Navigating the 5S’s of Open Pedagogy Projects: A Roadmap for Educators

By Christina Riehman-Murphy and Bryan McGeary

Open pedagogy projects take advantage of the internet to invite educators and students into a new relationship with both knowledge and one another. They are immensely rewarding and they require significant planning. In a time when educators and students have been thrown into a constant state of flux, taking on an open pedagogy project might seem a bit daunting. To help ease this process, we created The Open Pedagogy Project Roadmap, a project management resource designed to guide instructors in planning, finding support for, sharing and sustaining an open pedagogy project, regardless of its size or scope. The Roadmap will help instructors navigate what we’ve called the 5S’s of open pedagogy projects: Scope, Support, Students, Sharing and Sustaining.

Open pedagogy projects are multifaceted, can be single-semester or multiyear and can result in any number of student-authored/-created/-directed scholarly outputs or non-scholarly products. These outputs could include, for example, a public-facing blog post, translating a Wikipedia page, creating a digital scholarly edition, socially annotating via a platform like, revising an open textbook, or contributing to crowdsourced transcription projects.

Although open pedagogy has been defined in many different ways, the common threads weaving throughout the many examples are that opening up pedagogy invites students to be collaborative co-creators of information who have agency in deciding if and how their work is openly shared to various publics. Thus, open pedagogy projects tend to be collaborative, experiential and situated ones which challenge traditional classroom hierarchies.

NEJHE last year launched a series of “Practitioner Perspectives” in support of NEBHE’s work on open education. Among examples, Robin DeRosa, the director of the Open Learning & Teaching Collaborative at New Hampshire’s Plymouth State University, envisioned how a post-COVID-19 university could incorporate food security and other basic needs as integral to a learner’s academic success. Among other installments, NEBHE Fellow for Open Education Lindsey Gumb interviewed Rhode Island adjunct professor Heather Miceli on how open educational resources (OER) not only save students money, but also improve hands-on learning. See other essays in the series here.

While there are many benefits of open pedagogy projects for both students and instructors, there are also nuances that instructors may not have previously considered for traditional assignments within the closed digital or physical classroom learning environment. Open pedagogy projects are designed with the intention of sharing them with future publics, including future students, or out on the web—to be reused, revised or remixed. Opening up pedagogy in this way requires instructors to reflect on and consider the intersections of social justice, technology and knowledge-sharing.

To help instructors comprehensively plan their open pedagogy projects and take into consideration aspects that are unique to this teaching approach, we structured The Open Pedagogy Project Roadmap around the 5S’s:

1. Scope. Whether you are knee-deep in your project or just in the planning stages, the Roadmap starts by helping you determine the scope for your work. While it is tempting to jump ahead and plan out what you and your students will be doing, your open pedagogy project will be much more successful if you think about your values and goals first. Put aside the what of your project for a moment and reflect on the why. As you think about your own values and goals, consider how your project can center diversity, equity and inclusion.

One of the hallmarks of open education is that it prioritizes access. When materials are both open and free, barriers to access for students are removed. Open pedagogy centers access as well, but in a way that prioritizes student access to participatory knowledge creation. When we invite students to bring the whole of themselves to creating or modifying course content, the course will inevitably be changed to reflect the diversity and complexity of student identities.

Open pedagogy projects may be one-time, stand-alone assignments confined to a single course or much more complex multiyear undertakings that involve multiple stakeholders in various capacities. Regardless of the scope, revising or creating new assignments takes time. Before determining the scope of your project, it’s essential that you assess your own capacity and the capacity of your collaborators if you have them.

The benefits of open education and the rights that come with openly licensed resources, however, mean that you do not always need to start from scratch. Perhaps you could revise of build off some examples that we’ve included in the case studies section of the Roadmap, or you know of existing projects in your discipline that are openly licensed. Likewise, you may discover potential collaborators or possible mentors as you research open pedagogy examples, or you might even discover colleagues working on similar projects in your departments and institutions or by putting out a call on social media.

Once you’ve described your values and goals and determined your capacity for your open pedagogy project, it’s time to define the scope of your project. Think of this as your lede: the what, when, how and where of what you’ll be doing with students. While this may seem simple, open pedagogy projects can range from a one-time, one-semester Wikipedia editing assignment to a multi-semester, textbook-creation project involving hundreds of students, or a multitude of options in between. This is a good point to refer back to the scope of your values, goals and capacity and determine what is realistic and possible.

