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Analyzing Open v1.1

This is the version of my concept analysis which I submitted for assessment.

  • Rev1: Added instructor feedback in red.
  • Rev2: Addressed instructor feedback in red.

Click here for the history of this document.

Open Education

There is not one single concept that could be considered the definitive definition of "open education". The word "open" is used in a wide variety of contexts to mean very different things. Examples include the idea of an "open door" indicating that a physical object is in a particular position that allows entry into a building or room; or an "open door policy" used to indicate that a person welcomes conversations with others; or "open for business", indicating that a particular business is currently welcoming customers.

Similarly, "education" is a very broad concept encompassing myriad different formal and informal contexts, philosophies, and cultures. For the purposes of this discussion, Holmberg"s concise definition of education as "the acquisition of intellectual learning matter and cognitive skills" (1995, p. 47) is almost sufficient although I would add the acquisition of psychomotor skills and those in the affective domain to the definition. This definition will be adequate for this discussion, which will focus primarily on *openness* in education.


Open education as a concept is relatively new compared to other educational concepts, and consequently, there are few formal definitions (Bayne, Knox, & Ross, 2015). Common to many definitions found in scholarly literature are the ideas that open education is a system of beliefs that lead to a set of practices, or pedagogies, and that those pedagogies are often dependent upon the use of open education resources (OER) (Wiley, 2017). Open education is seen as a way to increase access to educational opportunities to those who might otherwise be excluded from participation due to being unable to attend classes on a central campus for financial, social, or geographical reasons. Examples include people who live in remote areas, who are housebound, or whose safety may be compromised if they travel to campus. ("About The Open Education Consortium | The Open Education Consortium," n.d.; "Open Education," n.d.). Many definitions also include the idea that open education in practice ought to lead to improved learning outcomes for students (Cronin & MacLaren, 2018).


The word open has roots in Old English, meaning "not shut, confined, or covered" (Hoad, 2003) and later, in the 14th century, "manifestly, publicly" and then in the 20th century, "public knowledge", or an "open competition" ("open | Origin and meaning of open by Online Etymology Dictionary," n.d.). This brief history of the word open shows its utility in describing a philosophy of education that is committed to not only the public sharing of knowledge, but also to increasing access to learning environments that might have otherwise been inaccessible such as those identified above.

Essential Features

Essential features of a concept are those features which, if absent, would render a phenomenon a non-example of that concept. There is disagreement in the field about what are the essential features of open education. David Wiley argues that the term open education has been used so broadly and in so many contexts that it is almost meaningless. Instead, he offers the term OER- enabled pedagogy with the essential feature being that a particular pedagogy would be impossible without the ability of the students or faculty to be able to engage in the 5R rights (Wiley, 2017). `However, OER-enabled pedagogy is only a subset of open education, so the use of OER may not be considered essential to the larger concept.

Others (Funes & Mackness, 2018; Schlagwein, Conboy, Feller, Leimeister, & Morgan, 2017), argue that an essential feature of open education is that it be aimed towards increasing social justice and democratizing access to educational resources and environments. For the purposes of this analysis, I would only add to this that the belief, practice, or resource should never reduce the quality of the learning outcomes attained by students.`

Accidental Features

Accidental features of open education include the use of materials that are free of charge. While using free and openly licensed resources is common in the subset of open education known as OER-enabled pedagogy, it is not an essential characteristic. For example, open textbooks from the BCcampus Open Textbook Repository are available for free in digital formats, but they are also available in printed format for a modest fee. This reduces, but does not eliminate the cost barrier. Also, open education may or may not be digitally mediated through networked technologies. Even though open education is often digitally mediated, openness can be practiced off-line as well. An example of reducing barriers to participation in an off-line context can be seen in policies that allow visually impaired or deaf students to use interpreters in face-to-face classes.


Two examples of open education are the use of OER and providing multiple avenues of access to learning environments for those who cannot travel to campus.

Open Education Resources

OER are learning materials that are released under open licenses such as public domain or Creative Commons which allow users to use the materials for free (Hewlett, n.d.) and also enable users to retain, reuse, redistribute, remix, and revise (5Rs) the materials for their own use (Wiley, n.d.). While this reduction in costs (for students) represents a lowered, but not necessarily removed, barrier to accessing higher education, it also represents opportunity for teachers and institutions to implement practices which are directed towards increasing social justice for marginalized populations of current and potential students (Jhangiani & Jhangiani, 2017).

OER do not remove all barriers to participation, rather, they reduce *one* barrier, the cost of materials. Even if all course materials were free, students will still often have to pay for tuition, student fees, computer hardware and software, as well as transportation and living costs associated with attending campus. Examples of reducing costs and increasing access for remote students can also be seen in the practice of allowing multiple access points for students.

Multi-Access Learning Environments

Multi-access learning environments are those where students have flexibility and choice in how they engage in the course activities and meetings. By providing multiple points of entry, universities can reduce the cost compared to attending face-to-face classes on site, thus lowering, though not eliminating, a barrier to participation. Irvine, Code, and Richards (2013) describe four concentric spheres to represent four levels or tiers of access.

  1. Tier 1, the core sphere, is the traditional face-to-face classroom experience where students travel to a university campus at significant expense and meet in a classroom or lab to engage in various learning activities with a group of other students who have done the same thing.
  2. In tier 2, students do not need to travel to campus in order to participate in the learning experiences. Instead, they connect to the room via web conferencing tools while the rest of the students are gathered for their meeting. In this way, the barrier of distance is eliminated.
  3. Tier 3 eliminates the geographical barrier and reduces the temporal barrier by allowing students to access recordings of the live classroom experience from their preferred location and at a time more convenient for them.
  4. The word that Irvine, Code, and Richards use for tier 4 is open learning, where learners are empowered to participate in learning activities on their own time, in their own preferred location, and for whatever reason they want, often without expectation of receiving credit.

