Serving Access, Equity, and Innovation through Open Educational Practices

Serving Access, Equity, and Innovation through Open Educational Practices

About Dr. Jhangiani

Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani is a Special Advisor to the Provost on Open Education and a Psychology Professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia, where he conducts research in open education and the scholarship of teaching and learning. A recipient of the Robert E. Knox Master Teacher Award from the University of British Columbia and the Dean of Arts Teaching Excellence award at KPU, Dr. Jhangiani also serves as an Associate Editor of Psychology Learning and Teaching, an Ambassador for the Center for Open Science, and co-director of the Open Pedagogy Notebook. Formerly an Open Education Advisor at BCcampus and a Faculty Workshop Facilitator with the Open Textbook Network, Dr. Jhangiani’s books include A Compendium of Scales for Use in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (2015) and Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science (2017). 

You can find him online at @thatpsychprof or

Rajiv's book, Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science, is available for download here.

COLTT Keynote Explores Open Educational Resources at a Pivotal Moment for CU


Open Educational Resources (OER) have had an important impact on global education for decades—they have been crucial to providing affordable access to educational opportunity in the developing world and have become solidly established in the curricular life of many American K-12 institutions, community colleges and some four-year colleges.  The UNESCO definition of OER is “any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them.”

Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani, the 2018 Colorado Learning and Teaching with Technology (COLTT) conference keynote speaker and eminent OER researcher and advocate, wants to correct a crucial misperception that makes top-tier research universities late to the table in embracing OER (with a few notable exceptions such as MIT’s Open Courseware initiative). Dr. Jhangiani wants research universities to understand that “the Open Ed movement is about democratization of knowledge creation,” not just knowledge itself. OER are much more than free digital textbooks. Dr. Jhangiani plans to show that OER make unprecedented academic freedom and innovation possible in higher education.

The University of Colorado is positioned to become another of the notable exceptions--a leader among research universities in the adoption, adaption and creation of OER, which makes Dr. Jhangiani’s visit to the COLTT conference an especially well-timed boost to momentum already in progress at CU.  The free interactive science simulations offered by CU Boulder’s PhET program, founded by Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman in 2002, are some of the world’s best-known and often-deployed OER. Meanwhile, CU System and all of the individual campuses have begun ramping up robust exploratory OER initiatives since the Colorado Department of Higher Education established the Open Educational Resources Council in 2017.

Dr. Jhangiani’s COLTT keynote, “Serving Access, Equity and Innovation Through Open Educational Practices” will explore the transformative possibilities of OER as well as some of the potential areas of concern that demand a careful and critical approach as research universities like CU embark on major OER initiatives.  This year’s COLTT conference will once again happen at CU Boulder’s Wolf Law Building on August 1 and 2.

Dr. Jhangiani’s keynote will draw from some of the guiding principles advanced in Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science, a freely available OER volume he edited with Robert Biswas-Diener. The book, like Dr.Jhangiani’s keynote, explores ideals that “are slowly becoming a reality thanks to the open education, open science, and open access movements. Running separate—if parallel—courses, they all share a philosophy of equity, progress, and justice.” Open “shares the stories, motives, insights, and practical tips from global leaders in the open movement.”

Dr. Jhangiani also blogs at and directs the “Open Pedagogy Notebook,” a shared-practices online community. He teaches psychology, conducts research in learning science with a focus on OER implementation, and serves as the Special Advisor to the Provost on Open Education at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia.


1. What insights and perspectives do you want COLTT attendees to get out of your keynote?

I hope those who don’t know much about Open Education leave with a good understanding that it doesn’t just involve a focus on resources. I want to give them a broader sense of what the practices are. 

In Colorado there is so much momentum and support for this work, so I am also keen for people to leave with a clear sense of why and how “open” is not a panacea, how it is possible for us to perpetrate harm with the best of intentions within open education. So it is important as people come into this space that they adopt and maintain a critical perspective.


2. How do your background and current work in psychology and learning science influence your perspective on Open Educational Resources?

They’ve influenced each other, really. No matter what discipline you’re in it’s easy to understand open education and have it inform your work. It’s about the role of an educator in the classroom when information and misinformation and disinformation are all abundant.  As I untether myself from specific content being part of my role in the classroom it makes it easier for me to become an open educator.

