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My journey in open education unexpectedly started with open-source software. As an English language instructor in a small private language school, I wanted to help my students who didn’t always have access to certain technology. I worked with the school to source some inexpensive USB thumb drives on which I had the students install relevant open-source software that could be run directly from the USB drive. I also used those drives to copy multimedia files for students who couldn’t attend class on certain days. Later, I was introduced to open textbooks and OER, which made it easier for my students and me to gain access to the materials without needing to pay out of pocket.

Fast-forward to today where I am learning once again, this time in the first cohort of students taking the Professional Program in Open Education at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU). This week, we were asked to write out our own definition of open education. Before I started taking the program, I would have said that open education is all about things being freely available and adaptable. As we have been reading about and discussing these past two weeks, I realize how much more it is than that. It is hard to pin down precisely what is open education. As stated by Peter and Deimann (2013):

This historical reconstruction of “openness” … highlights the danger of emphasising one aspect of openness while backgrounding others and how unrestricted practices can quickly, and repeatedly, become institutionalised (pp. 11-12).

As someone who works in student support in higher education, I see the difficulties those entering academia for the first time face trying to ‘fit in.’ So many things that started as open and supportive have become systematized to the point that many don’t see the reasons why they were there in the first place. Tait (2018) comments:

In order to deliver a strategy for student success the assumptions of the elite system will need to be challenged, in particular the need to support students who enter Higher Education without necessarily having the cultural capital that will make study natural and build confidence that they have the right to be present and are not ‘imposters’ in a world of privilege to which they do not belong. (p. 110)

My definition of open education focuses on the learner and their relationship with the learning community. It is all about collaboration, consultation, and co-construction. It is about levelling the field and the importance of the process rather than the product with a heavy reliance on praxis. It is about opportunities developed with and for the learner while keeping our view steadily fixed on the broader community. As Garrison (2017) so succinctly states:

These are communities of inquiry where independence and collaboration are not contradictory ideas but the essential elements of a unified process and qualitative shift in how we approach a deep and meaningful educational experience (p. 5).

Lastly, it is about stepping out and doing something that likely feels uncomfortable. As Dr. Kruger states in her video on open pedagogy:

I get the general sense that when we talk about open pedagogy that sometimes we really aren’t sure what we’re talking about or even how to do it. And we don’t necessarily know how it’s going to turn out, but we really just have to take the first step and just do it. (Greatrix, 2019).


Garrison, R. (2017). E-learning in the 21st Century. Routledge

Greatrix, M. (2019, April 16). Open pedagogy: Taking the first step. Dr. Jessica Kruger’s story [Video]. YouTube.

Peter, S. & Deimann, M. (2013). On the role of openness in education: A historical reconstruction. Open Praxis, 5(1), 7-14.

Tait, A. (2018). Education for Development: From Distance to Open Education. Journal of Learning for Development, 5(2), 101-115.

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