Open Course Design & Assessment

Open Teaching

The recent growth and evolution of educational technology has created an opportunity for open educational practice ( OEP ) to become a growing trend in education (Chiappe & Rodríguez, 2017). OEP has the ability to expand access to high-quality educational content by creating, adapting and using/reusing OER this content in innovative ways — and by providing active and engaging learning experiences for learners to participate in the knowledge-generation process. This can also help in achieving accessible and lifelong learning.

Think back to the “Framework for Designing OEP-based Courses” (shown in Figure 2, below). Open teaching implies that teachers should implement teaching methodologies that allow learners to actively contribute to the co-creation of knowledge and be self-regulated. Teachers approach teaching through connectivist learning practice — which is grounded in connectivism , an approach where learners share and co-create knowledge by making connections that can extend beyond the course. Here, we take a closer look at open teaching (the teacher-student lens) of the framework and examine the concepts of connectivist learning theory and student-centred learning practice.

Figure 2.

 “Framework for Designing OEP-based Courses.”

OEP Framework - open teaching

Note. This figure highlights the open teaching tip of the OEP framework. It focuses on the teacher-student interaction through connectivism and student-centred practice.

Adapted from A Case Study of Applying Open Educational Practices in Higher Education during COVID-19: Impacts on Learning Motivation and Perceptions by Zhang, et. al, and is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license.

Connectivist Practice

What is a personal learning network (PLN)?

Check out the Ontario Extend Collaborator module to learn more about PLNs and connectivism!


The foundational concept of connectivism is that your personal learning network (PLN) provides the context — not necessarily the content — for your learning. It’s a teaching approach that recognizes the agency of learners in determining the direction of their own learning, but at the same time emphasizes that learning is not a solitary or individualistic pursuit — that we learn as part of a community (Ontario Extend, n.d.). In connectivism, it is the collective connections between all the “nodes” in a network that result in new forms of knowledge. Knowledge in connectivism is a chaotic, shifting phenomenon — as “nodes” come and go and information flows across networks that themselves are interconnected by myriad other networks. Siemens (2005) identifies the principles of connectivism as follows:

  • learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions;
  • learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources;
  • learning may reside in non-human appliances;
  • capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known;
  • nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning;
  • ability to see connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill;
  • currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities;
  • decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn — and the meaning of incoming information — is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

Adapted from Teaching in a Digital Age by Anthony William (Tony) Bates is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License,


You can learn more about how students can leverage existing technologies to spark interest in a particular topic and make connections with others as a form of learning in the short video entitled, “Connectivism,” below.

Watch “Connectivism” on YouTube (transcript available)

Extend Connections

  • According to connectivism, how has the rapid increase of access to knowledge affected the way we should view knowledge?
  • Think of the your most recent job. How did the principles of connectivism affect the way you learned in that job? For example, did you use LinkedIn to make professional connections with co-workers — or others in a related field — to gain insight on a particular topic?
  • How would you summarize the main points of connectivism if you had to explain it to a friend with no background in this area?

Student-centred Learning (SCL)

What is it?

Student-centred learning (SCL) broadly encompasses methods of teaching that shift the focus of instruction from the teacher to the student (Wikipedia, 2021). Student-centred learning:

  • puts a firm focus on student decision-making as a guiding force in the learning process;
  • emphasizes making the educational process more meaningful to today’s students. SCL programs also emphasize using rigorous assessments to gauge student performance by including both teachers and students in the assessment process;
  • student-centred learning allows greater flexibility to work in small groups or to learn remotely. And the flexibility that comes with SCL is increasingly important with the shift toward providing more online and flexible learning opportunities.

Faculty Involvement

Faculty take on a role of a guide to facilitate learning and support decision-making and skill-building — rather than prescribing the learning for the students. Student-centred learning does not sideline or diminish the role of faculty; instead, it seeks to use their expertise in different ways to increase student engagement.

Curriculum is still rigorous and challenging but based mainly on choices made by students:

  • helping students adjust to a new and different learning environment;
  • helping students envision what successful learning looks like;
  • helping students develop their critical-thinking and self-reflection skills;
  • helping to set the goals of student-centred classes;
  • helping students learn how to set and achieve their personal and educational goals;
  • giving students enough room to fail and learn from their missteps;
  • giving students the chance to express their ideas in their terms;
  • giving students the space to act as their advocates in the learning process;
  • showing students specific techniques for accessing the information they’re interested in.


In April of 2020, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation reported a large-scale review of SCL-related studies. This review concludes that student-centred learning does indeed produce measurable benefits. SCL:

  • aligns educational content to student interests;
  • allows students to gain competency and mastery at their own pace — and build confidence;
  • teaches students how to understand how it is they learn best — and develop strategies for learning that work best for themselves;
  • teaches students how to monitor their progress as they learn new material — and helps builds self-efficacy skills.

Additional benefits of using a student-centred approach to teaching include:

  • improvements in students’ communication and collaboration skills;
  • advances in students’ ability to think and work independently;
  • increased student interest in school activities — and education in general;
  • stronger relationships between students and teachers through shared experiences.

Challenges — and Solutions

Challenges Possible Solutions
In f2f learning environments there is potential for noisier and chaotic classrooms. Embrace the idea that noisier learning spaces are an acceptable and manageable trade-off for engaged, productive students
Greater need to focus on classroom management Establish norms that allow students to take responsibility for managing their in-class projects and activities
Uneven distribution of knowledge among students taking the same classes Provide individual students enough time to learn at their own pace
Students who don’t adapt well to change Adopt SCL techniques and implement strategies gradually rather than all at once

Sudderth, Anna. (2022, January 5). “What is Student Centered Learning and Why Is It Important.  Rethink Together.


Extend Activity

  1. Using the spaces provided, outline some ideas for activities that encourage open practices for the teacher-student lens that will support connectivist learning practice.
  2. Using The Extend Tool Kit, identify technology enablers that will support your activities for the open teaching dimension of the triangle. *Note: To view the activity in full-screen, click the  Expand arrows. Click to enlarge the activity.  icon in the lower right corner. Use the same button to return to the book and move on.

Dig Deeper? How Open Educational Practices Support Student-centred Course Design and Accessibility

If there is no “typical” student, how can we design courses that meet varied student needs? Traditional textbooks and other instructional materials with “all rights reserved” can be difficult to make accessible or flexible enough to engage a diverse group of students. The Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) hosted a webinar that explains how open educational practices (OEP) — including OER adoption — can support accessibility of instructional materials and enable student-centred course design methodologies (such as UDL) from multiple perspectives. Tara Bunag, from the University of the Pacific, and Suzanne Wakim, of Butte College, share how they use OEP to design courses, based on the principles of UDL, to increase student choice, encourage critical thinking and improve learning outcomes. You may watch the “How ‘Open Educational Practices’ Support Student-centred Course Design and Accessibility” below. You may also access the presentation slides (download available).


How Open Educational Practices Support Student-centred Course Design and Accessibility by CCCOER is licensed under a CC BY 4.0.

Transcript- How Open Educational Practices Support Student-centred Course Design and Accessibility


Chiappe, A.; Adame Rodríguez, S. Open educational practices: A learning way beyond free access knowledge. Ens. Avaliação Políticas Públicas Educ. 2017, 26, 213–230.

Reigeluth, C. M. (2011). An instructional theory for the post-industrial ageEducational Technology51(5), 25-29.

Siemens, G. (2005) ‘Connectivism: a theory for the digital age’ International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, Vol. 2, No. 1.



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Extending Into the Open Copyright © 2022 by Paula Demacio; Alissa Bigelow; Tricia Bonner; and Shauna Roch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book