Note that Irvine, Code, and Richards' use of the term *open learning* in the context of their article to refer to a type of *open education* in the context of this discussion is a perfect example of the problem facing administrators, researchers, and practitioners who want to increase access to their courses and universities but who don't have clear definitions to work with.


In order to refine our conceptual model of open education, we might consider phenomena which may initially appear to be within the definition of open education, but upon closer examination, are not. Two such examples are "inclusive access" deals between publishers and campus bookstores, and inclusive practices which end up excluding vulnerable populations.

Inclusive Access

Inclusive access deals between publishers and bookstores which provide digital copies of textbooks to all students for a flat fee, usually much lower than the cost of purchasing physical books. This fee is often automatically added to each student's tuition fee (making it less likely that students will notice it) and students must often engage in a convoluted process in order to opt out. These agreements are often touted as open education because they may lower one barrier, such as cost, but which erect other barriers, such as rental books that are only accessible for the duration of one semester. Furthermore, publishers use these agreements to harvest very detailed data about how students use the materials in their studies and then sell that data to third-party companies. While these agreements initially promise to lower costs, they end up costing students more in terms of the data that they generate which are then bundled and sold (Meinke, 2018).

Inclusive access deals, because they coerce students to pay for materials that they might not have otherwise purchased can be seen as anti-democratic and an example of social injustice, showing them to be non-examples.

Openness which Excludes

The fact that many OER and open educational practices are dependent upon digital and networked tools means that some people will be excluded from participation (Funes & Mackness, 2018). Sometimes, people will be excluded because they cannot afford to purchase the hardware required to connect to digital tools. Other people might be excluded because it would be physically unsafe for them to participate as themselves in the open. Some people, like tenured faculty, have much more freedom to share openly than others, like contingent faculty or others who may be precariously employed. Because tenure provides a certain degree of protection, faculty who have achieved that milestone in their careers can feel more secure in sharing their research openly (where it might be 'copied') than an early-career researcher or contingent faculty who might feel greater pressure to publish original research and therefore not share preliminary results in the open.

If it is marginalized students or populations who end up being excluded from otherwise "inclusive" practices, then they should be considered non-examples of open education.

Models of Open Education Consider deleting here: examining features of each takes too much detail.

There are many examples of open education in British Columbia and Canada. Thompson Rivers University Open Learning is an institution which has committed to lowering barriers to access through policy and the practice of using OER in their course designs when possible. Additionally, BCcampus has been entrusted to create, curate and support the BCcampus Open Textbook Repository. Kwantlen Polytechnic University has lowered barriers by introducing Canada"s first two "Zed-Cred" programs which are credentials that can be completed for zero required textbook costs.


There are many variations of open education around the world. The focus in North America has typically been on lowering costs to students and improving learning outcomes through the use of open textbooks, European strategies typically emphasize open practices and inclusion, while institutions in the global south tend to emphasize lowering costs through the use of OER for the purposes of community development.


About The Open Education Consortium | The Open Education Consortium. (n.d.). Retrieved September 23, 2018, from https://www.oeconsortium.org/about-oec/

Bayne, S., Knox, J., & Ross, J. (2015). Open education: the need for a critical approach. Learning, Media and Technology, 40(3), 247–250. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2015.1065272

Cronin, C., & MacLaren, I. (2018). Conceptualising OEP: A review of theoretical and empirical literature in Open Educational Practices. Open Praxis, 10(2), 127–143.

Funes, M., & Mackness, J. (2018). When inclusion excludes: a counter narrative of open online education. Learning, Media and Technology, 43(2), 119–138. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2018.1444638

Hewlett, W. (n.d.). Open Educational Resources Hewlett Foundation. Retrieved from https://hewlett.org/strategy/open-educational-resources/

Hoad, T. F. (2003). open. Retrieved from http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780192830982.001.0001/acref-9780192830982-e-10477

Holmberg, B. (1995). The evolution of the character and practice of distance education. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 10(2), 47–53. https://doi.org/10.1080/0268051950100207

Irvine, V., Code, J., & Richards, L. (2013). Realigning higher education for the 21st-century learner through multi-access learning. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2). Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no2/irvine_0613.htm

Jhangiani, R. S., & Jhangiani, S. (2017). Investigating the Perceptions, Use, and Impact of Open Textbooks: A survey of Post-Secondary Students in British Columbia. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning; Vol 18, No 4 (2017): Special Issue: Outcomes of Openness: Empirical Reports on the Implementation of OER. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/3012/4214

Meinke, B. (2018, March 27). Signing Students up for Surveillance: Textbook Publisher Terms of Use for Data. Retrieved October 8, 2018, from https://medium.com/@billymeinke/signing-students-up-for-surveillance-textbook-publisher-terms-of-use-for-data-24514fb7dbe4

open | Origin and meaning of open by Online Etymology Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved September 23, 2018, from https://www.etymonline.com/word/open

Open Education. (n.d.). Retrieved September 23, 2018, from https://sparcopen.org/open-education/

Schlagwein, D., Conboy, K., Feller, J., Leimeister, J. M., & Morgan, L. (2017). “Openness” With and Without IT: A Framework and a Brief History (Vol. 32). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41265-017-0049-3

Wiley, D. (ND). Defining the "open" in open content. Retrieved September 23, 2018, from http://www.opencontent.org/definition/

Wiley, D. (2017, May 2). OER-Enabled Pedagogy. Retrieved September 24, 2018, from https://opencontent.org/blog/archives/5009

Excellent work here. Notice that as currently expressed this draft leaves some important questions open.

Current grade = A-

When revising, answer those questions and re-organize the work as needed. You should see an immediate strengthening of it.
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