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Open Digital Pedagogy and Training

Published onNov 03, 2023
Open Digital Pedagogy and Training

With online, digital environments occupying a more central place in higher education, pedagogy has been shifting as well to both take advantage of the unprecedented access to knowledge and prepare students to participate in the digital economy. This transformation is twofold: on the one hand, the world is shifting to more fully embrace open pedagogy that encompasses Open Educational Resources (OERs) such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), open textbooks, syllabi, classroom activities, and other practices and materials to lower barriers for accessing education. At the same time, there is a push in higher education to incorporate digital literacy training so that students are prepared to join the workforce and possess interoperable digital skills upon graduation. This collection encompasses a series of essays on digital pedagogy that offer a small glimpse into the rich discourse on the opportunities and challenges of embracing digital pedagogy in higher education, and points to practical materials that instructors can draw on and implement in their own teaching environments (Davis, Gold, and Harris 2020; Estill 2017; Harris 2013). Additionally, the collection centres perspectives on digital pedagogy from students themselves—some undergoing training in programs with a digital focus and others occupying digital scholarship roles and reflecting on how these experiences have both contributed to their own learning as well as the development of their digital pedagogy practices (Colligan and Sharren 2020). Student perspectives are also centred through reflections on implementing digital pedagogy activities in the classroom, where instructors find that such activities can encourage students to develop disciplinary knowledge, learn digital skills, take a more active role in their own learning, and increase student agency (DeRosa and Robison 2017; Estill 2017; Harris 2013). By working in digital environments, often for real audiences rather than for an instructor, students are also exposed to more open, social, and collaborative forms of knowledge creation and dissemination and contribute to scholarly discourse (DeRosa and Robison 2017; Estill 2017). Of course, working in these new environments also introduces a new set of challenges, such as feelings of anxiety to openly publish work that might still be in development, apprehension of learning digital tools and skills, or clashes between more traditional program requirements with the types of digital projects students are engaged with on the ground, among others (Beasley-Murray 2018; DeRosa and Robison 2017; El Khatib 2020).

Beyond a look at how students acquire skills in a digital pedagogy context, this collection also takes a critical look at the broader field of open pedagogy, how it contributes to learning, and some challenges associated with its applications (DeRosa and Robinson 2017). Here authors highlight how OERs can make education more accessible and, through open licensing such as the Creative Commons license, can be readily adaptable to different contexts for more targeted and meaningful learning (Van Allen and Katz 2020). However, experts still dispute the extent to which OERs can contribute to student learning, especially in Global South contexts, given infrastructural challenges, the disparity of knowledge flows between the Global North and South, and the lack of relevant cultural context in OERs to make learning meaningful (King, Pergum, and Forsey 2018). Scholars and practitioners in this collection highlight these challenges to engage in discourse and demonstrate ongoing work in the field that offer solutions on how to address and resolve them to create higher quality learning resources and contribute to student learning in meaningful ways. Moreover, this collection demonstrates that scholars working across many disciplines are actively contributing materials and engaging with difficult questions about open pedagogy with the ultimate goal of making education more meaningful, accessible, and equitable in local and global contexts.

This collection is a companion piece to the Open Scholarship Press Training open access research scan / annotated bibliography that consists of two main parts—Digital Humanities Pedagogy and Open Resources—and was developed in the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab by Alan Colín-Arce (University of Victoria), Vitor Yano (Concordia University), Anna Honcharova (European Students’ Forum), myself, Ray Siemens (University of Victoria), and the local team. That annotated bibliography is available on Wikibooks ( and PubPub ( The bibliography offers a snapshot of the discourse, theory, best practices, and challenges in digital humanities pedagogy and open pedagogy. In the annotated bibliography, readers will find a more expansive view of the many players involved in digital pedagogy, from distant takes on the place of digital scholarship in institutional settings and programs to a closer look at successful classroom applications. The annotated bibliography also offers a robust engagement with open pedagogy theory and practices, and the many perspectives engaged in resolving complex challenges related to adopting open pedagogy in local and global contexts. Select exemplary texts from the annotated bibliography are reprinted in this collection.

