David Wiley’s Remix Hypothesis: using OER to rethink teaching

David Wiley’s Remix Hypothesis: using OER to rethink teaching

David Wiley, Chief Academic Officer of Lumen Learning and OER advocate, spoke at the University of Texas to kick off the Year of Open, a series of events sponsored by the UT Libraries and the Center for Learning Sciences. Wiley is well known in Open Education circles for his “5 R’s” framework of OER (reuse, revise, remix, redistribute, and retain).

To get the audience to think about the broader benefits of OER, Wiley discussed his “Remix Hypothesis.” In brief, the “Remix Hypothesis” states that changes in student outcomes occurring in conjunction with OER adoption correlate positively with three faculty practices:

  • “replace” — substituting a text or a book for another
  • “realign” — finding ways to “mix and match” materials, using some open materials mixed with closed materials
  • “rethink” — thinking about what you can do with open resources that you couldn’t do before, essentially rethinking teaching methods

Replacing has the smallest impact, whereas realigning has a medium impact. The most profound impact comes from rethinking, because it’s not just about adding new materials but rather inventing new teaching practices and getting students and teachers to do things they have never done before. Details about the Remix Hypothesis can be found on Wiley’s blog, but in general, the hypothesis boils down to this: Open Educational Resources, unlike most closed materials, foster deep reflection about teaching and learning.

In one of his examples, Wiley talked about a class he taught in which students rewrote a textbook together. This required more than a simple change in textbook, it was a new way of teaching the class. As a consequence, the students had a real sense of pride in doing good work. For example, Wiley noted that his students invested more time and effort into the class because they knew others would see their work.

Another example of OER fostering a rethinking of pedagogical practice comes from Joanna Luks’ COERLL project, the open French textbook Le littéraire dans le quotidien (The Literary in the Everyday), which she uses to teach French in ways that go beyond the conventional. Joanna wanted to change her students’ habits by giving them a grading rubric and asking them to do extensive peer reviews of each other’s work before handing in their final products. By building these practices into her own OER, Joanna was able to engage her students in ways that she found lacking in commercial materials.

Most people cite cost savings and updated materials as the major benefits of OER. But according to Wiley’s “Remix Hypothesis,” the greatest promise of OER lies in helping teachers and learners to rethink their own educational practices.

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