Working in psychology and the scholarship of teaching and learning, I’m interested in understanding and measuring the impact that open education is having on students as well as educators in terms of both immediate and long-term consequences. What brings educators to open education? What do they take away? A lot of people I work with come to OER specifically for the cost savings, but they stay for the pedagogy. I’m interested in what it means in terms of the reinvigoration of one’s approach and commitment to higher ed.

Psychology has been going through a bit of a replicability crisis, and OER has helped me untether myself even more from specific content. And I think the values of open science in my discipline have come to the fore in response. Thinking about these issues in my discipline has helped me think about and articulate some of the values the Open Ed movement holds, which is a shared foundation.


3. What should people in higher education know about OER that they’re not yet grasping?

I think people assume OER are about free online textbooks—that’s the most common understanding of it, and it’s an idea that’s been perpetrated on purpose. I think if there’s one thing I would hope people in higher ed would grasp it’s that in some sense the least significant benefit of Open Educational Resources is highly significant cost savings to students. It’s not just about equitable access to knowledge; it’s also about equitable access to knowledge creation.


4. What advice do you have for CU on how to leverage the promise and avoid the pitfalls of OER as we roll out new OER initiatives in this historical moment?

Context matters.  Institutional history matters.  It will tell you where the land mines are, where the opportunities are. Some people will always be suspicious of any new initiative, let alone Open Ed. 

Libraries have been at the leading edge of the open ed movement—they are incredibly well positioned to help with discoverability, with services to modify and adapt resources.

A lot of collaboration is necessary. Don’t leave collaboration to accident—deliberately look for those opportunities to make connections. For example, if the library has great expertise in the discoverability of OER, the teaching and learning center may already know which faculty are the really innovative pedagogues who may be most interested in open pedagogy.

Accessibility—when you’re building or creating OER, work closely with your office that serves students with disabilities. Use it as an opportunity to raise awareness and educate people on principles of universal design for learning.

Look for opportunities beyond collaboration within the institution. One of my favorite sayings is “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.” Foster collaborations; do this as a system. Connect faculty within the same discipline across institutions. 

Support academic freedom, support choice. The last thing you want to do is mandate open initiatives—this is completely against the spirit of the movement.

I’d love to see the CU system follow the lead of places like the University of British Columbia where the creation and adaptation of OER is now part of the criteria for promotion and tenure.

I think it’s incredibly important for universities to recognize the labor that goes into OER, and once they recognize it, enable that kind of labor by actually supporting it. Make sure we’re not reserving the privilege of making OER to the already privileged.


5. How do you see the role of Open Educational Resources in the current and future evolution of the higher education landscape?

We’re going to see a lot more of it. We already have a ton in the highest enrolled areas. Government sponsored projects and OER projects sponsored by philanthropic organizations tend to focus on the higher enrollment courses. Universities are investing in the niche courses, especially when it surrounds a flagship program—a program that they’re known for. We’re going to see a lot more OER especially in these niche areas.

We’ll see more interactivity built into OER. A lot of people are beside themselves with excitement that now you can take Pressbooks, which is the standard platform for editing or creating open textbooks, and within the text of the textbooks you can imbed a tool called H5P, which gives you a slew of interactive technologies, whether it’s formative quizzing or image hotspots or anything else. I see a lot more people building ancillary resources to support existing OER, especially in disciplines that rely on it. 

So those are changes just in terms of the resources themselves.

We’re also already seeing communities of practitioners growing around resources, the use of tools to build community. A very interesting growing heterogeneous community that up to this point has been heavier at the community college end, is also rapidly growing now at R1 institutions.

Using an open source annotation tool called, faculty members are annotating the open textbooks in psychology to flag errors, to flag areas that need updating, or even just to share pedagogical resources. And that marginalia is available to other educators within that discipline. So I’m seeing OER being used as a vehicle to build community.

Right now we’re seeing a lot of adoption and very little adaptation and creation. One of the exciting things about the community is that we’re seeing a lot more derivative works—a lot more adaptation. I’m seeing adaptations really ramp up over time.

We’ll see a lot more work in open pedagogy. People get really inspired and excited by the idea and we’re seeing a very rapid increase in the number of practical examples of what this looks like in practice across a diversity of disciplines. As those models become more accessible, more visible, we’re going to see a lot of people pushing the boundaries of open pedagogy--where deeper learning for students is the primary goal and the creation of OER is the secondary outcome. This is priceless for students.


Geoffrey Rubinstein is director of online learning in the Division of Continuing Education and Professional Studies at CU Boulder.