Library Support for Scaffolding OER-enabled Pedagogy in a General Education Science Course

Lindsey Gumb and Heather Miceli


Project Overview

Institution: Roger Williams University

Institution Type: private, liberal arts, undergraduate, postgraduate

Project Discipline: General Education Science

Project Outcome: student-created websites

Tools Used: Google Drive, Google Sites


This chapter describes the collaboration between Dr. Heather Miceli, Adjunct Professor of CORE 101: Scientific Investigations, and Lindsey Gumb, Scholarly Communications Librarian & Assistant Professor at Roger Williams University (RWU) in which OER-enabled pedagogy has been incorporated into a general education science course for non-science majors. The overarching goal of this collaboration has been to replace the course’s static and ‘disposable’ final paper and poster presentations with Google Sites that will serve as learning objects developed by non-science majors, for non-science majors. Students voluntarily opt to openly-license their Sites, which permits each subsequent semester’s cohort of students in CORE 101 to contribute to the expansion of this scholarship, dependent on their own relevant areas of interest. As a faculty member and librarian working together to support students in the creation of OER and participation in OER-enabled pedagogy, the pair has found it is necessary to scaffold the very concepts that allow for OER to exist and hope that those just starting out in a similar project can learn from this experience. In addition to highlighting challenges and opportunities pertaining to student OER creation, the authors are excited to share and weave in a parallel narrative that depicts an adjunct’s entrance into a community of practice through the library’s OER Faculty Fellowship program: an opportunity that has been traditionally out of reach for this under-recognized and under-supported faculty population.

RWU is a mid-sized, private teaching institution located in Bristol, Rhode Island. All RWU undergraduate students participate in the five-course Interdisciplinary Core that composes the school’s Core Curriculum, which is built upon learning outcomes from the traditional liberal arts (“Five-Course Interdisciplinary Core,” 2018). While these five courses do vary in topic, theme, method and approach, they all seek to help students address the three Core questions that construct this shared foundation of their RWU education: Who am I? What can I know? And based on what I know, how should I act? CORE 101 is taught by both full-time and part-time science faculty at RWU, all of whom, regardless of rank, are encouraged to bring their own experience, passion, and expertise to their sections by building a curriculum around these two broad learning objectives:

  1. Investigate questions of societal and personal relevance using scientific knowledge.
  2. Describe and actively engage in the scientific process by asking questions, gathering data and drawing evidence-based conclusions.

Heather has been teaching this course regularly since 2014 and focuses her sections around controversial topics where science and society intersect, such as Climate Change, Energy Sources, Vaccines, and Evolution. The vast majority of students enrolled in CORE 101 are non-science majors, because declared science majors are able to opt out of this sequence of the Core Curriculum. Heather has always been passionate about bringing non-majors into these important societal conversations, and after being awarded an OER Faculty Fellowship in 2017 supported by the University Libraries and the Center for Scholarship, Assessment, Learning, Teaching & Technology (CSALT2 ) at RWU, she started seeking alternate ways to engage and empower her students. During her Fellowship she organically developed a powerful, collaborative partnership with Lindsey that has continued to redefine the way she thinks about the library as a curricular partner. For Lindsey, this collaboration has helped her reconsider how her library might redefine and provide information literacy support beyond the traditional one-shot instruction.

With support from the library and CSALT2 Lindsey has been leading the OER Faculty Fellowship program at RWU since spring 2016, which is one of the few paid professional development opportunities on campus that is open to adjunct participation. Faculty participants receive tiered mini-grants to swap out traditional, commercial textbooks for the adoption or creation of OER with returning, advanced Fellows typically focusing on assessment and open pedagogical practices. As an independent teaching institution, RWU’s OER awareness and interest has shown a slow but steady increase since the inception of the Fellows program with the majority of participants expressing curiosity around how the associated permissions of openly licensed content can create pathways for innovative teaching and learning. In an effort to support this area of faculty interest, the library with financial support from the Associate Provost, invited Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani to campus in June 2017 to deliver a keynote on OER and open pedagogy. During Dr. Jhangiani’s talk he highlighted the idea of renewable assignments, built off of Wiley’s (2013) concept of the disposable assignment, where students not only become content creators but in doing so are able to actively reclaim agency of their learning. As an audience participant, Heather walked away from Jhangiani’s keynote inspired to re-examine her CORE 101 semester-long group projects, where she asks students to select a course-related science topic of interest to research and present. In the past, each group would submit a 10–12-page research paper and then prepare a poster to present their work during the last class meeting. While this final class gathering was often the highlight of the course for both Heather and her students, it also bothered her that nearly all of the students threw away their posters immediately, despite the amount of time and effort invested. Jhangiani’s keynote got her thinking: “What would a renewable assignment look like in my CORE 101 class and what support would it require?”

