Open education practice

Version 1.0, May 2014

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"Open education practices (OEP) use collaborative methods and frameworks to develop content, curriculum, assessment, research, policies, projects, budgets and so on. The word "open" means unrestricted online access, radical transparency, maximum reusability and participatory collaboration. Open education practices do not "simply refer to access to freely available content; it includes non-restrictive terms and conditions and transparent development processes." (La Trobe University Open Education Working Group, Discussion Paper on Open Education, 2013). OEP encompasses Open software, open education resources, using open platforms for assessment and other educational purposes.

Benefits of OEP

The development of OEP can improve educational outcomes by

  • encouraging learner-centred pedagogies
  • reducing the cost to students increasing enrolment and completion rates
  • engaging students in lifelong learning
  • giving people more informed choices through transparency
  • closing the gap between formal and informal learning
  • facilitating collaboration between staff and institutions on development of learning and teaching resources
  • Improving the quality of learning and teaching resources through collaboration and peer review

(La Trobe University Open Education Working Group, Discussion Paper on Open Education, 2013)


"Open Educational Resources (OER), are educational materials which are licensed in ways that provide permissions for individuals and institutions to reuse, adapt and modify the materials for their own use. OER can, and do, include full courses, textbooks, streaming videos, exams, software, and any other materials or techniques supporting learning." (OER Foundation, 2011, in Bossu, Brown & Bull, 2012, p.124).

Using OER Resources

Using open educational resources can reduce the cost of learning materials and costs in sourcing and using educational content and resources without the need to negotiate, enter into and maintain contracts with third-party providers.


The University Library can provide guidance on finding, choosing and using OER and Hybrid OER content for your teaching and online and blended learning needs. Your faculty librarian can work with you and suggest content options to best fit the topic, learning outcomes, quality, permanency and use requirements.

In addition to the many websites outlined in this guide, the University Library provides access to many quality online resources from reputable publishers across most disciplines that can incorporated seamlessly into your teaching, including:

Online learning objects developed by the Library and Student Learning staff to foster key academic skills including finding relevant journal articles, evaluating resources for reliability and relevancy, referencing, subject resource guides, assignment calculator and more.

Manage and store your digitized reading list content including resource links, streamed videos, electronic articles, e-books and more in one place using readinglists@La Trobe. Subject lists can be arranged using simple drag and drop functionality organised by topics or weekly readings. Notes can also be added to introduce, guide or highlight critical information.

For further information or advice contact your Faculty Librarian @


There are a number of websites that host open content and courseware. You need to consider copyright, accessibility and permanency of the content.


You can use Google to search for Creative Commons content, look for pictures at Flickr, albums at Jamendo, and general media at spinxpress. The Wikimedia Commons, the multimedia repository of Wikipedia, is a core user of Creative Commons licenses as well. (Source: Other Image databases:

Multimedia & Content sites

There are range of sites offering free and open movies, documentaries and other video content that can be incorporated into your teaching: SLOW TV, Open Culture, SnagFIlms, Internet Archive, TED Talks, ABC Archives, 197 YouTube Channels you should know about , iTunes UAcademic Earth , University of Washington Streaming Video Guide , The Age TVRadio Lab , This American Life, ACMI Generator ,  Vimeo.

Always check the Terms and Conditions section on the website to ensure you are using the material within licence requirements.

OER Repositories

Open Courses

While not all of the courses listed below may not be truly open in terms of transparency, maximum reusability and participatory collaboration they provide unrestricted access.

Open Access Textbooks

The cost of textbooks can significantly impact students' ability to participate in education, providing open education resources can reduce that barrier.

Creating OER

In addition to incorporating OER into your teaching you can produce open content and make it freely available. Some reasons for engaging in OER production include the ability to collaborate with staff across the university and external institutions, interaction with a wider audience, to create a transparent learning community, to create enduring learning resources for students to refer to after they have finished studying and reduce costs for students access to educational materials.

La Trobe IP Policy

The University encourages the authors of teaching materials to consider making such materials publicly and freely available, e.g., via the internet, or publishing commercially providing that those materials are not subject to a prior third party agreement, such as a contract for the design or delivery of a course or training program.


