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2) Open Resources

Published onJan 14, 2023
2) Open Resources

Open Educational Principles and Practices

Δ Broekman, Pauline van Mourik, Gary Hall, Ted Byfield, Shaun Hides, and Simon Worthington. 2014. Open Education: A Study in Disruption. London: Rowman & Littlefield.

Broekman et al. develop a strategic philosophy about open education, claiming that it represents both a chance to critically experiment with new ideas and approaches to higher education and a direct challenge to the future of the university. The authors rely on the concept of disruption, understood as a means of creating innovation, but also as a means of generating new forms of critique and creating alternatives to the current state of higher education. According to the authors, the primary challenge open education faces is in instituting approaches that are pragmatic and ambitious, yet critical and creative, while also keeping open the question of what open education is and can be. To nurture critical open education, the authors propose a list of speculative principles, which include framing open education as social and socializing; connecting with other movements dealing with issues of openness; and collaborating with international partners.

* Conole, Gráinne and Mark Brown. 2018. “Reflecting on the Impact of the Open Education Movement.” Journal of Learning for Development—JL4D 5 (3): 187–203.

Conole and Brown analyze the impacts of the open education movement with respect to teaching, learning, and researching. The authors point out some barriers and benefits of open educational resources (OER), mainly with relation to their pedagogies and uses. They include a literature review that covers the movement in its various aspects, including the development of open textbooks and massive open online courses (MOOCs), learning design frameworks, open digital identity, open networking practices, and open publishing. Conole and Brown consider that open educational resources should be seen as a new form of educational practice instead of just as free resources, and that massive open online courses should be seen as vehicles for transformation and innovation rather than as marketing devices. Furthermore, e-textbooks should be seen as new forms of pedagogy and an innovative use of digital technology, not merely as a mechanism to reduce costs.

* DeRosa, Robin, and Scott Robinson. 2017. “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 S. Jhangiani and Robert Biswas-Diener, 115-124. London: Ubiquity Press.

DeRosa and Robinson draw attention to the possibilities and benefits that open education allows (aside from reducing costs for students and institutions). They acknowledge that affordability is an important issue for education and that this is a fair reason to recognize the benefits of open educational resources (OER). However, the authors note that another essential principle of OERs is that they have a license that allows for reuse, remixing, revision, redistribution, and retention—and the whole learning process can be much different when students and teachers exercise these permissions. DeRosa and Robinson present case studies (including the improvement of Wikipedia articles as assignments, the collective creation of an open textbook in the classroom, and a crowd-sourced syllabus elaboration) to illustrate how open educational practices can facilitate learner-centreed pedagogies. Finally, the authors point out that OERs must be seen as something that is done rather than just used.

* Ehlers, Ulf-Daniel. 2011. “Extending the Territory: From Open Educational Resources to Open Educational Practices.” Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning 15 (2): 1–10.

Ehlers points out that the Open Education movement has already achieved its first goal of opening up resources and making them available. The author suggests that there is a need to shift to the next phase, which raises new challenges related to promoting quality and innovation in teaching and learning. He argues that besides open educational resources (OER), they should support more open educational practices (OEP), and describes dimensions in which OEP can be assessed, namely in terms of learning architecture, OER usage, and individual and organizational involvement. Based on the Open Educational Quality Initiative Report, which reviewed more than 65 international case studies, Ehlers proposes a framework for supporting OEP with indicators to assess the position of the organization in the OEP trajectory, the vision of openness and strategies for OEP, and the implementation and promotion of OEP to transform learning. Finally, he points out that these indicators can help organizations to shift from just using open educational resources to engaging with open educational practices.

* Farrow, Robert. 2017. “Open Education and Critical Pedagogy.” Learning, Media and Technology 42 (2): 130–146.

Farrow explores some discourses around open education, how it should be interpreted considering more critical and reflexive pedagogy approaches, and the implications of the lack of consensus in what “open” means. He argues that through massive open online courses (MOOCs) and open educational resources (OER), the cost of providing education has decreased, while access to knowledge has increased. However, debates about educational technologies often exclude critical approaches, specifically those seeking to create emancipatory forms of education. Farrow relies on the Open Source movement critic Eric Raymond, and on critical theory and critical pedagogy, including the work of Jürgen Habermas and Paulo Freire, to emphasize that openness in education should challenge traditional hierarchical and centralized educational practice and open up a reflective space for thinking and doing. He advocates for a model that includes more horizontal power structures, lacks institutional control, and involves voluntary cooperation. Such a model is more democratic and encourages more active participation, reflection, and critique of the pedagogical process.

Δ Green, Cable. 2017. “Open Licensing and Open Education Licensing Policy.” In Open: The Philosophy and Practices That Are Revolutionizing Education and Science, edited by Rajiv S. Jhangiani and Robert Biswas-Diener, 29–41. London: Ubiquity Press.

Green provides an overview of the Creative Commons licenses and explores how public policymakers can leverage open licensing policies as a solution to high textbook costs. He argues that educators and governments supporting public education have a moral and ethical obligation to share education materials with the world for almost no cost. Creative Commons licenses are the legal foundation for most of the Open Education movement, since they are required for an educational resource to become an open educational resource. Thus, for OERs to go mainstream, it is necessary to have a broader adoption of open education licensing policies, especially for educational resources produced with public funding.

Δ Huang, Ronghuai, Ahmed Tlili, Ting-Wen Chang, Xiangling Zhang, Fabio Nascimbeni, and Daniel Burgos. 2020. “Disrupted Classes, Undisrupted Learning during COVID-19 Outbreak in China: Application of Open Educational Practices and Resources.” Smart Learning Environments 7 (1): 19.