Transitioning to Renewable Assignments

That July, Heather leveraged her OER Fellowship and Lindsey’s support to explore some practical options to transform her CORE 101 final assignment into a more dynamic, renewable format that would allow her students to assume increased agency in both their learning and their contributions as scholars. She aimed to keep the assignment’s structure in place, because student feedback from previous years showed that they genuinely enjoyed the poster presentations and that learning was taking place: there just had to be a better way to preserve and share this scholarship. After exploring some options together, the pair settled on using Google Sites as a platform for students to create renewable websites that would serve as substitutes for the handmade posters from previous semesters. Having a digital version of the students’ work would provide better opportunities for access and preservation, open up new opportunities to enable the 5R permissions of Open (retain, reuse, revise, remix, redistribute),[1] and allow the Sites to be living, collaborative vehicles for student scholarship intended to serve as learning objects for future CORE 101 students.

This was a turning point for Heather. She was about to set out on a brand new pedagogical path for CORE 101 that would in essence require her to re-invent her students’ roles from content consumers to content creators and also demonstrate the confidence that they would succeed under her guidance (O’Shea, et al., 2011). Shifting the learning environment to be more centered on the collaboration that occurs with the development of student-generated learning objects would redefine the teacher/student relationship in Heather’s course. Heather and Lindsey realized they would need to be more focused on facilitating this process rather than directing it (O’Shea et al., 2011). As the instructor ultimately in charge of their grades, Heather was upfront with her students as she introduced the project, explaining that this would be a completely new approach that would require a lot of communication and trust. The students were being asked to participate in a pedagogical activity that they had likely never tried before and which could potentially elicit fear, uncertainty, and anxiety (Wiley, 2013). She made it clear that student work would not be penalized for shortcomings in the project’s logistics, rather, they all would be partners in figuring out what worked, what didn’t, and how to make the project more successful for the next cohort. In order to be successful, Heather and Lindsey committed to putting students at the center of this knowledge-making participatory pedagogy. They acknowledged their responsibility to include student voices, and to be open and transparent about each step in the process (Askins, 2008).

Scaffolding ‘Open’ Concepts

Participating in the creation of renewable Google Sites requires students to develop and exercise new skills to help them understand some of the foundational topics that enable legal and ethical OER creation such as intellectual property, copyright and fair use, open licenses, and author’s rights, or as Lindsey and Heather refer to them in this collaboration, open concepts. As instructors, the pair has recognized over the span of this collaboration just how important it is to provide sufficient scaffolded instruction and support for these open concept skillsets (Jhangiani, 2017) in order to educate, protect, and empower students to be responsible and consenting open-scholars. OER-enabled pedagogy is still relatively new to both partners at this point, and while Heather is confident in trying new pedagogical approaches and has participated in the OER Faculty Fellowship, she still lacks the confidence to be an authority on these foundational open concepts for her students. Understanding this limitation has been a refreshing reminder for the pair of why their collaboration really is essential, because Lindsey’s skill sets as Scholarly Communications Librarian naturally fill this gap. Engaging students in an OER-enabled pedagogy project often requires a true partnership to offer the most authentic level of support.

Intellectual Property, Copyright and Fair Use, & Open Licenses

When this project was first launched in Fall 2017, the authors realized (far too late) at the end of the semester that the majority of student projects were littered with copyrighted images and lacked attributions. Lindsey had only delivered a traditional one-shot instruction session on finding and evaluating research for their Sites, but she and Heather knew that going forward it would be essential to introduce these open concepts and skills at the very beginning of the semester. In hindsight, this gap in student awareness and knowledge is not surprising considering that a majority of college students are not even aware that they own their intellectual property (Muriel-Torrado & Fernandez-Molina, 2015). Further, faculty rarely have time to thoroughly address copyright issues that students may be grappling with both as consumers and creators of information (Rodriguez, et al., 2014). Even if time isn’t the issue, as cited in Gumb (2019), faculty and even many librarians are often unaware of basic copyright concepts and thus uncomfortable helping students navigate through the intricacies and nuances of intellectual property due to lack of training.