The first entry in this collection is the introduction to the open access, peer-reviewed collection Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities, an effective digital pedagogy resource that includes rubrics, assignments, sample syllabi, and other teaching materials that can be adapted and remixed for different pedagogical environments. In their introduction—“Curating Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities” (2020)—editors Rebecca Frost Davis, Matthew K. Gold, and Katherine D. Harris argue that rather than offering a single vision of digital pedagogy, the collection envisions the field as “an approach rather than a thing; it is best understood through the multiple practices of its various participants” (3). Through that lens, the collection acts as scholarly infrastructure that reflects current digital pedagogy practices through 59 keywords, each keyword containing a statement that explains it and a curated list of about 10 resources authored by various practitioners in the field. The primary inquiry that informs their collection is: What does thoughtful and effective teaching using digital resources look like? This query is addressed through the development of practical teaching materials that can be adapted and implemented directly in the classroom, rather than relying on secondary accounts of digital pedagogy experiences.

Graduate students engaging with digital scholarship also emphasize open scholarship, collaboration, practice, and student agency in the context of digital pedagogy. In “Notes from the Field: Student Perspectives on Digital Pedagogy” (2020), an introduction to a cluster of essays written by students, editors Colette Colligan and Kandice Sharren argue that student voices ought to be at the center of discourse on digital pedagogy. This includes students who are part of programs with a digital focus, as well as those actively engaging with digital scholarship in a multitude of ways beyond the classroom as collaborators, project managers, and project leads, among many other roles. By reflecting on the opportunities as well as the challenges of working in digital environments, this collection contributes to digital pedagogy discourse from the perspective of the students themselves across four clusters: Collaboration with GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums), Digital Doctorates, Major Research Projects, and Transforming DH Pedagogy.

Classroom activities and assignments that involve digital pedagogy elements often utilize digital modes of knowledge creation and dissemination that can help students develop disciplinary knowledge while also acquiring useful digital skills. In the article “Collaborative Knowledge Creation and Student-Led Assignment Design: Wikipedia in the University Literature Class” (2017), Laura Estill presents a case study wherein students in a third-year Renaissance Drama class carry out writing assignments for Wikipedia instead of a traditional essay. Estill found that this pedagogical approach of writing for a real audience such as Wikipedia readers can improve student communication skills, invite them to think more carefully about how to organize and present information, and develop disciplinary knowledge on a topic. Additionally, writing for Wikipedia engaged students in social knowledge creation and collaborative authorship, and ultimately encouraged them to learn about knowledge production and communication affordances in digital environments.

Also addressing digital pedagogy classroom activities and assignments is Harris in “Play, Collaborate, Break, Build, Share: ‘Screwing Around’ in Digital Pedagogy” (2013), where she elucidates her experiences with digital humanities pedagogy within the milieu of non-research-intensive universities during the early 2010s. The objective is to offer a more comprehensive definition of digital humanities that incorporates digital pedagogy. Harris contends that an enhanced digital humanities pedagogy can promote lifelong learning by prioritizing process over product, imparting collaborative skills, fostering a culture of play, and embracing productive failure. She discusses several assignments adopted in her classes—including bloom and fade strategies, playing with emerging technologies, and scaffolded assignments—that underscore a focus on learning outcomes rather than the mere mastery of digital tools. According to Harris, this pedagogical approach can contribute to student’s learning and critical thinking about their relationship with technology, and at the same time the field of digital humanities itself can be enriched by undergraduate and graduate student perspectives.