Huang et al. explain how to employ open educational practices (OEPs) and open educational resources (OERs) during the COVID-19 lockdown, focusing on China, where 270 million students were unable to return to universities and schools because of the pandemic. They discuss OERs and OEPs as a possible effective solution to overcome the challenges of lack of preparation time, isolation, and pedagogical approaches. After presenting several OEP definitions, they identify five conditions to create their own OEP framework: OERs, enabling technology, open teaching, open assessment, and open collaboration. Finally, the authors present their recommendations to enhance the future adoption of OERs and OEPs in China and internationally, which are: building the capacity of stakeholders to work with OERs; developing supportive open education policies; encouraging inclusivity and equity through open education; nurturing sustainability models for open education; and facilitating international cooperation.

* Huijser, Henk, Tas Bedford, and David Bull. 2008. “OpenCourseWare, Global Access and the Right to Education: Real Access or Marketing Ploy?” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 9 (1).

Huijser et al. discuss the claim that the OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiative—which aims to make university course materials and resources freely available online—is enabling the universal right to education. They draw attention to the digital divide, which marginalizes a great part of the global population, and to what has been called cyber-imperialism (the standardization, homogenization, and universalism that allow particular cultures to dominate). They argue that in some cases, commitment to the Open movement seems to be more of a marketing ploy by institutions to increase the recruitment of paying students than a real intention to widen access to education. Huijser, Bedford, and Bull offer a case study of the Tertiary Preparation Program (TPP) at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) in Australia. The Tertiary Preparation Program was developed to provide access to the “right to education” for populations that are underrepresented in higher education. But it is difficult for massive open online courses to adapt to local conditions. Thus, Huijser et al. suggest that the development of OpenCourseWare should focus on pedagogical aspects that make it easily adaptable. Furthermore, they observe that the aim of OpenCourseWare is to provide access to the courseware, not to full courses. In other words, it is not meant to provide education, but rather the content that supports education, which should be adapted to be used in actual education programs.

Δ Jhangiani, Rajiv S., and Robert Biswas-Diener. 2017. Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science. London: Ubiquity Press.

Jhangiani and Biswas-Diener edit this collection intended to share the principal voices, motivations, and practices of the Open movement in education, including open educational resources, open pedagogy, open course development, open science, and open access. They argue that the Open Education movement potentially offers a partial remedy to educational inequality because it reduces the cost of textbooks, software, and course fees, while allowing instructors to share and build on one another’s pedagogical inventions. The book chapters address themes of access, transparency, flexibility, credibility, and creativity, as well as challenges and opportunities for open to become the default practice. Jhangiani and Biswas-Diener conclude that open education is transforming old institutions and that adopting an open practice in one area of open education may serve as a gateway to other open practices.

* McKenna, Colleen, and Jane Hughes. 2013. “Values, Digital Texts, and Open Practices—a Changing Scholarly Landscape in Higher Education.” In Literacy in the Digital University, edited by Robin Goodfellow and Mary R. Lea. London, UK: Routledge.

McKenna and Hughes discuss which values—in relation to power, control, and trust—are embedded in practices around digital texts by scholars and students. In the case of using plagiarism detector software to evaluate students’ work, the authors argue that this practice obscures issues of trust and surveillance, reduces plagiarism to the mere copying of words, and undermines trust between the professor and the student. Regarding digital texts by scholars, the authors find that the use of blogging and microblogging platforms accords with the Open Education movement because they both establish community, share ideas, and co-author or reauthor texts. Their ideas rely on an academic literacy paradigm, which views writing as a social practice and considers issues of power, context, and identities in relation to digital literacy. They conclude that it is important to articulate and critique the values that underpin these new digital practices around the use of plagiarism detector software, blogs, and Twitter.

* Veletsianos, George, and Royce Kimmons. 2012. “Assumptions and Challenges of Open Scholarship.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 13 (4): 166-89.

Veletsianos and Kimmons identify assumptions of the Open Scholarship movement and highlight challenges associated with it. They observe that open scholarship is usually assumed to be rooted in an ethical pursuit for democratization, equality, and justice, while emphasizing the importance of digital participation for better outcomes, and that it is co-evolutionary with technological advances. Based on the work of Neil Selwyn on the sociology of education and technology, the authors argue that there is a need for more critical examination of open scholarly practices, because there is a dominant narrative that overwhelmingly presents technology as positive for education in the future. Values of social justice and equality, although ideal, are not necessarily always present in open scholarship practices according to the authors, and the participation in digital culture demands social and digital literacies. They remind the reader that technology is neither neutral nor an easy solution to educational and scholarly problems. Technology and open scholarship introduce new tensions and dilemmas, by tending to connect only similarly thinking individuals and by requiring scholars to deal with an exponentially increasing volume of information.

* Weller, Martin. 2013. “The Battle for Open—A Perspective.” Journal of Interactive Media in Education 3 (part 15).

Weller notes that openness can be recognized as a successful approach in education. He warns us, however, to be aware of new issues that should be addressed within this movement, since once the term became more successfully accepted, it also came to be commercially exploited. Weller relies on studies of open educational resources, including the work of David Wiley, to show some practices of “openwashing”— the use of a very narrow concept of openness to gain market advantage while profiting from it. For example, this happens when Udacity makes a contract of exclusivity with Georgia Tech to offer an online master’s degree, or when publishers lower the quality of accepted works to gain more consumers. The author closes by suggesting that higher education institutions and academics should explore the abundance of content and connections among learners and resources that openness allow, rather than outsourcing it.

