The Spectrum of Open

In addition to the 5Rs, we can also look at OER according to how people will use them. This can help us think about open educational resources beyond only considering licensing and format. This spectrum allows us to consider what we want to do with OER and how much time and effort may be required for different approaches.

The diagram describes Spectrum of Open Practice.

Adoption, which is the low touch, defines as Adoption (without alteration) of freely accessible text or resource in one or more course sections. Usually replaces publisher's text. 

This may include curation of varied media (i.e. video, text, data) to support learning. 

In terms of access/re-usability of Adoption, Resource may or may not be openly licensed. License (or lack of) determines re-use permission. No strategy for access of materials beyond course participants. 

In terms of impact, cost is lowered for students. Barriers to access (learning materials ) reduced. 

Adaption, which is the medium touch, is alteration or adaption of open texts or resources to add context or improve for local use. 

In terms of definition, Adaptions may include the work for students (remixes, etc.) 

In terms of access/re-use, remixed or adapted open resources must be licensed and re-published according to the terms of re-use outlined by the original source. Strategy for access (including publishing& licensing) is employed.

In terms of impact, Cost is lowered for students. Time costs may be high if adaptions are expensive or if remix is required course component. Digital literacies developed. 

Creation is the high touch. 

In terms of definition, The work of the course(or portion of the course) is public. 

Students are producers of open education resources and are engaged in publishing and (perhaps) licensing their work. 

In terms of access/re-use students and instructors are contributing to openly accessible and licensed resources in a subject/field. Experts outside the course environment may be collaborating. Goals for public contribution are aligned with learning objectives. 

In terms of impact, time costs are high for both instructors and students. Students engaged in authentic knowledge production and publication. Digital literacies and scholarly approaches engaged. 

Connection is the high touch. 

In terms of definition, Connection is the application of open practice. 

Faculty and students are documenting and sharing their processes and reflections and engaging with open communities. 

In terms of access/re-use, students and instructors are engaging with public, networked communities for the purpose of teaching, learning and research. Students and instructors are co-creators and the products of the course are open for the public. 

In terms of Impact, time costs are high for both instructors and students as they negotiate the shifts involved in moving from private to public, consumer to producer, contributor to collaborator. Building social, scholarly practices.
The concept of “touch” that we have articulated here refers to notions of interaction between and among participants in the course as well as interactions with “public” communities and individuals. This may also have an impact on the design effort related to the course. For example, courses supporting interaction with various external communities and resources over a period of time (wikipedia editing; publishing on YouTube; etc) require a high touch approach to the design and also to the ongoing support of those interactions.
Image Credit: Spectrum of Open Practice - Working Draft by Cindyunderhill under a CC BY SA 3.0


Adoption of an open copyright licensed (e.g. Creative Commons) resource is a good first step to engaging in open practice. Replacing a high cost textbook with an open textbook or other open resources (e.g. videos, simulations, etc.) reduces barriers for students to access course material needed for their success. According to the 2020 AMS Academic Experience Survey (AES), 67% of students surveyed did not buy textbooks due to the cost. Adoption of an open resource supports all students to achieve success by providing equal access to all resources available in the course regardless of their finances.


The following are examples of open resource adoption by faculty at UBC:


Adaption is the modification or alteration of an open copyright licensed resource for use within a course. Adaption provides the opportunity to improve teaching materials, provide important local context, and sharing knowledge to ensure sustainability and the ongoing health of open content. There are a variety of ways content can be adapted for course use — instructors adapt content and/or students adapt content for their own use. Including students in the adaption process encourages peer-to-peer learning, authentic learning opportunities, and digital and information literacy development.


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 (e.g. CLP Calculus) or to post all of their course materials on an open website (e.g. LAST100). Of course, there may be some resources 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.

When you create your own content, you need to consider what someone would want or need to do with your content once they discover it. If they are actively seeking OER content, then we have to assume that they may at some point want to apply any or all of the 5Rs to your materials.

You have to ask yourself the question: “How OPEN do I want to be in my sharing of content?”


Connection is the application of open practice and extends beyond the use and creation of OER to connecting with communities beyond the classroom. Open pedagogy is an umbrella term that is often used in this area to describe the application of open strategies to the social practice of teaching and learning.

Open Pedagogy

Defining open pedagogy is challenging and we’ll be exploring it in more depth in the next module. 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

Open assignments

One can also involve students in adapting or creating OER through open assignments. We will discuss much more about open assignments in the open pedagogy module, including considerations of risk and privacy, but when students publish or share their work openly, they are often extending their scholarly practice beyond the classroom and engaging with communities or people outside of their courses. Here are a couple of examples as a preview: