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Best Practices

The LTO Best Practices

Issue No. 55: The Open Access Classroom

Welcome to the fifty-fifth issue of The LTO Best Practices. Each month, the Learning & Teaching Office will be spotlighting a timely topic in education. This April, our topic is "The Open Access Classroom."

Check out our page of Teaching Tips handouts for more downloadable documents on a variety of teaching topics.

For more links to open access textbooks and open access resources, download our Teaching Tips document on Open Access Resources [pdf] or visit the Ryerson Library page on publically accessible teaching resources.


An Introduction to Open Education

Open education is a "collection of practices that utilize online technology to freely share knowledge" (BCCampus, Adopting Open Textbooks). This knowledge can take several forms:

Open Educational Resources

Open educational resources (OER) are "teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain or released with an intellectual property license that allows for free use, adaptation, and distribution" (UNESCO).

Open educational resources typically follow the 4Rs, as defined by David Wiley. "The 4R framework defines the rights of a user over content, i.e., what a user can do with the content in order for it to be considered an OER." A summarized by BC Campus, the 4Rs stand for:

  1. Reuse – the right to reuse the content in its unaltered / verbatim form
  2. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify or alter the content
  3. Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other content to create something new
  4. Redistribute – the right to make and share copies of the original content, a revision of the content or remixes of the content with others

Open Access Textbooks

An open access texbook is one that has been released under an open license. The open license allows the textbook to be copied, shared and revised. The textbook can be distributed to students for free and educators have the right to change the content of the textbook, allowing textbooks to be customized to meet the specific needs of learners.

The best sources for open access textbooks are:

Build a Mix-and-Match Course

Supplement open access textbooks with material freely available on the web or available through Ryerson Library licensing. This can include:

Finding Course Material

Open educational resources and other open access material, from textbooks to music, will usually be distributed under a Creative Commons license. There are six types of Creative Commons licenses. All of these resources are FREE to use for educational use, as long as you cite.

You can search for Creative Commons content in a variety of formats using this search engine.

Syllabi, lesson plans, lecture notes, assessments, classroom activities, and other instructional material:

Photo Credit: NASA - "On Space Shuttle mission STS-41B, Feb. 1984, the Canadarm was used as a platform for spacewalk work by astronauts Bruce McCandless II (pictured) and Robert L. Stewart."


Open access journals articles:


Images and other media:


Keep in mind that the library has subscribed to several databases for multimedia content that, while not open access, are licensed for use in your classroom. These include:


Consult the library for help checking licenses and making material available for your classroom.

Photo Credit: NASA - "On Space Shuttle mission STS-41B, Feb. 1984, the Canadarm was used as a platform for spacewalk work by astronauts Bruce McCandless II (pictured) and Robert L. Stewart."


Upcoming Events

Ryerson Faculty Conference

Our faculty conference theme - “Tomorrow’s Classroom” - provides faculty with the chance to share the theory and practice on the future of university teaching and learning, innovative new teaching styles, technologically enhanced learning, and evolving learning outcomes to engage and inspire the heterogeneity that is our twenty-first century learners. Proposals for the 2015 Faculty Conference are due April 6.


Next Issue

"The LTO Best Practices" is produced monthly by Michelle Schwartz, Research Associate at The Learning & Teaching Office of Ryerson University.

Do you have any thoughts, suggestions, or best practices that you would like to see appear in this newsletter? Please send all submissions to We look forward to including your contributions in our next issue!

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