When we ask students to work in the open, what are we asking them to do? Open pedagogy assignments can involve students engaging with communities other than their peers in a classroom, opening their ideas up to public scrutiny, and creating and communicating in new way. When students openly publish their work through online platforms such blogs, wikis, open textbooks, social media, etc, they are not necessarily using the same format or skills that they would in writing a research paper or persuasive essay; instead they are applying new strategies to the information and knowledge they have to produce something people will use.

Working in the open and opening up our work to the public can be scary for almost all of us but doing so usually means it pushes us to a higher standard of work. However, when asking students to work in the open, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.


“Risk is ever-present with open pedagogy, from the platforms that we utilize that mine and monetize our intellectual labour and the digital footprints that we require our students to leave in the course of their education to the open sharing of unpolished ideas and practices that leave us exposed and open to criticism and judgment. Open pedagogy involves vulnerabilities and risks that are not distributed evenly and that should not be ignored or glossed over. These risks are substantially higher for women, students and scholars of colour, precarious faculty, and many other groups and voices that are marginalized by the academy.” 5Rs for Open Pedagogy, Rajiv Jhangiani, Ph.D.

Learning involves risk taking. When students share their work openly, they are contributing to the building and sharing of knowledge and they are opening up their work for public review. When you are accustomed to learning and creating behind classroom walls and for the eyes of your professor only, working in the open can be both daunting and extremely rewarding. Students will want to understand:

  • How their work may be evaluated by others?
  • What their obligations are regarding copyright and appropriate citation of others’ work?
  • How they can license your own work (with an open license) to allow others to re-use and build on your work – while attributing you as the original author?

When sharing content outside of traditional classrooms, different people have different levels of comfort and risk and doing so may require grappling with issues of trust, privacy and ownership. The open Internet can often be a toxic place and students may also have questions such as:

  • What agency do I have in deciding to work in the open?
  • Who will see my work?
  • Why would my work be of value to anyone?
  • How does working in the open help me learn what I need for this course?
  • What control will I have over my work?
  • What support do I have?
  • Whose voices are marginalized in open or online spaces and how will that impact me?
  • If I’m using new types of technologies, who owns my data?

Addressing such questions directly, even building them into course discussions, can help students understand why they are being asked to work openly as well as help to build their buy-in and support for doing so. You may also want to provide resources for students, such as the Digital Tattoo project, that can help them make an informed decision about their digital presence.

Dig Deeper

To learn more how open pedagogy can incur risk and ways to address these in practice, review the following:


If there is a golden rule for open pedagogy, it is that students should never be required or compelled to give up any of their privacy in order to complete an assignment. When creating an open assignment, it is always good to provide students with options on how they may complete or share their work, such as:

  • Publishing with a pseudonym
  • Publishing in a way that only other people in that class can see their work
  • Submitting only to the instructor or T.A.

Building such options directly into an assignments gives students agency and control over their work.

Additionally, it is also important to be aware of and comply with any relevant privacy regulations, such as BC FIPPA (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act), about identifying information for students. For example, FIPPA requires that student information be stored only in Canada and accessed only in Canada, which may impact the use of third party tools or platforms that store information outside of Canada. Students thus can never be required to use such tools but can consent to do so. According to this fact sheet from the University Counsel office on disclosing personal information outside of Canada, at UBC, consent for cloud-based tools may be used under the following conditions:

  • In the course description, or in a written communication to the students, describe the cloud-based service and the information that it will be storing or accessing, and explain that if the students choose not to provide their consent they must see the instructor to make alternate arrangements; and
  • Make alternate arrangements for students who decline to provide their consent, such as allowing them to sign in to the service using a false name and non-identifying email address.


Many open pedagogy projects asks students to create open educational resources by adding a Creative Commons license to their work. However, students own the copyright in their own work, and should be given the choice whether or not to share or publish it with an open license. Talk with students about the value of OER and why you are asking them to publish their work openly. Be sure they know about the various options they have for privacy and for choosing a license.

If you are publishing students’ work on an open site, ask for students’ permission regarding how long they would like their work to be posted publicly. Some may not mind having it posted indefinitely, but some may wish to have their work taken down as soon as the class is finished. At the very least, let them know that if they later decide they would like it taken down, they can contact you.

Dig Deeper

To learn more about student privacy at UBC: you might want to review the following resources:


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