Informed Open Pedagogy and Information Literacy Instruction in Student-Authored Open Projects

Cynthia Mari Orozco


Project Overview

Institution: East Los Angeles College

Institution Type: public, community college

Project Discipline: Information Literacy

Project Outcome: student-created zines

Tools Used: ACRL Framework

Resources Included in Chapter:

  • Class Assignment Template

Open pedagogy has often been touted as empowering, liberating, and revolutionary. While many interpretations of the term open pedagogy exist, this chapter specifically focuses on an open pedagogy in which students are creating openly licensed works in a classroom environment. Open pedagogy affords librarians, instructors, and students a unique way to guide how courses are taught and how students learn. However, while working openly can be empowering, liberating, or even revolutionary, I argue that it is unethical to mandate or strongly encourage students to produce open work without themselves understanding the implications of working openly. I argue that it is only when students understand the political intent behind these types of open projects⁠—speaking to a much broader open education and open access movement⁠—that they might decide for themselves to continue to engage in and support open work. Open practice is only powerful when the students involved understand why they are engaging in this work and deciding for themselves that this is something they are personally and politically invested in. Furthermore, it is only when students understand the concept of open and their own rights as authors that they can ethically engage in this type of open pedagogy.

In other words, if we are using open pedagogy to encourage students to themselves be part of the open education movement, then students must understand what open practice is and how it relates to their own lives. I posit an informed open pedagogy that 1) teaches students about, and brings students into, the greater open education movement, in which 2) students decide individually and negotiate as a whole their preferred individual and collective authorship that lastly, 3) allows students to opt-out at any point in the class, or later can provide a more ethical design to open pedagogical practices. This informed open pedagogy can be elicited through the practices of information literacy instruction.

The Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, or Framework, from the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) (2015) presents guiding frames in which classroom instructors and librarians can scaffold instruction about open principles within a larger information literacy context. The Framework defines information literacy as:

…the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning (p.8).

This definition of information literacy also is situated in learners’ own academic and social learning goals throughout their academic careers and lives. In open pedagogy, by centering students as creators of information rather than simply passive consumers of information through an OER-enabled project, students can improve upon their information literacy and better understand information ecosystems and how knowledge is produced, disseminated, and valued. The Framework consists of six broader frames that are central to information literacy. These six frames are meant to guide, not prescribe, local practice. These frames enable us to think about how we might teach students about general open principles, open education, and open pedagogy through the lens of information literacy.

For each of these frames, I will provide some examples of how I attempt to cultivate an informed open pedagogy in my own community college classroom through a short-term eight-week Library Science 101 course, College Research Skills. The students in this particular course were required to take Library Science 101 as part of our honors program; however, the zine assignment is appropriate for any group of students. This course meets one day per week, two hours each class. The capstone OER product is a zine, in which individual students create a specific piece of an overall openly licensed zine resource for their fellow students at our college that provides guidance on various information literacy concepts and the mechanics of using information resources, from our library or otherwise. The terms of the zine assignment are negotiated by the class as a whole, such as the content that will be divided by students, the open license to be used (if at all), and their form of authorship (e.g. full or partial name, pseudonym, anonymity, group authorship) (see Appendix for selections from the Zine Contribution Assignment). While most of the discourse on open pedagogy tends to be centered on technology, I present this capstone open pedagogy project that is largely analog, is distributed in print, and whose final product lives online on a somewhat obscure website that is, by design, not easy to find. This is an intentional obfuscation technique that I will discuss later.

While the example open pedagogy project I have provided is for a Library Science course, the lessons and projects here can be adapted to a course in any discipline. I would also encourage classroom instructors to consider liaising with your campus librarians to dialogue and develop strategies for scaffolding instruction around openness into your classroom in meaningful ways. This can include librarian-led lecture and/or discussion around: copyright, fair use, and open access; citation and attribution in both academic (e.g. research paper) and non-academic (e.g. zines) information genres; or developing search strategies for traditional library databases and open access journals. The examples I provide here are reflective of my personal practice and are not exhaustive but rather intended to demonstrate some ways in which to integrate information literacy and open instruction.