When educators ask their students to engage in projects that entail the creation of public-facing learning objects (such as their Google Sites), it becomes a little more pressing to ensure that they are familiar with the basics of how intellectual property, copyright and fair use, and open licenses function (Rodriquez, et al., 2014). Guiding students through the delicate balance of sharing and protecting their own (and others’) intellectual property is a huge step towards empowering their rights as authors, and it is a skillset that extends beyond the classroom and into their personal lives and future workplaces (Rodriquez, et al., 2014). Prompting students to consider how they expect their own intellectual property rights to be respected with examples that are relevant to their own social media networks makes it much easier to enter into a dialogue about how and why they need to be cognizant of using copyrighted material for their own projects.

During the next semester that Heather taught this course, Lindsey delivered a hands-on workshop geared towards contextualizing intellectual property rights to address the previous semester’s issue with students not providing proper citation and attributions in their scholarship. To reinforce these newly acquired skills, Heather incorporated follow up in-class activities that required her students to recall knowledge and apply strategies that were covered in the workshop. This approach has been effective in increasing student learning and understanding of copyright and open-licensing by affording opportunities for practice, feedback, reflection, and additional practice (Wiley, 2019). Too often is the case that librarians are seen as service-providers through the one-shot library instruction model and not as true partners in the learning process with faculty and students (Bowles-Terry & Donovan, 2016). Heather’s willingness to incorporate these follow up activities not only benefits student learning but also indirectly creates opportunities for Lindsey to connect with them after the workshop through email and office hours, which academic librarians everywhere will confirm can be challenging outside of the one-shot session (Ippoliti, 2018). Something that has proven to be a vital component in their collaboration is that Lindsey is not merely a guest lecturer nor a reactive problem solver: she is an equal, which has allowed her to re-evaluate her own teaching identity as a librarian and her role in the student learning process (Bowles-Terry & Donovan, 2016).

Open Scholarship & Author’s Rights

Many students enter general education science courses with high levels of science anxiety (Mallow, 2006) and low confidence. One of the consequences of science anxiety that the authors saw in the first cohort was that they viewed themselves more as consumers of scholarship and less so as creators (Mallow, 2006). Having learned many lessons during that initial semester, Heather and Lindsey felt it necessary to start deconstructing this fallacy and to empower CORE 101 students to see themselves as contributors to the scholarly conversation. Ippoliti (2018) emphasizes that librarians can be essential in helping students “… develop the confidence necessary to apply towards future endeavors across classes or perhaps even in their daily lives as consumers and creators of information” (p.10). Heather now invites Lindsey to spend a portion of another class period engaging their students in a dialogue about what it means to contribute to the scholarly conversation, and how to start to shift their own identities as participants in the knowledge creation process. The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education has several frames that can be especially helpful when introducing students to an OER-enabled pedagogy project like ours, but Information Creation as a Process, Authority is Constructed and Contextual, Scholarship as Conversation, and Information has Value stand out as being especially relevant for this project. These particular frames provide a pathway for entering into an honest dialogue with students about the associated responsibility and risk one undertakes when contributing to public-facing authored works, the excitement and empowerment that comes with contributing to the Knowledge Commons, and the awareness that knowledge creation is an iterative process.

Academic librarians are accustomed to helping faculty negotiate their author’s rights, and Lindsey would argue that they should also be granting the same respect and investing the same effort consulting with students as they engage them in OER-enabled pedagogy. With this notion in mind, Lindsey and Heather led the second cohort of students through a discussion about how their Google Sites would be licensed, including the idea that once a Creative Commons license was selected, applied, and published, it was irrevocable. Having a better grasp on the Creative Commons license options, the class settled on publishing and licensing their work under a CC-BY-NC-SA license so that students in subsequent sections of Heather’s CORE 101 would have the ability to expand and improve upon the content. The NC[2] designation was chosen by the students because they were concerned that someone could take their work and profit off of it. The authors understood that there is a bit of controversy in the Open Education community regarding the limitations associated with the NC designation, but they also felt strongly that their students’ concerns needed to be recognized and respected as is mirrored in chapter 12 of Elizabeth Mays’ edited book A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students. As academic libraries continue to progress towards open access publishing, leaving students out of these kinds of conversations that center around making scholarship more accessible would be counteractive, unfair, and perhaps even unethical. Integrating these open concepts into students’ education and everyday awareness is essential to their success as future contributors and advocates of open scholarship, however, ensuring their agency in participating in such activities is paramount.

