Thu 3rd August 2017 - 11:33

What to consider before developing an open course

With the increasing popularity of open education many teachers have started using open educational content in their practice, as it is reusable and accessible to everyone. Open education can take a number of forms such as open access to programs, open access to courses, open educational resources, open textbooks, open research and open data.

One of the benefits of open educational content is that practitioners and institutions with great ideas can create their own material and share their knowledge with their peers.

Creating open educational content, however, is not an easy task. As a teacher or an institution you might have the perfect idea for an open course but there are several key questions you must ask yourselves before you start developing it. These questions can be bundled in three groups

  • purpose of the course
  • teaching process
  • quality assurance and promotion.

Purpose of the course

Similar to a traditional course, the main point that needs to be considered is the purpose of the open education course. This includes the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of the open course, for example, capacity development (e.g. open schooling initiative) or commercial use (e.g. direct learners to other courses)?
  • What needs does this course fulfil? Is it part of a compulsory course?
  • Who are the students and how can their individual requirements be met (e.g. how diverse are they geographically or in terms of learning)?
  • What are the objectives of the course? What should students be able to do by the end of the course?

Teaching process

Teaching approach

  • What is the type of open education system that you will use (self-paced or programmes, open access, single, dual or partnership)?
  • What teaching methods fit your teaching philosophy? Would a constructivist approach be suitable where learning occurs with students actively participating?
  • If yes, what learning activities will you provide and how collaborative are these activities intended to be? For example, this could include discussions or having learners co-write course content or textbooks if the aim is to have a student-centred approach.
  • What pedagogical approach will you adopt? Would open-ended instruction or peer-learning work?

Student relationships

  • What will be the role of the educators? Are direct interactions with the educators planned? / What resources are necessary to create the instructionally designed resources?
  • How will students be assessed (e.g. automated Multiple Choice Questions, physical examination, study journal)?
  • How will students be supported?
  • How will students be recruited and enrolled (e.g. open admission or upon registration)?

Quality assurance and promotion

Copyrights and quality assurance

  • What intellectual property will you adopt? Does sharing open access material have commercial implications or mostly intellectual (in the case of the latter you may have more opportunities)?
  • What copyright issues need to be addressed?
  • Are there quality assurance mechanisms in place?

Connecting resources & business developments

  • How will you share your resources with others?
  • Will you need some data to teach this course and where will you find this data?
  • What resources will you use (e.g. content-creation interface, such as the WikiEducator Interface)?
  • What is your human resource strategy?
  • How will you address sustainability and costs?
  • How will you ensure monitoring and evaluation?
  • Are there some ethical issues to take into consideration?
  • Should the course be placed in a repository?


The accomplishments of teachers are dependent on their environment, and heads of institutions have a role to play in setting up an environment in which open education, and more generally educational innovation, is encouraged. This could be done, for example, by setting up institutional strategies that include open education as an objective, having clear open education policies and investing resources in support services to set up open education content.

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