Authority is Constructed and Contextual

Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility, and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that the information need may help to determine the level of authority required. (Framework, 2015, p. 12)

In this frame, students are learning about how various types of authorities are conferred and how authority is related to their information needs. Students also should be thinking about their own authoritative voices and the responsibility tied to being an authority, including putting forth information that is both accurate and reliable, respecting intellectual property, and participating in communities of practice. In asking students to create an OER product, open pedagogy allows us an incredible opportunity for students to explicitly engage and reflect in the development of their authoritative voices.

From the onset of my Library Science course, students have a syllabus that clearly articulates the assignments that will be completed in the course, including the final zine which is the big project that will be created and made available for all students at our college after the course is completed. Each class of approximately 25 students makes one zine, and the assignment is repeated with different student authors for each class. From the beginning, when I explain information and our assignments, I repeatedly emphasize that when it comes to being a student, my students themselves are the experts. What might a new student need to know about the library or research that they may be unfamiliar with or need more guidance on? I can speculate based on my experience as a librarian and teacher, and at one point a student myself, but the students are the ones who have intimate, personal, and immediate experience and knowledge as current students–a very specific type of knowledge–that is valuable in their community and to other students. In the third week, just under the halfway point in our course, students complete their first open assignment: taking photographs of resources, services, and spaces in the library that they think would be useful for students to know and to describe them (e.g. title, summary, social tags). I ask my students, “As a current student taking Library Science 101, what should other students know about the library or research in general?” We compare authority in other information formats in comparison to what we are doing, and students articulate why they are in a position to give other students tips and advice. I also use this opportunity to be explicit about my position in this dynamic and argue that they are indeed the authority for this type of information need and not myself, even though I am the instructor in a traditional overarching form of authority.

Information Creation as a Process

Information in any format is produced to convey a message and is shared via a selected delivery method. The iterative processes of researching, creating, revising, and disseminating information vary, and the resulting product reflects these differences. (Framework, 2015, p. 14)

This frame puts students in a position to think about the creation of a final OER product and how the creation process affects the information produced, thinking specifically about how the information created is enhanced or limited by the creation process itself. In addition to this process, students are asked to think about information formats and dissemination. For example, what does it mean to produce a static object versus a living document as OER? Thinking about how we want our information to be received and by what population, how might we appropriately disseminate this OER? This frame also explicitly encourages students to understand that their own choices impact how information will be received and interpreted.

Much of my course is dedicated to learning how to effectively search and find information, which my students engage with from the first week of the course. By the end of the first week, students should be able to perform basic catalog, database, and web searches, upon which the rest of my lessons are built. In the fourth week of class, my students and I look at information about a specific topic comparing information formats. For example, this can be a journal article on a given subject compared to a tweet from an academic on the same subject, but this can also be a comparison of two academic journal articles, one being open access and the other not. As another example, we compare a traditional encyclopedia article and a Wikipedia article and compare the creation and dissemination of both static and dynamic formats. We then engage in a discussion about the process of creation in each of these information formats and how one might decide to produce and disseminate that information and to whom. The lessons from this week serve as a precursor to an entire class dedicated to open access, which I will elaborate on in a later section.

Information Has Value

Information possesses several dimensions of value, including as a commodity, as a means of education, as a means to influence, and as a means of negotiating and understanding the world. Legal and socioeconomic interests influence information production and dissemination. (Framework, 2015, p. 16)

This frame goes beyond teaching students about plagiarism and following a particular citation style, rather teaching them about their relationship to intellectual property and their own rights as authors. This frame also provides an opportunity to explicitly teach students about copyright, fair use, open access, and the public domain. I dedicate the fifth week exclusively to issues around open access and general openness covering all of these topics. Our discussions revolve predominantly around traditional publishing models and open models, intellectual property and students’ own rights as authors, and information access. For example, we have a typically lively discussion about the implications of using Turnitin, a popular plagiarism detection software, and students’ intellectual property rights, which Morris and Stommel (2017) explain permits Turnitin to take control of a student’s intellectual property and sell that work for profit. This is just one example of contextualizing ways in which existing systems are broken and exploitative; by understanding how the students fit in this system, they can make decisions about how they will work in, and possibly apply solutions to improve, these systems.

