An Overview of OER

5 OER and Open Pedagogy

Using OER in the classroom can make it easier for students to access and interact with course materials.[1] However, another major aspect of Open Education asks not only what materials you teach with but also how you teach. In this chapter, you will learn about open pedagogy, a set of pedagogical practices that engage students in content creation and making learning accessible.

What Is Open Pedagogy?

As you know, an academic field is nothing like a static object. It is dynamic—encompassing growth, revision, and argument. Robin DeRosa, Director of the Open Learning & Teaching Collaborative at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, has argued that open pedagogy invites students to participate in the community that constitutes an academic field.[2] Open pedagogy makes this participation possible because it conceives of learners as creators and contributors rather than as only receivers of knowledge.

With Rajiv Jhangiani, Associate Vice President, Teaching and Learning at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia, DeRosa explains that “one key component of open pedagogy might be that it sees access, broadly writ, as fundamental to learning and to teaching, and agency as an important way of broadening that access.”[3] In short, OER not only make knowledge accessible to students, but they also support a learning environment that makes knowledge creation accessible to students. In another article, DeRosa and her colleague Scott Robison expand on this view, showing how access to knowledge creation engages students in public scholarship. They explain:

Moreover, students asked to interact with OER become part of a wider public of developers, much like an open-source community. We can capitalize on this relationship between enrolled students and a broader public by drawing in wider communities of learners and expertise to help our students find relevance in their work, situate their ideas into key contexts, and contribute to the public good.[4]

Renewable Assignments

One method of engaging in open pedagogy is to develop renewable assignments. These are assignments that students create for the purpose of sharing and releasing as OER. Examples of renewable assignments include editing and writing Wikipedia entries or creating collaboratively written open textbooks. David Wiley of Lumen Learning and John Hilton of Brigham Young University propose a continuum of assignment types from disposable to renewable, as outlined in the table below.[5]

Wiley & Hilton’s (2018) Criteria Distinguishing Different Kinds of Assignments
Student creates an artifact. The artifact has value beyond supporting its creator’s learning. The artifact is made public. The artifact is openly licensed.
Disposable assignments Yes No No No
Authentic assignments Yes Yes No No
Constructionist assignments Yes Yes Yes No
Renewable assignments Yes Yes Yes Yes

You can explore more examples of open pedagogy in action in the Open Pedagogy Notebook.

Considerations for Using Open Pedagogy

Before jumping in with open pedagogy, consider how you will support students through the changes you plan to make. As cited in an article by Doug Ward, Jhangiani explains that “it is important to give students control over their work. Let them choose Creative Commons licenses they are comfortable with. Allow them to later remove online work they decide is inferior. At the same time, scaffold assignments so that students gradually build skills and improve their ability to produce high-quality work.”[6]

The following are some elements of open pedagogy to consider so that you can support your students well.

Understanding Your Tools

You don’t have to use snazzy tools or technology to make open pedagogy work. Make sure that you are choosing a tool or technology that your students can easily learn—like Pressbooks! If the tool is not already familiar to your students, be sure to include time in the course to teach them how to use it.

Scaffolding Learning

Not all students will be familiar with the underlying technology or able to engage with OER quickly. Scaffolding technology support into your teaching will help these students use the tools you’ve created or adopted for your courses.[7] There is a variety of methods for scaffolding learning.

  • Integrate interactive exercises into your class to help students work through new concepts.
  • Create tutorials on how to use any technology or tool unique to your class.
  • Use blogs and discussion posts to introduce the concept of writing for a public audience.
  • Give students the choice between set assignment types to accommodate learners with different technical competencies.

Educating Students about Copyright

It’s important that students who are creating items that might be published and shared openly can understand what that means. If you’re uncomfortable about discussing copyright with your students, a librarian can visit your class to make this process easier.

  • Your students don’t need to be copyright lawyers to feel safe using OER. Focus on building a comfortable foundation of knowledge about CC licenses; the rest, if necessary, can come later.
  • If you’d like your students to learn more about this topic but don’t know where to start, consider reaching out to the OER representative on your campus.
For more information on CC licenses, see the chapter Open Licenses in this guide. For more detailed information about copyright (and fair use) specific to the CUNY community, see the LibGuide Fair Use and Copyright.

Respecting Student Privacy

Some students will be energized by the idea that their homework can be seen, used, or even improved upon by future students in the class. Others may feel uncomfortable with this step. Allow students to opt out of making their materials public if they are uncertain about doing so and give them the option to remove their name from public documents if they are hesitant to be identified for any reason.

  • Explain clearly how and where student-created course content will be shared in the course syllabus.
  • Teach students their rights as content creators and allow them to opt out of sharing their assignments.
  • Allow students to share their work without attaching their personal information to it, if they are concerned about this.
  • Reaffirm students’ interest in publicly sharing their materials with each assignment that will be posted.

  1. This chapter is a remixed version of the chapters Open Pedagogy and Considerations for Using Open Pedagogy in The OER Starter Kit by Abbey Elder, published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Changes have been made in accord with the style, structure, and audience of this guide.
  2. DeRosa, Robin and Jhangiani, Rajiv. “Introduction to Open Pedagogy.” YouTube. February 20, 2019. Video, 1:06:37.
  3. DeRosa, Robin and Jhangiani, Rajiv. “Open Pedagogy and Social Justice.” Digital Pedagogy Lab. June 2, 2017.
  4. DeRosa, Robin and Robison, Scott. “From OER to Open Pedagogy: Harnessing the Power of Open.” In Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science, edited by Rajiv Jhangiani and Robert Biswas-Diener, 115–124. London: Ubiquity Press, 2017. DOI:
  5. Wiley, David and Hilton III, John. “Defining OER-Enabled Pedagogy.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 19, no. 4 (2018).
  6. Ward, Doug. “Turning open education into a social movement.” UK Center for Teaching & Excellence blog, April 2017.
  7. Kim, Minchi C. and Hannfin, Michael J. “Scaffolding problem solving in technology-enhanced learning environments (TELEs): Bridging research and theory with practice.” Computers & Education 56, no. 2 (2011): 403-417. DOI:


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OER and Open Pedagogy Copyright © 2022 by Andrew McKinney; Rachael Nevins; and Elizabeth Arestyl is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.