The Project in its Current Form

As has been mentioned, the first instance of this project in the fall of 2017 involved the student groups creating the original Sites, however, because Heather and Lindsey were still figuring out the logistics of OER-enabled pedagogy in practice, they hadn’t put in place the proper scaffolding to ensure students would be successful. Students now identify science topics that are of interest to them during the first week of the course, spanning from Climate Change, to DNA, to Artificial Intelligence and more. Their first assignment is to review their adopted Site as it currently exists to determine what content is necessary to further its development. For example, last semester the DNA Site already contained information about CRISPR and DNA fingerprinting, so this semester’s students have decided to add a section on Cloning. During her first library session with the students, Lindsey piggybacks off of this assignment from Heather and uses it as a launchpad to help students understand that information creation is a process (ACRL Framework, 2015). In order to improve upon the work, students first critically evaluate what has already been started. From there, the students complete a development plan and set their goals for what they wish to accomplish during the semester—this document is referred back to at the end of the semester to help determine the grade on the project. Students then spend a few weeks collaboratively drafting new content using Google Docs, where their rough drafts are reviewed by other students and Heather. Lindsey leads the students through the open concepts workshop towards the middle of the semester, and the final few weeks of the course are spent moving the content from Google Docs into Google Sites and incorporating any necessary images and media to help illustrate their content area. Lindsey sits in on most “group working days,” not actively leading a lesson but rather consulting with each group to lend support on citations, attributions, fair use assessments and locating relevant openly-licensed media for their Sites. The course ends with a public presentation of the student work, open to former students (and authors!) and members of the university community.

Collaboration, Community of Practice & Pedagogical Risks

While this collaboration undoubtedly increased the level of support Heather’s students received in participating in an OER-enabled project, she herself also experienced an unexpected parallel benefit. Her status as an adjunct had limited her opportunities to develop a true sense of community on campus prior to her participation in the OER Faculty Fellows program. It is typical for adjuncts to feel isolated from their campus communities (Bell, 2000) and they often lack the opportunity to interact, share their experiences, and be exposed to and embrace current pedagogical advances within their program or institution (Lydon & King, 2009). Like many universities in the United States, RWU relies significantly on part-time, adjunct faculty. As of Fall 2019, IPEDS[3] data reported 209 full-time faculty and 314 adjuncts employed. While she had become somewhat more familiar with the individuals in the instructional technology department, Heather really only knew people within her own department. Participation in the OER Faculty Fellows program introduced Heather to people on campus that she may not have met otherwise, including Lindsey, who was essential in introducing Heather to the breadth of library resources available to her and her students. As an OER Faculty Fellow, Heather was also able to meet faculty from a variety of departments, all working on OER projects in their own courses. One of these individuals, an architecture professor, was attempting a similar renewable, website-based project for his Architectural Structures courses. Heather was able to collaborate and reflect with this faculty member on their similar projects. Research has shown that colleague-to-colleague interaction is an important form of professional development for faculty (Bouwma-Gearheart, 2012; Weimer & Lenze, 1991), and may be one of the most important forms of professional development for adjunct faculty (Miceli, 2018).

