Openness, a Practice for Innovation in Higher Education

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Openness has been a feature of higher education for decades thanks to the establishment of open universities and digital technologies. Due to technological evolution, Open Educational Resources (OERs) have become the bridge between education and digital development[1].

The concept of openness

Openness is seen as a fundamental value that supports societal changes and is necessary for higher education institutions aiming to promote change while being relevant for everyone[2].

Openness’ origins in higher education

Illustration: A school in 1969.


The idea of openness started when the United Kingdom’s Open University opened its doors. It began with the idea of being open to persons, places, methodologies and teaching techniques.

Illustration. Three boxes representing: Open Content, Open CourseWare and Open Educational Resources.


The definitions of openness within higher education started to complement the concepts of Open Content, Open CourseWare and Open Educational Resources.

Openness changes the context2:

Icon: Analogous.
Icon: Static.
Icon: Isolated.
Icon: Generic.
Icon: Consumer.
Icon: Closed.
 Analogous: Little virtual interaction, mainly on-site classes.
Static: Dependent on a specific place and moment.
Isolated: Very little collaboration.
Generic: Educational experiences were the same, and individual objectives were never pursued.
Consumer: Students consumed content.
Closed: Limitation in the delivery and handling of educational material.
Icon: Digital.
Icon: Mobile.
Icon: Connected.
Icon: Personal.
Icon: Creator.
Icon: Open.
Digital: Significant increase in the use of digital resources.
Mobile: Any place, any time.
Connected: Content is created among peers and is highly collaborative.
Personal: Educational experiences can be adapted to each student.
Creator: Students shift their role, have more participation, and develop the capacity to create content.
Open: Freedom to modify and distribute educational material.

Openness is freedom to1:

  • Pay very little or no money to access and use content for specific needs.
  • Copy content and make more copies.
  • Obtain content and reuse without needing previous consent.
  • Complete derivative work (but not necessarily the freedom to obtain benefits from it). 
Illustration: Openness.

Openness’ future in higher education2:

There are several spaces to improve, refine, and enhance2:

  • Higher education must continually aim to being relevant for everyone
  • Peer review methodologies that aims to ensure the quality of Open Educational Resources.
  • Open Teaching: a model that pursues the possibility of professors openly sharing their materials before courses start, which allows the participation of other students besides those officially enrolled.
  • The success of higher education institutions depends on their capacity to differentiate themselves from others; this depends on market dynamics and changes the institution’s specialty.
  • Universities must have clear parameters regarding structure, access to content, learning and tutoring services, content creation and access to research materials.
  • Open Service Providers (OSP) refers to people or organizations that provide Access to world-class experiences under open licenses and with low transaction costs. OSPs promote innovation and a competitive climate among higher education institutions that will have to adopt and define a their strategy. Additionally, institutions must define what role they want to play in higher education’s evolution.
  • Institutions without any kind of commitment to openness can find themselves as mere observers that are unable to participate in the creation of significant innovations (as they have no significant open service to offer).


TRiiBU Studio


1Andy Lane, (2009). The Impact of Openness on Bridging Educational Digital Divides. Retrieved November 23, 2016 from

2David Wiley and John Hilton III, (2009). Openness, Dynamic Specialization, and the Disaggregated Future of Higher Education. Retrieved November 23, 2016 from:

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