At this point in the course, I also want my students to understand that various open licenses exist so that we can collectively determine which open license, if any, we want to apply to our final zine product.[1] Additionally, I want students who are creating works after the course to understand what licenses are available to them and how to use them. This includes articulating the various Creative Commons licenses but also exploring, for example, licenses for open software and public domain considerations, and thinking about multiple ways of approaching open work and intellectual property. We also explore traditional knowledge (TK) licenses to engage in discussion about both the cultural variations in intellectual property and how new licenses can be co-created when what is valued and needed by a community does not yet exist (TK Licenses).

With regard to making their own choices, this frame emphasizes a need for students to make informed choices regarding their online actions with respect to issues of privacy and the commodification of their personal information. Moreover, students should be centered in the decision of where and how their information is published, such as in the case of how student data is exploited through Turnitin. How much do students want to reveal about themselves? This is not a decision that educators should make or impose but one that students should play an active role in. The ways in which students work, especially when in an open environment, ought to be determined by the students themselves.

Research as Inquiry

Research is iterative and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers in turn develop additional questions or lines of inquiry in any field. (Framework, 2015, p. 18)

This frame best captures the exploratory nature of research that students engage in when creating OER as part of their regular assignments. In this frame, students conduct research through various methods that best apply to the information need they are presented with. This often involves creating research questions, determining a scope of investigation, looking for gaps or weaknesses in the gathered information, and organizing and interpreting information in meaningful ways. Regardless of whether or not an educator utilizes open pedagogy, encouraging and guiding students to engage in research as an iterative process requires substantial instruction and resources. Remember that students are likely just developing their research skills so even just providing links to specific campus library or open access databases can be incredibly helpful.

In the sixth week, my students receive the final assignment guidelines; however, I also include several resources with which to engage students within our course learning management system (LMS) site. This includes library tutorials—both those created by my library or other libraries who have made their materials openly available—links to specific resources, and ways to get help (i.e. reference desk, chat reference, office hours). I also extend the content covered in our week dedicated to open (Week Five) in the resources, so students can continue to engage with open concepts (i.e. supplementary readings and YouTube videos, specific hashtags around openness to browse on social media) as they develop their final product. This is the frame in which students are also encouraged to ask for help when needed, so classroom instructors could liaise with campus librarians, including OER librarians, subject specialists, and copyright librarians.

Scholarship as Conversation

Communities of scholars, researchers, or professionals engage in sustained discourse with new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of varied perspectives and interpretations. (Framework, 2015, p. 20)

This conversation sees scholarship as fluid and encourages students to engage with scholarship in various ways, whether through citing a scholar’s work, looking at scholarship in a particular area over time, or recognizing that scholarly works tend to hold various perspectives. Open pedagogy aligns with the learner disposition in this frame in which students view themselves as information creators and not only consumers of information.

In this frame, students also look for barriers to participation and how existing systems may prevent students from participating or engaging. Most of the students I encounter have not engaged with or have limited engagement with scholarly articles; thus, in the third week of class, we break down a scholarly article from title and abstract to conclusion and references to both better understand this genre and to become more comfortable working with what my students often perceive as inaccessible academic language. As a class, and as a community of scholars, we discuss how information and scholarship are communicated and what academic language affords, and how it restricts. We use this discussion to collectively decide how we want to communicate our OER to the audiences with whom we engage, taking into consideration those affordances and restrictions.

Searching as Strategic Exploration

Searching for information is often nonlinear and iterative, requiring the evaluation of a range of information sources and the mental flexibility to pursue alternate avenues as new understanding develops. (Framework, 2015, p. 22)

In the last frame, students are articulating their information needs, determining a scope of investigation, and employing various search strategies to find appropriate information. If we as educators are attempting to bring students into the open community, we ought to teach students how to incorporate open sources within this search exploration. In addition to teaching library databases, catalogs, and the open web, we can also include open access journals and databases, institutional repositories, or using open limiters that designate a database item as open access or an open web item as openly licensed (i.e. Flickr images, YouTube videos).

