Open Pedagogy as Textbook Replacement

A 2-for-1 Deal: Earn Your AA While Learning About Information Literacy Using OER

Mary Lee Cunill; Sheri Brown; and Tia Esposito


Project Overview

Institution: Florida State College at Jacksonville

Institution Type: public, community college, 4-year, undergraduate

Project Discipline: Public Speaking

Project Outcome: OER-Based AA Degree, Information Literacy Course Lessons and Stand-Alone Course

Tools Used: Achieving the Dream OER Degree Initiative, LibGuides

Resources Included in Chapter:

  • Sample OER Degree Plan

2020 Preface

As a result of COVID 19, our college moved online on March 13, 2020. In making this move, we noticed that the effects of the digital divide surfaced within the first week. FSCJ’s approach was to pull together a task force to remedy these challenges. This included scholarships for technology so students who were without them could purchase laptops, local partnerships with cable companies to provide internet for free or discounted rates, and increased tech support for educators and students. The college made available trainings in all arenas of technology, making the transition as smooth as possible.

As we near month three of teaching from home, the comfort level has increased significantly for the new style of teaching and learning, though there is certainly the desire to return to campus. There were also many innovations that grew from this experience, including online synchronous courses. Prior to this, our online courses were asynchronous. To preserve the face to face aspect of in-person courses that were moved online, this was a productive and effective approach. As Florida COVID cases currently spike, the decision has been made to remain online with the exception of courses that need to be help on campus due to contact hours or use of facilities (nursing, aviation, etc.). As we mention in this chapter, the vital nature of digital tools is once again apparent, bridging gaps that would otherwise have been much more difficult to navigate with the overnight shift from in-person to online courses.

Another aspect worth mentioning is that the reporting of information related to COVID has revealed, more than ever, the need to educate on information literacy and critical thinking skills. With society being inundated with varying pieces of information from a wide variety of sources, citizens must be able to differentiate between factual information and opinion. Let this serve to advance our cause for college wide initiatives to promote information literacy.

As we move forward, we hope the recommendations shared in this chapter motivate you to connect with colleagues to develop additional teaching tools and initiatives. With social distancing, it is great to see a smiling face, even if it is through the use of collaboration software! There is no better time to connect and get to know your colleagues better while adding to your university’s resource pool!

—Mary Lee, Sheri, & Tia


Working at a state college like Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ), there is a constant balancing act between providing the highest level of resources to our students while increasing accessibility, given a majority of our students’ socioeconomic challenges. Providing intensive and focused education on information literacy is particularly important for students who may not have the same access to credible sources as those in higher socioeconomic situations. FSCJ librarians and faculty are faced with the challenge of providing rigorous and challenging courses for their students that promote critical thinking and information literacy, but are inaccessible due to socioeconomic barriers.. With this in mind, librarians Tia Esposito and Sheri Brown have partnered with Professor of Communication faculty, Dr. Mary Lee Cunill, on projects that advance Open Education Resources (OER) and Information Literacy. In Project 1, learn how our college leveraged an Achieving the Dream grant to provide a full Associates of Arts (AA) program using Open Educational Resources, with an elective Library Information Services course. In Project 2, follow a faculty-librarian partnership that improves understanding of information literacy while enhancing librarian and student connections.

Getting to Know Our Students

Florida State College at Jacksonville’s student population survey shows that over 70% of our 55,000 students make a family income of less than $50,000 per year; 50% of our students work full-time; 40% are parents of young children; and 25% are first-generation students. That means a majority of our students balance work, family life, and attending school. We know there is a high instance of food insecurity, a lack of affordable housing, and multiple public transportation challenges within the city of Jacksonville, Florida, where our five campuses are located.

To highlight a specific student who was affected by this project, we introduce Jorge. Jorge was a culinary arts student taking his required Public Speaking class in the evening. He cared for his three children under the age of 15, worked full-time during the day as a cook, and was part-time in our culinary program in the hopes of owning his own restaurant someday. He needed more flexible hours, he explained, to help his children be successful and support their growth and learning. FSCJ’s OER AA program allows him the time and flexibility to care for his family.

