Notes on Research and Practice on Open Educational Resources: Local Context, Local Practice

Koseoglu, S. (Feb, 2019). Notes on Research and Practice on Open Educational Resources: Local Context, Local Practice. Invited talk at The Centre of Excellence for Teaching and Learning (CoETaL) Inaugural Symposium, University of Guyana, Guyana.

Conference Theme: New Era, New Strategies to Enhance Teaching and Learning as we Journey along Renaissance Road.

The first part of the talk builds on Bozkurt, A., Koseoglu, S., & Singh, L. (2018). An analysis of peer reviewed publications on openness in education in half a century: Trends and patterns in the open hemisphere. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 35(4).


Many thanks to The Centre of Excellence for Teaching and Learning for inviting me to its inaugural Symposium. I’m really honored to participate in this symposium and talk about research and practice on Open Educational Resources, in connection with openness in Higher Education.

A little bit about research

I’d like to begin my talk with a publication Dr. Aras Bozkurt, Lenandlar Singh, and myself have recently published in the Australian Journal of Educational Technology: An analysis of peer reviewed publications on openness in education.

Open access article link

In this research, we  looked at trends and patterns in peer-reviewed literature on openness in education. We explored openness through four generic keywords: open education, open learning, open educational practices, and open educational resources. For data sampling we used Scopus, which according to its website is one of the largest databases of peer-reviewed literature.

We explored 970 studies from 1969 to 2017–that is almost 50 years of research–and we observed an increasing trend in publications in all areas, especially after 2007. If you look at the graph on screen, you will see the peaks roughly after 2007, which corresponds with the  emergence of Massive Open Online Courses in  2008. The yellow line represents Open Educational Resources. The light blue line represents the total of number of studies.


We saw very clearly in our research that Open Educational Resources (OERs) and  Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were two of the most popular topics, and research on OERs dominated the field. I will simply define OER as easily accessible, free or publicly available resources, digital and non-digital. You are also seeing a definition provided by OER Commons on screen; however, this definition is limited to digital resources and licensed materials.*

“Open educational resources are teaching and learning materials that are freely available online for everyone to use, whether you are an instructor, student or self-learner. Examples of OER include: full courses, course modules, syllabi, lectures, homework assignments, quizzes, lab and classroom activities, pedagogical materials, games, simulations, and many more resources contained in digital media collections from around the world.OER Commons

One interesting finding in our research, which is also confirmed by other scholars and other research studies,  is that research on openness is usually conducted in countries in the Global North, which means academic knowledge on openness is produced in the Global North. This is a partial finding, but it is there and we cannot ignore it.  By Global North I mean  countries such as the United States of America,  United Kingdom,  European countries, Australia, etc. and by the Global South I mean most countries in Latin America, Africa, and so on.

“World map showing the modern definition of the North-South divide” (Wikipedia)

So this isn’t a geographical divide. We aren’t simply dividing the world as North and South. The illustration you are seeing on screen shows a socio-economic and political divide in the world. Of course this isn’t a perfect illustration of inequality on a global scale. For example, what is “developed” or “non-developed” or “developing” is relative. Developed according to whom, which criteria, based on the experiences of which group?

Going back to our research, we examined peer-reviewed publications on openness in Education, and we saw that there is disparity in academic contributions  on a global scale: research was largely produced by countries in the Global North.


But we also saw some examples in our research challenging this view. For example, one researcher from Ecuador produced a large number of publications  and he significantly impacted his country’s profile  in terms of research output.  So that means when we look at open education literature around the globe we see that Ecuador is one of the top contributors, largely because we have this single researcher producing impressive work (15 out of 25 publications in Ecuador).  We don’t exactly know what this means, but it is worth exploring, which is something we intend to do soon.

One recommendation we made in the article was that in the Global South, there is a need  for more local initiatives on open education and the sharing and promotion of those local initiatives, and also more research. We called for culturally relevant or culturally responsive pedagogy in open practice, which includes the creation of open educational resources. So how do you do that if you are designing an OER in the Global North and “sending” it to Global South? How can you research OER use and adoption in the Global South, if you actually don’t live there yourself? If you don’t experience the political and economic situation, the culture?

