Open educational practices

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Open educational practices (OEP) is the use of Open educational Resources for teaching and learning in order to innovate the learning process (Ehlers 2010). They are represented in teaching techniques that draw upon open technologies and high-quality open educational resources (OER) in order to facilitate collaborative and flexible learning.[1][2] They may involve students participating in online, peer production communities [3] within activities intended to support learning [4] or more broadly, any context where access to educational opportunity through freely available online content and services is the norm.[1] Such activities may include (but are not limited to [1]), the creation, use and repurposing of open educational resources and their adaptation to the contextual setting.[4][5][6] OEP can also include the open sharing of teaching practices[1] and aim "to raise the quality of education and training and innovate educational practices on an institutional, professional and individual level".[7] The OEP community includes policy makers, managers/ administrators of organisations, educational professionals and learners.[5] OEP are also viewed as the next phase in OER development that continues to transform 21st century learning and learners.[5]

The Scope of Open Educational Practices[edit]

A database or repository of open educational resources is not open educational practice (Ehlers 2011). OER have a lifecycle of creation, use, and management. Open educational practices aim to take the focus beyond building further access to OER and consider how in practice, such resources support education and promote quality and innovation in teaching and learning. They focus on reproduction/understanding, connecting information, application, competence and responsibility rather than the availability of good resources.[8]


There is no canonical definition of open educational practice, however various groups and scholars have given their definition or view. One such scholar is Ehlers (2011) who defines OEP "as practices which support the (re)use and production of OER through institutional policies, promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect and empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning path".[9] A definition used by others either in its entirety[6] or as basis for further development.[1][5][6]

  • The Open Educational Quality (OPAL) Initiative define Open Educational Practices as "the use of Open Educational Resources to raise the quality of education and training and innovate educational practices on institutional, professional and individual level".[7]
  • The International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE): "Open Educational Practices are defined as practices which support the production, use and reuse of high quality open educational resources (OER) through institutional policies, which promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect and empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning path".[6]
  • The UK OER support and evaluation team suggest that (compared to ICDE) "a broader definition would encompass all activities that open up access to educational opportunity, in a context where freely available online content and services (whether 'open', 'educational' or not) are taken as the norm".[1]
  • The Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME) defines Open Educational Practices (OEP) as comprising a set of skills in collaboration, curation, curricular design, and leadership around the use of Open Educational Resources. OEP build educator capacity for using OER to improve curriculum, instruction, and pedagogy, and to gain skills in digital resource curation and curriculum creation, and to actively collaborate around and advocate for innovative approaches to open education and OER. ISKME developed the Open Educational Practice Rubric to articulate key learning objectives for integrating OER and open educational practice into teaching and learning improvement and leadership.[10]
  • The Center for Open Learning and Teaching (University of Mississippi) state that "Open Educational Practices (OEP) are teaching techniques that introduce students to online peer production communities. Such communities (for instance, Wikipedia, YouTube, Open Street Map) host dynamic communities and offer rich learning environments".[3]
  • The European Foundation for Quality in e-Learning (EFQUEL) write that Open Educational Practices are "the next phase in OER development which will see a shift from a focus on resources to a focus on open educational practices being a combination of open resources use and open learning architectures to transform learning into 21st century learning environments in which universities’, adult learners and citizens are provided with opportunities to shape their lifelong learning pathways in an autonomous and self-guided way".[5]
  • The Cape Town Open Education Declaration (with over 2,500 signatories) reads: "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. It may also grow to include new approaches to assessment, accreditation and collaborative learning".[11]

OEP Areas[edit]

Best practice case studies identify a number of OEP areas.[12]

  • Business Model for OEP
  • Commitment
  • Creation of OER
  • Digital Literacy
  • Incentives and/or Motivation
  • IPR Framework for OEP
  • Mindsets and Attitudes
  • Open Educational Practices
  • Partnerships
  • Quality Concepts
  • Relevance: How to Convince Others of OEP?
  • Repurposing OER
  • Sharing OER
  • Skills and Knowledge for OEP
  • Strategy and/or Policy for OEP
  • Support Mechanisms
  • Tools for Sharing
  • Using OER
  • Vision of OEP

These areas surround the following topics, with other studies identifying categories and elements of Open Educational Practices.


Adopting OEP can lead to opportunities for collaborative learning through the affordances of Web 2.0 tools. In this context, open also refers to the learning environment where learner's set their own objectives rather than being restricted by those set externally (a closed environment).[8]

Open educational practices can also provide the experience and tools to help bridge the gap between formal and informal learning, and potentially an open source curriculum or emergent curriculum.[8]

Levels of Openness[edit]

The trajectory to Open Education Practices lies between the use of open pedagogical models and, resource use and creation.:[9]

  • Low - teachers believe they know what learners have to learn. A focus on knowledge transfer
  • Medium - Predetermined Objectives (closed environment[8]) but, using open pedagogical models and encourage dialogue and Problem-based learning.
  • High - Learning Objectives and pathways highly governed by learners.


