Defining and Developing ‚ Enabling Open Education Policies in Higher Education

Policies are part of the essential infrastructure of higher education – communicating priorities, clarifying expectations, defining rights and responsibilities, managing risk, and supporting decision-making. Alongside the pandemic in 2020, the terrain of higher education changed dramatically. With this came a growing recognition that many higher education policies ––specifically for digital, online and open teaching, learning and assessment–– did not sufficiently meet the needs of students, staff and institutions; and/or that the necessary policies did not exist.

Precision is needed when discussing higher education policy, as the deceptively simple word is used to describe instruments that operate at multiple levels, e.g. institutional policies, sectoral policies, national policies, European policies, etc. In this Thematic Session, we share both a definition and a process for developing ‘enabling’ policies to support those engaged in, and committed to, developing open education policies in various higher education contexts. Such policies may include OER policies, open textbook policies, and other policies in the domains of Open Education, Open Science and Open Knowledge.

Prefacing policy with the word ‘enabling’ suggests that there are aspects of any policy that make it more enabling than non-enabling for stakeholders who are affected by and/or engaged with it. Enabling policies can be defined as those which fulfil a range of criteria across the categories of policy content, policymaking process, and policy form and style (National Forum, 2021):

  • Policy content – supports an integrated approach; includes an implementation plan and procedures.
  • Policymaking process – is collaborative, with a focus on collective ownership; is equitable, diverse and inclusive; builds on existing student-staff partnership approaches; ensures that the process scope is defined broadly; engages experts, where required.
  • Policy form and style – is clear, concise and easily communicable to all stakeholders; is supportive, flexible and practical; is accessible by all.

Across different contexts, and subject to diverse and complex priorities and challenges, a democratic process of policy “co-creation” (see Atenas et al., 2020) ensures that enabling policies are developed in an open, transparent, participatory way – ensuring that those who will be affected by the policy also share ownership of the policy. To support the development of enabling policies for open education in higher education, the following five steps are recommended:

  • Identify need for policy
  • Co-create policy (consult and collaborate; research and analysis; design and redraft; evaluate and review)
  • Approve policy
  • Implement and communicate policy
  • Monitor and review policy

In this Thematic Session, a transnational group of educators will discuss a shared understanding of how enabling open education policies can be developed in higher education. This approach is not specific to any country, region or higher education system. The group will share a policy brief collectively developed and co-created, adapted from and building on a recent openly-published guide to developing enabling policies (National Forum, 2021), to provide opportunities for those engaged and willing to be engaged in institutional policy development for open education (particularly learning and teaching) to discuss aims and challenges, to share resources, and to consider approaches relevant to their own contexts in order to co-create sustainable and enabling Open Education policies.


Atenas, J., Havemann, L., Neumann, J., & Stefanelli, C. (2020). Open Education Policies: Guidelines for co-creation. Zenodo. Open Education Policies: Guidelines for co-creation | Zenodo

National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (2021). Guide to Developing Enabling Policies for Digital and Open Teaching and Learning. Guide to Developing Enabling Policies for Digital and Open Teaching and Learning – National Resource Hub


:eye_in_speech_bubble: Presented by:: Igor Lesko, Javiera Atenas, Catherine Cronin, Cristina Stefanelli, Virginia Rodés
:sun: Conference Track: Thematic Session: Pathways to Opening Up Education
:spiral_calendar: Track Date/Time: 2022-05-24T14:20:00Z (your local time)
:speech_balloon: Language: English
:calling: Pretalx link: Defining and Developing ‘Enabling’ Open Education Policies in Higher Education :: Open Education Global 2022 :: pretalx

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Authors are asked to reply below with links to presentation materials, videos, and other relevant resources, as well as posting prompts for discussion.

Conference participants can reply below with questions, comments for the presenters or to share related resources. And please add anything relevant from this session as an annotation to a specific part of the UNESCO OER Recommendation.


Very relevant announcement tweeted today!

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I’m also going to be there! Looking forward to it.

Here are the slides from our presentation.

EnablingPolicies_OEG22.pdf (1.0 MB)