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Open Educational Resources (OER)

A guide defining Open Educational Resources (OER), including information on finding, evaluating, and creating OER, with additional resources for using OER to support Open Pedagogy.


OER is an equity practice; OER helps students struggling with the high cost of education to alleviate some of the economic burdens of academia. Increasing the likelihood of student participation through cost-saving course material is a significant intervention toward equitable education. But there are other methods for saving students money - institutional austerity measures like increased class size or decreased spending on residential life offerings - that do not enhance educational possibilities for students. OER is uniquely able to promote equitable education by reducing student costs while opening pedagogical opportunities to reshape student’s relationships to the coursework, strengthening connections between classroom discussions and lifelong learning outside of the academy.

This form of pedagogy is called Open Pedagogy, and promotes an environment of co-creation with students aided by OER. Rather than employing fully formed textbooks, students and instructors work together to co-create learning materials. The resources below describe Open Pedagogical practices with OER.

What is Open Pedagogy?

Open Pedagogy is broadly defined as promoting a critical, collaborative classroom culture that uses OER as a tool in the proverbial Open Pedagogy toolbox. Rather than relying on textbooks or costly educational resources, Open Pedagogy promotes co-creation of open course materials with students to connect learning objectives in the classroom with student's academic and personal concerns and curiosities. In turn, this allows classroom learning to radiate out into student's lives far beyond the end of the semester. Open Pedagogy practitioner Robin DeRosa notes that foundationally, Open Pedagogy is always "skeptical of endpoints, final products, gatekeepers, and experts," (DeRosa 2015) and instead promotes a dialectic between students and the professor to engage in critical knowledge production. Open Pedagogy is access- and student-driven education that allows students to understand knowledge production by meaningfully engaging in the process of choosing, evaluating, and producing resources that could be shared with a wider public.

Open Pedagogy Resources:

Graph of Eight Properties of Open Pedagogy, including: Participatory Technology, Innovation and Creation, Sharing Ideas and Resources, Reflective Practices, People Openness Trust, Connected Community, Learner Generated, and Peer Review.

Eight Attributes of Open Pedagogy by Bronwyn Hegarty, based on Conole (2013).

How does OER interact with Open Pedagogy?

A thorough discussion of the theoretical underpinnings of Open Pedagogy lies slightly outside of the scope of this guide. Instead, the ensuing sections highlight strategies for using OER as a tool for Open Pedagogy. OER as an Open Pedagogical tool can take many forms including an open textbook, syllabus co-creation with students, editing Wikipedia articles as a class, or even collaborative text annotation with Hypothesis or Slack channels. As the Slack example illustrates, "open" can be interpreted in a few days. For example, opening the text for student editing but not opening course conversations to public critique before students are prepared to share their work. Or, more consistent with the "open" in "open educational resources," of being in the public domain with an open license for reuse, remixing, and redistribution.

Open Pedagogy practitioners DeRosa and Robinson suggest that when implementing OER as a tool in commitment to Open Pedagogy, OER creation centers student production. By co-creating materials with their professors, students not only learn about the work of knowledge production - researching, writing, and peer-review among other steps - but also produce work that is indispensable. While one-off assignments or final papers may be tossed aside after the assignment has been graded, OER co-created in a classroom lives on as a resource for future students and a wider public audience. This guide about co-creating textbooks with students discusses some of the pedagogical considerations, labor concerns, and available resources for open textbook creation provides a more thorough examination of the process of textbook co-creation.

OER and Open Pedagogy as Critical Knowledge Practice

Open Pedagogy respects that students are not blank slates, but enter college having varied educational experiences contingent on institutional experiences and larger systemic forces. Instead, students and teachers are “socially, economically, politically, and emotionally situated in a learning space” (Stommel and Rorabaugh 2012). Students are supported in bringing these identities and perspectives into the course, and see these perspectives and identities reflected in the work they produce throughout the course. This iterative learning process extends beyond the classroom, where outside experiences are refracted through an academic lens that allows for greater exploration past the end of the semester.

Using Open Pedagogy to co-create OER materials becomes a critical lesson on knowledge production and creation. Students learn about the publication process, including how certain materials get chosen for classes and what effect these decisions have on shaping their learning. Open Pedagogy simultaneously opens new critical avenues and literacy skills, including media literacy, while teaching invaluable lessons about the publication process foundational to lifelong learning and civic engagement. By becoming participants in knowledge production, students develop a radical familiarity with course materials, even for more esoteric courses where materials may seem abstract or detached from the student’s current perspective.

Perhaps most crucially, OER co-creation models the collaborative and social nature of learning and knowledge production. While OER allows professors to expand their scholarly networks to other OER creators, creating OER with students builds an understanding of the importance of collaboration in production and review processes. Engaging other forms of social learning seems particularly critical for remote learning environments that provide an additional barrier to social learning.

Kanga textile with Swahili text suggesting that people start a medical clinic. Geometric patterns in fuchsia, black, and white. Image of two people on a bicycle pedaling towards a medical clinic building.

"Jifungulie Kitou Cha Tiba Kwa Uzazi Salama" Kanga textile from Bard College's Textiles that Talk - East African Kangas and Their Meanings public collection on ArtStor.