* Weller, Martin. 2014. The Battle for Open: How Openness Won and Why It Doesn’t Feel Like Victory. London: Ubiquity Press.

Weller discusses how the concept of openness and its connection to higher education has developed with the appearance of digital technologies. He asserts that open education is not and will not be competitive with formal education, but that its informal way of learning encourages student engagement. This book is especially relevant for those who work in higher education. Weller introduces openness as a successful approach in higher education. He discusses four different aspects related to openness—open access publishing, open educational resources, massive open online courses (MOOCs), and open scholarship—and explores the tensions in each area. Finally, he proposes future directions of openness, suggesting that the best way to gain more benefits from openness is to provide opportunities for innovation and experimentation.

Open Educational Resources (OERs)

* Caswell, Tom, Shelley Henson, Marion Jensen, and David Wiley. 2008. “Open Content and Open Educational Resources: Enabling Universal Education.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 9 (1).

Caswell et al. explore how open content and open educational resources in general, and the OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiative in particular, are transforming distance education and putting into practice the universal right to education. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) started the OpenCourseWare program in order to make the materials for its courses freely available on the Internet. The authors argue that with technical tools to overcome distance issues and hence reduce the costs of reproduction and distribution of content to almost zero, Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can finally become a reality. Referring to David Wiley’s work, they argue that if sharing information and knowledge can bring people out of poverty, it is a moral obligation to do so. Caswell et al. also note challenges for sustaining open educational resources, such as copyright and funding issues. Finally, the authors suggest that OpenCourseWare should follow the Open Source movement in terms of working in a community to maintain sustainability.

* Contact North. 2011. Open Educational Resources (OER) Opportunities for Ontario.

This survey introduces the benefits that institutions can achieve using open educational resources (OERs). The report provides a definition and brief history of OER. In addition to the benefits, the authors also discuss major challenges related to open educational resource adoption. Moreover, they enumerate the benefits and the difficulties in using OER in general, as well as for specific higher education stakeholders (students, faculty members, colleges and universities, and government). Regarding government’s involvement in open educational resources, this survey outlines both global and Canadian practices, but has a specific emphasis on Ontario. The authors conclude that adoption of OER is the right way to reduce expenses, widen access, improve the quality of education, and support networking and collaboration between students, teachers, and institutions.

Φ * DeRosa, Robin, and Scott Robinson. 2017. “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 S. Jhangiani and Robert Biswas-Diener, 115-124. London: Ubiquity Press. Open Resources > Open Educational Principles and Practices)

Δ DeRosa, Robin. 2017. “OER: Bigger Than Affordability.” Inside Higher Ed. November 1.

DeRosa explores OERs as a social issue larger than the affordability of textbooks and relates this to the question of who should have access to knowledge, knowledge creation, and education. She argues that OERs can not only drive down the real cost of college, but can also make faculty prioritize access as part of course design. Thinking about OERs from a social justice and access perspective also brings attention to other inequities, such as access to broadband, laptops, or mobile data plans, as well as students’ digital literacy skills. DeRosa proposes using some of the tools and definitions of open to build a public response to the crisis in American higher education. This can help the public conceive how to generate the materials to support its education and centre access as a key component of an equitable learning environment.

* Downes, Stephen. 2017. “Models for Sustainable Open Educational Resources.” Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects 3 (1): 29–44.

Downes considers the sustainability of open educational resources (OERs). He observes that challenges are not limited to funding, but also include technical, content, and staffing issues. He argues that there is not a unique model for sustainable open resources, as sustainability cannot be reduced to a single metric. Downes relies on other open education researchers, including the work of David Wiley, to argue that producing and using OERs must be reconceived as belonging to the same process, so that a decentralized community model that is much more scalable and sustainable than huge, centralized projects requiring distinct responsibilities can be formed. OERs, he concludes, should be thought of as part of a larger picture that includes volunteers, partnerships, sharing, distributed management, and control.

Φ * Ehlers, Ulf-Daniel. 2011. “Extending the Territory: From Open Educational Resources to Open Educational Practices.” Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning 15 (2): 1–10. Open Resources > Open Educational Principles and Practices)

Φ Δ Green, Cable. 2017. “Open Licensing and Open Education Licensing Policy.” In Open: The Philosophy and Practices That Are Revolutionizing Education and Science, edited by Rajiv S. Jhangiani and Robert Biswas-Diener, 29–41. London: Ubiquity Press. Open Resources > Open Educational Principles and Practices)

Δ Grimaldi, Phillip J., Debshila Basu Mallick, Andrew E. Waters, and Richard G. Baraniuk. 2019. “Do Open Educational Resources Improve Student Learning? Implications of the Access Hypothesis.” PLoS ONE 14 (3): e0212508.

Grimaldi et al. engage with research that examines whether OERs provide learning benefits, which has mostly found null effects in student learning outcomes relative to commercial textbooks. The authors argue that the common methods used to study OER efficacy are unlikely to detect positive effects based on predictions of the access hypothesis. This hypothesis states that an OER intervention should only improve the learning outcomes of a subset of students, those who otherwise would not have access to a textbook. So if the access rate to textbooks is high, even studies with very large sample sizes should produce null results most of the time. Since the case studies the authors analyzed do not take this factor into consideration, they do not provide much information about the potential impact of OERs in student learning. Therefore, the question of whether they affect student learning remains unanswered.

* Haßler, Björn, and Alan M. Jackson. 2010. “Bridging the Bandwidth Gap: Open Educational Resources and the Digital Divide.” IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies 3 (2): 110-15.

