What is Open Education?



The purpose of this module is to provide you with an opportunity to explore the following:

  • Definitions of open educational practice (OEP) and open educational resources (OER)
  • Karl Weick’s (1995) Sensemaking framework

Welcome and thank you for joining the course community for this open learning experience! If you haven't yet read the Making Sense as a Research Project module, please review it to learn more about this course as research.

This mini-MOOC (massive open online course) is designed to provide you with an introductory-level tour of open educational practices (OEP) and open educational resources (OER) for use in your personal education context (whatever that looks like for you). It is also part of a doctoral research project. Please read the linked document at the end of this module for more information regarding your data and informed consent. If you have any concerns or questions, please contact the researcher, Jenni Hayman, by email jlhayman@asu.edu

Whether you are a student, a teacher, a librarian, an education support professional, or all of the above, this course will likely have something for you if you’re new to open education. If you’re an experienced open educator, your support in networking and sharing with others will be most welcome! The Moodle version of the course is running live from June 1-15, 2018.

All materials from the course will be made available in downloadable, editable formats with a Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 International license (some course elements may be licensed differently but they will be carefully labeled). However you choose to learn, we’re happy to support you in any way we can.

The Course Team

Over the 15 days of this course you will be interacting with a community group of designers and facilitators that have agreed to learn with and from you. They are Canadian open educators that support and promote open educational practice (OEP) and use of open educational resources OER on their college and university campuses. They are:

Lauren Anstey, Claire Coulter, Irwin DeVries, Helen DeWaard, Peggy French, Maureen Glynn, Terry Greene, Joanne Kehoe, Jessica O’Reilly, and Ali Versluis.

Everyone looks forward to your daily activity sharing, feedback, and questions over the next two weeks.


The purpose of this module is to provide you with an opportunity to explore the following:

  • Definitions of open educational practice (OEP) and open educational resources (OER)
  • Karl Weick’s (1995) Sensemaking framework

What is Open Education?

illustration of a variety of words related to open education including sharing, redistribute, retain, reuse, remix, revise, OER transforms access, affordability

OER is Sharing by Giulia Forsythe is shared with a CC BY 4.0 International license

icon of a megaphone to indicate important content

The Cape Town Open Education Declaration established in 2007 is a good five-minute read to get a sense of the global open education movement. If you agree with the principles and want to commit to them, you can sign it!

Consider the following definitions:

Open Educational Resources (OER)

“...any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation” (UNESCO, n.d.).

Open Educational Practices (OEP)

“...is a broad descriptor of practices that include the creation, use, and reuse of open educational resources (OER) as well as open pedagogies and open sharing of teaching practices (Cronin, 2017).

OER-enabled Pedagogy

“...the set of teaching and learning practices only possible or practical when you have permission to engage in the 5R [retain, reuse, remix, revise, redistribute] activities” (Wiley, 2017).

Open education is a combination of these ideas and can have many contexts. There is something called “the global open education movement” which involves people from all over the world engaging in research and practice, collaborating and sharing ideas and content in primary, secondary, tertiary, and lifelong learning contexts. The United Nations, through UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation) supports projects and policy related to open education and use of OER. Many nations including South Africa, Kenya, India, Brazil, Poland, and Norway (to name just a few), are engaged in significant research and work around the adoption, adaptation, and creation of OER for learning. Foundations including The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation fund projects for research and creation of OER, and many government organizations (including the European Union Commission) and non-government organizations (NGOs) support and fund the work of open education to increase access and reduce costs overall.

Do any of the ideas in these definitions resonate with you as practices and ideas that you already value? Which definitions (if any) make the most sense for your learning and work? There are more web pages that describe these ideas if you wish to do some reading and exploring in the Explore More section of this module.

Watch the following 3 minute video that explores global connections made possible through the use of Open Educational Resources:

Video Transcription

A few years ago, a  professor taught a climate change course reaching about 100 students per semester. One day he thought “If I could upload this course on line, then not only would my 100 students have access to it, but others as well.”

So he did, and this is what happened. Anna sent the course’s content across the country to Alex who was studying climate change. Alex found it so interesting that he forwarded a copy to his friend Lulu in Africa. Lulu was developing peer-to-peer courses with Philip so they remixed the content with other resources and created a new course about the impacts of climate change in Africa.

Alan, a participant in the course, shared the content with Gabby, who was studying environmental policy in America. Gabby brought the content to her class and together, they translated it into Spanish. After that, Gabby’s professor shared it with his other classes

Mira, another student, shared the content with her father who passed it on to his colleagues. Gabby’s professor also forwarded the content to David, a colleague in the UK who was researching climate change. He updated some of the data, adapted it to his study, and published an article in an open journal.  Researchers from all over the world were able to read the article.

David sent the updated content back to the original professor, by then, the course had reached so many more people than his 100 students. Years later, many schools have begun to follow the example and opened access to their content. Governments began promoting the use of open textbooks. Students began saving money on books. Other innovative universities began to open access to entire courses, making them available to participants from all over the world.

These are open educational resources, teaching, learning, research resources, that can be reused, redistributed, remixed, and revised. Open educational resources are accessible to everyone, learners, teachers, researchers, parents, workers, citizens, to you.

This is open education, knowledge as a public good. Everyone has the right to be educated, yet only a few have access to school. Open educational resources increase access to, improve quality of, and reduce costs of education. Sharing knowledge is important

Now you know, open educational resources give everyone the opportunity to learn.

The Five Rs

icon of a megaphone to indicate important content

Read the following short blog post (5 minute read) on the Five Rs of OER: Defining the "Open" in Open Content and Open Educational Resources.

