There is a lot to understanding the “open” in Open Educational Resources.

An Open Educational Resource is a resource that is licensed to allow the content to be edited or modified, distributed in multiple formats online, can be printed if desired, and is available free. This means that content can be removed, rearranged, or remixed to reflect recent changes or updates in a discipline. The licensing may be creative commons or public domain licensing. I will follow up with an in-depth look at the different types of creative commons licensing in my next blog post. This post is focusing on “OER” as defined by UNESCO: “Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.”


According to a definitive post by David Wiley, “fully open resources are expected to be licensed in a way that  “provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

  1. Retain – make, own, and control a copy of the resource (e.g., download and keep your own copy)
  2. Revise – edit, adapt, and modify your copy of the resource (e.g., translate into another language)
  3. Remix – combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new (e.g., make a mashup)
  4. Reuse – use your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource publicly (e.g., on a website, in a presentation, in a class)
  5. Redistribute – share copies of your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource with others (e.g., post a copy online or give one to a friend)”

“I found it on the internet, is it open?”

Items found on the internet may not actually be open or free. It is important to look at the license to see what can be done with materials that have been found online. Open access is not the same as an open license, though some open access definitions have an expectation of an open license for copyright purposes. Open access materials are usually resources that you can view free of charge online. However, some materials are still restricted, they have copyright held by the page they are on or have certain use restrictions. Some pages require that the information found on the page, for example, can only be viewed on their actual website. To be truly considered “Open Access”, materials are expected to be licensed for free and open use as described by David Wiley and UNESCO above. If you aren’t sure about whether something you found is open or free, feel free to reach out to our OER librarian Jose Aguinaga or any of the wonderful librarians at GCC. They are an excellent resource for anyone considering “open”.

“Where does ‘open source’ come in?”

Open source is a term used for software that is available in the manner described above, able to be modified, edited, shared, and reused. Open source is “open” as expected of Open Educational Resources.

“What is open data?”

Open data is datasets (data) that can be freely used, reused, redistributed, and republished without restriction. In some cases, this can include tools and resources as well as the data, as with the website.

“I keep hearing about Open Pedagogy”

Open Educational Practices (Open Pedagogy) is an approach to the classroom experience wherein the students are active participants in the creation of knowledge and are fully part of the teaching process. This can take many different forms but generally results in a final resource or series of resources that improve the learning space for future students or the greater community. For example, students can create practice exercises for a chapter of an open textbook or participate in an assignment wherein they contribute to an existing resource. Fundamentally, Open Pedagogy invites knowledge consumption and knowledge creation to occur simultaneously.

There is a wonderful collection of posts on Open Pedagogy from author Maha Bali, which was used to curate an understanding of what open pedagogy is. If you want to learn more, please reach out to any of our OER Champions.

I hope this gives you a firmer foundation in understanding open.

If you have questions about any of these topics, you can reach out to the CTLE and ask to be connected with an OER Champion, join our OER Office Hours, or contact anyone on the Open Education @ GCC committee.

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