Why teach in the open?

Teaching in the open provides opportunities for both instructors and students to actively engage with open educational resources (OERs), open access and open pedagogy as they co-create their learning materials and environments. Working in the open requires us to learn to navigate issues of privacy, participation and ownership as we work with students to create learning resources and connect to communities who help us build and develop new knowledge.


Dr. Robin DeRosa is a professor of English at Plymouth State University and editor of Hybrid Pedagogy, an open-access, peer-reviewed journal that combines the strands of critical pedagogy and digital pedagogy to arrive at the best social and civil uses for technology and new media in education (About Robin DeRosa, 2016). In this short video, she touches on the key aspects of open education and reasons why they may be appealing to educators.

"4Cs of Open Learning" - Created by Cindy Underhill, CC by 3.0

Open pedagogy (as described by Dr. Robin DeRosa in the video above) includes learners as contributors to knowledge not just consumers of knowledge. By actively creating open, public and re-usable resources for public audiences, students learn what it means to authentically contribute to a body of knowledge.

The 4 C's of Open Learning (Connect, Create, Curate and Contribute) is one representation of what learners and faculty do and learn through the process of working in the open. These approaches help build web literacies - important for living, working and learning and conducting research in the world today.

Open approaches can enrich our teaching, open the doors to professional opportunities and connect learners with learning activities that have impact long after the course is over.

Read on to learn more.

  • Participate in a community of educators: Social networks and open projects offer opportunities for collaboration with other instructors on teaching and research projects.
  • Learn from others: Many educators appreciate the opportunity to learn from what others have done, to talk about what works and what doesn't, and to get new ideas for their own practice.
  • Connect learners with authentic audiences. This can range from students creating resources to be used by their peers to contributing resources to a community organization to contributing to knowledge by editing articles in Wikipedia. Arguably this approach can increase learning motivation and even achievement. Helping students learn how to engage with and navigate their way in online communities is an important piece of the learning.
  • Open opportunities: Having your teaching practice and materials accessible to people beyond your students can have unexpected benefits. It can lead to invitations to give presentations and open up leadership opportunities related to teaching and learning.
  • Finding, selecting and reviewing open resources in the process of learning helps students learn how to discern relevance, quality and perspective - important skills in the development of information literacies.
  • Open resources allow for cost saving around course content (textbooks, course readings) and time saving for content creation (e.g videos, graphic material, etc.)
  • Open resources provide the opportunity for students to be introduced to real world examples, data sets and images which may not otherwise be accessible in a classroom (e.g. open materials such as NASA Open Data-sets and images).
  • Openly licensed resources (or those in the public domain) give you and your students options to reuse and remix materials in support of your learning and teaching goals. Engaging with OERs in this way builds digital literacies.
  • Involving students directly in the creation of educational content encourages learners to “up their game” and stretch their skills to develop resources that will be immediately useful to their peers and beyond. By encouraging students to become "producers of knowledge" you can help motivate them and give them practice, writing, designing, working with authentic audiences.
  • "Harnessing [open] publishing as a pedagogical tool improves student learning outcomes through high-impact learning practices: extensive writing, teamwork, service learning, undergraduate research, and experiential learning" (Alexander,L. & Peters,A (2016) in Publishing as Pedagogy: Connecting Library Services and Technology.
  • Develop a wider community of practice: For some, the motivation to share their teaching materials openly comes from the value they attach to being in a community of educators who share and discuss practices and materials related to teaching and learning.
  • Extend the value of your educational work: Creating open educational resources can be a way to extend the value of your educational work more widely
  • Encourage students to make their work available for others to learn from and build on.
  • Help students learn about the options for sharing their work through open licensing and how to use and attribute the work of others - whose work, data and research they build on.
  • Provide opportunities for students to comment on the work of others - learning how to critique and provide feedback in a way that is respectful and contributes to furthering the work.

See more at Getting Started for Instructors

When we engage in the process of creating open educational resources, we are building important digital literacy skills that are increasingly important for scholarly work and collaboration. For example:

Locating resources to use in a mashup or build on to create a learning resource requires such skills as:

  • knowledge about open licensing and copyright - enough to decide whether or not a work can be re-used or re-licensed when revised.
  • practice working with different media formats (for downloading and taking apart).
  • practice using familiar tools in new ways to support educational work (ie. social networking, photo sharing, DIY video production, media embeds).
  • choosing hosting platforms for publication and distribution: (ie. weighing costs and benefits of choosing a platform to host video for example). This often requires a dig into privacy policies and terms of use for a variety of sites - adding to critical review skills for assessing digital platforms.

Publishing in a student-run, open journal engages many high impact educational practices, such as:

  • peer editing and collaboration.
  • intensive writing.
  • opportunities to integrate and apply what they have learned for an authentic audience.
  • participating in scholarly, professional practice.

Learning by teaching

Most of us understand that teaching something to others is an excellent way to better understand it oneself (or, on the other side, that one might think one understands something, but when attempting to teach it to others the gaps in understanding can become clear to oneself). The same can be the case for students: passively taking in information is vastly different from trying to put it together and explain it clearly to others. Asking students to create or adapt open educational resources is an excellent way for them to consolidate their understanding and benefit other students in the process.

Some examples of student work related to the development of such "tutorials":