Project 1: OER Associates of Arts Program via Achieving the Dream Grant

FSCJ was a 2017 recipient of the Achieving the Dream OER Degree Pathways grant . As a result of receiving this grant, FSCJ has developed an Associate of Arts program that can be earned entirely using Open Educational Resources (OER) through online, hybrid, and face-to-face modalities. For FSCJ, OER is defined as courses that have no textbook costs affiliated with them and include access to library resources paid for by the school. No out-of-pocket expenses are needed for these students to access the texts and the library databases across our five campuses in this program.

Educators Serena Henderson and Nathaniel Ostashewski state that, “understanding barriers to full adoption, administration, and acceptance of OER is paramount to fully supporting its growth and success in education worldwide” (2018). One such barrier we recognized at our school was the digital divide. Students often didn’t have access to computers or the internet in their homes, and they often had limited transportation or time to be able to visit the physical library building. This challenge, made evident in this partnership, reaffirms the need for meeting students where they are, in terms of the population our state college attracts. To combat this, FSCJ librarians have implemented new digital learning tools to offer quality OER that integrate easily with smartphones and tablets. These include LibGuides, or easy to use content management guides created by librarians and used at thousands of libraries worldwide. FSCJ librarians partner with faculty to create LibGuides focused on specific course related topics, increasing the ease of access for students. In addition, librarians have developed digital learning objects that coincide with classes, hybrid LIS courses, and more. The university library and the growing cadre of OER librarians and instructional design librarians are exceptionally well-situated to be the hub of access to course content. Not only do they provide faculty members support in the discovery of needed content and resources, but they develop tools and platforms capable of aligning to, or replacing, current learning management systems. Librarians are able to package in a more user friendly manner online homework products and other supporting frameworks for online education (Parker, 2019, para. 1).

Our librarians are creating versatile and responsive OER such as Libguides, videos, tutorials, online surveys, and learning objects that supplement textbooks to make research accessible regardless of access to a physical library or one’s geographical location (Esposito, 2015). “The proliferation of mobile phones and access devices suggest the potential of mobile learning. Students are already using mobile devices to communicate, access, and share information, conduct research, and analyze data. These devices are the gateway to digital learning” (Alliance, 2011). Providing tools that interface with the technology students are already familiar with increases use and accessibility.

Recognizing that a large population of our students utilize public transit to commute to and from school, they can use that travel time for research and study (approximately three hours) if they are able to access online learning forums and the library via cell phones, iPads, and laptops. If a student uses the bus system daily, this accounts for 15-20 hours a week that they can devote to studying, freeing up time when they arrive home for themselves and their families. Put frankly, without pedagogical approaches such as this, students would not have the time or resources to work, raise a family, and go to school full-time.

Currently, FSCJ is one of only 38 colleges in 13 states to be part of this national project that allows students to get their associates degree without ever having to purchase a textbook. In the library we provide students with a degree outline illustrating a sample A.A. General Education Academic Degree Plan (Figure 1), listing courses that currently offer only OER textbook options.

Figure 1

Sample A.A. General Education Academic Degree Plan

Degree Plan mapping 4 terms
Note. From Free + Low-Cost Course Materials Available for Select A.A. Classes. Image description is available in the Appendix.

Developing OER course LIS 1001: Intro to College Research

As the library itself starts to make progress towards utilizing and embracing OER, we have started offering a for-credit library instruction OER course. Our faculty librarians have developed LIS 1001: Introduction to College Research, which is marketed as an elective for students to take early in their course of study. This OER course provides an introduction to key concepts needed to understand the changing dynamics and ethical use of information, the critical evaluation of both traditional and converged media, and the responsibility of the individual in creating new information.

