About Open Pedagogy

students producing OER, student choice, connecting to wider networks, open-ended, increasing access, transparency in teaching and learning, equity and social justice in teaching and learning.

The idea of “open” in higher education confuses many, partly due to the varied terms thrown around – OERs, MOOCs, open education – but mainly due to the assumption that “OERs” (open educational resources) and “open pedagogy” are the same thing.

Open educational resources (OERs) are the texts, quizzes, maps, blogs, videos, podcasts, websites, or articles that you, the instructor, share with your students to engage with in order to learn more about a specific subject that are free (open) to reuse, remix, retain, revise, and redistribute. These are the learning materials someone created for students to freely use. This is pretty straightforward, and there are many repositories and websites that you can use to find OERs.

Using OERs in a class is great. It saves the students money, it allows students to be fully prepared for class on the first day, and OERs can be tailored to meet the specific learning outcomes you want your students to attain. However, the use of OERs is not the same thing as open pedagogy. You can print copies of chapters of OER textbooks, hand the chapters out in class for your students to read, have them write a response and submit it to you for grading, and call it a day – this is not open pedagogy. There is nothing wrong with this type of assignment, it just cannot be classified as open pedagogy because the students are engaging with the material in a closed setting and creating a “disposable assignment” which will be graded and returned to the student for filing or discarding.

Therefore, the use of OERs does not guarantee open pedagogy.

What is open pedagogy? The librarians at the University of Texas Arlington have a great starter definition:

Open pedagogy is the practice of engaging with students as creators of information rather than simply consumers of it. It’s a form of experiential learning in which students demonstrate understanding through the act of creation.” (UTA Libraries)

“Sharing” is missing from this definition. In open pedagogy students create content and somehow share it with someone other than a “submit” button in a learning management system.

So, in the previous example, if the students read the OER chapter that was handed out to them and then made a word cloud out of the key concepts they uncovered in the chapter and shared that word cloud on Twitter, that would be an example of open pedagogy. The students in this second example are creating and sharing content.

To further confuse the issue, however, open pedagogy can take place with propriety materials. In other words, you do not have to use OERs to engage in open pedagogy. As long as your students cite their sources properly and give credit where credit is due you can develop an open pedagogy project utilizing copyrighted materials.

Not everyone agrees that open pedagogy can happen with proprietary materials, but here are two examples that prove it is true:

The first example, an open pedagogy project I have done with one of my online classes, is the “Teach with Wikipedia” project. This is a great project in which students edit or create Wikipedia articles. Students contribute, and their work is live on the internet – it is empowering for the students! However, while the platform is open the sources the students (and all Wikipedia contributors) use a mix of open, or public domain, sources and copyrighted sources.

A second, somewhat similar example is a peer review project I’ve done several times in my classes. The students write essays citing their sources (including their textbook publisher) and post the essays in an open Google Drive folder. I have them use code numbers instead of their names to encourage honest, robust feedback, and I put all the feedback in a Google Sheet so that the students can compare how they scored an essay to how other students scored the same essay. The students benefit from viewing all the feedback on all the essays; they also see my feedback on all the essays as I consistently use the code 9999 so they know it’s me. My point here, however, is that this is truly an open pedagogy project even though it does not rely fully on OERs. Google is open and free, and the students could seek out OERs or public domain content if they wish (I teach history, by the way, so older publications, in most cases, would be fine), but they generally use their textbooks as a starting point and cite them properly.

OERs and open pedagogy are both good things, but they are not the same thing.

The most important thing is that you are creating assignments that are centered on the learning outcomes. A very close second most important thing is that the students can access the learning materials you require – whether they are OERs, low-cost publisher materials (I use Norton a lot), or accessible library articles and books. An additional important thing is that you give the students an opportunity to take some ownership over their learning by creating shareable content for their peers.


Teach with Wikipedia

Twitter – open pedagogy

UTA Libraries

Image from Slideshare


Copyright and Course Content

Break time between semesters is a great time to review and update course materials. It’s easy to grab images and articles from the web, but, how can we be sure to do so legally?

Here are some guidelines and resources to help ensure you are not breaking any laws when adding images, articles, videos, power points, or other materials to your courses:


Adding images for discussion or adding cartoons to lighten the mood can foster engagement in your class. Before snipping an image from an ad or online newspaper be sure to follow these basic rules:

  1. Cite your sources, just as you would expect your students to. This is a great opportunity to model proper citation style.
  2. If you plan to use multiple images from the same source, check to see if your usage meets the fair use criteria.
  3. If you are unsure whether it is legal to use a specific image try to find a similar one in the public domain. There are great sites, such as Pixabay, where you can freely download and use images.
  4. On January 1, 2019, many, many materials enter the public domain. Check this Smithsonian article for an interesting read about that.