Haßler and Jackson discuss the digital divide implications in the access to open educational resources (OER), considering it in terms of availability and cost. The Global South (in general) has less access to OER because of lower physical bandwidths and costly Internet. The authors use the Content Delivery Chain model as a framework for more accessible resources, suggesting that content should be made available in multiple formats (lower-resolution videos, lower bit-rate audio, transcripts) with links to large-content files rather than having them embedded. Haßler and Jackson also recommend the implementation of mirror copies of OER websites to allow faster access within local area networks. Moreover, they encourage users in low-bandwidth contexts to contribute more resources and adaptations to the global community, improving sharing from South to North and from South to South. Finally, they point out that their claim is not to underutilize the Internet or to create a lowest common denominator Internet; rather, the authors advocate for alternative pathways that address different contexts.

Δ Hilton, John. 2016. “Open Educational Resources and College Textbook Choices: A Review of Research on Efficacy and Perceptions.” Educational Technology Research and Development 64 (4): 573–90.

Hilton synthesizes the results of 16 studies that examine either the influence of OERs on student learning outcomes in higher education settings or the perceptions of college students and instructors of OERs. Nine studies analyzed the efficacy of OERs, and the emerging finding was that using them does not appear to decrease student learning. On the other hand, of all the 4,510 students who participated in the seven studies about the perceptions of OERs, a general finding was that roughly half of them found OERs to be comparable to traditional resources, a sizable minority believed they were superior, and a smaller minority thought they were inferior. However, Hilton warns that the results must be interpreted with caution because some studies had significant design flaws: it was not always clear how an OER was used in each context, and students may be biased in their perceptions of OERs.

Φ Δ Huang, Ronghuai, Ahmed Tlili, Ting-Wen Chang, Xiangling Zhang, Fabio Nascimbeni, and Daniel Burgos. 2020. “Disrupted Classes, Undisrupted Learning during COVID-19 Outbreak in China: Application of Open Educational Practices and Resources.” Smart Learning Environments 7 (1): 19. Open Resources > Open Educational Principles and Practices)

Δ Jhangiani, Rajiv S., Farhad N. Dastur, Richard Le Grand, and Kurt Penner. 2018. “As Good or Better than Commercial Textbooks: Students’ Perceptions and Outcomes from Using Open Digital and Open Print Textbooks.” Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 9 (1).

Jhangiani et al. study the impact of open textbook adoption on exam performance, study habits, and perceptions of textbook quality in a sample of Canadian undergraduate students enrolled in an introductory psychology course. Their results show that students assigned the open textbook performed either no differently or better than students assigned the commercial textbook, while the format of the open textbook (print or digital) caused no differences in exam performance. Students also rated the quality of the print format of the open textbook to be higher than the commercial textbook, and they showed a preference for the print format over the digital. This study is the second OER efficacy study conducted within a Canadian postsecondary institution and the first to separate the effects of textbook openness and format. The authors state that the results are consistent with the existing literature and provide cautious encouragement for instructors considering incorporating open textbooks into their courses.

* Jhangiani, Rajiv Sunil, and Surita Jhangiani. 2017. “Investigating the Perceptions, Use, and Impact of Open Textbooks: A Survey of Post-Secondary Students in British Columbia.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 18 (4).

Jhangiani and Jhangiani present the results of a survey that investigated the attitudes and perceptions regarding open textbooks. Three hundred and twenty undergraduate students from 12 institutions in the province of British Columbia responded to the survey. The study included an online questionnaire to understand the students’ textbook purchasing behaviors, the impact of textbook costs, the study habits and forms of access and use of open textbooks, and the perceptions of quality and features of open textbooks. More than 80% of the participants reported being affected by the costs of textbooks, especially because about half of the time these textbooks are never used. Furthermore, the impacts of the costs are significantly greater for students who hold loans and are employed outside of school. As a result of textbook costs, students may choose to take fewer courses, withdraw from a course, or stay in the class but not buy the required textbooks. These choices can affect student performance. Regarding quality, 96% of the respondents perceived open textbooks to be equal or superior to the commercial ones, and the main benefits included cost savings, immediate access, convenience, portability, and permanent retention. Finally, Jhangiani and Jhangiani note some limitations of the study, which include the low survey response rate, and possible biases due to the representativeness of the sample and the online nature of the questionnaire.

Δ Johnson, Annie. 2020. “Rediscovering an Old Genre: Open Textbook Publishing and University Presses.” The Journal of Electronic Publishing 23 (1).

Johnson argues that university presses could play an important role in supporting the proliferation of open textbooks. She traces the history of textbook publishing by university presses, and then examines the presses that have published open textbooks. After analyzing 49 open textbooks published by 12 university presses, the author found that these titles can be difficult to find, that they are mostly available in PDF format only, and that they often have a CC-BY-NC-ND license, which is the most restrictive since it does not allow commercial use or derivatives. Johnson concludes that during the current period of upheaval in higher education, university presses should consider publishing open textbooks, especially by partnering with other institutions such as libraries or state-wide textbook affordability initiatives.

* Jones, Christopher. 2015a. “Institutional Supports for Openness.” In Networked Learning: An Educational Paradigm for the Age of Digital Networks, 124–26. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Jones explains the concept of networked learning and presents opinions regarding open educational resources (OERs) from different scientists. He claims that the main feature of networked learning is the connection between students, learning communities, and learning resources. He argues that a benefit of digital technologies is that it is possible for the user to copy and share materials without paying any charges. Usually, the creation of OERs happens at universities because they are the dominant educational and scientific centres. Apart from the benefits of OERs, Jones also points to their disadvantages, including the limited outcomes of open production processes and the mass consumption of openly produced products. He concludes that through development, production will move into practices in such a way that OERs should change to open educational practices (OEP).

