Defining Open Educators

3 min read

Something you learn very quickly when supporting faculty on an open education initiative is that all educators are at various levels of knowledge and comfort with open education. For some, you are often their first introduction to open education. Others have been explicit practitioners of open education for years and open is built into their default operating system. Educators are on a spectrum of openness, and a good strategy to support educators is to adopt a "meet them where they are at" mantra and build supports for those all along the spectrum of open.

What appeals to me about the work that Fabio Nascimbeni and Daniel Burjos have done in this IRRODL paper is that they put forth a vision of what that spectrum of openness could look like, from the novice to the experienced open educator. They have put together a useful holistic framework that maps many of the different dimensions of open education and open educational practices. As a starting point, they provide their definition of what an open educator is.

An Open Educator choses to use open approaches, when possible and appropriate, with the aim to remove all unnecessary barriers to learning. He/she works through an open online identity and relies on online social networking to enrich and implement his/her work, understanding that collaboration bears a responsibility towards the work of others.

To further define an Open Educator, Nascimbeni and Borges list four activities that help define an Open Educator.

  1. Implements open learning design by openly sharing ideas and plans about his/her teaching activities with experts and with past and potential students, incorporating inputs, and transparently leaving a trace of the development process.
  2. Uses open educational content by releasing his/her teaching resources through open licenses, by facilitating sharing of her resources through OER repositories and other means, and by adapting, assembling, and using OERs produced by others in his/her teaching.
  3. Adopts open pedagogies fostering co-creation of knowledge by students through online and offline collaboration and allowing learners to contribute to public knowledge resources such as Wikipedia.
  4. Implements open assessment practices such as peer and collaborative evaluation, open badges, and e-portfolios, engaging students as well as external stakeholders in learning assessment.

One thing that I appreciate that they recognized under the design aspect was that open educators "transparently leaving a trace of the development process." To me, this signals the importance of educators themselves working in the open. Being in an open educator is not something we just do for and with students, and the best open educators I see in the field have adopted a transparent and open workflow that anyone, not just their students, can learn from.

Within these four different dimensions (Design, Content, Teaching and Assessment), they then provide some examples of activities that novice, transitional, and expert Open Educators may undertake in each dimension. This chart illustrates some example, from novice Open Educator (at the bottom) to expert open educator (at the top)

For those who are supporting educators in the adoption of open educational practices, this is a useful framework to start building support and faculty development initiatives that go beyond OER.

Source: Nascimbeni, F., & Burgos, D. (2016). In Search for the Open Educator: Proposal of a Definition and a Framework to Increase Openness Adoption Among University Educators. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 17(6). Retrieved from

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