… in order to lessen the open divide between the global north and the south, there is a need to support and highlight local initiatives and contributions in the global south and adopt inclusive publishing practices and dissemination methods (e.g., publishing a resource in different languages and in different ways). 

…there should be a stronger focus on open practice and culturally relevant pedagogy in all areas of open education.

I strongly believe that institutions need to develop their own criteria for success on open education, their own visions  for open education,  for openness in higher education. There is a need to connect the political, the economic, the environmental situation in our local context to the larger curricula.  And it is really important to learn from one another’s experiences and research. So I’m sure the world, in particular the open education community or communities, would love to hear about your experiences at the University of Guyana.

A little bit about practice

I highlighted the need to have  more local initiatives on open education and the need to embrace culturally relevant or culturally responsive pedagogy in open practice, which includes the creation of open educational resources. On a practical level, and as an entry point into this idea,  I want to talk about the idea of avoiding the disposable assignment in higher education.

A disposable assignment is basically something students do for their instructors.  A typical example would be writing an essay that no one sees,  except perhaps a few lecturers or a small group of peers at its best.

These are assignments that students complain about doing and faculty complain about grading. They’re assignments that add no value to the world – after a student spends three hours creating it, a teacher spends 30 minutes grading it, and then the student throws it away. Not only do these assignments add no value to the world, they actually suck value out of the world. Talk about an incredible waste of time and brain power (an a potentially huge source of cognitive surplus)!

David Wiley

Most course assignments are “disposable” in the sense that they will only ever be seen by the instructor. Moreover, students often see little point in them and rarely revisit them. But what if we redesigned our course assignments to empower our students as creators of [open] resources for the commons?

                                                                                                        Rajiv S. Jhangiani

I invite you to think about your own experiences on this: how many times in your life did you have to create a disposable assignment, just because you had no other option?

So here we have a problem:

Problem: How can we encourage students to share their work, their ideas, their learning not only with their classmates and their teacher but also with the larger community, the public?  How can we add communal value and meaning to students’ work and connect their formal learning with informal learning spaces?

Let’s talk about the creation of open educational resources as an approach for avoiding  “the disposable assignment” in higher education. These examples might lead you into some further considerations or areas of research and practice:


But at the same time there are questions we could pose from instructional and organizational perspectives:

For teaching staff:

  • How can we teach students ethical and civic responsibility? How can we encourage students to engage with issues in their communities, their local environment, in connection with the global context, and respond to what they see?
  • How could this ethical and civic responsibility be extended to online contexts? How can we help students use resources, interact and network with others in ethical and responsible ways, even if they are  anonymous or cannot be identified easily?
  • Can we provide a safe space, an opportunity for students to experiment with things on the web? For example, creating a private class blog, facilitating the creation of an open educational resource in a class wiki.
  • Which digital skills and capabilities should we teach our students? These are the skills and capabilities students need to be able to successfully learn and be present on online networks. This may include having an awareness and knowledge of open licences,  creative commons,  networking skills,  the ability to work across multiple platforms and create a digital presence.
  • What roles could instructors have in this process? Facilitators, curators, conveners, co-learners, designers, mentors…

For administrators, policy makers, senior management:

  • What are some ways to support and promote institutional open educational practices? For example, through formal policy, investing in open/flexible infrastructures, funding (e.g., collaborative projects within and across departments and professional services).
  • What are some ways for networking and collaboration on regional, national and global levels?

Thank you!


Further resources:

DeRosa, R., & Jhangiani, R. (2017). Open Pedagogy. Open Pedagogy Notebook [Website]. Retrieved from

Morgan, T. (2019). Open infrastructure and open education practices. Explorations in the Ed Tech World [Website]. Retrieved from

Poyner, R. (2018). Preface: Open divide? Open and Shut [Website]. Retrieved from

OER Commons Repositories

Creative Commons Licences

*OER commons says: “Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse at no cost, and without needing to ask permission. Unlike copyrighted resources, OER have been authored or created by an individual or organization that chooses to retain few, if any, ownership rights.” However, not all open educational resources are licensed for reuse or re-purposing, but they are publicly available on the web. Consider a resource on the web that could be clicked and read endless times, does it need a licence to be “an open educational resource”?

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