* Jones, Christopher. 2015b. “Openness, Open Educational Resources and the University.” In Networked Learning: An Educational Paradigm for the Age of Digital Networks, 120–24. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Jones asserts that in the interest of their development and sustainability, open educational resources (OERs) should be provided with varied institutional support, including on technical and funding fronts. Moreover, considering the large amount of information offered by OERs, universities have a responsibility to guarantee the quality of the materials they produce. Jones is afraid that without proper university support, OERs could become controlled by the business sector, and as a result lose their main purpose. He claims that OERs still need institutional structures even if they replace, reform, or create new institutional approaches.

Δ Keskin, Nilgün Özdamar, Apostolos Koutropoulos, Inge de Waard, David Metcalf, Michael Gallagher, Yayoi Anzai, and Köksal Buyuk. 2018. “National Strategies for OER and MOOCs from 2010 to 2020: Canada, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, UK, and USA.” In Administrative Leadership in Open and Distance Learning Programs, 188–212. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Keskin et al. explore the adoption of MOOCs and OERs in six countries distributed across the globe. They apply the Gartner hype cycle—a graph that visualizes the maturity and adoption of technologies—to trace the evolution of open resources since the 2000s and they contend that after 2015, MOOCs reached the plateau of productivity. Each of the countries analyzed faces particular challenges in the adoption of OERs and MOOCs depending on their national contexts, but they all recognize the necessity of developing and using open resources. The authors conclude that there is room for growth in efficient OER use that ensures quality and implementation. Meanwhile, research into the efficiency and efficacy of MOOCs is growing across the countries, but the approach differs depending on national policy or the country’s previous experience and capacity, such as having a MOOC platform or partnerships with other countries.

Δ King, Monty, Mark Pegrum, and Martin Forsey. 2018. “MOOCs and OER in the Global South: Problems and Potential.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 19 (5).

King, Pegrum, and Forsey examine whether a “culture of learning” can be fostered in the Global South using MOOCs and OERs. They performed a literature review of 96 academic documents to identify the problems restricting the use of these resources in the Global South as well as their potential. The results pointed to five major themes limiting MOOC and OER uptake: access to the Internet; participant literacies (possible lack of English language proficiency and digital literacy); online pedagogies (finding the best pedagogical approaches and addressing resistance to online learning); the context of the resources; and the imbalances of knowledge flows between the Global North and South. However, the authors also think that these forms of online learning can meet at least some of the demand for education with the help of developments such as the increase of mobile Information and Communication Technologies use, opportunities for blended learning, and MOOC models that incorporate OERs.

* Littlejohn, Allison, and Chris Pegler. 2014. Reusing Open Resources: Learning in Open Networks for Work, Life and Education. New York: Routledge.

Littlejohn and Pegler discuss opinions from 24 leading online research experts. Their aim is to advocate for the potential of open resources in education and demonstrate the connection between the reuse of resources and the learning process. They compare the use of open educational resources (OERs) in primary and secondary school education with its use in higher education. Universities and colleges are the main centres of OER use and development. The authors believe that OERs will not only improve the quality of higher education but also make it more available to a wider audience and encourage innovation within educational institutions.

Δ Okamoto, Karen. 2013. “Making Higher Education More Affordable, One Course Reading at a Time: Academic Libraries as Key Advocates for Open Access Textbooks and Educational Resources.” Public Services Quarterly 9 (4): 267–83.

Okamoto analyzes how academic libraries are engaged in open access textbooks and OER initiatives as an alternative to costly print textbooks. Although these initiatives are diverse, she categorizes them in four areas: advocacy, promotion, and discovery; evaluation, collection, preservation, and access; curation and facilitation; and funding. This analysis sheds light on how libraries have addressed the textbook affordability crisis, which Okamoto compares to the journal crisis. She concludes that academic librarians have a crucial role to play in the OER movement through the use of their skills to support, promote, and even create OERs.

* Orr, Dominic, Michele Rimini, and Dirk Van Damme. 2015. Open Educational Resources: A Catalyst for Innovation, Educational Research and Innovation. Paris: OECD Publishing.

Orr, Remini, and van Damme provide a definition of open educational resources (OERs) and compare them with other educational innovations. They argue that OERs can improve the learning process of students and help teachers gain new professional knowledge. They claim that effectiveness is determined by the way the resources are used in the educational environment. Moreover, they present the results of a survey that collected responses from 33 countries, the aim of which was to show the most important arguments to support OER production and use. Most questionnaire respondents consider improved teaching and learning to be the major argument for the enactment of OER-related policies. According to the study, even countries that do not have a national policy for OERs are active in policy support at regional, institutional, or some other level. Finally, they conclude that the government should encourage the integration of OERs into an educational environment, because it overcomes educational challenges.

Δ Ossiannilsson, Ebba. 2021. “Some Challenges for Universities, in a Post Crisis, as Covid-19.” In Radical Solutions for Education in a Crisis Context: COVID-19 as an Opportunity for Global Learning, edited by Daniel Burgos, Ahmed Tlili, and Anita Tabacco, 99–112. Lecture Notes in Educational Technology. Singapore: Springer.

Ossiannilsson explores the impact that COVID-19 school closures will have on university students, academics, administrators, and managers. She argues that the pandemic showed the need for policies that support universal access to learning resources, while the surge of new OERs during the pandemic demonstrated the value of openness and its potential to achieve inclusive education. To increase the support for online education beyond the pandemic, the author distinguishes between emergency remote learning, which was a temporary solution to the crisis, and online education, which is a complex process that requires careful planning and design. Ossiannilsson concludes that the pandemic will lead to a paradigm shift among higher education institutions around the globe, while initiatives in using OERs are now widely practiced by both academics and learners.

* Peters, Michael A., Tze-Chang Liu, and David J. Ondercin. 2012. “Creative Economy and Open Education.” In The Pedagogy of the Open Society: Knowledge and the Governance of Higher Education, edited by Michael A. Peters, Tze-Chang Liu, and David J. Ondercin, 1–16. Open Education. Rotterdam: SensePublishers.

Peters, Liu, and Ondercin introduce the connection and interaction between the creative economy and open education, and how these concepts complement each other. Open educational resource work often happens through social cooperation, which is particularly useful for creative economies. Conversely, creative economic development can serve open education by creating positive changes in communication technology. The authors assert that the common feature of creative economies and open education is open knowledge. Open knowledge, in turn, supports knowledge production and promotes openness, which encourages learners to share their experiences individually or to create networks.

* Toledo, Amalia. 2017. “Open Access and OER in Latin America: A Survey of the Policy Landscape in Chile, Colombia and Uruguay.” In Adoption and impact of OER in the Global South, edited by Cheryl Hodgkinson-Williams and Patricia B. Arinto, 121-141. Cape Town & Ottawa: African Minds.

Toledo analyzes funding data, state and institutional policies, and civil society organizations related to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), in order to understand the Open Access (OA) and Open Educational Resources (OER) movements in Latin America in general, and in Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay in particular. She observes that each of the selected countries has different forms of funding streams and state support in public higher education. Although they are all investing substantially in science, technology, and innovation, the commitment to OER is closely associated with their political and social contexts. Uruguay has an enabling environment for open education, while Colombia has some strategies for implementation of OER, but has not yet implemented policies or legislation. Chile has a more commercial model of higher education, and no specific guidelines on OER or open access publishing. Toledo offers recommendations for policies supporting open education, including the fostering and strengthening of networks among Latin American civil society organizations, such as the Latin America Federated Network of Institutional Repositories of Scientific Publications (LA Referencia).

Δ Van Allen, Jennifer, and Stacy Katz. 2020. “Teaching with OER during Pandemics and Beyond.” Journal for Multicultural Education 14 (3/4): 209–18.

Van Allen and Katz address the inequalities in student access to learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. They propose increasing the use of OERs to lessen these disparities and close the achievement gap during and beyond the pandemic. Even though the pandemic led to the adoption of more online resources, much of the commercial content made temporarily available for free is at risk of becoming unavailable again once the pandemic ends. To prevent this, the authors state that the pandemic is the opportune time to introduce educators to OERs and advocate for their use over commercial materials made available for free during the crisis.

Δ Veletsianos, George. 2021. “Open Educational Resources: Expanding Equity or Reflecting and Furthering Inequities?” Educational Technology Research and Development 69 (1): 407–10.

Veletsianos argues that open educational resources, especially open textbooks, are a worthwhile response to consider during the shift to digital modes of teaching and learning, but he warns that, without scrutiny, such efforts may reflect or reinforce structural inequities. This scrutiny includes examining who creates open educational resources, who is and who is not represented in them, and who is cited in them to avoid reproducing structural inequities. Veletsianos concludes that open educational resources can be a mixed blessing, expanding inclusion and equity in areas like the cost of textbooks, but furthering inequities like a possible lack of diversity in the creation of open educational resources.

Δ Wiley, David, and John Hilton. 2018. “Defining OER-Enabled Pedagogy.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 19 (4).

Wiley and Hilton argue that the wide range of definitions of open pedagogy make it difficult to conduct research on the topic. Therefore, they propose the term OER-enabled pedagogy to define the set of teaching and learning practices that are only possible or practical in the context of the 5R permissions (retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute) which are characteristic of OER. The 5R permissions rely on Creative Commons licenses to allow saving and sharing copies of the content, building upon work previously done, or constructing new materials that can be publicly transformed and adapted without asking the copyright holder for permission. The authors offer a set of criteria to determine whether a particular approach is OER-enabled pedagogy. They conclude that as faculty come to understand the benefit of OER for open pedagogy, OER adoption will accelerate, which in turn will increase the quality and affordability of education.

* Wiley, David, T. J. Bliss, and Mary McEwen. 2014. “Open Educational Resources: A Review of the Literature.” In Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology, edited by J. Michael Spector, M. David Merrill, Jan Elen, and M. J. Bishop, 781–789. New York: Springer.

Wiley, Bliss, and McEwen review the definitions and major research categories of open educational resources (OERs) in the literature. They explain that there are many different definitions of OER, the most frequent of which consider its openness in terms of cost and licensing, and that most researchers concentrate on models of sharing, models of producing, benefits, and challenges associated with them. Based on the literature review, the authors summarize OERs as “educational materials which use a Creative Commons license or which exist in the public domain and are free of copyright” (783), allowing users to reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute (4Rs). Finally, Wiley, Bliss, and McEwen discuss the main challenges of OER: discovery (how to make them easier for people to find), sustainability (how to make them self-sustainable), quality (how to deal with the perception that OERs have inferior quality because of being free), localization (how to make them more useful in a variety of contexts), and remix (how to make more common the exercise of revision and modification permissions). In addition, they point out that the emergence of OER demands the development of open assessment resources for which there is still little research available.