Because I teach an information literacy course, we begin employing search strategies in the first week of the course. When I teach students about using our academic library’s databases or catalog, I am very explicit that these resources are only available to them while they are students. When they are not in school (i.e. summer session) or after they graduate, they can no longer access our electronic resources or check books out from our library. This provides an opportunity to discuss resources that are always available, not only including open resources but also the incredible, although inherently different, collections and resources offered by the public library.

Metacognition and Student Reflections

I designed this course to include weekly self-reflection around learning outcomes in addition to a more robust final reflection at the end of the course. Students were required to reflect on the exercises and readings of each particular week and reflect on how they individually were meeting one or more learning outcomes, as well as strategies they might take to further meet these outcomes. This metacognitive practice was implemented to help students gain awareness into their own learning process, but also provided a wonderful glimpse into their interpretations and feelings towards open pedagogy through the zine assignment, touching on concepts found in all of the frames:

Table 1

Student Reflections on ACRL Frames


Student Reflections

Authority is Constructed and Contextual

Many students recognized themselves as a relative authority on college research on our campus upon finishing our course and producing the zine. The zine might not be as comprehensive as taking Library Science 101, but it would introduce students who are not familiar with college research to some basic principles to get started. Because this zine would be published openly, students expressed an interest in producing a quality end-product for their fellow students.

Information Creation as a Process

Students had to make choices about how they were going to communicate information in the zine, which was fun and liberating for some students, while other students were more uncomfortable with this freedom. However, most students seemed pleased with the end product, many being very surprised that the end product was so cohesive even though all students took wildly different approaches to their work.

Information Has Value

As creators themselves throughout this process, students recognized the need to give credit to others. Few students explicitly engaged with the concepts of copyright and open access. Students seemed to appreciate the democratic process in deciding how this zine would be published.

Research as Inquiry

Several students described the need to return to course materials from previous weeks or find other resources to better understand that material in order to teach it to other students themselves.

Scholarship as Conversation

Many students recognized the zine assignment as creating a platform in which to share knowledge with other students.

Searching as Strategic Exploration

Students explained their search strategies in creating their final product, using various search techniques and information sources that were most appropriate for their work.

Overall, students seemed to enjoy collaborating to make a class zine, many claiming that they were really proud and excited to have their name included in something that would be made public.

Final Thoughts

The Framework provides some ways in which to think about how we can teach students open in our various local contexts. Open pedagogy can offer, at least partially, a path to liberation, breaking students away from the restrictions of the traditional banking model of education, in which students are seen as banks into which knowledge is deposited (Freire 2000). However, we also need to be simultaneously wary of any open determinism in which we uncritically prescribe open to a given attribute, whether empowering, liberating, or revolutionary.

The core essence of open is similar to what one could say is the essence of education and teaching from both Freirean pedagogy and bell hook’s education as the practice of freedom. Freire (2000) asserts that revolutionary leadership necessitates dialogue and the practice of co-intentional education, in which the teacher acts more as a facilitator alongside students towards the co-construction of knowledge through common reflection and action; here, “the presence of the oppressed in the struggle for their liberation will be what it should be: not pseudo-participation, but committed involvement” (p. 69). While bell hooks (1994) recollects the work of Freire to be crucial to her survival as a student, she describes the unfortunate disconnect between Freiran theory and practice, which assumes liberation but, in fact, manages to further oppress:

It was particularly disappointing to encounter white male professors who claimed to follow Freire’s model even as their pedagogical practices were mired in structures of domination, mirroring the styles of conservative professors even as they approached subjects from a more progressive standpoint (p. 18).

To this point, I assert that an informed open pedagogy is one that is inclusive of engaging students in dialogue around concepts of open, and one that is exploratory for students to decide for themselves any commitments to working open. While I am staunchly an open advocate, like Crissinger (2015), I find that open rhetoric is dominated by shared goals and politics but gives little attention to the risks, and further, that an uncritical examination of openness and open practices can be as exploitative as the traditional systems that we aim to disrupt. While this chapter is not focused on said risks, it is nonetheless important to remember that working openly, unsurprisingly, looks different for different people. As an example, as a woman of color, I think about the constant tension of having one’s voice heard in academic spaces while simultaneously not wanting one’s work to be invalidated or appropriated. In a similar vein, even though I believe I engaged my students in an informed open pedagogy, I am hesitant to deposit their open zine into major open repositories.

