Wed 9th December 2015 - 12:23

What is an Open Educator? Contribute to the work of the Open Educators Factory project

This post introduces the Open Educators Factory (OEF) project, a research effort aiming to explore how to transform university teachers from “agents of resistance” into “agents of change” for openness in education. The project is funded by the Universidad Internacional de la Rioja (UNIR) and is part of the work of the TELSOCK Research Team within UNIR Research.


The starting point of the project is that true progress in terms of openness in higher education (as well as in other educational sectors) requires a major cultural change in the mindset of all stakeholders from public policy makers to institutional leaders, to teachers and researchers, to students and parents. As rightly stated by the recent report Foundations for OER Strategy Development, it is fundamental to work on OER Ecosystem in order to successfully develop sustainable strategies for openness in education. This report, which provides an analysis of the actual challenges and opportunities of the global OER movement, states that three elements are necessary for a sustainable change to happen: users need to be made aware of OER and of their benefits and costs, we need to make sure that users can find, use, and adapt the content they need and – last but not least – context, that should define specific community and systemic support to sustain OER.


The OEF project believes that the cornerstones for this cultural change to happen are educators. University educators (meant as professors, lecturers and tutors) represent in fact the biggest “resistance” to the Open Education revolution – mainly because they typically fear that their role might be undermined by open approaches and because they do not have a full understanding of the potential of Open Education – and at the same time are the ones that could contribute the most to the adoption of Open Education practices from a genuine bottom up perspective. 


Following a phase of literature review and a number of interviews, the project has developed a definition of Open Educator. We believe that a clear definition is needed to guide both policy and personal development of teachers, and that this definition shold contain all the dimensions of teachers’ work: learning design, content and teaching practices.


The following definition of Open Educator is proposed:  




An Open Educator is a teacher/lecturer/tutor who chooses to use open approaches, when possible and appropriate.


An Open Educator implements openness by doing four things. He/she:

  • Uses open educational content, by releasing his/her teaching resources through open licenses (such as Creative Commons), facilitating sharing of his/her resources through repositories and other means, and by adapting, assembling and using OERs produced by others in his/her teaching.
  • Adopts Open Pedagogies, 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” (Grush 2014).
  • Implements Open Learning Design methods, by sharing openly course ideas with experts and (past and potential) students, incorporating peer critique and leaving a visible trail of their design development process (Conole 
  • Contributes to Open research, by openly sharing research data, by using oen peer review methodologies and by opting for Open Access publishing.


An Open Educator works through an open online identity and relies on online social networking and communities to enrich and implement his/her work, and understands that collaboration bears a responsibility towards the work of others.


An Open Educator understands and valorises openness in education both from an ethical and from an efficient perspective, and works to remove all unnecessary barriers to learning, while aiming to provide students with a reasonable chance of success in an education and training system centred on their specific needs and located in multiple arenas of learning.




Based on this definition, we have developed a framework for teachers self-assessment and professional development, that includes all the above dimensions and that indicates the different levels of openness that teachers are adopting in their daily work.


By taking such an holistic approach, the framework shows two important aspects:


First, that for every area of work of a teacher (design, content, teaching/assessment or research), there are two "transition phases" that a teacher has to go through in order to become an Open Educator. The first has to do with becoming aware about the benefits and costs of openness and about the basic tools and approaches needed to implement open approaches, and the second has to do with a deeper reflection and understanding of the way daily practices should change in order to embed openness into one's teaching work.


Second, the framework shows a direct correlation between the "levels of openness" across the four components of teachers' activities and the the level of (offline and online) collaboration adopted by a teacher (the first column on the left), showing that in order for a teacher to become an Open Educator he must also become a Networked Educator.




In the upcoming field research phase, the conceptual framework will be tested within diverse typologies of universities, representing the different approaches towards openness in education, and based on this a set of recommended actions to strengthen the transformative potential of Open Education among teachers will be provided. At the moment and until the end of December 2015 we are seeking contributions and comments to validate the framework before starting with the pilot phase. Please comment directly the project wiki.



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