Notes on Open Pedagogy

Mary and Amanda wrote a great post yesterday about BCCampus’ upcoming plans around open pedagogy. It reminded me that I meant to post the notes I developed for my workshop on open pedagogy at the Maricopa Community Colleges last week. Here’s my outline for the conversation we had there. (Yes, I know it’s outline-y and not completely fleshed out, but hopefully there’s enough here to be valuable.) I’m thinking quite hard about this topic these days.

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Students LEARN as a result of the things they DO.

We ask students to DO many things – read, watch, listen, answer, solve, etc.

Broadly speaking, our PEDAGOGY is how we decide what we ask students to DO.

Asking students to DO some things leads to better learning than asking them to DO other things. We should have a bias towards asking students to DO things that are more effective than less. Hattie is a good first source for this info (but certainly not the last word).

Pedagogy and educational materials intersect because we frequently ask students to DO things with RESOURCES – *read* articles, *watch* videos, *listen* to lectures, *answer* questions, *solve* problems, etc.

Open means “free plus 5R permissions.”

Open impacts pedagogy in two ways:

  • By increasing student access to RESOURCES, open increases the number of students who can DO things with RESOURCES
    • (INCREASE the number of students with access to effective pedagogy)
  • By enabling students to DO things with RESOURCES that weren’t previously possible or practical
    • (ENABLE new pedagogies)

The primary questions of open pedagogy, then, are:

  • What kinds of things would we ask students to DO with RESOURCES if we knew that all of them had access to the RESOURCES?
  • What can we ask students to DO with RESOURCES they can retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute that wasn’t practical or possible to ask them to do before?

A Simple INCREASE Example (from Hattie)

Strategy: Reviewing Records
Definition: Efforts to re-read notes, tests, or textbooks to prepare for class or further testing
Example: Reviewing textbook before going to lecture
Effect Size: 0.49

(Use something like my Summary Slides strategy – so students are teaching students)

For things that weren’t practical or possible before, start from things we know were effective pre-open and make them more powerful post-open.

A Simple ENABLE Example (pre-open)
Strategy: Organizing and Transforming
Definition: Overt or covert rearrangement of instructional materials to improve learning
Example: Making an outline before writing a paper
Effect size: 0.85

There’s one degree of separation because you can’t rearrange the materials, just the ideas within them

A Simple ENABLE Example (post-open)
New Strategy: Revise and Remix
Definition: Editing and rearranging of instructional materials to improve learning
Example: Rewriting examples in a textbook chapter

An early example: Students’ additions of new characters to A Conversation about Learning Objects back in 2005

There are clearly opportunities here to tie into other pedagogical frameworks with high impacts on learning, like Service Learning (0.58).

A Disposable Assignment is any assignment about which students and faculty understand the following:

  • Students will do the work
  • Faculty will grade the work
  • Students will throw away the work

A reasonable estimate has US undergrads spending about 40 million hours a year on these kinds of assignments.

A Renewable Assignment is any assignment where:

  • Students will do the work
  • Faculty will grade the work
  • The work is inherently valuable to someone beyond the class
  • The work is openly published so those other people can find and use (5R) it

Examples of Renewable Assignments

See also BCcampus’ crowdsourced list of open pedagogy examples:

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I have a chapter about open educational resources that will be appearing in a book on trends and issues in instructional design and technology later this year. The chapter will be openly licensed and I’ll publish it here in full after it appears in the book. But Phil’s great post today about the price difference between digital and print textbook rentals has me wanting to post the chapter’s Summary of Key Principles. So here it is (with some links added to improve readability):

  1. Education is sharing. Ideas, knowledge, skills, and attitudes are public goods. This means they are nonrivalrous and nonexcludable, and therefore easy to share.
  2. Expressions of ideas, knowledge, skills, and attitudes captured in physical artifacts like books are private goods, meaning they are both rivalrous and excludable, making them difficult to share.
  3. When concrete expressions of ideas, knowledge, skills, and attitudes are converted from a physical into a digital format, this changes them from private goods back to being public goods, once again making them easier to share.
  4. Copyright law places artificial limits on our ability to use technology to share digital educational materials. This changes these public goods into club goods, once again making them difficult to share.
  5. Educational materials published under an open license are called open educational resources (OER). When digital educational materials become OER, they are converted back into public goods. Over 1 billion openly licensed materials are published online.
  6. Open educational resources are far better aligned with the core values of education (education is sharing) than materials published under an all rights reserved, traditional copyright. This closer alignment creates opportunities for less expensive, more flexible, more effective education.