The OPAL Consortium[edit]

OPAL members[5] Country
International Council for Open and Distance Education ICDE Norway
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation UNESCO France
Open University OU United Kingdom
European Foundation for Quality in e-Learning EFQUEL Belgium
Aalto University AALTO Finland
Universidade Católica Portugesa UCP Portugal
University Duisburg-Essen UDE Germany

The Open Educational Quality (OPAL) Initiative define Open Educational Practices (OEP) as "the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) to raise the quality of education and training and innovate educational practices on institutional, professional and individual level".[7]

For the mainstreaming of Open Educational Practices OPAL recommends:[5]

  • Enabling Legislation to Facilitate OEP
    • Incentivising OEP through Legislation
    • Reducing Legislative Burdens through Harmonisation
    • Rethinking Intellectual Property Law for the 21st Century
  • Empowering Learners to take up OEP
    • Addressing Fragmentation in Learning Resources
    • Promoting the provision of Open Educational Assessment
  • Strengthening the Evidence-Base of OEP
    • Helping institutions nurture OEP
    • Addressing Sustainability Concerns
    • Making the Societal Benefit Explicit
  • Culturing Innovation through Networks
    • Supporting Truly Open Collaboration
    • Building a Coalition of Stakeholders around Principles of Openness
  • Improving Trust in OEP
    • Integrate OEP into Institutional Quality Procedures
    • Create Open Academic/Scientific Trust Infrastructures

The International Council for Open and Distance Education sees OEP as those practices which support the production, use and reuse of high quality open educational resources and regards that OEP are often achieved through institutional policies, which promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect. Learners are empowered as co-producers on their lifelong learning path. The scope of OEP covers all areas of OER governance: policy makers, managers and administrators of organizations, educational professionals and learners.[6]

The OLCOS Consortium[edit]

OLCOS members[14] Country
European Centre for Media Competence Germany
European Distance and E-learning Network Hungary
FernUniversität Hagen Germany
Mediamaisteri Group Finland
Open University of Catalonia Spain
project co-ordinator Salzburg Research / EduMedia Group Austria

Open e-Learning Content Observatory Services (OLCOS) project is a Transversal Action under the European eLearning Programme.[14]

The OLCOS Roadmap focuses on Open Educational Practices, providing orientation and recommendations to educational decision makers on how to develop the use of OER. To further benefit from OERs one needs to better understand how their role could promote innovation and change in educational practices.[14]

The Roadmap states that; delivering OER to the dominant model of teacher-centred knowledge transfer will have little effect in equipping teachers, students and workers with the knowledge and skills required in the knowledge economy and, lifelong learning. Downloading Web-accessible, open teaching materials for classes and, continuing a one-way channel of content provision, will likely mirror the little impact achieved with regard to changing educational practices following the massive investments in the e-learning infrastructure by educational institutions. Open Educational Practices aim to deliver a competency-focused, constructivist paradigm of learning and promote a creative and collaborative engagement with digital content, tools and services to meet knowledge and skills required today.[14]


The Support Centre for Open Resources in Education (SCORE) at the Open University (UK), was the second major initiative to be funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce). (The first being the UKOER programme, jointly run by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA)).[15]

Discussions and actions were moving on from how open educational resources are published to how they are used. Placing OER as an enabler, within a wider set of open educational practices. Over a period of three years, SCORE, initiated a series of activities and events that involved several hundred educational practitioners from the majority of the higher education institutions in England.[15]

There has been interest in how educational practitioners would accept and embed open resources into their practices (Geser, 2007 in [15]). Sharing is at the heart of the philosophy OER and probably OEP and thus collective and cooperative activities between people and institutions are likely to be a key factor in the sustainability of such practices. SCORE reports it succeeded in raising the profile of OER and OEP within UK higher education institutions by assisting existing communities of practice and by creating new communities of practice to form a much larger network of practice that will be sustained by its participants.[15]


There are many challenges to the adoption of open educational practices. Certain aspects like technology have received greater attention than others[2] but all of the factors below inhibit widespread use of open educational practices:

  • Technology - Lack of or insufficient investment in broadband access as well as up-to-date software[2] and hardware
  • Business Model - OER and OEP can incur a significant provider cost.[16] Typically financial models focus on technology, but they also need to account for staff; i.e., those who create, reuse, mix, and modify the content.[16]
  • Law & Policy - There is either ignorance on open access licenses, such as Creative Commons License and Gnu Public License,[16] and/or restrictive intellectual property rights that limit the development of OEP.[2][17]
  • Pedagogy - Traditional models of learning are teacher-centric[5] where teachers dispense knowledge to students,[5] and teachers/professors may not know how to integrate OEP into courses.[5]
  • Quality Assessment - There is not a quick and universal way to assess the quality of OER. MERLOT, based on the academic peer review process, has only reviewed 14% of submitted material.[16]
  • Cultural Imperialism - There is the concern that Western institutions use OEP to design educational courses for developing countries.[16]