Open educational resources are identified by their free or open license that allows the free use and repurposing by others.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is one of the more widely used licensing agreements. It provides a standardised way to share and grant permissions to use and repurpose work within the boundaries of copyright law. Licensors retain copyright of the work while allowing others to use, copy, distribute and/or repurpose their work. There are six Creative Commons licenses to choose from. Creative also provides a way for licensors to waive all rights and place a work in the public domain.


You should adhere to the University's Accessibility Guidelines for web when producing OER content. Using headings in html or Word documents, transcripts for videos and descriptions for images are some of the main requirements to consider.

Library Repository

If you are creating an OER for learning and teaching it is recommended that you host the file in Research Online, the  University's Online Open Repository.

OEP in student learning

Beyond the enhanced access to educational resources for students, OEP can provide opportunities for collaborative and experiential learning for students through open applications that provide visibility of content and processes to invite a "new kind of critical reading" (Brown, Adler, 2008, p.20). OEP can provide students the opportunity to participate in wider knowledge communities and to close the gap between formal and informal learning.

Students can use open platforms like wikiversity to develop their own textbooks, or participate on other sites to contribute to collective knowledge projects.

OEP in research

While this guide is primarily a resource for OEP in learning and teaching, OEP also encourages open research practice through

  • Publicly transparent planning, documentation and reporting of research, teaching and assessment.
  • Public online access to publications of research outcomes and the data that informs it.
  • Recognised and rewarded engagement with communities of open research and open education resource production and practice.

(La Trobe University Open Education Working Group, Discussion Paper on Open Education, 2013, p2)

OEP at La Trobe

La Trobe University examples

References & Resources

Bossu, C., Brown, M., & Bull, D. (2012). Do Open Educational Resources represent additional Challenges or advantages to the current climate of change in the Australian higher education sector?In M. Brown, M. Harnett & T. Stewart (Eds.), Future challenges, sustainable futures.In proceedings ascilite, Wellington, pp. 124-132.

Bossu, C.,  Brown, M.,  Bull, D. (2014) OLT Final Report: Adoption, use and management of open educational resources to enhance teaching and learning in Australia, May 2014.

Bossu, C. ,Bull, D., & Brown, M. (2012). Opening up Down Under: the Role of open educational resources in promoting social inclusion in Australia,  Distance Education, 33(2), 151-164. doi: 10.1080/08923641003696588

Brown, J., Adler, R. (2008).  Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0.  Educause Review,17.

Jelley, R. (2013). Open Education Practices: A User Guide for Organisations/OER Literature Review

McGreal, R., Macintosh, W. & Taylor, J.(Eds.) (2013). Open Educational Resources University: An Assessment and Credit for Students Initiative, Perspectives on Open and Distance Learning, Commonwealth of Learning and Athabasca University, Vancouver.

Wiley, D. (2012). A Decade of Development, The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 24 (1), pp 11-21.

International Review of Research in Open and Distance Education, Special Issue – Openness and the Future of Higher Education.

Bisset, D., Blackall, L., Hannon, J., HUggard, S., Jelley, R., Jones, M., Orchard, A., Sadler, R., Kristhenal, E.(2013.) Discussion Paper on Open Education.


How to source free online content Leigh Blackall

Search for Creative Commons Images Ruth Jelley

Getting Started with Open Educational Resources (Presentation by the La Trobe University Open Education Working Group available through La Trobe University's Library's OER Repository)

Digital Skills for Collaborative OER Development This is a hands-on course where you will learn and demonstrate your skills in using digital technologies for collaborative OER development culminating in a design blueprint for developing an OER learning sequence.

Dimension of Openess in Education Learn about the concepts of open educational practices (OEP), open policy, open source and open teaching to achieve more sustainable education for all.

School of Open – P2PU P2PU offer online courses, face-to-face workshops, and innovative training programs on topics such as Creative Commons licenses, open educational resources, and sharing creative works.

Open Open source projects, products, or initiatives that embrace and celebrate open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community development.


This guide has been developed with reference to the Discussion Paper produced by the La Trobe University Open Education Working Group (John Hannon, Donna Bisset, Leigh Blackall, Simon Huggard, Ruth Jelley, Mungo Jones,  Emily Krisenthal, Annabel Orchard, Roderick Sadler).   Further acknowledgements Nicole Sackers, La Trobe University Library, John Hannon.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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