Kimberly Davies Hoffman; Robert Berkman; Deborah Rossen-Knill; Kristen Totleben; Eileen Daly-Boas; Alexis Clifton; Moriana Garcia; Lev Earle; and Joe Easterly

Many of us who work with Open Pedagogy today have come into the conversations not only through an interest in the historical arc of the scholarship of teaching and learning, but also by way of Open Education, and specifically, by way of Open Educational Resources (OERs). OERs are educational materials that are openly-licensed, usually with Creative Commons licenses, and therefore they are generally characterized by the 5 Rs: they can be reused, retained, redistributed, revised, and remixed. As conversations about teaching and learning developed around the experience of adopting and adapting OERs, the phrase “Open Pedagogy” began to re-emerge, this time crucially inflected with the same “open” that inflects the phrase “open license.”

If we merge OER advocacy with the kinds of pedagogical approaches that focus on collaboration, connection, diversity, democracy, and critical assessments of educational tools and structures, we can begin to understand the breadth and power of Open Pedagogy as a guiding praxis. To do this, we need to link these pedagogical investments with the reality of the educational landscape as it now exists. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that “higher education shall be equally accessible to all.”

—Robin DeRosa and Rajiv Jhangiani

Open Pedagogy

Inspiration toward an Open Community

In April 2018, Open Pedagogy champion Robin DeRosa introduced faculty, librarians, and graduate students at the University of Rochester to two different concepts—open educational resources and open pedagogy. Open educational resources or OER are free online educational content licensed to allow users “permission to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute the material.” Open pedagogy or OP is classically defined as an instructional approach that engages students in using, reusing, revising, remixing and redistributing open content. Throughout her presentation, DeRosa emphasized the critical interdependency between resource affordability and effective education for all. She shared compelling statistics on the rising cost of textbooks and noted that affordability issues have increasingly discouraged many from attaining a college degree. She further introduced OER and OP as the foundation for fostering student agency and for shifting their identity as knowledge consumers to knowledge creators. This vision held particular meaning for one librarian in the audience, a librarian who had personally witnessed students taking the lead in their coursework and creating meaningful, impactful, long-lasting learning. Looking around the room at DeRosa’s talk, the librarian thought, “How can we inspire instructors to engage in open pedagogical practices?” “How do we impress upon them that the library is a natural partner toward this end?” and “How can we work together to explore this new territory of learning, paving a new path of seamless collaboration?”

And so began the idea for this book. Guided by a vision of collaboration and furthering OER and OP efforts, the editorial board includes both librarians and faculty, specifically, seven UR librarians, one faculty member (the Director of UR’s Writing, Speaking and Argument Program, WSAP), and an OER specialist from the neighboring State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo. Importantly, the anthology was envisioned locally as a professional development tool that might generate ideas and new course designs at the University of Rochester while equipping the editorial board with the skills to assist UR instructors with the future design of OER and OP.  More generally, the anthology was anticipated to be widely shared and inspire ideas of OER and OP, designed collaboratively by faculty, library staff, and in many cases, students. In the spirit of open, the editorial board decided that the book should not be published primarily in print, but rather in collaboration with the Rebus Community through the use of Pressbooks in order to allow unrestricted access to ideas and information. The authors have licensed their work through Creative Commons, making the entire resource an OER.

Zoom screenshot of Lev, Kimberly, Moriana, Alexis, Robert, Kristen, Eileen, and Deborah
The editorial team during the final pre-release meeting

Developing the Book: Background, Goals, and Approach

Over the last few years, the editors noted several important reinforcing trends influencing teaching in higher education. Among them:

  • A significant rise in the interest and activity by universities surrounding the need to integrate and educate stakeholders about opportunities and values of open pedagogy and open access (Ellis, 2019; Poritz, 2019)
  • A rising commitment by US public agencies to support and fund the development of open educational resources (Affordable College Textbook Act, 2019)
  • An increase in professional associations’ interest in measuring and advising libraries on instructional practices (Julien et al., 2018; ACRL, 2017)
  • Growing conformity on the effectiveness of active learning as a pedagogical method (Michael, 2006)

Over the last several years, there has also been an increased desire by academic librarians to engage more often and more deeply with faculty. By stepping outside the standard “one shot” in order to do something sustainable and meaningful, librarians and instructors can create true partnerships in the classroom (Meulemans & Carr, 2012). Such a partnership with a faculty member can not only introduce students to library resources, but also can help advance key learning objectives outlined by the professor.

Owing to the increased interest in effective pedagogy and especially in OER and OP, the editorial board was motivated to reach out and collect cases of library staff, faculty, and students who have successfully collaborated as true partners in classroom instruction using an open pedagogy framework. The collection would not only provide valuable strategies and insights—including pitfalls—for designing OP collaborations, but also would nurture a growing community of instructors and library professionals in higher education who practice open pedagogy in union. As a result, the curated collection gives witness and visibility to examples showing the power of partnerships combining faculty, library staff, and students in creative, generative processes of developing open educational materials, courses, and curricula. To echo Robin DeRosa’s comment about this collection in the foreword, the editors also hope to enter this collection the way they enter their best conversations: “ready to open our futures to something bigger and more complicated than we imagined before.”  Ideally, these cases will spark new ideas that energize and influence conversations about how library staff, faculty, and students can collaborate to improve and empower student learning. Guided by this vision, the editorial board established these specific goals:

  • Contribute fresh pedagogical ideas for library staff and faculty: for librarians, this means effective ways to approach and collaborate with faculty; for faculty, how to generate ideas that leverage the unique skill sets within the library to better meet course learning goals.
  • Suggest effective strategies for creating balanced, sustainable, and pedagogically effective faculty-librarian relationships.
  • Make visible the many ways in which academic library staff have strategically and effectively expanded their boundaries and roles.
  • Illustrate ways to empower students to create meaningful, lasting, and potentially public work.
  • Demonstrate ways to invigorate the classroom—increase student investment and joy in learning, inspire creative thinking, and motivate outstanding final products.
  • Inspire faculty to create richer classroom and student experiences.

The entire spirit of this book project reflects the editors’ shared belief in the power of an open and inclusive community, of learning, and of collaboration toward innovation. From the outset, the editors knew that this book would be an open project in its own right. It had to be published openly (to practice what we preach), and it would serve as an opportunity to learn the process of creating an open book from start to finish, including, for example, developing review criteria that would ensure rigor, diversity, inclusion, and ingenuity while drawing from the open community to involve both novice and expert OP practitioners both as authors and readers.  The editors also knew that the book would be a collaboration that included librarians, faculty, and students, such as the eight UR undergraduate students enrolled in Principles and Practices of Copyediting, who played a key role in copy editing this work.

Recognizing that diversity can be defined in numerous ways, the editorial board spent time clarifying their collective understanding as it related to this project. They sought a diverse representation of examples from different regions, university types, and from varying disciplinary and job perspectives. The selection process for chapters adhered to a call for proposals that reached around the world. Although the editorial board received international proposals, they soon discovered differences across the globe on how professionals view “open” and approach their pedagogy, as revealed by an absence of collaboration among faculty, librarians, and students. These moments of discovery led the editorial board to question their assumptions vis-à-vis an over-reliance on familiarity within North America (primarily U.S. and Canada). Inspirations for the book’s contents relied heavily—but unintentionally—on the editors’ known North American experience where efforts toward open practices are frequently initiated via the library. For these reasons, chapters in this book represent the experiences within U.S. higher education to be able to provide apple to apple comparisons.

As the editorial board developed its guiding documents, it both borrowed from existing OER (mainly publishing guidance through Rebus) and reciprocated by developing rubrics and guidelines such as

Each document carries a CC-BY 4.0 license, as do each of the chapters. Even before the book was published, the editors welcomed and responded positively to requests to share their rubrics and guidelines. The tools used to develop this book also demonstrated a practice toward open—discussion lists to reach a variety of audiences, Jotform, Google Docs, Airtable, Pressbooks, and of course, utilizing the Rebus Community platform as a home base. First and second rounds of review comments were shared with authors through Google Docs and identified by reviewer name. Work assignments (editorial board member, peer reviewer, and copyeditor-to-authors/chapter) were organized and monitored via the project management tool Airtable. While the book is published online with Pressbooks, the editorial board fully anticipates requests for print copies and will work to provide that option as well.

