Authored in collaboration with Lucy Blakemore

Since 2002, when the concept of Open Educational Resources (OER) was first presented at a UNESCO forum, OER have created opportunities for learners around the world, reaching far beyond open-access textbooks to include all kinds of materials, from images and presentations, to course shells and teaching frameworks. 

We were delighted to be joined by international and national speakers at a recent Learning Design meetup to talk about the adoption of OER in learning and teaching. In this short blog series, we explore what we can learn from each speaker’s experience and research to advance knowledge construction and sharing at UTS.

Our first blog features highlights from Dr David Wiley, Chief Academic Officer of Lumen Learning. He is also currently the Education Fellow at Creative Commons, an Ashoka Fellow, and adjunct faculty in Brigham Young University’s graduate program in Instructional Psychology and Technology, where he is part of the Open Education Group.

David took us back to the principles of OER and why these matter; he also shared strategies for adopting OER in higher education and the potential impact of OER-Enabled Pedagogy (OEP) on learning outcomes and course design.

What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

Open Educational Resources (OER) can include textbooks, videos, articles, interactives, chapters, simulations, syllabi, assessments – basically any teaching, learning or research resource. As David noted, ‘OER-ness is solely a function of copyright’, or as defined by the Open Education program at Creative Commons:

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities.

To qualify as OER, the 5Rs activities that should exist in a resource are permission to retain, revise, remix, reuse and redistribute: 

Infographic of the 5R activities: Retain, revise, remix, reuse, redistribute

If everyone can ‘5R’ a resource, it’s an OER. If everyone can’t 5R it, it’s not.

Why does Open Education matter?

When we can make education resources free for students, we should.

David Wiley

Affordability is a key benefit of OERs, and David noted that much of the ethos underpinning Open Education is about minimising barriers to education, wherever and whenever we can. Among the recognised benefits of OER is the contribution to social justice. For example, current research provides evidence that OER supports the inclusion of students from low SES backgrounds and students with special needs.

In addition to the broader availability of resources at low cost, OERs can also be adapted to implement evidence-based practices and improvements in course design. However, to be able to recognise these improvements, David suggested we need to use the power of learning analytics in identifying areas where course design is failing to support student learning. This can be implemented through ongoing, iterative cycles of continuous improvement.

Example: CADDIE framework

As an example of this process, David described the CADDIE framework for continuous improvement of OER, where learners suggest edits (‘improve this page’) to certain OER materials providing permission for reuse. The framework offers improvements using data from assessment and students’ performance to understand the relationship between student engagement with content and their score on assessments. This draws on RISE analysis (Bodily, Nyland & Wiley, 2017), an automated process that identifies learning resources that should be evaluated and either eliminated or improved.

OER-Enabled Pedagogy

Building on the foundations of Open Education, David then introduced OER-Enabled Pedagogy as ‘the set of teaching and learning practices that are only possible or practical when teachers and students have permission to engage in the 5R activities’.

Unlike copyright, which prohibits learners and instructors from engaging in activities such as making copies or creating derivative works without permission from a rights holder, open licenses (i.e. Creative Commons) enable open pedagogy as they allow students to engage in 5R activities.

As we learn by doing, David suggested that by adopting open educational practices, students start to learn in new ways. Moreover, in OER-Enabled Pedagogy, academics have an abundance of content that can be adapted in many ways, placing learners in networks of learning communities.  

Examples: remixing text and video

In one example, David shared an example of a book, ‘Project Management for Instructional Designers‘, which was co-created over a series of iterations by students, originally from a text which was donated anonymously.

He also talks about student assignments which, instead of being discarded or being seen only by a single instructor, can reach a much wider audience, essentially ‘adding value to the world’. He cites a well-shared example of an assignment asking students to debate the use of blogs and wikis; one assignment offered a response in the form of a remixed video of the famous Nixon-Kennedy debate, which has since garnered more than 59,000 views on YouTube.

You can watch David’s 15-minute presentation in full here:

OER and OEP in 15 Minutes – David Wiley PhD | UTS Learning Design Meetup March 2021

Open to continued learning

David shows how using readily available, easy to use editing tools, harnessing the role of community feedback and collecting data from educational technologies can help learning designers and instructors to understand gaps and the potential for improvements in our learning processes and outcomes. 

As OERs become more widely used, there is a need to continue building awareness of the benefits of OER in learning and teaching among faculty, students, learning designers and other stakeholders. David invited and challenged us to further improve our understanding of their potential impact for enhancing learning and student success. 

In response to the disruption of education due to the Covid-19 pandemic, UNESCO has issued a Call to support learning and knowledge sharing through Open Educational Resources (OER) worldwide.

The Covid-19 crisis has resulted in a paradigm shift on how learners of all ages, worldwide, can access learning. It is, therefore, more than ever essential that the global community comes together now to foster universal access to information and knowledge through OER.

UNESCO (2020)

This Call highlights the important role of OER in supporting education worldwide and the need to increase the sharing of knowledge for the post pandemic future of learning.

Get in touch with the speaker

David is open to your questions at and you can follow him on Twitter @opencontent. You can read more from David about OER and the RISE Framework in ‘A Framework for Continuous Improvement of OER

Image by Peter F on Unsplash

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