2. Support. Once you’ve scoped your values, goals and capacity, it’s important to identify what support is available at multiple levels, including structural and systemic, logistical and technological support. First, identify the support you can expect from within the structures and systems where your teaching happens. This may require doing some research and having conversations with administrators and colleagues at your institution. We recommend looking at your institution’s strategic plan and documenting how your project aligns with goals in the plan. In your research and conversations, you should also inquire about the possibilities of receiving funding or even time to allow you to plan and execute the project. Aligning your project with institutional priorities and values can make it an easier sell if you need resources, and it can help with framing this work in ways that will be valued and rewarded at your institution.

You should also look to your scholarly and disciplinary spaces to explore whether there are communities of practice, repositories of open work or support for the scholarship of teaching and learning as it relates to open pedagogy research. One additional place to look is to the regional open education groups and consortia for your particular location. These communities are resources for discovering potential alignment with state or regional OER (Open Educational Resources) initiatives, funding sources and disciplinary colleagues who are doing similar work.

While teaching can be a solitary endeavor, when you open up your pedagogy and bring in students, it inherently becomes a collaborative one. To prepare to collaborate with students in this way, it is important to identify and seek out pedagogical support for yourself as the instructor. While you likely already thought about collaborators a bit when considering your capacity for the project, at this stage, it’s important to think about other people and resources that may be available to help make your project successful all the way from the design to the assessment phases. Open pedagogy projects can involve Creative Commons licenses, copyrighted materials, new web applications, editorial skills, research, crafting renewable assignments and developing new ways of assessing—all of which require different types of expertise.

Technologies are also going to be part of your open pedagogy project and may include institution-supported tools that you’re already familiar with and external platforms, software or products that may or may not be supported by your institution. Because of the collaborative nature of open pedagogy projects, you will likely need to use shared digital spaces where you and students can collectively work, edit, revise and review one another’s contributions.

It is critical to document what technologies you will need for your project, what kind of support you will have for them, and how they may be funded. Think about your students and what kind of training they might need to use the technologies you’ll be introducing for this project. Also, think about whether or not the technologies you’re using support access (e.g., broadband and device capabilities) and accessibility (e.g., use of assistive technologies) in order to account for differences in the ways that learners might engage with your resources. And finally, you will want to have a plan or a backup for the inevitable updates and migrations or dreaded crashes.

3. Student outcomes and agency. After considering the big picture in terms of scope and support for your project, it’s time to further refine your thinking with a focus on the students with whom you’ll be collaborating. Open pedagogy is an opportunity to move beyond content mastery to developing content-agnostic knowledge practices and dispositions. Think about ways to make your learning outcomes focused less on content and more about process. For example, a “content-independent” (Maha Bali, 2016) approach in which students crowdsource a reading list, rather than assigning all the course readings, helps students develop knowledge-seeking and evaluating skills that are valuable beyond the content of any given course. It may help to consider your project within the Typology of Open Educational Practices (developed in 2020 by Bali and fellow scholars Catherine Cronin and Rajiv S. Jhangiani) to figure out your balance of content and process.

You may find it helpful (and even necessary) to take a different approach to assessments to demonstrate that students are meeting the learning outcomes. However, we also recognize that not everyone is in a position to take a radical approach to grading, like “ungrading” and other approaches that eschew assigning summative letter grades. No matter how much agency you have over your grading methodology, incorporating the following into your process can foster an open environment.

  • Peer review: Open work is often collaborative in nature and aimed at decentering the primacy of the instructor. Giving students the opportunity to learn from one another by providing peer feedback aids in this decentering. If the audience for the open pedagogy project is future students, this can also be an important step for considering tone, approach and coverage.
  • Revision: You may not be able to take a radical approach to grading, but giving students the opportunity to revise will increase their comfort with open work and allow them to focus more on the process of learning and obsess less over grades. Also, revision saves you editorial effort further down the line when it’s time to openly share the outputs.
  • Reflection: Having students write reflections can be a good, low-stakes way to assess knowledge practices and dispositions.

This kind of open pedagogy work might be completely new and unfamiliar for students and may cause anxiety for them. As you think about potential authentic audiences that students will be engaging with and how you might be assessing their work, the Open Pedagogy and Student Discomfort model (Amy Hofer et al., 2021) can help you anticipate how students might react to the challenge level you’re inviting them to collaborate in and how you might adjust to address those feelings.

