Open Pedagogy: Harnessing the power of open educational resources

Posted on May 9, 2022

By Rosie Liljenquist, Publishing and Open Access Librarian

David Wiley once said that using OER the same way we use a commercial textbook is like driving a plane down a highway, it can be done but defeats the purpose. I find this an apt analogy. The great thing about OER is that they inherently encourage innovation. Faculty don’t have to follow a prescribed method of teaching that adheres stringently to the structure of textbook they’ve chosen. OER open (pun intended) the doors for curriculum innovation by allowing faculty to think outside the box in terms of instruction and putting students in the position of active learning.  

If you’ve read our previous posts on OER, you know that there are multiple levels to OER usage: Adoption, adaptation, and creation. We’ve reviewed how to find relevant OER and now we’re discussing how to use them. Imagine you’ve found a resource (or multiple) that you would like to integrate into your course, the next step is to figure out how to actually teach with it (or them).  

One suggestion (of a great many) is to utilize open pedagogy. Open pedagogy transforms learning for students by putting them in charge of their own learning. One of the beauties of OER is that the material tends to be digital, which means faculty don’t have to wait until textbooks or course materials arrive to start teaching; students have access on the first day.  Instant access allows for learning to happen from day one which allows for content creation and annotation on day one. These methods illustrate a student’s content knowledge as well as rhetorical awareness. For example, using a tool like hypothes.is (https://web.hypothes.is/) allows students to annotate digital content. A tool like this supports discussion in the classroom, reinforces prior knowledge, and supports new knowledge growth.  

While I wholeheartedly advocate for the use of long-form research papers, this assessment tool isn’t always the best for students who need to learn how to succinctly and effectively convey information to a wide audience in multiple formats. A course wiki page that is publicly available, the creation of a website based on particular topics, or the writing of a course-specific anthology of relevant secondary sources are all possible examples of open pedagogy.  

Remember, the “open” here refers to permissions and usage. The content that students create will potentially be widely (read: globally) available. However, the suggested wiki, website, or anthology could be as open (or as closed) as the students and professor want. The resources could be used to support incoming W&M students or everyone everywhere. The choice is yours!