To share research articles or opinion pieces with students follow these guidelines:

  1. The safest way to post an article in your course is to link to the source so that the students can access the content themselves.
  2. A PDF of an article from a database like jstor is also acceptable – remember to add the permalink and cite the source.
  3. Do not add a scanned copy of an article from a magazine or newspaper; locate the original online and link to it. If the article you need is behind a paywall contact the librarians for help – they are an outstanding resource for helping you obtain content legally.


Videos are a great way to bring your subject matter to life. Videos are also one of the most commonly pirated types of content on the web. Follow these tips to avoid legal issues with videos in courses:

  1. YouTube has some great channels for educational videos; Crash Course is one of my favorites. Again, link to the original source. If you are using videos from YouTube you can use Blackboard’s Mashup tool to easily insert them into your course; check the box to allow the YouTube information to show in the course so that your source is cited.  Make sure you select videos that are properly closed-captioned so that all students can access them. Be sure to check the links before expecting the students to access them in case a YouTube channel owner has changed or removed files.
  2. Video subscriptions are available, too. If you would like to have students watch an entire movie you should check with our librarians to find out if the college already has access to the movies you need; if not, they will help you find other avenues.
  3. There are websites, such as Khan Academy and Annenberg Learner, that post videos and other content – check their copyright policies before linking directly to their content. Khan Academy will allow you to link right to a specific video, but for Annenberg Learner you must link to their main page unless you pay for a subscription.
  4. Of course, you can make your own videos. We have resources on campus for you to do that (use our Digital Creation Space), or you can make them on your own. Be sure you have the legal right to use any images you include, cite your sources, and caption the video before adding it to the course (you can do this in your Ensemble library here at GCC; contact the Helpdesk for more information).


PowerPoints, Google Slides, or other presentation creations can be a great way to combine images and text to emphasize specific points and enhance learning. You can either create your own presentations, use publisher materials that may be bundled with the textbook you use in your course, or you may find them online in a site like SlideShare.

There are key points to keep in mind when adding presentations to your course:

  1. Presentations you create yourself:

    1. When creating a presentation try to use a built-in theme. This will alleviate most accessibility issues as long as you do not edit the built-in layout too much. Be sure to do the following:
    2. Give each slide a unique title. If the topic you are discussing requires more than one slide, use names such as “Evolution 1,” “Evolution 2,” “Evolution 3” etc., or “”Bitcoin, 1 of 3,” “Bitcoin, 2 of 3,” “Bitcoin, 3 of 3.” This clarifies the topics for students while maintaining accessible navigation.
    3. Be sure to add alt text to all images you use.
    4. Be sure you are using images that you are legally able to use through copyright permission, fair use, ownership (your own artwork), or public domain.
    5. If you create a narrated, or voice-over, PowerPoint, caption it before adding it to the course. We use Ensemble to store our videos and can easily have captions added via Ensemble – be sure to do it.
  2. Adding publisher PowerPoint presentations:

    1. As long as the publisher materials are bundled with the textbook you are currently using in your course, and that students are purchasing, you can add them. Do not re-use presentations from textbooks you are no longer requiring for the course, especially if you change publishers.
    2. Even publisher materials need to be accessible; check them before you add them.
  3. Presentations you find online:

    1. Be sure to check for copyright and accessibility as you would with a video or image.

Other Materials:

Open Educational Resources (OER) are materials freely available to use in courses. Typically, you can remix, reuse, revise, redistribute, and retain OER materials that you edit for your course provided that you attribute the original creator and abide by any rules stated in the materials’ Creative Commons License. There a lot of OER resources for you to learn more.


Copyright and Fair Use:


Open Educational Resources:




Ensemble Video https://www.ensemblevideo.com/video-platform/captioning.aspx

Hawkins, Sara F https://sarafhawkins.com/creative-commons-licenses-explained-plain-english/

Smithsonian.com https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/first-time-20-years-copyrighted-works-enter-public-domain-180971016/

University of Alaska Southeast http://www.uas.alaska.edu/celt/idn/video/helpfiles/usingyoutubemashuptoolonblackboard.pdf