What is Open Education?
Open Education encompasses resources, tools and practices that employ a framework of open sharing to improve educational access and effectiveness. By combining the traditions of knowledge sharing and creation with 21st century technology, Open Education wants to create a vast pool of openly shared educational resources, while harnessing today’s collaborative spirit to develop educational approaches that are more responsive to learners’ needs. Open Education seeks to scale up educational opportunities by taking advantage of the power of the internet, allowing rapid and essentially free dissemination, and enabling people around the world to access knowledge, connect and collaborate. Open allows not just access, but the freedom to modify and use materials, information and networks so education can be personalized to individual users or woven together in new ways for diverse audiences, large and small.
The Transformative Potential of Open Education
March 7 – 11 is Open Education Week! Open Education and Open Educational Resources (OER) reduce barriers in the pursuit of knowledge. Through Open Education, people can connect with others they wouldn’t otherwise meet to share ideas and information. Materials can be translated, mixed together, broken apart and openly shared again, increasing access and inviting fresh approaches. If we look at open educational content, we can see that its transformative educational potential revolves around two linked possibilities:
- Increased availability of high quality, relevant learning materials can contribute to more productive students and educators. Removing restrictions around copying resources can reduce the cost of accessing educational materials; in many systems, royalty payments for textbooks and other educational materials constitute a significant proportion of the overall cost of education.
- Having the possibility of adapting existing of materials provides one mechanism for constructing roles for students as active participants in educational processes, who learn by doing and creating, not by passively reading and absorbing. Content licenses that encourage activity and creation by students through re-use and adaptation of that content can make a significant contribution to creating more effective learning environments.
Impact of Open Education on Different Stakeholders
The benefits for each of those involved in using Open Education approaches – the learners, the organization and the educators can be identified.
Learners can benefit from:
- Applying knowledge in a wider context than their course would otherwise allow
- Freedom of access and enhanced opportunities for learning
- Support for learner-centred, self-directed and social/informal learning approaches
- The opportunity to test out course materials before enrolling
Educators can benefit from:
- Student/user feedback and open peer review
- Reputational benefits, recognition
- Benefits (efficiency and cultural) of collaborative approaches to teaching/learning
- Reaching a wider range of learners
Educational institutions can benefit from:
- Recognition and enhanced reputation
- Wider availability of their academic content (linking to widening participation agenda)
- Efficiencies in content production
- Increased sharing of ideas and practice within the institution
What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?
OER are “digitized materials offered freely and openly for educators, students, and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning, and research” (cited from OECD). OER can include full university courses, open textbooks, interactive mini-lessons and simulations, or K-12 Lesson Plans, worksheets, and activities.
Where can OER be found?
There are many organizations and repositories where OER may be found. In Canada, BC Campus and ECampus Ontario are leading the way in the production and dissemination of Open Educational Resources. Locally, Open Education Alberta is gaining momentum in the province as well, providing the publishing software Pressbooks for authors interested in producing OER. Medicine Hat College has produced two OER since joining this collective in 2021, with three more currently in production. Some other organizations that foster the creation and use of OER are:
Textbook Costs are Rising
- According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 in 10 students didn’t purchase a textbook because it was too expensive.
- One in five college students has skipped or deferred a class due to the price of the required learning resources.
- The cost of textbooks is rising at a rate of 4 times inflation.
- 60% of students have delayed purchasing textbooks until they’ve received their financial aid.
- Researchers at Virginia State University found that students in courses that used OER more frequently had better grades and lower failure and withdrawal rates than their counterparts in courses that did not use OER.
OpenMed.eu. (n.d.). The benefits and impact of open education. https://course.openmedproject.eu/lesson-1-2-the-benefits-and-impact-of-open-education/
PennState. (2022). OER and low cost materials at PennState. https://oer.psu.edu/about-oer/