How do I teach in the open?

photo of Christina Hendricks
photo of Edward Slingerland
photo of Arthur Greenland
photo of Tina Loo
photo of Janice Stewart
photo of Jon Beasley
photo of Eric Meyers
photo of Aim Simpeng
photo of Nisha Malhotra
photo of Rosie Redfield
photo of Gill Green
photo of Maja Krzic

Christina Hendricks in Philosophy uses blogs as a course site to share student work

"The work students do in my courses can also be very valuable to others who want to learn about philosophical topics. Thus I have asked students to create blog posts and post other assignments on our public course websites to share their thoughts and their knowledge with others"

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Edward Slingerland in Asian Studies shares his MOOC experience

" I can lead the 30-some students in more intimate discussion sections, engaging with the course readings, fostering debate about class themes, and answering questions and concerns much more effectively than would be possible in a large lecture hall."

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Arthur Greenland in Geography uses PulsePress to encourage student discussion

"I wanted students to gain experience interacting on such discussion boards to encourage them to start to use and contribute to online GIS discussion boards."

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Tina Loo in History uses Wikipedia for student projects

"…the value of the Wikipedia assignment lies in giving students first hand experience in constructing knowledge. Writing the articles showed them how it’s made; that it changes over time, and it does so in part as a result of competition and cooperation."

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Janice Stewart in GRSJ uses UBC Wiki

"Students participate in an open and collaborative community learning project that permits participants’ active involvement in research-intensive modes of narration, reading and writing that constitute a generative form of knowledge mobilization and importantly, citizenship."

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Dr. Jon-Beasley Murray in Latin American Studies uses Wikipedia for student projects

“It teaches students about revision and writing in a way the normal essays that I asked them to write didn’t...”

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Eric Meyers in the iSchool@UBC uses video to enhance learning

"An increasingly common challenge for post-secondary institutions is the development of in-house expertise in the creation of video-based learning materials for use in face-to-face and e-learning situations."

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Aim Sinpeng in Political Science uses blogs for online engagement

"Blogging is a great way to increase student interaction with the class materials as well as current events. Students will also get to hone the skill of blogging which is becoming more and more important for the digital economy."

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Nisha Malhotra in Economics uses tutorial videos for concept review

"Students now have time to analyze what is happening around the world using the economic concepts and tools learnt in class. It’s fantastic, and it wasn’t really possible before."

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Rosie Redfield in Zoology uses Wikipedia to let students create an assignment that has an impact beyond the classroom.

"We are often asking students to do work just to show us that they can do it. I wanted them to do something that had genuine value, and not just this makeup exercise they perform just to show [professors] they know how to do things"

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Arthur Gill Green in Geography creates open textbook in order to engage with responsible pedagogy

"If students can’t afford resources, if they can’t afford textbooks and it’s hindering their learning, then we’re not being responsible in how we choose the textbooks and how we choose what students should read. How can we be responsible in our pedagogy, in our approach to choosing textbooks, to choosing resources and delivering them?"

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Maja Krzic in Soil Science developed an open learning resource to teaching in her course

"About 15 years ago, innovation was to have some course material on the web but development of information technology has opened new avenues for innovation in education."

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As evidenced in the great work that faculty and students are engaged in at UBC, there is no one right way to "do open."

Open learning opportunities may include:

  • Use of an open textbook and open resources in a course (see the Guide to Finding OER and the Guide to Finding Open Textbooks for more information)
  • Using student blogs as open portfolios where they can document, share experiences and get feedback on their work (or works in progress) from a wider audience than their course mates or instructors. Example: UBC Blogsquad.
  • Opening a class discussion to the public via open course blog or via Twitter hashtag. Example: ArtsOne Open
  • Students creating openly licensed learning resources and publishing them (via YouTube, Flickr, Google docs or other platforms). Example: Digital Tattoo Project
  • A fully open course using open resources and engaging students from all over the world. Example: (UBCx)
CC by 3.0]]

Defining open pedagogy is challenging. Some would say that open access and permissions for re-use are key: "Open pedagogy is that set of teaching and learning practices only possible in the context of the free access and 5R permissions characteristic of open educational resources." David Wiley: Defining Open Pedagogy

Others would offer a broader definition: Looking at open pedagogy as a general philosophy of openness (and connection) in all elements of the pedagogical process, while messy, provides some interesting possibilities. Open is a purposeful path towards connection and community. Open pedagogy could be considered as a blend of strategies, technologies, and networked communities that make the process and products of education more transparent, understandable, and available to all the people involved. - Tom Woodward in an excerpt from an interview in Campus Technology

Tom Woodward (in a 2014 interview for Campus Technology) highlights 3 features of open pedagogy:

  • open planning: Prior to the start of a course built on open pedagogy there is a focus on collaboration regarding what the course might be — the content, the lessons, the tools of construction, and the teaching strategies...You can see what other instructors have done — their resources, their lessons, or their reflections on what happened during their course. As Tom points out, these processes are often hidden from public view. Making them open and accessible means that others can learn from them.
  • open products: Students are publishing for an audience greater than their instructor. That matters. Their work, being open, has the potential to be used for something larger than the course itself and to be part of a larger global conversation. This changes the experience of doing the work, but just as importantly it changes the kind of work you ask students to do.
  • open reflection: After the course, reflecting and documenting how the course went is valuable both to the instructor and to those who might be considering similar courses or pedagogical strategies. People are happy enough to present and document success but it's still not common practice to reflect on elements that don't work well. Documenting reflections on what worked and what didn't and making those public can lead to connections between people working to address the same challenges.