Δ Zhang, Ke, Curtis J. Bonk, Thomas C. Reeves, and Thomas H. Reynolds, eds. 2019. MOOCs and Open Education in the Global South: Challenges, Successes, and Opportunities. New York: Routledge.

Zhang et al. edit this book that discusses issues related to the implementation of MOOCs and open education in 47 countries of the Global South. The authors state that there is insufficient knowledge about the landscape of MOOCs and OERs in the Global South, with over 82% of published empirical MOOC research through 2015 coming from North America and Europe. Therefore, they collect first-hand accounts of MOOC and OER initiatives, projects, and policies across Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and the Pacific. The chapters cover historical perspectives of MOOCs, current practices and designs, MOOCs for professional development, multi-country collaboration, government policies, organizational innovations, and the future of these courses. According to the authors, the Global South must no longer rely on MOOCs from English-speaking countries or Ivy League universities because their success lies in developing courses specific to the needs of the local citizenry. Finally, the authors predict that MOOCs and open education will be an expected part of the learning journey of many people around the world and that Global South participants will be the majority of MOOC participants by 2040.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

* Bali, Maha A. and Shyam Sharma. 2017. “Envisioning Post-Colonial MOOCs: Critiques and Ways Forward.” In Massive Open Online Courses and Higher Education: What Went Right, What Went Wrong and Where to Next?, edited by Rebecca Bennett and Mike Kent, 26–44. New York: Routledge.

In their article, Bali and Sharma argue that massive open online courses (MOOCs) reproduce and perpetuate colonial perspectives. They question the possibility of developing post-colonial MOOCs and consider what it means to be “massive,” “open,” and “online.” The meaning of “massiveness” changes when the majority of courses are offered in the English language; “openness” has a very narrow position on which worldviews are privileged; “online” courses reinforce the digital divide by excluding learners without digital literacies or stable Internet access. The authors focus on curriculum theory, including the work of Michael Apple and Henry Giroux, as a method of critiquing most of the MOOCs. They are particularly concerned about those that emphasize content over context, and those that promote assumptions regarding equal achievements and outcomes via standardized tests. Bali and Sharma consider ways to develop more participatory MOOCs emphasizing intersectionality. The authors acknowledge that MOOCs cannot be totally non-colonial but argue that nonetheless providers should be self-critical in order to advance toward more post-colonial approaches.

* Bennett, Rebecca and Mike Kent. 2017. “Any Colour as Long as It’s Black! MOOCs, (Post)-Fordism and Inequality.” In Massive Open Online Courses and Higher Education: What Went Right, What Went Wrong and Where to Next?, edited by Rebecca Bennett and Mike Kent, 11-25. New York: Routledge.

Bennett and Kent critically analyze how massive open online courses (MOOCs) are failing to achieve their promise of offering educational resources from the best universities for free to everyone in the world. They argue that, through a standardised model designed by university-educated elites, MOOCs are not able to engage with students who are traditionally excluded from or underrepresented in higher education due to social, economic, or cultural reasons. Instead they benefit students who do not really need them. The authors use Bourdieu and Passeron’s concept of cultural capital as a basis to explain that despite the free access, there are hidden barriers for participation in MOOCs. These barriers include a basic understanding of the university culture, academic communication skills, and computer literacy. Furthermore, without widely recognized formal certification, students who are not able to spend time “learning for learning’s sake” are unable to benefit from most of the MOOCs. Bennett and Kent note that there are cases of these courses designed for development purposes in refugee camps, but they seem to be exceptions and not the rule. Finally, they propose that, instead of being designed to try to fit all students, MOOCs should be more customized and flexible to address specific needs.

Δ Israel, Maria Joseph. 2015. “Effectiveness of Integrating MOOCs in Traditional Classrooms for Undergraduate Students.” International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 16 (5): 102–18.

Israel reviews five studies that incorporated MOOCs in blended format in traditional classroom settings. These studies found that integrating the courses had modest positive impacts on learning outcomes, no negative effects for any subgroup of students, and lower levels of student satisfaction. Israel considers that MOOCs in traditional classrooms can be used as learning resources. The challenges are copyright issues, the time commitment to re-design MOOCs to incorporate them in a traditional classroom, and ensuring student engagement and satisfaction. Finally, the author recommends institutions adopting MOOCs to have strategic frameworks for course redesigns and MOOC implementations to significantly enhance students’ outcomes, while also reducing costs.

Φ Δ Keskin, Nilgün Özdamar, Apostolos Koutropoulos, Inge de Waard, David Metcalf, Michael Gallagher, Yayoi Anzai, and Köksal Buyuk. 2018. “National Strategies for OER and MOOCs from 2010 to 2020: Canada, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, UK, and USA.” In Administrative Leadership in Open and Distance Learning Programs, 188–212. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Open Resources > Open Educational Resources (OERs))

Φ Δ King, Monty, Mark Pegrum, and Martin Forsey. 2018. “MOOCs and OER in the Global South: Problems and Potential.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 19 (5). Resources > Open Educational Resources (OERs))

Δ Montero-Colbert, Arianna, Natalie Delia Deckard, Bonnie Stewart, Sundi Richard, and Alexa Nanan. 2019. “Learning Together in Public and in Private: Exploring Learner Interactions and Engagement in a Blended-Platform MOOC Environment.” Current Issues in Emerging ELearning 6 (1): 23.

