The Future is Open: Educating for the Commons through Open Educational Resources

September 13, 2016

When any smartphone can find the content of any textbook for free, why go to university? For Rajiv Jhangiani, students who have access to smart technologies, like computers and cell phones, can find ways to download and access practically any copyrighted source material that would be assigned in a standard university course. The fact that this is so means that students attending universities today are looking for something more than simply the ability to locate and access information. Students come to higher education seeking a transformative educational experience that is meaningful not only for their professional lives, but also their personal and civic endeavours as well.

Yet, universities are institutions that remain largely “closed” according to Jhangiani, both in terms of how they approach the production and distribution of knowledge, as well as in their adaptation and application of new technologies to pedagogical experimentation. Even though there are open source materials readily available, many university professors continue to use (or feel forced to use) copyrighted materials, like textbooks, that are hugely expensive for students to purchase and require new editions on practically an annual basis. As a result, students are forced to buy course materials that not only exacerbate conditions of financial insecurity and student indebtedness. Even more significantly, closed educational resources – that is, copyrighted, printed, materials — also limit the pedagogical philosophies, imaginations, and practices of educators. In fact, Jhangi suggests that courses structured primarily around closed materials offer students little either by way of affordable access to their educations, or critical opportunities to contribute to the production of knowledge that is constantly reshaping different disciplinary fields.

Instead, Jhangiani makes a robust and passionate case for a different, and arguably more democratic, educational future through open educational resources. Open educational resources are online academic research publications that are accessible, free, and shared by creative commons licences which any educator or student can use and contribute to. While there may be important uses to copy-right materials, there are many overlooked and unknown benefits to using open educational resources, particularly in terms of how they can be used to facilitate a more public and collective approach to teaching and learning. Indeed, the use of open educational resources in classroom activities can enable students to create and contribute to research-based materials that are public and collaborative in their orientation. Pedagogy becomes “open,” as Jhangiani suggests, when “students [are] producing resources for the commons,” signalling the possibility for the pedagogic, civic, and research functions of the university to become far less corporatized and far more invested in public modes of sharing, collaboration, accessibility, and transparency.

But what do you think?

To hear Rajiv Jhangiani’s exciting lecture on open educational resources and to engage in the discussion, please watch, share, and comment on the video below.


Rajiv Jhangiani is a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University where he conducts research on political psychology and the scholarship of teaching and learning. He is associate editor of NOBA Psychologyand Psychology Learning & Teaching.


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