Open Education FAQ (July 2020)

What is open education?

Open education (OE) is an approach to education that aims to remove barriers to learning by engaging in open educational practices (OEP) in class and through the development and use of open educational resources (OER).

What are open educational practices?

Open educational practices (OEP), also known as open pedagogy, are teaching and learning practices where openness is enacted within all aspects of instructional practice, including the design of learning outcomes, the selection of teaching resources, and the planning of activities and assessment. Leveraging networked technologies, OEP engages faculty and students in collaborative knowledge creation while empowering students to be full participants and partners in learning communities.

What are open educational resources?

Open educational resources (OER) are free to use and openly licensed teaching and learning materials which can include textbooks, course reading lists, assignments, case studies, lectures and other forms of learning materials that have been produced by experts and educators in the field. Educational resources can also include scholarly outputs that are in the public domain and therefore also free to use as part of a course. As stated by leading open education proponent David Wiley, “‘open content’ describes a copyrightable work that is licensed in a way that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities which are retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute.”

What is the difference between ‘free’ and ‘open’ resources?

Libraries provide access to resources free of charge to faculty, students, and staff of their institutions; however free-to-access is different than licensed to use in open environments, or  to adapt and remix for education use. From SPARC’s FAQ on Open Educational Resources: “Open educational resources are and always will be free, but not all free resources are OER. Free resources may be temporarily free or may be restricted from use at some time in the future (including by the addition of fees to access those resources). Moreover, free-­but-­not-­open resources may not be modified, adapted or redistributed without obtaining special permission from the copyright holder.”

To what degree is open education being supported in Canada?

Open education is happening to some degree in all provinces in Canada. A number of provinces and some individual institutions have demonstrated support for open education by funding the creation, adaptation, and reviewing of OER. Academic libraries have been active in the promotion of open education, while student groups have been the strongest advocates for OER. The two strongest provinces in terms of supporting open education currently are British Columbia and Ontario, with their BCcampus and eCampusOntario digital learning initiatives respectively. Open education takeup has recently shown significant growth in Québec as a result of the province’s Digital Action Plan for Education, which includes the initiative la fabrique REL, a collaboration between Université de Montréal, Université de Sherbrooke, and Université Laval. In Canada’s eastern provinces, the Council of Atlantic University Libraries (CAUL-CBUA) has contributed funds to launch a Pressbooks instance and has offered grants to support OER production through AtlanticOER. A full report of open education services and support initiatives in Canada was completed by the CARL Open Education Working Group in 2020. A webinar was also offered to present the findings of the report.

How is open education important to educators and students?

Open education practices give educators the opportunity to rethink their instruction practice to focus on students as partners in the knowledge creation process. Open education gives students the opportunity to authentically engage in the creation of knowledge that is then shared openly adding value to the world.

Open educational resources give educators the flexibility to adapt already existing resources for the specific needs. This ensures the resources are up-to-date and reflect the learning of objectives of a particular class.  Open educational resources similarly benefit students by ensuring the content is developed with their specific needs in mind and that cost is not a barrier to accessing high-quality resources for their course.

How are libraries engaging in open education?

Academic libraries are key stakeholders in open education in a number of ways, and faculty are increasingly recognizing their expertise and resources. Academic libraries are:

  • Collaborating with faculty in finding open educational resource content for use in their courses.
  • Applying their expertise in copyright, open copyright licenses, and intellectual property toward the acts of creation and adaptation or remixing. For open pedagogy courses, students not only need to understand copyright and intellectual property but also how to use tools for content creation (e.g. Pressbooks, H5P).
  • Engaging in education and training of faculty and students in the elements needed to be successful in their open education practices.
  • Hosting the tools needed for open educational resources publishing (e.g. open journal systems, open monograph systems).

Providing expertise in discoverability and sharing of open education resources, including consulting on resource release plans that often include library support for metadata, archiving, and communication.