Cronin, C., & MacLaren, I. (2018). Conceptualising OEP: A review of theoretical and empirical literature in Open Educational Practices. Open Praxis, 10(2), 127–143. https://doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.10.2.825
Conceptualisations of open educational practices (OEP) vary widely, ranging from those centred primarily on the creation and use of open educational resources (OER) to broader definitions of OEP, inclusive of but not necessarily focused on OER. The latter, referred to in this paper as expansive definitions of OEP, encompass open content but also allow for multiple entry points to, and avenues of, openness. This paper explores the theoretical and empirical literature to outline how the concept of OEP has evolved historically. The paper aims to provide a useful synthesis of OEP literature for education researchers and practitioners.
Open education is defined broadly as encompassing resources, tools and practices to improve educational access, effectiveness, and equality worldwide (Lane, 2009; Open Education Consortium, n.d.).
The Cape Town Open Education Declaration (2007) points to an expansive approach:
... open education is not limited to just open educational resources. It also draws upon open technologies that facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing of teaching practices that empower educators to benefit from the best ideas of their colleagues. It may also grow to include new approaches to assessment, accreditation and collaborative learning.
The OLCOS project methodology included a detailed literature review, workshops, and interviews with experts. The final report had a five-year time-horizon and thus was titled Open Educational Practices and Resources: OLCOS Roadmap 2012 (Geser, 2007a). OEP were defined as: “…practices that involve students in active, constructive engagement with content, tools and services in the learning process, and promote learners’ self-management, creativity and working in teams” (Geser, 2007a, p. 37).
Early in the project, Conole and Ehlers (2010, p. 2) defined OEP as: “a set of activities and support around the creation, use and repurposing of open educational resources (OERs)”. Their conclusions proposed a somewhat broader definition of OEP, though still focused on OER: “the use of OER with the aim to improve quality of educational processes and innovate educational environments” (Conole & Ehlers, 2010, p. 3). In the final OPAL report, OEP was defined even more broadly (Andrade et al., 2011):
OEP are defined as practices which support the (re)use and production of OER through institutional policies, promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect and empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning path (p. 12).
OEP essentially represent collaborative practice in which resources are shared by making them openly available, and pedagogical practices are employed which rely on social interaction, knowledge creation, peer-learning, and shared learning practices (Ehlers, 2011a, p. 6).
Beetham et al. (2012) analysed the UKOER project outcomes and formulated an expansive definition of OEP encompassing six distinct practices:
- OER production, management, use and reuse
- Open/public pedagogies
- Open learning (including peer-to-peer learning and open accreditation)
- Open scholarship (including open research, open data and open access publication)
- Open sharing of teaching ideas
- Use of open technologies (including social media and digital open tools)
The revised framework has five attributes of openness within a larger ‘Open Education’ cycle:
- Technical (interoperability and open formats; connectivity; technical skills & equipment; availability and discoverability of resources)
- Legal (open license parameters; open license knowledge and advice)
- Cultural (conceptions of knowledge as given or constructed; curricula)
- Pedagogical (student demographics and types of engagement; pedagogic, learning & assessment strategies; accreditation/certification)
- Financial (costs ranging from free to fees; sustainable business models)
Table 1: Four key strands of OEP research cited in the literature
|OLCOS project||OPAL initiative||UKOER programme||CILT research|
|Publications||Geser (2007a, 2007b), Schaffert (2008), Schaffert & Geser, (2008)||Andrade et al. (2011), Camilleri & Ehlers (2011), Conole (2011), Conole & Ehlers (2010), Ehlers (2011a, 2011b)||Beetham et al. (2012), McGill et al. (2013)||Hodgkinson-Williams & Gray (2009), Hodgkinson-Williams (2010); Hodgkinson-Williams (2014), Czerniewicz et al. (2017a, 2017b)|
|Definition of OEP||“practices that involve students in active, constructive engagement with content, tools and services in the learning process, and promote learners’ self-management, creativity and working in teams” (Geser, 2007a)||“practices which support the (re)use and production of OER through institutional policies, promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect and empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning path” (Andrade et al., 2011)||6 practices: OER production, management, use and reuse; open/public pedagogies; open learning; open scholarship; open sharing of teaching ideas; use of open technologies” (Beetham et al., 2012)||5 dimensions of openness: technical, legal, cultural, pedagogical, financial (Hodgkinson-Williams, 2014)|
Despite their differences, all four conceptualisations of OEP focus on both OER and collaborative pedagogical practices as a means of transforming education.
However, our concern in this paper is exploring the literature on OEP. In our review of the empirical OEP literature, we focused on studies that gathered and analysed data (e.g. via surveys, interviews, observations, case studies) in order to understand the development and use of OEP in specific contexts. Many empirical studies of OEP focus specifically on practices and policies that support the creation, use and repurposing of OER.
Nascimbeni and Burgos (2016) take such an approach in their study of “the Open Educator”:
We believe it is important to ‘disconnect’ the concept of open teaching from the use of OER since many teachers are indeed using open methodologies in their classroom activities, for example by fostering co-creation of knowledge from students allowing them to enrich the course content with any complementary information they deem important. In our view, these teachers can be indeed considered Open Educators even if they do not use – and maybe do not even know the existence of – OER (p. 7).
The deceptively simple term ‘open’ hides a “reef of complexity” (Hodgkinson-Williams & Gray, 2009, p. 114), much of which depends on the particular context within which OEP is considered. Thus, it is imperative to move beyond open-closed dichotomies and even unified conceptions of openness. We contend that expansive conceptualisations of OEP acknowledge the complex, actual and situated practices of teaching and learning – where context influences the choice and use of OEP, where OEP may emerge before the use of OER, and where critical approaches to open education may be realised.