Heather has also been introduced to members of the administration, who have supported her throughout the project, which she feels is possibly one of the most important outcomes of this collaboration. Adjuncts traditionally don’t take risks when they are teaching for a variety of reasons (Baldwin & Wawrzynski, 2011; Leslie & Gappa, 2002; Schuetz, 2002; Umbach, 2007). Adjuncts may lack sufficient time to conceptualize, plan, and implement a project because they are teaching more courses than a typical full-load at multiple institutions (Ethan & Seidel, 2013; Mueller et al., 2013). Adjuncts often perceive danger in taking risks in the classroom because if there are negative outcomes, their job may be at stake (Burk, 2000; Meixner et al., 2010). Lastly, the costs may outweigh the benefits of revamping pedagogy due to the amount of time it takes versus the rates adjuncts are paid per course. According to the American Association of University Professors (2019), the average part-time salary per course section nationwide is around $4,000, but there are many institutions that report paying $2,500 or less per course. Because Heather had participated in the OER Fellows Program for a couple of years, she was known to the Associate Provost (the program sponsor) and her dean. This has given her more confidence in taking some pedagogical risks that has made her OER-enabled pedagogy project more successful in the course. The first major pedagogical change she made was to remove exams from her course and increase the amount of in-class time spent on the OER-enabled pedagogy project. Another change she has made is to move away from her traditional points-based grading system towards more of an “ungrading” approach (Stommel, 2017, 2018). Rather than giving points for turned in assignments, Heather now gives extensive feedback on writing without giving grades until the very end of the course. Both of these changes have resulted in positive feedback from the students, as removing exams reduced their anxiety in a non-majors course, and giving more feedback and less point-based grades allows students to focus more on developing their work rather than just trying to “get the grade.” This mimics results others have reported anecdotally (Flaherty, 2019) and as reviewed in the literature by Schinske and Tanner (2014). As Jhangiani (2017) states, “… adopting open pedagogy is simultaneously liberating and terrifying…both successes and failures with the assignment are much more public. But while this opens the instructor to more criticism, it is also an opportunity to share, collaborate, and receive constructive feedback.” Heather would never have had the confidence to try these progressive changes to her pedagogy without the support of other faculty and the administration throughout her OER Faculty Fellowship.

Challenges & Opportunities

Technology & publishing platforms: Looking ahead

Heather and Lindsey chose Google Sites as a publishing platform for these OER-enabled projects for a variety of reasons: RWU students already had access to G Suite for Education and it seemed fairly user-friendly, while also offering responsive web design. Further, the sites would display well on large, touch screen monitors (a necessity for Heather’s traditional end of semester class “poster” session). They wanted more of a website aesthetic and navigation rather than having the students compile their work in textbook format.

While there have been numerous benefits to using Google Sites within the confines of their individual classroom, they acknowledge that Google Sites may not be the best platform for sharing their content with others wishing to expand upon or revise it. As it stands, Heather is the “owner” of all of the different content sites. Each semester she adds students as editors without publishing permissions. She publishes the new content at the end of each semester, making the students’ scholarship live. With this system in place, students do not have access to make revisions to the final version once it is published. A copy of each website is archived on the project’s homepage to both illustrate the evolution and to retain a copy of record. Plans are in place to explore more formally indexing the Sites in OER repositories.

Another concern is that while the Sites are available for reading by the public, there is no easily accessible mechanism by which they can be downloaded by someone else to revise, remix, or redistribute, in keeping with the 5R permissions of OER. Currently, emailing Heather and requesting access to make a local copy is the only option, so efforts are under way to investigate both alternate platforms as well as how Google Sites might better function in an open environment with collaborative and interactive tools like Hypothesis and H5P. As they invest time engaging their students in a dialogue centered on being contributors to open scholarship, Lindsey and Heather are mindful that using a platform that allows for the full range of the 5Rs is central to this project’s success.

Prioritizing student privacy and consent

At the end of the first semester of this project (Fall 2017) and as a direct result of the lack of scaffolding of open concepts, it was realized that the first cohort’s websites could not be published beyond the RWU intranet for two significant reasons:

  1. Ethically, the students had not been adequately prepared in terms of the potential associated risks that come with authoring public-facing content on the Internet, including a discussion about student privacy that encompasses cyberbullying and trolling.
  2. Legally, these students had not granted permission for their work to be published, and at Roger Williams University, students own their intellectual property: to publish without permission would be a breach of copyright (University Copyright Policy, 2017).

