Dean's Message, Fall 2019

Liberal Education and Open Educational Resources

Dean Annie Belanger

Liberal Education and Open Education Resources (OER) are natural allies in the creation of students who become lifelong learners and active citizens. Both the freedom of information and the free access to information are critical to learning. The continued use and access to information in broader society are “essential for success in a global economy and for informed citizenship." ¹

Liberal Education gives students the skills to access and use information: information literacy. Libraries are critical partners in the development of these skills inside and outside the classroom.

At its essence, OER are free and openly licensed educational materials used for teaching, learning, research, and other purposes. Any education resource we can conceive of could be an OER. Though textbooks are often the example that springs to mind – OER are so much more than “free textbooks”. Every educational resource can become open – from quizzes to online modules. Our minds are the limits. 

Arguably, if a work can be set free, as the power of energy is set free in physics, the work is available. OER works are set free to be seen, used, and engaged with. OER inherently support innovation, the action of making changes to something established. OER are designed to be taken apart, revised, put back together in new ways, or to support new approaches.

A foundation of liberal education is critical engagement and thinking about knowledge as something that is continuously evolving and in the midst of being created. An analogy could be that learning is a dialogue. By making educational resources open, we can empower students to apply critical thinking and information literacy in the process of learning and revising their own materials.

OER offer opportunities for critical, engaged thinking and reflection by introducing the idea of knowledge as something that is continually created because they can be updated, modified, critiqued, built on, and remixed. Further, from a social construct point of view, localization of information allows students to own their local knowledge and culture. All of these opportunities feed into the development of civil engagement and knowledge to be preserved and shared.

Grand Valley State University, Liberal Education, and OER are rooted in being a common good. How can we all be part of the common good and enhance the equity of education and information?


¹"What is Liberal Education?" Association of American Colleges & Universities

Page last modified October 27, 2022