This notion of club goods is closely related to my comment on Phil’s post, which I reproduce below:

Printed books are things a person can own and to which the First Sale doctrine applies:

The first-sale doctrine creates a basic exception to the copyright holder’s distribution right. Once the work is lawfully sold or even transferred gratuitously, the copyright owner’s interest in the material object in which the copyrighted work is embodied is exhausted. The owner of the material object can then dispose of it as he sees fit. Thus, one who buys a copy of a book is entitled to resell it, rent it, give it away, or destroy it. However, the owner of the copy of the book will not be able to make new copies of the book because the first-sale doctrine does not limit copyright owner’s reproduction right. The rationale of the doctrine is to prevent the copyright owner from restraining the free alienability of goods. Without the doctrine, a possessor of a copy of a copyrighted work would have to negotiate with the copyright owner every time he wished to dispose of his copy. After the initial transfer of ownership of a legal copy of a copyrighted work, the first-sale doctrine exhausts copyright holder’s right to control how ownership of that copy can be disposed of. For this reason, this doctrine is also referred to as the “exhaustion rule.” (

Publishers only control the price the initial sale of a printed book. When the new owner goes to sell it back, or rent it, or dispose of it in any other way, the new owner determines the pricing – not the publisher.

However, in digital land things are different. Publishers have worked hard to establish a licensing norm and copyright regime that insures that you never own any digital products – you simply license access to them. When the semester is over, there is nothing you own that you can resell to someone else – your password just stops working or your book deletes itself from your device, etc. (Some publishers provide “forever access,” but this is not ownership and does not enable secondary markets.)

By waging an active war on ownership of private property in the digital resources space, publishers insure there is no First Sale, which prevents any secondary market from emerging. This allows publishers to control the pricing of each and every transaction on digital, which guarantees that prices on commercial digital materials will always be higher than the prices on used physical materials (which includes rentals). Because in digital land, there is no “used.”

In terms of cost, the following relationships will generally be true:

printed commercial materials (new) > digital commercial materials > printed commercial materials (used) > OER



Who Pays for Supplemental Materials?

One of the reasons faculty can be slow to switch from commercial textbooks to OER is a perceived lack of open supplemental materials like powerpoint presentations, lab books, and test banks. There are certainly some disciplines in which this is a challenge (I’ll discuss how we’re changing that below). But let’s think for a moment about what that means:

1. A faculty member reviews a collection of OER (perhaps an open textbook) and feels like the collection would be an acceptable substitute for the commercial textbook they currently require students to purchase.

2. The faculty member then begins to look for open supplemental materials like test banks and powerpoint presentations that commercial publishers provide for free to faculty whose students use their books.

3. While the faculty member found the OER acceptable in terms of a textbook replacement for students, they were unable to find an open substitute for the supplemental materials.

4. The faculty member chooses to continue to assign commercial materials to students.

What just happened? The faculty member decided to require students to pay the cost of the faculty member’s supplemental teaching materials.

Wow. The more you look, the more broken the textbook market is.

Perhaps a new business model for publishers to consider, as OER replaces commercial textbooks, is direct-to-faculty sale of supplemental materials. That would certainly be more appropriate – I don’t think it’s outrageous to suggest that the people deriving the value from a product should be the people paying for the product.

All of that said… this concern is increasingly unfounded – there are more and more openly licensed supplemental materials available. In fact, this is one of the most powerful collaborative practices we facilitate at Lumen Learning. Faculty at one institution will adopt OER and need open powerpoints. So we help them create these slide decks, and add these to our “open course” (which is what we call our curated / learning designed collection of OER for a discipline). Then we take that aggregation to another institution, which needs open lab manuals. We work with them to create these manuals, and then add them to the open course. &c. This “snowball development model” allows individuals and institutions to make small contributions to the open course, which gets larger and larger as it rolls downhill. And this ever-growing snowball is available to the entire community. (The snowball development model is also a great example of stigmergy in action – watch for more on this topic…)