The editors admit that even with a strong spirit of openness, many of the steps in the process were new to the team, requiring a lot of investigation, thought, discussion, and revision. Previous publication experience didn’t necessarily translate to this project, for which the board had to establish a practice for each phase. In what felt like a bold step, they decided to share the assessment rubric as part of the call for proposals, which required a good deal of advanced preparation. In the spirit of open work and transparency, the board decided on an open peer review, where authors and reviewers were all known to one another and had full access to one another’s responses—a positively thrilling approach that led to some bumps. The editors did have at least one serious case of disagreement between author and reviewer; however, the vast majority of participant interaction was quite positive. The board received multiple responses from both authors and reviewers expressing how helpful they found the review process.  At the end of the pipeline, as it came time to publish the book, there was no handing it over to a publisher for finalizing: the editorial board was the publisher!

Scope of the Book

The book involves partnerships among faculty, library staff, and students in open pedagogy projects across disciplines. It spans different organizations of higher education—from private, public, and community college to R1 institutions. Adjuncts, professors, administrators, and library staff of varying roles (e.g. Scholarly Communications, Reference and Instruction, Equitable Services, Special Collections, Digital/Open Resources) have come together, in some cases with graduate and undergraduate students as co-authors, to share their stories of collaboration and building on one another’s strengths. Although these case studies took place in institutions of higher education, some of them can be adapted or applied to K-12 curricula. Each case study is an example of how faculty, library staff, and students can work together to put into action the philosophy of open pedagogy.

A great deal of work goes into developing curricula, activities, assignments, and courses that create or utilize open educational resources. It is important to emphasize that, within this book, not all digital projects will be OER in its purest conception (i.e., applying all 5Rs), and the treatment of open pedagogy may vary. Our original project title, Open Pedagogy: Varied Definitions, Multiple Approaches, highlighted this sentiment of broad-to-specific definitions and perspectives. The call for proposals, which included definitions of our four main submission categories, was flexible in nature. It sought a range of examples and experiences pertaining to the following:

  • Open as in MOOCs​—encouraging self-driven learning through massive open online courses
  • Open textbooks/resources as core text replacements—saving students money on textbooks while cultivating the benefits of student ownership, accountability, and rigorous learning (via open textbook modification or developing content through research methodologies)
  • Student-developed open projects​—the product of student learning becomes open and usable by a wide audience
  • Open pedagogical design​—course design without a clear end product or strict process of learning; i.e., learning outcomes are defined, but how the instructor and students arrive at those outcomes is flexible and collaborative

Ultimately, only one chapter in this book addresses MOOCs directly, and other chapters shifted our understanding of these categories as they developed. Our book title and primary sections similarly shifted to reflect the work represented within.

Each case study in this collection illustrates instances of the different strengths each partner brings to a project. Subject knowledge, creativity, project management, support in critical thinking practices, information literacy, instructional design, data management, and many other skills all serve the philosophy of empowering students in their learning, whether through more equitable access to educational materials or allowing students to lead while the traditional teachers learn from them.

Using This Book

This book is meant to serve educators with varying levels of “open” experience and knowledge, whether one is starting small with a single assignment, radically revamping one’s course design, or simply interested in learning about new pedagogical approaches. The OER case studies bring together different approaches to open pedagogy, and as such, each chapter is quite different from the next. These chapters do not seamlessly connect—a not unwanted byproduct of our aim for diversity—so there’s no need to read them sequentially. The board recommends that readers approach the book with specific needs or goals in mind and then target the most relevant section (e.g., textbook replacements) or browse the book to discover unforeseen possibilities in teaching and learning. This is not to say, however, that the book could not be read sequentially, as some loose organizational principles were followed.

The first section, Introductory Framework, lays the groundwork in terms of theoretical and overarching approaches to open pedagogy. These chapters define foundational concepts and readings in “open” and provide suggestions for how educators might begin to answer initial questions of whether or not they should be moving toward open.

The second section, Open Pedagogy as Textbook Replacement, covers models being developed to find resources that reduce textbook costs for students, increase access, and foster engaged learning Chapter examples include students annotating classic literature from the public domain in an effort to make modern day connections (Beck et al.) and developing a class-based online text that prompts students to write, review, and enhance entries that signify their learning of core scientific topics (Gumb & Miceli).