LIS 1001 provides students with concepts and skills to conduct research according to the Association of College and Research Libraries’ (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (2019). Students apply critical thinking skills to identify the capabilities and constraints of information published through social media, websites, popular media, and academic media; describe the value of information in various contexts; design, refine, and execute a search strategy; formulate a research question; and engage in academic communication. This course touches on all the requirements for information literacy according to the American Library Association, and it prepares students to be effective citizens in our current culture.

Project 2: Faculty/Librarian Partnership for Course Development

Our faculty-librarian partnership focused on improving information literacy and grew out of a pre-established relationship between library and faculty. When new communication faculty, Dr. Mary Lee Cunill, first arrived at FSCJ several years ago, Sheri Brown, the faculty librarian at communication faculty Mary Lee’s home campus, befriended her almost immediately. Sheri checked in on Mary Lee, inviting her to lunch, introducing her to other professors, and helping her get connected to and understand the inner workings of the college. Sheri’s personal outreach, collegiality, and mentorship was a pivotal aspect to ongoing professional collaborations. As a scholar of interpersonal communication, Mary Lee feels the “personal touch” of hospitality from faculty librarians cannot be overstated. Librarians serve as bridge builders between faculty, students, and reference materials. The value of their partnership and participation in the creation of new knowledge and the development of information literacy in colleges cannot be overstated.

Having previously worked closely with our faculty librarians on multiple projects, including our annual Authors Series, where the school adopts a book related to a social cause and builds a year of learning engagement activities around the text, Sheri and an English professor initiated a faculty/librarian partnership called Books and the Big Screen. In this partnership, students read a text in a book club atmosphere with faculty and librarians and then watch the cinematic presentation of the text at the end of the semester. Research demonstrates the value of faculty-librarian collaboration (Lindstrom & Shonrock, 2006). When these collaborations succeed, they become highly anticipated and supported by administration. Successful partnerships lead to “yes” more often when proposing new ideas, so when Sheri mentioned to Mary Lee that a fellow librarian colleague, Tia Esposito, had a particularly strong interest in information literacy and that she would love to partner with a public speaking class to discuss this issue, Mary Lee was in!

Pedagogical Foundation and Ethics

In 2017, Mary Lee completed a class through the Harvard Graduate School of Education called Creating Cultures of Thinking. The course is part of the Project Zero initiative whose mission is “to understand and enhance learning, thinking and creativity for individuals and groups in the arts and other disciplines” (Cultures of Thinking, Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2019). This course defines “Cultures of Thinking” (CoT) as “places where a group’s collective as well as individual thinking is valued, visible, and actively promoted as part of the regular, day-to-day experience of all group members.” It draws on the research of Ron Ritchhart (2015), that has shown that “students recognize CoT classrooms as being more focused on thinking, learning, and understanding, and more likely to be collaborative in nature than those of teachers not in the project.” A faculty-librarian driven course became the perfect fit between the Culture of Thinking curriculum experienced by faculty being marked by a passion for asking the “big questions” and the previously existing relationship with our faculty librarians, partnering to tackle the question of “how do we know what we know” from an Information Literacy perspective. Faculty and librarians worked together to help students through information literacy modules developed via LibGuides; customized information literacy instruction especially as it pertained to fake news; offered tours and orientations; and customized research guides through LibGuides and digital learning objects.

During her past four years at FSCJ, Mary Lee has partnered with librarian Sheri Brown to cover information literacy skills and introduce students to the Library Learning Commons, establishing relationships between students and librarians. It was important to Mary Lee that students, who often overlook librarians as they prioritize the ease of Google searches over human interactions, see librarians as one of their most valuable assets at the college.

Given the nature of a public speaking class, and that it is about sharing this information further, information literacy is invaluable. As a professor, Mary Lee has felt the ethical imperative to follow up on poorly sourced research papers and presentations, asking students where they found their information, and clarifying facts. The detrimental effects of false and incorrect information being spread are never more evident than in the questions asked after a presentation that introduces “new” yet invalid information.

As professors, we can only hope that a student’s introduction to a topic will be based upon valid information instead of incorrect material. This is a lofty and sometimes unrealistic goal, so instead, as a result of our professor/librarian partnership, we now focus on critical thinking and information literacy training. If we can’t stop the false news, we will at least fight against society taking it at face value, one student at a time.

