Web-based technologies allow educators to make their learning content accessible to learners and other educators outside their own institution. There are various motivations for sharing learning content in an open way - from top-down institution-wide policy, to individual teachers altruistically sharing with colleagues and open learners.
Our guide to open educational resources describes open content or open educational resources (OER) as small individual assets shared on the web, or larger, packaged and structured resources.
What makes learning resources truly open is the deliberate application of an open license, which sets out who can use the resource and how. Creative Commons licences have had a big impact on making learning materials open, although other open licences exist and may be more appropriate.
One principle of releasing open content is to help students access learning materials no matter where they are geographically to widen participation. Open content can be useful in online learning, too, although there are potential challenges - how to locate, and then adapt, content to suit each context.
Some open content is packaged for a specific audience and isn’t accessible to a global audience, pedagogically or technically.
Student generated content
The marketing and branding potential of open content can present educators with a useful set of benefits to present to senior managers, and may help make the case for online learning. There is great potential to develop exciting learning activities and classes, with students generating, sharing and adapting (or remixing) their own content such as in the digital storytelling course (ds106)1 at the University of Mary Washington in the US.
Our podcast discusses how developing and growing open courses, and particularly Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), have raised the profile of openness. However, not all of these actually use openly licensed content. See the section on open approaches in our curriculum design and support for online learning guide.
Our three year UK open educational resources (OER) programme investigated a range of cultural, legal, institutional and technical issues2 around the development of open content. In addition to producing OER for the UK and wider community to use, the lessons learnt were of great value for anyone adopting a more open approach to learning content.
|Barriers||What you can do|
|Lack of understanding of the benefits of using open content.|
Incorporate open content into existing strategy and policy
|Develop a new open content policy for the whole institution or for a department|
|Provide staff engagement activities|
|Provide staff training and support|
Identify examples of this working well within your own institution, or from others.
|Ownership and licensing issues are not understood.||Provide staff training and support|
|Develop clear policies and guidance|
Seek external advice
|Adapting open content to different contexts, or including open content in learning activities, can be challenging.||Link into open content networks to gain support and information|
|Identify how far open practices already exist within the industry/profession|
|Incorporate open professional practice into the curriculum|
|Include open digital storytelling in the curriculum.|