Strategies & Recommendations[edit]

In order for there to be widespread adoption of OEP, legal and educational policy must change[5] and OEP needs to become sustainable.[16]

  • Funding - Develop a sustainable funding model for OEP that addresses technology and staffing. Various funding models being explored and examples:
  • Endowment Model, e.g. the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Project.[16]
  • Membership Model, e.g. Sakai Educational Partners Program where member organizations pay a fee.[16]
  • Donations Model, e.g. Wikipedia and Apache Foundation. Even though Apache has modified it so that there are fees for some services.[16]
  • Conversion Model, e.g. Redhat, Ubuntu, SuSe. They convert free subscribers to paying customers for advanced features and support.[16]
  • Contributor Pay Model, e.g. Public Library of Science (PLoS) where contributors pay for the cost of maintaining the contribution.[16]
  • Sponsorship Model, e.g. MIT iCampus Outreach Initiative, which is sponsored by Microsoft & China Open Resources for Education, and Stanford on iTunes, which is sponsored by Stanford & Apple. They are free for users with commercial messages by sponsors.[16]
  • Institutional Model, e.g. MIT OpenCourseWare Project.[16]
  • Government Model including UN programmes, e.g. Canada's SchoolNet Project.[16]
  • Partnership and Exchange, e.g. Universities working together to create OER systems.[16]
  • Law & Policy - In terms of law, there should be an open access mandate for partially or fully publicly funded research.[5][17] Also teachers and researchers should be better informed about their intellectual property rights. Researchers and teachers who use public funding should sign non-exclusive copyrights so their institutions make their work available under appropriate licenses.[17]
  • Open advocates should demand public-private partnerships
  • Build stakeholders -
  • Quality Assessment -
  • Pedagogy - Help teachers change to facilitate use of OEP to emphasize learners' developing competences, knowledge, and skills. Therefore, teaching is no longer educator-centric, but instead it focuses on what learners can do for themselves.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Beetham, H., Falconer, I., McGill, L. and Littlejohn, A. (2012). "Open practices: briefing paper". JISC. Retrieved 13 June 2013.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b c d Benzato, Monica (September 2012). "A Case Study of Teachers' Open Educational Practices". Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society. 8 (3): 153–163.
  3. ^ a b COLT. "Open Educational Practices". Center for Open Learning and Teaching. University of Mississippi. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  4. ^ a b OPAL (2010). Beyond OER: Shifting Focus to Open Educational Practices.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Camilleri, Anthony F.; Ulf Daniel Ehlers; Grainne Conole (2011). "Mainstreaming Open Educational Practice: Recommendations for Policy" (PDF). European Foundation for Quality in e-Learning. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e Definition of Open Educational Practices International Council for Open and Distance Education Accessed April 29, 2012
  7. ^ a b c OPAL. "OPAL Mission". OPAL. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  8. ^ a b c d Ehlers, U. D., & Conole, G. C. (2010). "Open Educational Practices: Unleashing the power of OER" (PDF). Retrieved 14 June 2013.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ a b Ehlers, U.-D. (2011). "Extending the Territory: From Open Educational Resources to Open Educational Practices". Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning. 15 (2). Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  10. ^ ISKME (2017). "ISKME Open Educational Practice Rubric". Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  11. ^ Cape Town Open Education Declaration (2008). "Cape Town Open Education Declaration: Unlocking the promise of open educational resources". Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  12. ^ a b c OPAL. "The OEP Best Practice Clearing House". Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  13. ^ McAndrew, P. (2011). "Fostering open educational practices". ELearning Papers. 23. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  14. ^ a b c d Geser, Guntram (2007). ""Open Educational Practices and Resources: The OLCOS Roadmap 2012". In: "Open educational resources" [on-line monograph]" (PDF). Revista de Universidad y Sociedad del Conocimiento (RUSC). 4 (1). ISSN 1698-580X. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
  15. ^ a b c d Lane, A. & Darby, J. (2012). "Fostering communities of open educational practice: lessons from the Support Centre for Open Resources in Education". In: EADTU 25th Annual Conference, 27–28 September 2012, Paphos, Cyprus. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Downes, Stephen (February 27, 2007). "Models for sustainable open educational resources". Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects. 3: 29–44.
  17. ^ a b c d Schaffert, Sandra; Guntram Geser (February 2008). "Open Educational Resources and Practices". eLearning Papers. 1887-1542 (7). Retrieved 18 June 2013.

External links[edit]

  • Special issue of the ALSIC journal (2016) on how open practice can support the teaching and learning of languages
  • [1] In search for the Open Educator: Proposal of a definition and a framework to increase Openness adoption among university educators.