Another ethical challenge facing scholars is the inherent battle of their value being based upon publishing more so than teaching when applying for tenure and promotion. As the industry for paid information access shrinks, there are fewer resources to pay for research and publication. With this in mind, we must begin to value open resourced publications with the same authority that we provide for journal articles or books. Partnering with librarians to publish new OER, pulling from authenticated resources, is a highly effective manner to propagate this. As students get more exposure to research-based OER papers, they are encouraged to seek out the primary materials to gain greater understanding. Our hope is that by being exposed to the primary materials via open sourcing, students are provided with access to the course content that they need. We further hope that they might return to find the source material and delve more in depth with a better understanding of how to use the information that they find effectively.

Fighting Fake News through Information Literacy in SPC 2608: Public Speaking

All of this brings us to the project, a librarian/faculty collaboration in which we try to help students fight fake news through information literacy. According to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC, 2018): “In order to succeed in college and today’s information-based economy, students need to understand how information is created and delivered, that information has economic, educational, persuasive and intellectual value, that information must be critically evaluated; and that information must be used ethically.”

In a culture in which individuals routinely accept, remix, and share unfiltered, unattributed, opinion-based information, it’s critical for our students to understand, as both consumers and creators of information, how and why information is produced and delivered, and the importance of determining credibility. In 2018, our Public Speaking class worked closely with the librarians to apply this through discussing the NetFlix original documentary, Fyre, demonstrating the power of Instagram influencers. According to Zoe Kleinman, Technology reporter for BBC News, lawsuits continue to build against influencers (Kleinman, 2019), yet young adults remain the victim of these publicity schemes. Approaching information literacy from this angle strongly engaged current students, as it made the issue and effects of fake news easily accessible and understandable.

The class met librarian Tia Esposito for the first time when she provided an interactive presentation entitled, “This Just In: Fighting the War on Fake News with Media and Information Literacy.” Rather than the overdone, “this is how you do academic research” approach, Tia took the approach of a persuasive speaker. A persuasive speaker’s goal is to get her audience to think or behave differently. It isn’t passive. Persuasive speaking done well is intended to have a life-altering, behavior-changing impact. Based on the students’ comments on the presentation evaluation, Tia’s presentation achieved this.

Instead of teaching how to access credible information via databases—which students perceive as overwhelming, harder than Google or Wikipedia, and time consuming—Tia demonstrated how information is being used to manipulate the way we think and perceive the world. Most vitally, she gave countless examples of “fake news” where information was purposefully distorted and promoted by varying media outlets with the intent of manipulating and mobilizing the uninformed populace to take action.

Tia formed a strong relationship with Jorge, the student mentioned earlier, and they met multiple times. He chose a specific and nuanced speech topic about a former African slave, Onesimus, who lived in the 1700s, who was pivotal in developing the concept of inoculation (Widmer, 2014). Embracing the idea of information literacy, Jorge educated his classmates on how information has been manipulated and owned by those in power throughout history. He explained how, given that slaves had no humanity at that time, they were not credited with creation of this information. Here we are, over 300 years later, and Jorge gave Onesimus, an African slave, the humanity and credit he deserved. Onesimus who he may never have learned about without the guidance of our librarians and his ability to access these partnerships and materials via the OER class. Perhaps even more importantly, Jorge had previously submitted his DNA to and discovered that his own heritage was from slavery. With pride, he shared his people’s history and contributions. Teaching students information literacy allows them to correct misinformation. Jorge was able to clarify the historical record on vaccinations. He presented with pride that vaccinations came from the knowledge of his ancestors, as opposed to Edward Jenner, the British physician and scientist who is known as “the Father of Immunology” (Riedel, 2005).

One of the greatest successes that stemmed from this partnership is the ongoing relationship between the students, librarians, and professors. Though the course has ended, the students still email both faculty and librarians with links to discussions of information literacy, which are now all over the national news. They are thinking critically about the world around them and the news they receive, which was the purpose of the entire project.