Montero-Colbert et al. explore how participatory learning and learner interactions in a MOOC differed depending on the platform employed. The authors investigated platform dynamics in their two-week MOOC called “Participatory Engagement in Times of Polarization,” by comparing student posts on Twitter and on EdX through logistic regression models. Their results suggest that the platform of engagement significantly predicts participatory interaction content, even after estimating the effects of learner age, gender, and educational background. In their course experience, users interacting on Twitter asked and answered more questions, applied more of the course knowledge, and networked course information to external sources more often than they did when interacting on EdX. The authors conclude that although MOOC platforms with closed communities of learners have advantages, their exclusive use is not optimal for developing participatory engagement.

Δ Raposo-Rivas, Manuela, Esther Martínez-Figueira, and José Antonio Sarmiento-Campos. 2015. “A Study on the Pedagogical Components of Massive Online Courses.” Comunicar 22 (44): 27–35.

Raposo-Rivas, Martínez-Figueira, and Sarmiento-Campos explore the pedagogical concepts of 117 MOOCs delivered in the Spanish language on 10 different platforms to establish which course features are platform dependent. They found that platforms determine the pedagogical design of courses in five key areas: learning, activities and tasks, means and resources, interactivity, and assessment. The authors created the Instrument for Educational and Interactive Indicators in MOOCs (INdiMOOC-EdI). This instrument is a data sheet that the authors employed to collect information provided in the full description of the MOOCs focusing on four main components: identification data, descriptive features, educational features, and interactive features. The data obtained implies that the platforms constrain and restrict online courses, although some deploy a degree of flexibility among the different features of the instrument.

Δ Ruipérez-Valiente, José A., Sergio Martin, Justin Reich, and Manuel Castro. 2020. “The UnMOOCing Process: Extending the Impact of MOOC Educational Resources as OERs.” Sustainability 12 (18): 7346.

Ruipérez-Valiente et al. present a process called unMOOCing, which refers to making all the educational resources of a MOOC available to download by the learners. The authors propose this process because these types of courses have pivoted toward more private directions that limit the retrieval and reuse of course materials. To apply this process, the authors taught a MOOC on open education that had all the materials (videos, presentations, questionnaires, and additional materials) available to download. The learners rated this component of the course the highest, with 90% of them downloading the materials. The authors believe that this sends a powerful message for bringing back the MOOC concept of openness through unMOOCing to contribute to the wider dissemination and democratization of education.

Δ Shen, Chien-wen, and Chin-Jin Kuo. 2015. “Learning in Massive Open Online Courses: Evidence from Social Media Mining.” Computers in Human Behavior, Computing for Human Learning, Behaviour and Collaboration in the Social and Mobile Networks Era, 51 (October): 568–77.

Shen and Kuo employ various social media mining approaches to investigate Twitter messages related to MOOC learning. They applied trend, sentiment, and influencer analysis to 402,812 tweets containing the word “MOOC” and to 39,889 tweets with both the words “MOOC” and “learning” posted between June 2013 and May 2014. The authors found that people are five times more likely to tweet about MOOCs on weekdays than at the weekend. Their sentiment analysis shows that there is mixed public opinion around them, while the influencer analysis identified the critical Twitter accounts that disseminate positive or negative information about MOOCs. The accounts with the highest number of retweets in their messages about MOOCs were related to technology, education, business, and news media. The authors contend that this study can elucidate how MOOCs can be effectively improved based on the users’ perceptions and their social media habits.

Δ Toven-Lindsey, Brit, Robert A. Rhoads, and Jennifer Berdan Lozano. 2015. “Virtually Unlimited Classrooms: Pedagogical Practices in Massive Open Online Courses.” The Internet and Higher Education 24 (January): 1–12.

Toven-Lindsey, Rhoads, and Berdan Lozano explore the extent to which MOOCs provide students with high-quality, collaborative learning experiences by examining the pedagogical tools employed in 24 MOOCs of different disciplines and platforms. The authors rely on a framework developed by Arbaugh and Benbunan-Fich to analyze teaching in online education by its epistemological dimension (objectivist or constructivist) and its social dimension (individual or group). Their findings suggest that MOOCs tend to use objectivist-individual pedagogical practices, which involves the transfer of information from an expert to a novice. However, at least half of the courses they analyzed also incorporated an objectivist-group approach or a constructivist-individual approach, with components like discussion boards or independent activities related to content. The authors conclude that this study raises concern about MOOCs’ reliance on pedagogical strategies tied to objectivist and one-directional views of knowledge instead of more empowering forms of open online learning.

Δ Weinhardt, Justin M., and Traci Sitzmann. 2019. “Revolutionizing Training and Education? Three Questions Regarding Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).” Human Resource Management Review 29 (2): 218–25.

Weinhardt and Sitzmann highlight strengths and weaknesses of the research on MOOC effectiveness by asking three questions regarding MOOCs: Who enrolls in them and why? Are students self-aware and able to self-regulate their learning? Are MOOCs effective and how can their effectiveness be maximized? The authors found that wealthier, English-speaking countries have the most access to MOOCs. Regarding self-regulation, they consider that future research should study how students establish goals, perform in the class, and subsequently modify their learning strategies or abandon their goals. With regard to the last question, the authors think that researchers must compare the effectiveness of MOOCs with other instructional approaches, considering that MOOCs are free and more global, but they have high drop-out rates.

Φ Δ Zhang, Ke, Curtis J. Bonk, Thomas C. Reeves, and Thomas H. Reynolds, eds. 2019. MOOCs and Open Education in the Global South: Challenges, Successes, and Opportunities. New York: Routledge. Resources > Open Educational Resources)


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