Open Pedagogy as Open Student Projects introduces open student projects. Readers will find case studies that involve a multitude of digital tools and outputs (e.g., openly licensed videos in Shea, an Omeka digital display in Beatty et al., Wikipedia entries in Koziura et al.) and a variety of inclusion from library departments (e.g., special collections in Visintainer et al.). Here the editorial board wants to stress that not all projects live up to a 5 Rs standard of open. As discussed in Katz and Van Allen’s chapter from the Introductory Framework, constructionist assignments take us one step closer to renewable assignments, and constructionist projects provide a good target for educators entering the world of open pedagogy. Essentially, the editorial board made an intentional decision to allow for a spectrum of digital projects to create space for those that are on the path toward open.

Open Pedagogy as Open Course Design involves open pedagogical approaches; the definitions sometimes vary here. Readers will encounter case studies using OER-enabled pedagogy as well as course structures that allow for open learning goals and open-ended projects. Erickson showcases a cMOOC for professional development purposes; Malloy and Siddiqui engage students in design thinking as their students transform traditional research papers into interactive multimodal products; Taylor & Keith and Lewis et al. each provide for choice in project topic while offering a structured base to the learning; and Davies Hoffman et al. transform an anthropology course into a student-led simulation where teams build a nongovernmental organization from the ground up.

Finally, within each section, the editors made an effort to order chapters from small scale (e.g., Roy et al., Reading British Modernist Texts: A Case Study in Open Pedagogy) to large scale collaborations (e.g., Dotson et al., Mathematics Courses and the Ohio Open Ed Collaborative).

To aid readers, chapters are connected by a final glossary of terms generated by the authors and supplemented by the editorial board. Terms here are restricted to those that are educationally relevant to open pedagogy and pedagogical theories, reserving more case study-specific terms for pop-up definitions within respective chapters.

Continuing the Conversation

This project has already increased conversations about open pedagogy within the UR community by involving six UR-affiliated authors across three chapters (two faculty and four librarians), six peer reviewers (one faculty member, two graduate student instructors, and three librarians), two faculty who gave a final read for one chapter, two library staff members, and eight students from a Principles and Practices of Copyediting course who assisted with copy editing. Beyond UR, dozens of professionals across the U.S. and Canada contributed to the book as authors, peer reviewers, and copyeditors, giving rise to the idea that many hands make light work. The editors’ greatest hope is to continue this conversation. To this end, all readers are invited to contribute to and further this discussion by sharing their own experiences, strategies, successes, challenges, and concerns regarding faculty-library-student collaborations and open pedagogy. If a chapter inspired a new project/course design, the editorial board welcomes the resulting new accounts, adaptations, and reflections. Through this publication, there are links for feedback and questions, an adoption form to discover new ways of adapting the case studies to local situations, and contact information to be able to connect with contributors of this book.

The editors especially welcome 5 Rs usage of this book, so that you may choose to borrow from it, adapt it, and supplement it with additional resources to make it your own.


Affordable College Textbook Act, H.R.2107/S.1036, 116th Congress. (2019).

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2017). Roles and strengths of teaching librarians. ACRL.

Ellis, L. (2019). Open access is going mainstream. Here’s why that could transform academic life. Chronicle of Higher Education.

Julien, H., Gross, M., & Latham, D. (2018). Survey of information literacy instructional practices in U.S. academic libraries. College & Research Libraries, 79(2).

Michael, J. (2006). Where’s the evidence that active learning works? Advanced Physiological Education 30: 159-167.

Meulemans, Y. N., & Carr, A. (2013). Not at your service: Building genuine faculty-librarian partnerships. Reference Services Review, 41(1): 80-90.

Poritz, J. A., (2019). Using open education isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ when students are starving (opinion). Inside Higher Ed.


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Open Pedagogy Approaches Copyright © by Kimberly Davies Hoffman; Robert Berkman; Deborah Rossen-Knill; Kristen Totleben; Eileen Daly-Boas; Alexis Clifton; Moriana Garcia; Lev Earle; and Joe Easterly is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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