To address this issue, the pair now dedicates a class session toward the middle of the semester that focuses on open concepts, and a consent form is distributed to fully inform students of their choice in contributing their names to a website that will be accessible on the open web. Students are assigned a quick reading (Bakaitis, 2019) about the risks of authorship online and are required to sign an authorship agreement with the express condition that they may remove or replace their name with a pseudonym at any point in the future. While they can be flexible by removing names and substituting with pseudonyms to ensure that student privacy is respected, Heather and Lindsey explain that due to the collaborative, renewable, and long-term goals of this project and OER-enabled pedagogy in general, their group contributions will be included in the final Site. To date, they haven’t had any situations arise where students have expressed discomfort in participating in this project. However, if in the future a student does express any concerns, Heather has pledged to work with the student to develop an option for an alternative way to contribute. Granting students choice and agency in contributing their names online and ensuring that they truly understand their rights as authors from the outset of an OER-enabled pedagogy project is essential (Mays, 2017), but navigating this process from a logistical standpoint has been admittedly a learning process for both Heather and Lindsey in the nascent stages. It remains to be a work in progress, with continuous, honest discussion and reflection from all sides. In addition to the steps Lindsey and Heather have taken thus far, here are some additional ways to respect federally mandated student privacy rights under The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), as suggested by Steel Wagstaff in Mays’ (2017) A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students:

  1. Get FERPA waivers from the students.
  2. Make the open resource and credit the students who contributed, but without identifying that they were part of a specific course.
  3. Allow students to use pseudonyms when building the open resource.
  4. All of the above.

Reframing the narrative of student scholarship

An unexpected bump in the road that Lindsey and Heather encountered while sharing this project in a group setting with their faculty peers was a vocalized resistance to the notion of empowering non-major science students to be creators of public-facing knowledge. Questions were asked: “Do you publish the D work?” “Are you taking into consideration the university’s reputation when publishing student work that is less than A?” Introducing and sharing OER-enabled pedagogy projects with colleagues may evoke similar questions and concerns, but these moments are also opportunities to dispel the myth that our students are not capable of being responsible contributors to the Knowledge Commons and part of the scholarly conversation. Not only do Heather and Lindsey personally believe their students are capable, but research shows that how educators perceive their students’ intelligence and potential plays a significant role in their perception of their own intelligence (Dweck, 2006), especially for women and racial and ethnic minorities in science and math fields (Dee & Gershenson, 2017). “Imperfect work” that is openly-licensed can be reviewed and revised by future students. In fact, helping students understand that information creation is an iterative process (ACRL Framework, 2015) is essential in helping them explore and navigate the scholarly universe. OER-enabled pedagogy organically presents students with opportunities to participate in and appreciate the revision process that renewable assignments such as this project encourages. “Imperfect work” in this case still helps students find their voice in a project of their own design and interests in a course that otherwise often ends up being a burden for many of them to complete due to science anxiety. These conversations between the library and the teaching faculty can be extremely useful in leveraging when embarking on a project similar to this one. In addition to learning the course content knowledge, students engaging in an OER-enabled pedagogy project supported by a librarian participate in conversations that help them “understand the increasingly social nature of the information ecosystem where authorities actively connect with one another and [that] sources develop over time” (“Authority is Constructed and Contextual, Knowledge Practice, ACRL Framework,” 2015).


One of the largest challenges facing OER-enabled student scholarship is the need to move beyond assessing student attitudes and perceptions and towards the assessment of their learning. Currently, the extent of assessing this project has been limited to informally collecting student feedback on how well they liked/disliked the project as a whole and the idea that their work will be public facing with an open license that will allow for adaptations of a non-commercial nature. These informal assessments have been collected merely to inform the authors’ practice and, as such, have not been collected under conditions by which they can ethically share them at this time. However, the majority of responses from students have been positive.

Both partners have different sets of outcomes they wish to assess in the coming few semesters. Lindsey is interested in the assessment of learning outcomes specific to student knowledge of copyright and open licenses and will be revising and administering a pre/post survey based off of Muriel-Torrado and Fernandez-Molina’s (2015) to determine if this project advances student understanding of the foundational concepts that enable ethical and legal OER creation. Heather is interested in assessing student learning with respect to the course-specific outcomes (listed previously). Because CORE 101 is a general education course, RWU already has a formal assessment rubric used to assess the outcomes of students enrolled in the course. Heather has decided to create a similar set of assessment prompts to serve as a pre-test to compare student progress through the semester to the artifacts they will create at the end of the course. The pair has received IRB approval to collect and use student reflection data to investigate how OER-enabled pedagogy can affect science anxiety and confidence among these non-majors. They plan to include questions such as “Do I have the right to author science content for other students?” which will measure the change in their confidence and anxiety through their participation in this OER-enabled project.


