From OER to Open Pedagogy

Beyond the benefits of using OER to save students money (and support student success by ensuring free and unfettered access to course materials), there are some less-obvious benefits that arise from the mutually reinforcing relationship between the 5R permissions and innovative, learning-centered course design.

This relationship has given rise to a range of innovative teaching and learning practices that are often grouped under the rubric of open (or OER-enabled) pedagogy. These practices (and their potential to engender significant learning) present some of the most compelling reasons for instructors to incorporate OER into their courses, perhaps even more so than reasons related to access and affordability. 

So, what is the purpose of open pedagogy, and what does it look like in practice? David Wiley has written extensively on these questions (see here, here, and here), and I think his discussion of "killing the disposable assignment" is especially helpful as a point of contrast. As David explains, a disposable assignment is any assignment that adds no value to the world: students spend time working on them, instructors spend time grading them, and the fruits of their efforts are promptly forgotten.

Moving beyond the limitations of disposable assignments, open pedagogy seeks to leverage the power of the 5R permissions to create more meaningful learning experiences that do add value to the world. There are a wealth of examples of assignments that accomplish this, and many of them can be surprisingly easy to implement. For instance, if your students currently write papers, why not ask them to publish those papers on a course blog or to add content from the papers to stub articles in Wikipedia? Or, thinking outside of the paper paradigm, why not ask your students to create tutorials on difficult course concepts, with the understanding that quality work will be incorporated into future iterations of your course? (For more real-world examples, see this crowdsourced matrix of open assignments.)

Open, learning-centered assignments like those above can have huge benefits for students and instructors. By publishing their work online, students are empowered to connect with a global audience, engage with real-world issues, and develop their skills as digital citizens. Because students understand that their work will live on after the course, they are more likely to engage meaningfully with the assignment and produce superior work. Instructors in turn benefit from enhanced student engagement, and, if they use OER, they also have the option to incorporate exceptional student work into their existing course materials.

Although these assignment ideas are not all necessarily dependent on OER, they definitely work best when course materials are openly licensed, since this ensures that students have the freedom to remix and redistribute the materials in the course of their work. If a student has the ability to republish text and images from an open textbook on a course blog or online tutorial, for instance, then they are spared the trouble of finding reputable, openly licensed content from other sources, which in turn increases their chances of success by giving them more time to engage with the concepts at hand and produce quality work.


Wiley, D. (n. d.). Defining the "open" in open content and open educational resources. Retrieved from

Wiley, D. (2013). What is open pedagogy? Retrieved from

Wiley, D. (2015). Open pedagogy: The importance of getting in the air. Retrieved from

Wiley, D. (2017). OER-enabled pedagogy. Retrieved from


Popular Posts