What is open education?

“Open education” is a phrase that encompasses a number of different activities in education and, depending on who you speak to, it can mean different things to different people. One useful definition of open education comes from the University of British Columbia (UBC), which defines open education as a “collection of practices that utilize online technology to freely share knowledge.”

Under the umbrella of open education, there are a number of specific ways in which this sharing of knowledge happens in higher education. These practices can include the following:

  • Publishing research in open journals (open access publishing)
  • Releasing data to be reused by others (open data)
  • Using, sharing, and collaboratively creating software and computer code (open source software)
  • Flexible admission policies to institutions or courses (open admissions or open registration)
  • Student assignments that promote student publishing or participation on the open web (open teaching or open pedagogy)
  • Sharing of teaching and research practices (open scholarship)
  • Sharing and reusing of teaching and learning materials (open educational resources or OER), including courses (open courseware) and textbooks (open textbooks)

While this is not an exhaustive list, it should give you an idea of the types of activities that the phrase “open education” encompasses.

Why open?

While the above definition and list should give you an overview of the type of practices that open education encompass, it doesn’t answer the questions “Why open?” and “Why do educators choose to take on these activities and call themselves open educators?”

To help answer the question “Why open?,” please watch this TedX Talk from Dr. David Wiley (15 minutes) and read the article Openness in Education [PDF] by David Wiley and Cable Green.

What is open educational practice?

Open educational practice (OEP) is defined as teaching and learning practices where openness is enacted within all aspects of instructional practice, including the design of learning outcomes, the selection of teaching resources, and the planning of activities and assessment. OEP engages both faculty and students in the use and creation of OER, draws attention to the potential afforded by open licences, facilitates open peer review, and supports participatory student-directed projects.

Who is this guide for?

This guide is intended to be hands-on with practical strategies for running an effective open working group. You may be a new group that is starting out and looking for ideas, or you may be a well-established group that is looking for information on how to broaden your scope or measure the impact of open at your institution.

How is this guide organized?

The guide is organized into three sections. The first, “Establish a Working Group,” helps you lay the groundwork for putting together a team. “Run a Working Group” covers the tasks that you might be considering or working on in your group. “Sustain a Working Group” is worth (re)visiting throughout the life cycle of your group.

A word about the examples

The examples provided throughout this guide are from the following open working groups. You may wish to reference their public resources, which are available from the following links:



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Working Group Guide Copyright © 2019 by BCcampus is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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