One could also consider a fourth feature:

  • open process (of creating OER): If you or your students create open educational resources for a course, it's useful to share not just the finished resources but also the processes of creating them. Sharing the process can mean many things, e.g., talking about how you made a teaching resource such as a video or podcast (what tools, software, what steps you took, pitfalls you ran into), describing why you created the resource in the way you did (what goals you had, what research underlies the creation of this resource), explaining how you have used the resource in a class and whether it was successful.

How can you share your process?

One way to do so is to have a blog on teaching and learning. UBC provides faculty, staff and students with a free blog site on UBC Blogs. The FAQ on the UBC Blogs page has extensive information to help you get started, and information about drop-in support if you need it.

Example of Open Pedagogy in Practice

A local UBC project that engages some of these features of open pedagogy is a Teaching With WordPress, an open course for professional development in teaching using Wordpress as a platform.

  • planning was done on the UBCWiki (a semi-open platform in that editors require a CWL).
  • the products of the course were "courses in progress" that many of the participants were building as they were engaged with the course. The course itself also acts as a resource for people wanting to learn about open teaching practice.
  • participants shared their processes by talking about how they created resources and course sites, why they designed them that way, and what pitfalls they ran into.

Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about open educational resources, but precious little has been written about how OER – or openness more generally – changes the practice of education. - David Wiley - What is Open Pedagogy?

In the post linked above, David Wiley defines open pedagogy by way of example. He writes about how he blended principles for effective teaching and learning with open practice to create an assignment that has endured the test of time and resulted in some excellent student contributions to open educational resources (OERs).

The components of open teaching practice highlighted by Wiley's example include:

  • Building trust with students - by way of being explicit about the goals and purpose of the open assignment and clear guidelines for what is to be developed.
  • Authentic assignments - offer students the opportunity to create something to be immediately used by a real audience (in this case, students were creating a learning resource for peers in their classroom). Since students will be using their resource to teach others, they get immediate and practical feedback. This is in contrast to what Wiley calls "disposable assignments" which are created for the instructor, seen by no-one else, and often discarded at the end of term.
  • Offer a clear description of the assignment and examples where possible - many students will be unfamiliar with the process of finding open resources to used in a project and remixing them to create something new - offering a detailed example is helpful.
  • Provide scaffolds for learning - Divide the assignment into steps and offer opportunities for feedback after each step so that students are supported in building and improving their work.
  • Invite students to license their work - with a Creative Commons license resources can be freely remixed and improved upon by others. Talk about the reason for licensing and offer options for students who choose not to publicly share what they create.
  • Offer opportunities for students' work to be incorporated into the course - either as an example to work from or as a remix to build on and improve.

Renewable, not disposable assignments

Many assignments given in postsecondary institutions are what David Wiley calls "disposable". Renewable assignments, on the other hand, add value to the world beyond earning a mark from an instructor--they provide resources that are useful and usable by others, whether other students in the course or the wider public. Examples could include students creating notes or demonstrations for other students in the same course (and possibly also posted publicly for others), students editing articles on Wikipedia or an institutional wiki site like the UBC Wiki, and students producing research that can be used by a community group. Even those assignments that might otherwise be "disposable" can be made renewable by sharing them with other students in a course and, if the student agrees, publicly.

In order for such work to be truly "renewable," though, it should be openly licensed to allow others to not only view it but also revise and reuse for their own purposes.

See these links for more information on disposable and renewable assignments:

Many teaching materials can be openly licensed and made available for others to revise or reuse, such as syllabi, lecture notes, presentation slides, case studies, videos, podcasts, study questions, quizzes and more. Some faculty choose to create entire open textbooks. Of course, there may be some you don't want to share because you want to reuse them in future years yourself (e.g. exams). But you may be willing to share other materials. Even if you think other teachers or students might not find them valuable, even if you think they are very specifically tied to your course context, you might be surprised at how they could spark ideas in others to use in their own teaching.

To make your teaching materials open, you need to give them an open license; see here for how to do so.

For more on creating open educational resources, see the Guide to Creating OER .

5R Permissions for Open - Lumen Learning CC:BY 4.0

Whatever your definition, open pedagogy relies on a structure of permissions to engage in the following activities:

  • Retain - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  • Reuse - the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  • Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  • Remix - the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  • Redistribute - the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)


A concern that comes up for both students and instructors is privacy. Aspects of both learning and teaching be a private endeavour and teaching in the open requires making decisions about what elements, or course assignments can be completed in the open and what elements may require sharing only between student and teacher or students and their peers.


As with any change to an instructors practice, developing open assignments can take considerable time on the part of the instructor and in some cases students. To deal with this challenge, instructors can work with instructors who have taught using a similar approach or tool, work with faculty or central support units or with organizations such as Wikimedia that can support these projects

Tools and Technologies

Finding tools that can be used for open teaching can be challenging. There are privacy and FIPPA issues that require navigation. For a better understanding of these issues, see CTLT's Student Privacy and Consent Guidelines for Instructors.

At UBC we do have open services and frameworks, the UBC Wiki and the WordPress that can support open teaching and learning.

The following are examples of open teaching in practice at UBC:

  • Paul Hibbitts planned a course on a public site and asked for feedback from social media as well as the students who had registered for the course. Slides from a presentation he did about this open course planning can be seen here.
  • Renewable assignments: