Definitions of open educational practices range but consistently focus on fostering learner activity and agency. (Bali, Cronin, Jhangiani, 2020). As asserted by Wiley, Lambert, and Cronin, OEP has largely escaped definition; often blurred with eLearning, online learning, and advances in educational technology. (Lambert, S. R., 2018).

As Cronin (2017), states “The use of OEP by educators is complex, personal, and contextual; it is also continually negotiated.” Openness can mean different things to different people, and the pedagogical benefit of such practices will differ with each instructor and class.

Open pedagogy is a form of experiential learning which embraces collaboration, student agency, and authentic audiences while recognizing the differences in privilege and progress that impact how students balance the benefits of sharing and a need for privacy.

Open practices challenge traditional teaching roles and have the power to transform the educational experience for both instructors and students. Open pedagogy shares common investments with many other historical and contemporary schools of pedagogy. (e.g. constructivism, connectivism, digital and critical pedagogy). (Openoedagogy.org)

Below includes only a few examples of the literature exploring “what are open practices” and “what is open pedagogy”.

Perhaps the easiest way is to identify what it is not. Open is not closed.

What would you consider closed in the current learning environment you create for your students? What can be more open? What could that look like? Who would benefit? How would this impact the students’ learning?

“Openness is not a single expression and exists on a spectrum” (Hendricks, 2017)

The spectrum of open practice, below, provides a framework to encompass the broad strokes of open practices. Although the chart is specifically anchored on content creation (OER), the nature of the high touch regions of the spectrum can be interpreted in ways other than content creation and align with open practices across the literature.

Spectrum of Open Practice, by Cindy Underhill, licensed CC BY-SA 3.0

Hegarty’s Eight Attributes of Open Pedagogy (2018) similarly frames open practices around OER, but provides further description of student agency. These attributes, while originally published in an Educational Technology journal and subtitled “A Model for Using Open Educational Resources”, show a way forward to apply open pedagogies with content of various permissions of use. For example, OER (modify and share), Open Access (freely accessible), free online (viewable online).

These attributes also lend well to interpretation of teaching strategies without specific use of content/media at all. Particularly open educators who reference the foundational work of hooks and Freire, and the more recent, digitally relevant works of Friend and Stommel.

Hegarty, Bronwyn. “Attributes of Open Pedagogy: A Model for Using Open Educational Resources.” Educational Technology, July-August 2015, pp. 3-13. 

Revisiting the difference between open educational practices and open educational resources; pedagogical practices emphasize the process of openness in education, while OERs (open educational resources) are content which can enable open pedagogies and practices.

OER are defined by their permissions for free use and repurposing by others. However, the benefits of high-touch practices on the Spectrum of Open Practice are not limited to the use of content which allows derivatives. 

While open pedagogies reach beyond content and strive to address inequities and colonial influences of education, OERs have dominated the community’s scope of ‘open practices’ to the point where the definition of open educational practices (often interchanged with open pedagogy) were explicitly included the reliance on derivative permissible works (OER). This narrowing of open education and the scope of what is deemed ‘open’ has inadvertently restricted discussions surrounding social justice, equity, and accessibility of education as a whole, specifically in North America.

Since 2017, literature on open education has maintained a prominent importance of OER while seeing an increase and inclusion of voices on the values and educational philosophies which lead educators to the field.

While open pedagogy in the modern sense relies on technology and is influenced by technological advances (therefore, an ever-changing field), the core principles remain anchored to critical pedagogy. Building on ~~~~~~ statement that education is political, a continued urgency from the core – critical theory – will guide the branches of open education in the same direction of the common good.

We need the numerous lenses of open education, and perhaps more. We need the community-based accountability to stay the course, because education is political, but our practices and the continual reshaping of such is critical.


Cronin, C., (2017). Openness and Praxis: Exploring the Use of Open Educational Practices in Higher Education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(5). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i5.3096

Hendricks, C., (2017). What is open education? Retrieved on February 16, 2021 from: http://blogs.ubc.ca/chendricks/2015/04/11/what-is-open-education/

Lambert, S. R. (2018). Changing our (Dis)Course: A Distinctive Social Justice Aligned Definition of Open Education. Journal of Learning for Development , 5(3). Retrieved from https://jl4d.org/index.php/ejl4d/article/view/290

Koseoglu, Suzan & Bozkurt, Aras. (2018). An exploratory literature review on open educational practices. Distance Education. 39. 1-21. DOI: 10.1080/01587919.2018.1520042

What is open pedagogy?