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Open Educational Practice

Jim Pettiward Advanced, Developing Digital Skills, Learning Series

What do we mean by ‘open’ education?

You might have heard or read recently about Open education, perhaps in relation to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Open Educational Resources (OER), the Academic Spring, Open Data or open source software such as Moodle. But what exactly is meant by openness in education, and in what ways might it be relevant to your own teaching and learning and research practice?

New technologies have made it easier than ever before to communicate and share information across a seemingly infinite variety of media and platforms, and for many people the internet and online networks are now the first place they look when they need information or want to learn something. Increasingly, Higher Education institutions and individuals are coming round to the idea that it is possible to take advantage of this wealth of resources to enhance their own teaching and learning practices, and have decided to make some of their own resources open to a wider public. A well-known early example of this was the MIT OpenCourseware initiative. Meanwhile, in the UK, the Open University has long been at the forefront of open education, with its OpenLearn initiative just the latest example.

David Wiley is an important thinker when it comes to open education. In his video (above) he describes his understanding of openness in education. For a more detailed view of how this openness relates to technological advances, have a look at his Keynote address from 2009 to Penn State University. You can also read his thoughts on openness in a chapter of his book ‘Game Changers’ – ‘Why openness in education?’

Some educators, Higher Education institutions and MOOC providers (e.g. Coursera, Udacity) seem to view open education as a kind of ‘silver bullet’ which will allow everybody around the world, regardless of their individual circumstances, equal access to high quality education. While this is undoubtedly a laudable aim, the concept of openness in education is not just about providing free online content for anybody with a computer and an internet connection. In fact, this new landscape of openness, in which content can be shared, free access granted to previously unobtainable research and data, courses and resources made available online for free and so on, has relevance across the board for anybody involved in Higher Education for learning and teaching, research, administration, management and everything else inbetween. For a good overview of what openness in education means, try reading Martin Weller (2011) ‘The Digital Scholar’ – in particular, the chapter Openness in Education


An excellent place to start an exploration of Open Access is with this JISC publication:

A more detailed discussion of what open access means for academic publishing can be found in Chapter 11 of Martin Weller’s book

The Research Council UK has some information and links to official papers and policies on Open Access available. See

If you’re interested in the debate around open accessing publishing, then have a look at this debate Evolution or Revolution? which took place at an Oxford conference entitled Rigour and Openness in 21st century Science.

Finally, if you want to find and browse open access journals, try:

pdfOpen Educational PracticePDFprintOpen Educational PracticePRINT