Quick Introduction to Creative Commons Licenses

You will explore and learn much more about open licenses later in the course. The illustration below is a quick introduction to the most common open license (and icons) that you'll see when exploring OER.

list of the creative commons licenses with requirements for use

(Creative Commons licenses explained ©Foter (adapted by Jisc) via Foter blog CC BY-SA

The following explanations provide some introduction to the complexity of the CC licenses:

CC0 is a public domain dedication. It means that no attribution or credit for the original author is needed. You can adapt it any way you wish and even use it commercially.

CC BY means that you must give credit (attribution) to the original author. You can adapt and use it commercially if you wish. However, attribution is not negotiable.

CC BY SA is a CC BY license plus “ShareAlike.” This means that you must attribute it and share any adaptations you make with the same CC BY SA license.

CC BY NC is CC BY plus “Non-Commercial” which means that you can use it with attribution, you can adapt it, but you cannot sell it or profit from it except to recuperate costs of printing for example. It is a non-profit license.

CC BY NC SA is CC BY plus “Non-Commercial” plus “Share Alike” which means that you can use it with attribution, you can adapt it, but you cannot sell it or profit from it and you must share it again using CC BY NC SA.

CC BY ND is CC BY plus “No Derivatives” which means that you can use it with attribution but you cannot adapt it.

CC BY NC ND is CC BY plus “Non-Commercial” plus No Derivatives” meaning you can use it with attribution, you cannot adapt it, and you cannot sell it or profit from it except to recuperate costs of printing for example. It is a non-profit license.


“Sensemaking is what it says it is, namely, making something sensible. Sensemaking is to be understood literally, not metaphorically” (Weick, 1995, p. 16).

illustration of two human heads made of small colourful cogs, there are cogs between the two heads meant to indicate a sharing of ideas

Knowledge-sharing by Ansonlobo is shared with a CC BY SA 4.0 International license.

In 1995, Karl Weick published a change management book called Sensemaking in Organizations. This work described decades of Weick’s experience conducting research and observing applied practice in organizational behaviour. He devoted significant space to the work of other researchers to ensure a broad perspective about how individuals, teams, and administrators make sense of internal and external organizational influences.

Since 1995 (when Weick published his book), global teaching and learning has been influenced in many ways by Internet-enabled information and communication. Education institutions and educators in many places are grappling with the shift of power that the Internet represents. This shift may be seen as a revolution against expertise in the hands of few, to expertise in the hands of many. It must be acknowledged that this is a revolution of privilege, those privileged with access to the Internet. However, access seems to be growing exponentially minute-by-minute.

Weick’s (1995) processes of sensemaking have been applied to many for-profit, non-profit, and educational contexts over time. Weick’s framework was selected for this open research to bring a focus to the unique organizational structures and systems of post-secondary institutions, and the predominantly individual nature of the work of educators. Weick’s framework was also selected to help address the concept that Internet-enabled, abundant information and OER represent external influences that may be causing a disruption in how post-secondary educators conduct their practice. While it is important that open education and use of OER make sense to administrators, departments, and teams –  so that policy and support structures may be created – for purposes of this research project, and this course, the critical stakeholders for use of OER are educators.

The following quote from Weick’s book summed up the key questions of sensemaking as a process, he stated, “…sensemaking begins with the basic question, is it still possible to take things for granted? And if the answer is no, if it has become impossible to continue with automatic information processing [the status quo], then the questions become, ‘why is this so?’ And, ‘what next?’” (Weick, 1995, p. 14).


When open education and use of OER begin to make sense to an educator (for a variety of reasons), researching, curating, adapting, and sharing OER becomes the “what next?” of open educational practice. This course is about determining for yourself whether use of OER makes sense for your practice, and if so, “what next?” in terms of learning more about open education, finding and using OER, and developing OEP.

Day 1 Activity

Find (or make) and share a video, web page, illustration, photo, or diagram that explains what open education means to you as you begin this course. Include information about what you would like to to learn more about over the next two weeks. You can choose to share your work in the Day 1 discussion forum in the course shell, in a social media space, with family, friends, and colleagues, or just save your output for your own reflection.

Explore More

Any of Catherine Cronin’s Blog Posts https://catherinecronin.net/

Giulia Forsythe’s amazing photos and conference and presentation notes on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/

OER Toolkit from College Libraries Ontario. Fantastic beginning resource.

References and Copyright Information

Cronin, C. (2017). Openness and praxis: Exploring the use of open educational practices in higher education. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 18(5), 15-34. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/3096. Licensed under a CC BY 4.0 International license.

UNESCO (n.d.). What are open educational resources? [web page]. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/access-to-knowledge/open-educational-resources/what-are-open-educational-resources-oers/. All contents of this webpage are ©UNESCO and may be used for personal and non-commercial purposes.

Weick, K. E. (1995). Sensemaking in organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ©Sage Publications.

Wiley, D. (2017). OER enabled pedagogy [blog post]. Retrieved from https://opencontent.org/blog/archives/5009. Licensed under a CC BY 4.0 International license.

Non-captioned Image Credits

Megaphone icon by eCampusOntario is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 International license.

Image of Jenni Hayman is an unpublished selfie taken in April, 2018 at the OE Global conference in Delft, Netherlands. The image is licenses with a CC BY NC 4.0 International license.

Featured in “The Research Project” section of this module: OER Programm Logo by Markus Büsges (leomaria) is licensed with a CC BY SA 3.0 Unported license


All content for Making Sense of Open Education Day 1 by Jenni Hayman is licensed with a CC BY 4.0 International license (unless otherwise indicated with citation, referencing, and attribution).
Last modified: Friday, 1 June 2018, 10:17 PM