So far, this introduction has addressed digital pedagogy resources, programs, projects, and classroom applications. However, an important site for digital training and pedagogy remains the institutional library. In his article “Critically Engaging with Data Visualization through an Information Literacy Framework” (2018), Steven Braun highlights the central role of libraries in digital training, especially university libraries with robust digital scholarship programs. Through the ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education1, he argues that libraries are uniquely positioned to provide digital training, given their commitment to information literacy, and can therefore also contribute to the development of digital curricula. Braun demonstrates this by designing a Choose Your Own Adventure activity informed by the information literacy framework that encourages students to think more critically about data visualization.

The remaining resources in this collection focus on discourse happening in the broader world of open pedagogy. One of the affordances of open pedagogy is transforming students from passive consumers to active creators and participants in their education. This shift is demonstrated by Robin DeRosa and Scott Robison in “From OER to Open Pedagogy: Harnessing the Power of Open” (2017), which presents several case studies to show how, within the framework of open pedagogy, students become active creators of open knowledge with which others can engage. Their first example looks at how Jon Beasley-Murray uses Wikipedia in the literature classroom to author entries on Latin American literature. Like Estill’s students, in this context students were writing for the public to invite engagement rather than for a single professor to be discarded after the class; thereby, authors mention that students faced questions such as “Have they written clearly enough for a general audience? Does their writing have a logical flow? Have they supported their statements properly and soundly?” (118). In both contexts, students developed skills such as participating in social knowledge production and learning about open scholarship, as well as contributing to public scholarship by improving the content of Wikipedia articles. For example, Beasley-Murray mentions that existing Wikipedia articles in Latin American literature are particularly weak; there is a real opportunity to improve knowledge by contributing to these articles since Wikipedia entries often appear at the top of search engine results.

Open pedagogy is a broad field with many practices and materials; perhaps best known among them are Open Educational Resources (OERs) in the form of free and reusable educational resources and textbooks published under open licenses for adaptation and reuse. OERs are pivotal in the accessible and equitable education conversation since they help offset the high cost of education and textbooks and thus lower barriers for entry for K-12 and higher education. DeRosa and Robison’s (2017) second example is an activity led by DeRosa led in her course in which students participated in creating an open textbook to replace the class’s expensive predecessor, since most of the actual texts drawn from were available in open access. The process also involved students engaging with real world scholarly tasks such as editing and adding discussion questions, videos, and other pedagogical materials, to create an accessible resource that targets that same student demographic. DeRosa and Robison conclude that open pedagogy allows students to do rather than consume knowledge and, in doing so, more fully embrace their potential for learning.

Despite the advocacy for OERs and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), many experts still dispute their usefulness and point to inconclusive evidence of their support of educational goals as well as other shortcomings for their adoption in global contexts. In “MOOCs and OER in the Global South: Problems and Potential” (2018), authors Monty King, Mark Pegrum, and Martin Forsey question the usefulness of MOOCs and OERs in countries of the Global South, stating that while they lower some barriers to education, they also bring about new challenges. Some of these challenges for engaging with OERs are a lack of internet infrastructure; language barriers and limited computer literacy; resisting online learning; and a lack of certification and accreditation of OERs and MOOCs for students to pursue employment with online education. Another major limitation of OERs is the problem of context, since most educational resource contexts are geared toward a Global North audience. Authors also address the imbalances of knowledge flows between the Global North and South that still largely valorize the Global North and thus risk fostering open educational homogeneity. They suggest that OERs and MOOCs include more voices of Global South educators and learners to improve learning opportunities in order to more readily take on some of the current demands for education in the Global South. Moreover, additional research on how students in these contexts negotiate related challenges, rather than drawing on outside reflections, would greatly enrich literature in the field.