Now, the big presupposition here is that open is the best or only optimal way by which to produce and share information. Towards open access and public domain advocates, Christen (2012) suggests a cultural blindness around access and openness in relation to information sources, citing faith in openness as an end in and of itself as a distraction from “seeing the possibilities of alternative regimes that are neither oppressive nor controlling, but based on divergent social and ethical systems and ways of imagining information and its movement between various groups of people” (p.2878). By recognizing this open determinism and engaging students in an informed open pedagogy that is inclusive of both information literacy concepts and open practices, might this further encourage students to see a solution other than one that currently exists in open practice or elsewhere?

For me, I mostly choose to work openly because of the implications it has for my students. I see much opportunity in opening up traditional systems of publishing and scholarship to share and expand knowledge, bringing students into these vibrant, open communities. At the same time, and as strong as my personal commitments are to open, I believe students themselves must understand the nature of open and maintain self-determination in choosing how they engage with information in their own lives.


Association of College and Research Libraries. (2015). Framework for information literacy for higher education. ACRL.

Christen, K. A. (2012). Does information really want to be free? Indigenous knowledge systems and the question of openness. International Journal of Communication, 6, 2871-2893.

Crissinger, S. (2015). A critical take on OER practices: Interrogating commercialization, colonialism, and content. In the Library with the Lead Pipe,

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th anniversary ed; M. Bergman Ramos, trans.). Continuum.

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. Routledge.

Morris, S. M., & Stommel, J. (2017, June 15). A guide for resisting edtech: The case against Turnitin. Hybrid Pedagogy.

TK Licenses. (n.d.). Local Contexts.


Contact Information

Author Cynthia Mari Orozco may be contacted at

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Selections from the Zine Contribution Assignment

Why a zine?

Zines are small publications that are produced, published, and distributed by the creators (us!) themselves. Zines provide us a way to create information, share this information with our peers, and distribute our final product in the library and across campus.

For your assignment

You will either design a half of a sheet of paper and summarize in your own words one piece of what you’ve learned in this class (sign up below!) written as if to advise other [campus] students, either about information literacy, or about library resources and services. Due date: This will be due by [date]! This is a hard deadline. Remember that I have to write all my parts, collect all your contributions, put together all your individual pieces, copy everything front and back, and staple everything by the time we meet on [last class date]!

[Logistical information about creating a zine page and how to submit the final work. Purpose of the assignment.]


Wherever it says “available”, replace that text with your name:

Cover: ½ page with our agreed upon title & metadata.

  • Title (to be determined by the class by majority vote): Available

Author Page: I’ll be inputting the author page. At the bottom of this page, please write your name as you wish to be attributed. As creators of this information, you should all get credit for your hard work! You can also remain as anonymous as you want to. You can also include your name on your actual zine page (optional).

  • To be completed by professor

Table of Contents:

  • To be completed by professor

[Bulleted sign-up list of content areas to be selected by students in the class. This sign-up list uses students names to assign roles and keep track of grades for individual students, but the names listed here are not shared in the zine unless the student opts in in the “Attribution” list at the end of the assignment prompt.]

Open license to be used: to be determined by the class

  • The purpose of this zine is to communicate information to other students on campus, and we, as authors, have the ability to make our work more open to be easily shared by others. We will cover this more in class (lecture and discussion) and determine the type of license we wish to use (if any!)

Author list for attribution (for those wishing to remain anonymous, please write “Anonymous, [your name] so I know that you specifically do not want your name listed on the Author Page, not that you just forgot to include your name!) (e.g. Cynthia Orozco, Cynthia O.):

  1. [Student names to be inputted by students, plus their preferred attribution, here]

  1. While I recognize students can select or reject to use an open license for their individual work, I chose to have students select one open license for the zine as a whole through a larger group discussion. I personally felt that the process of thinking about what it means to work open at an individual, campus, and societal level was a more relevant discussion topic in which to engage.


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Open Pedagogy Approaches Copyright © by Cynthia Mari Orozco is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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