When we talk about OER, we bring two things into focus: that access is critically important to conversations about academic success, and that faculty and other instructional staff can play a critical role in the process of making learning accessible.

Using OER the same way we used commercial textbooks, however, misses the point. It’s like driving an airplane down the road. Yes, the airplane has wheels and is capable of driving down on the road (provided the road is wide enough). But the point of an airplane is to fly at hundreds of miles per hour – not to drive. Driving an airplane around, simply because driving is how we always traveled in the past, squanders the huge potential of the airplane.

So what sets OER apart from commercial textbooks and other commercial resources? OER are free to access, free to reuse, free to revise, free to remix, and free to distribute.

The question becomes, then, what is the relationship between these additional capabilities and what we know about effective teaching and learning? How can we extend, revise, and remix our pedagogy based on these additional capabilities?

The Disposable Assignment

The notion of the “disposable assignment” comes from David Wiley, Chief Academic Officer Lumen Learning. Wiley refers to these as assignments that students complain about doing and faculty complain about grading. A student may spend three hours creating it, a teacher spends 30 minutes grading it, and as soon as the project is handed back, the student throws it away.

Open Pedagogy considers a more renewable approach – embracing assignments and activities where students create materials that are shared with their peers, and other students taking the same class at your institution or around the world! This learner-generated content can enhance student engagement, and, as Wiley puts it, “make the world a better place.”

An Approach of Open Pedagogy

We can think about Open Pedagogy as an access-oriented commitment to learner-driven education AND as a process of shaping our teaching approaches and using tools for learning that enable students to contribute by creating and sharing learning content.

Examples of Open Pedagogy in Practice

  • Students create tutorial videos for a particular topic or assignment. These tutorial videos could cover a wide range of topics such as teaching specific skills, summarizing key concepts, providing worked examples, or creating connections to student lives.
  • Students create written or video-based presentations that summarize key aspects of the storyline, character, interpretation, symbolism, etc. These summaries could be both used by and improved upon by future generations of learners.
  • Students create worked examples that provide other students with step-by-step templates of how to do problems, specifically in topics that have proven troublesome to students in past semesters. These are particularly popular in math courses.
  • Students explain how principles studied in class are exemplified in popular media like movies, television, music, or books.
  • Students create games to be played by future generations of learners to help them prepare for, or deepen their learning on, specific topics.
  • Students create guides to direct other students through readings or lectures.

The exciting aspect of renewable assignments is that, once they’re shared online, they can reach a wide audience of users who might benefit from them. Students recognize this expansive potential audience, and are inspired to work to anticipate the needs of this audience in ways they might not otherwise for a typical class project. They also will potentially emerge from the class with a published work bearing their name, which can be added to a résumé or portfolio.

Students working together to create OER

You can also build OER with your students. Though students may be beginners with most of the content in your course, they are often more adept than you at understanding what beginning students need in order to understand the material. Asking students to help reframe and re-present course content in new and inventive ways can add valuable OER to the commons while also allowing for the work that students do in courses to go on to have meaningful impact once the course ends.

Ask critical questions about “open.” When you develop new pathways based on Open Pedagogy, pay special attention to the barriers, challenges, and problems that emerge. Be explicit about them, honest about them, and share them widely with others working in Open Education so that we can work together to make improvements.

More to Explore

April Open Perspective: What is Open Pedagogy?
This post, part of the Open Pedagogy Notebook, shares perspectives from educators around the world on Open Pedagogy. The Notebook is designed to serve as a resource for educators interested in learning and sharing about Open Pedagogy.

OER-Enabled Pedagogy
The resources shared here by the Open Education Group provide guidance and examples of how to integrate Open Pedagogy into assignments and learning activities.

Open Pedagogy: Examples of Class Activities
In this blog post, Christina Hendricks shares examples of Open Pedagogy, as well as the value she has found in embracing Open Pedagogy.

Open Educational Resources: Open Pedagogy Examples
This guide from Austin Community College includes examples of open pedagogy assessments, a folder of additional examples, and tools for teaching attributions and open licensing.

Write on this Course: Perspectives on Open Pedagogy

Hypothesis logoOpen Pedagogy considers a renewable approach – embracing assignments and activities where students create materials that are shared with their peers, and other students around the world.

Consider the benefits of open pedagogy as you frame your responses to these questions:

    • What examples of open pedagogy have you seen in practice?
  • How do you envision further involving students in their own learning through the practice of open pedagogy?

You can use Hypothesis to add your answers as public annotations to this page. Comments are welcome anywhere on the page. Please use the tag #SUNYOERChat in your posts.

“Hypothes.is_logo.jpg” by Hypothes.is is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.


This content is adapted from the following works:

“What is Open Pedagogy?” by David Wiley, licensed under CC BY 4.0
“OER-Enabled Pedagogy, Examples from the Real World”by the Open Education Group, licensed under CC BY 4.0
“Open Pedagogy and Social Justice” by Rajiv Jhangiani and Robin DeRosa, Digital Pedagogy Lab, licensed under CC BY 4.0


Creative Commons CC BY License ImageUnless otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.