The authors of the final article in this collection, Jennifer Van Allen and Stacy Katz, discuss the lack of access to educational resources such as open textbooks and other materials at the City University of New York (CUNY) in “Teaching with OER During Pandemics and Beyond” (2020). The authors argue that OERs can fill this gap and provide easier access and more culturally relevant material to enhance student experiences. Van Allen and Katz stress the need to increase awareness about OERs in K-12 contexts as well as in higher education, since surveys show that only a small number of educators are familiar with OERs and even fewer understand how they might be integrated into their own teaching. While King, Pegrum, and Forsey (2018) emphasize the shortcoming of OERs and MOOCs, including their lack of relevant cultural context to provide meaningful learning for students in countries of the Global South, Van Allen and Katz (2020) place the responsibility of adapting OERs to local cultural contexts on the teachers of those classes. Since OERs are shared under Creative Commons licenses and are often adaptable and remixable—and the applications of OERs in a global context are so numerous—Van Allen and Katz invite educators to repurpose OERs to meet the needs of the students and make them more culturally relevant.

In many ways, this collection follows the transformation of digital pedagogy to embrace more open and collaborative practices. This is seen in classroom activities where students are increasingly co-developing knowledge in open, social environments, as well as in the more general development and uptake of OERs. As the world more fully embraces digital environments, this collection is also concerned with the role of universities and training sites to prepare students and engaged publics to meet the needs of the digital world in their own research and work. These topics are engaged by the Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) Partnership’s (2021) Training Cluster, co-facilitated by Constance Crompton (U Ottawa) and Laura Estill (St. Francis Xavier University) who pose the research question: What innovative training strategies and approaches improve digital literacy, information-seeking, and knowledge production for students, researchers, industry, and engaged members of the public, within a theoretical framework of open scholarship? This collection attempts to answer this question from a variety of perspectives on digital pedagogy and open pedagogy. The reader is also welcome to engage the Open Scholarship Press Training annotated bibliography for a more in-depth engagement with this research question and digital pedagogy discourse and practices.

Works Cited & Original Citations

ACRL Board. 2016. “Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.” Association of College & Research Libraries.

Braun, Steven. 2018. “Critically Engaging with Data Visualization through an Information Literacy Framework.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 12 (4).

Colín-Arce, Alan, Vitor Yano, Anna Honcharova, Randa El Khatib, Ray Siemens, with the INKE and ETCL Research Groups. 2023. “Digital Humanities Pedagogy and Training Annotated Bibliography.” Victoria: Open Scholarship Press.

Colligan, C., and Kandice Sharren. 2020. Notes from the Field: Student Perspectives on Digital Pedagogy. Digital Studies / Le champ numérique, 10 (1): n.p.

Davis, Rebecca Frost, Matthew K. Gold, and Katherine D. Harris. 2020. “Curating Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities.” Modern Language Association.

DeRosa, Robin, and Scott Robinson. 2017. “From OER to Open Pedagogy: Harnessing the Power of Open.” Open: The Philosophy and Practices That Are Revolutionizing Education and Science, edited by Rajiv S. Jhangiani and Robert Biswas-Diener, 115–24. London: Ubiquity Press.

El Khatib, Randa. 2021. “The Digital Dissertation and the Humanities Today.” In Digital Doctorates [essay cluster] by Randa El Khatib, Reese Alexandra Irwin, Caroline Winter, and Michelle Levy. Digital Studies / Le champ numérique.

Estill, Laura. 2017. “Collaborative Knowledge Creation and Student-Led Assignment Design: Wikipedia in the University Literature Class.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 11 (3).

Harris, Katherine D. 2013. “Play, Collaborate, Break, Build, Share: “Screwing Around” in Digital Pedagogy.” Polymath: An Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Journal 3 (3), 1-26.

Implementing New Knowledge Environments Partnership. 2021. “Training.” INKE.

Jbmurray/Madness. 2018. Was introducing Wikipedia to the Classroom an Act of Madness Leading Only to Mayhem if Not Murder? Retrieved from

King, Monty, Mark Pegrum, and Martin Forsey. 2018. “MOOCs and OER in the Global South: Problems and Potential.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 19 (5).

Van Allen, Jennifer, and Stacy Katz. 2020. “Teaching with OER during Pandemics and Beyond.” Journal for Multicultural Education 14 (3/4): 209–18.

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