While this project has been wildly successful in many regards, Heather and Lindsey would be remiss if they didn’t disclose how much time a collaboration like theirs requires in order to best serve their students. They spend a lot of time outside of class talking through logistics and analyzing student feedback as well as their own observations to make improvements. At the end of every semester they do a lot of reflecting together and always have a laundry list of actions steps to take in order to do it better next time around. Considerations of sustainability certainly come into play here, and they hope that by being transparent in sharing their experiences it will help others in planning for the future of these collaborations at the outset.

Like many academic librarians, Lindsey’s duties extend far beyond providing information literacy and library instruction, and participating in more than one collaboration of this kind would be unrealistic given the hours spent working on this outside of class. It is also worthwhile to note that the bulk of this project has progressed during a time of financial austerity at RWU as it begins to navigate an impending enrollment crisis in its region (New England). Nathan Grawe’s 2018 book Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education shares that starting in 2025 and onward there will be a -25% net decline in enrollments at four-year institutions in New England, the start of which can already be felt. There hasn’t been an instruction librarian at RWU for two years (a frozen position after a retirement) and Lindsey has been taking on extra classes, liaison duties, and committee responsibilities along with her colleagues to help fill the void. As academic librarians continue to explore how they can leverage their information literacy expertise to support OER-enabled pedagogy, it will be essential to keep the larger higher education landscape in mind so they can offer realistic collaborative expectations for faculty partners.

Similarly, Heather is not only an adjunct at RWU, but also works as an adjunct for another private university in Rhode Island. As a result, her time is managed very carefully between the two institutions. To ensure the success of this OER-enabled pedagogy project, other pedagogical changes have been made, which has increased the time commitment for this course. For example, students are assessed in the course using an ungrading format, which requires more time from Heather so she can provide more in-depth feedback than traditional grading structures. Additionally, a lot of extra effort is involved, including collaborative meetings, sharing the work with her university and the open education community through informal talks and conference presentations, and even the writing of this book chapter, all of which has all been unpaid labor that Heather, as an adjunct, has dedicated to the success of this project.

While it has been challenging at times trying to balance their other responsibilities with this collaboration, Heather and Lindsey have both seen firsthand the pathways that OER-enabled pedagogy creates for student engagement with information literacy concepts. Additionally, it is inspiring as educators to witness non-science majors conceptualize that their authored work will have value beyond the confines of their classroom and that their contributions can be built upon and used in other learning environments. They can also see the impact a course of this pedagogical nature has on student attitudes towards science in general; they are much more engaged when discussing science topics with their peers than in previous semesters without OER-enabled pedagogy. Students get excited in this course, and this alone makes the time commitment worthwhile.


Collaborations between teaching faculty and librarians in OER-enabled pedagogy have the potential to help students find their own voices and gain confidence as they participate in scholarly conversations and contribute to the Knowledge Commons. As a result of experiencing firsthand the particular support needs of an OER-enabled pedagogy project, this collaboration has revealed a unique overlay of their respective expertise in pedagogy, copyright, OER, and information literacy. Lindsey and Heather have been able to leverage each other’s knowledge and confidence in these respective areas in order to cultivate a far more authentic learning experience for their students. In turn, their collaboration has brought Heather into a community of practice to which, as an adjunct working at two separate institutions, she has never before been privy. As they reflect on the end of yet another semester of this empowering project, they are inspired and excited to see how its logistics evolve, how their students increasingly embrace themselves as scholars, and what this all means for adjunct leadership in OER-enabled pedagogy. All of their ancillary materials (CC-BY) associated with this living project (lesson plans, handouts, assessments, and forms) can be found in this Google Drive Folder and all of the current websites can be found on the project’s homepage.


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Author Lindsey Gumb may be contacted at Author Heather Miceli can be contacted at

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  1. In 2007 David Wiley shared his 4 R’s of Open Content (revise, rework, remix, and redistribute), adding the 5th R (retain) in 2014. Openly-licensed content enables and permits the participation in these 5 activities, where copyrighted content would not.
  2. Creative Commons license component that signifies “Non-Commercial.”
  3. IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) is a system of interrelated surveys conducted annually by the National Center for Educational Statistics. Participation in surveys is mandatory for all institutions that participate in any federal financial assistance programs authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended.


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Open Pedagogy Approaches Copyright © by Lindsey Gumb and Heather Miceli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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