It can be easy to get swept away in the excitement of open pedagogy projects and lose sight of the power imbalances that exist between instructors and students. There is a lot of labor involved in this work, and we must be mindful of respecting the labor of all those involved. If we fail to do this, open pedagogy becomes a transactional relationship rather than a genuine collaboration. There are many great resources available to help inform and check your thinking so you design this in a way that respects everyone involved. In particular, we suggest looking at A Student Collaborators’ Bill of Rights developed by UCLA’s Digital Humanities Program, Jhangiani’s 5Rs for Open Pedagogy, and Open Pedagogy at the Margins: Critical Perspectives on Open Education. Also, consider looking to other institutions for examples of best practices around FERPA, student rights and open pedagogy. Students may have a variety of legitimate reasons for not wanting to share their work openly, so you will need to incorporate and document methods for them to exercise their agency.

4. Sharing your work. It’s important to think about where and how you will share this open work once it’s complete. It can be helpful to think about this in terms of both the process of how you will share it and communicate it to a wide audience as well as where you will share the product of this work.

  • Process: If you’re engaging in this work, there’s a good chance that you will want to communicate its existence and value to one or more audiences. This may include sharing it within your disciplinary community on campus or more broadly through presentations, scholarly publications or email lists. You may also want to reach out to the public relations team at your institution about a news story. For promotion and tenure documentation or for job applications and interviews, use this matrix to help you communicate the impact of your work. Similarly, your students may want to communicate their work on the project as they proceed to the job market or graduate school. Consider whether there are ways of sharing it that will benefit them too and whether they know how to describe this work on their resume.
  • Product: There are many places where you can share your work openly for others to use. This may include a personal or departmental website, an institutional repository, a disciplinary repository (e.g., CORE), and an OER repository (e.g., OER Commons). If your goal is to make your work discoverable to as many people as possible, you may want to consider sharing it in multiple venues where different audiences are likely to encounter it. This is also a good point to revisit the concept of Creative Commons Licenses. Are you licensing your work in a way that respects your ownership and that of your students while also permitting others to use your work in a meaningful way? This license generator will guide you through that decision-making process.

5. Sustainability. The last leg of the Roadmap journey is about pulling together the various facets of this project and identifying what you will need to sustain it, as well as determining your action plan of next steps. Regardless of the type of open pedagogy project, all projects require you to have an eye toward sustaining them by planning for iteration. Some projects may require you to set a maintenance schedule for keeping information current or updating hyperlinks. For others, students might not meet the learning outcomes, or you may realize that certain aspects of the projects require more scaffolding. For projects where students are collaborating in groups, not all student groupings may be successful. Some projects may be reliant on funding or other human or digital resources that are no longer available. In completing this Roadmap, you may have discovered that you will need to work with additional collaborators in order to sustain it. Identifying your project’s needs and planning for these road bumps is key to sustaining your project.

The Roadmap is meant to be the basis for an action plan. Use it to guide your next steps. It’s helpful to think about what you can do in the short, medium and long terms. You may find that the scope of your project is so large, you can begin only with a small portion of it in the near term. That’s OK! The important thing is to think about how that small piece fits into your long-term plan so that you can complete this project in a strategic way that will be sustainable and see it through to fruition.

The Open Pedagogy Project Roadmap is available at and is licensed through CC BY-NC. You can access the complete Open Pedagogy Project Roadmap Workbook in Google Drive where you can make a copy and then edit it. We’d love to hear if and how you use this resource. Please tweet us (@riehphy and @BMcgeary) using the hashtag #OEPRoadmap. We’d also be happy to bring the Open Pedagogy Project Roadmap Workshop to your campus in either full- or half-day virtual or in-person formats.

Christina Riehman-Murphy is the Sally W. Kalin Librarian for Learning Innovations and a reference and instruction librarian at Pennsylvania State University. She is the co-program manager of a faculty adoption grant at the Abington campus, a SPARC Open Education Leadership Fellow, a campus partner for Affordable Learning Pennsylvania and a graduate of the Open Education Network’s Certificate in OER Librarianship.

Bryan McGeary is the learning design and open education engagement librarian at Pennsylvania State University. He is also a SPARC Open Education Leadership Fellow, a facilitator for the Rebus Textbook Success Program, an OER Specialist for Affordable Learning Pennsylvania, a graduate of the Open Education Network’s Certificate in OER Librarianship and co-editor of the peer-reviewed open access journal Pennsylvania Libraries: Research & Practice.


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