Faculty: A 5-part framework for open courses

5R Open Course Design Framework available to help faculty as OER use enters mainstream.

open-course-frameworkOpen course experts have published and revised the 5R Open Course Design Framework, a set of guidelines and best practices for developing courses using open educational resources (OER).

The framework, freely available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (CC BY), encourages educators and faculty who are not trained instructional designers to capitalize on the unique rights associated with open content also known as the 5Rs: the ability Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute content for educational purposes.


Lumen Learning, the experts behind the framework, noted that while the framework is an over-simplification of OER course design, the framework is, instead, meant to “support moderate improvements in teaching and learning during the OER transition [and] create opportunities for faculty to think about how their practice might change in the context of ‘open,'” according to an online presentation. The company also plans to offer training, professional development and a course review and certification process associated with the framework. Professional development certifications will be offered to help individuals and organizations build capacity around effective course design with OER.

“Use of open educational resources in U.S. classrooms is entering the mainstream,” said David Wiley, a professor and longtime advocate of open education as well as chief academic officer of Lumen Learning, in a statement. “At the same time, the education community still has much to learn about designing effective courses and educational experiences using OER. The 5R Open Course Design Framework provides a foundation for consistent quality assurance and best practices.”

(Next page: Details of the framework)

The primary purpose of the framework is to help educators and institutions build capacity around how to use open educational resources effectively not only to eliminate the high cost of commercial textbooks, but also to strengthen student learning.

By openly publishing the 5R Open Course Design Framework, Lumen Learning invites participation from the education community to apply and refine its design principles over time.

“For any innovation, establishing common practices for consistency and quality is an essential step on the path to achieving widespread adoption,” said Cable Green, director of global learning at Creative Commons.

The Framework

Each piece of the framework comes with specific consideration when designing for OER:

Learning objectives or outcomes: Are you exposing / sharing your learning objectives in OER you create? • Do you look for learning objectives in the OER you consider for adoption? • If someone reused your objectives in their syllabus, how would you want attribution to work? • CC0 for learning objectives?

Alignment: Objectives–what should students know or be able to do? • Activities–what can students do to go from not knowing or being able to knowing or being able? • Assessment–how will you know if they were successful?

Activities: Consistency of resources from different sources (e.g., vocabulary) • Opportunities to make resources speak more directly to your students • License compatibility issues • Managing attributions (default footer attribution probably doesn’t cut it)

Assessments: Are you minimizing time to feedback? Are you making time for relationships? • Are you creating templates that support the quick and consistent creating or revising of assessments aligned with CPM? • Are you inviting students to openly license and share their work? • Are you spacing practice regularly and including items from earlier in the course in later assessments to encourage regular review of course material? When should you openly license and share your assessments? • How should you share your assessments? • How should assessments be attributed? • CC0 for assessments?

Pedagogy: Are you creating renewable assignments that student see value in, rather then disposable assignments students hate doing? • Are students critically reviewing course materials and making plans to improve them? • Are students reorganizing and transforming course materials? • Are students working in small groups to teach each other using their new resources? • Are you encouraging students to openly license and share their work online?

Implementation: How will students find / interact with activities and assessments? • Don’t build inside your LMS! Use an inside/outside strategy like Thin CC + LTI and your LMS. • How to facilitate offline access / enable retain?

For more information on the revised framework, see the slideshow presentation here.

Lumen Learning provides courseware and support to educational institutions working to expand effective adoption of open educational resources. Having led several OER adoption initiatives in recent years, the Lumen team hopes the framework will help broaden awareness of OER and substantially increase the number of educators using open content effectively in core curriculum.

The company will also apply the 5R Open Course Framework in its work designing courses and conducting third-party expert review of OER-based courses and programs.

“The 5R Open Course Design Framework is a result of specific requests we have heard from the institutions we work with and the broader open education community,” said Kim Thanos, CEO of Lumen Learning in a statement. “Many people recognize the transformative potential of OER to broaden access to education and to improve the efficacy of educational content. The framework represents the community’s vested interest in doing this well.”

Individuals and institutions interested in providing input into the process or pilot participation are invited to contact Lumen Learning ( for more information.

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