Success and Future Projects

Faced with a social reality that may be influenced, in part, by fabricated information, it is important for students to be prepared to question the authority, validity, meaning, and ethical use of that information. This project on information literacy highlights the fact that many previously credible materials possess their own bias, and students should be trained in critical thinking if they are to push back on hegemonic practices.

Given the success we had with the Fake News presentation to our Public Speaking students, we broadened our audience and the three of us presented at our annual Faculty Colloquium on this topic. With such a positive reception by faculty and librarians, we are moving forward in Fall 2019 to partner with the Honors program to provide a co-taught SPC 2608: Introduction to Public Speaking course in partnership with the library’s LIS 1001: Introduction to College Research course. Beyond this, we are currently proposing to partner with English faculty toward a vision that students could take all three of these courses simultaneously and spend one semester focused on information credibility, composition, and oral delivery. This would be an ideal approach, particularly for students majoring in the areas of communication, marketing, converged communication, and legal studies, given how information is currently collated and distributed.


On the topic of Open Educational Resources, there is a continuing challenge regarding the value of information in a capitalistic society. We know, as educators, that knowledge is power. However, as a capitalist system, we also understand that controlling access to information is a billion-dollar industry. We must continue to value information for its inherent worth while being careful not to devalue it societally by making it “free” in a society where “free” equals no worth.

We strongly believe that this project can serve as a model at other universities. From the chapter, we hope it is apparent how FSCJ embraced the OER model through Faculty/Librarian support and advocacy. Without question, challenges both faculty and librarians faced with regard to implementing these aforementioned projects included “raising awareness and acceptance of OER with faculty and administration, an understanding about what defines OER, and how to locate quality resources” (Shapiro). Librarians and faculty alike worked together to address these issues through projects such as those identified in this paper and a great many others.

Librarians were included in the course design process and implementation, as well as creating the supplemental materials such as the digital learning objects. Shannon Dew, the Director of Online Resources at FSCJ, had this to say about the OER degree program and the way the college approached its implementation: “For any college thinking about starting an OER degree program, I would advise to find your supporters and build a core team with faculty, librarians, instructional designers, and students to look for opportunities to use open textbooks; offer training and coaching around OER adoption and development; designate an individual at your institution to coordinate the OER initiative.”

The results of these projects are still being evaluated, but one thing is certain, FSCJ “now has more faculty engaged in the OER discussion and using open resources in classes” than ever before and we have several lead faculty and librarians who are serving as strong advocates to promote these types of projects. From the receipt of the grant until 2019 Summer, FSCJ has been able to save students $1,676,200 (Open Educational Resources, 2020). If you are interested in implementing any of these programs, courses, or projects at your college, please contact the authors directly.


2018 Resource Manual. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Retrieved from on August 30, 2019.

Achieving the Dream. (2018). Environmental scan Florida student success center. Florida College System.

ALA website: ALA Presidential Committee on Information Literacy: Final Report, released January 10, 1989.

Alliance for Excellent Education (2011). Center for Secondary School Digital Learning and Policy, Washington D.C.

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2015). Framework for information literacy for higher education.

Esposito, T. (2015). mUX ado about MoLo’s: OERs, mobile devices, and the mobile user experience. Paper presented at the Florida Association of College & Research Libraries, Orlando, Florida.

Henderson, S., & Ostashewski, N. (2018). Barriers, incentives, and benefits of the open educational resources (OER) movement: An exploration into instructor perspectives. First Monday, 23(12).

“Optimizing Library Services—Digital Darwinism, Open Educational Resources (OERs), and the Academic Library: How Libraries Drank the Same Kool-Aid that Destroyed Borders & Blockbuster, and Lived to Tell the Tale,” April 2019, Against the Grain Journal. Retrieved from on August 30, 2019.

Kleinman, Z. (2019). Has Fyre Festival burned influencers? BBC News.

Lindstrom, J., & Shonrock, D. D. (2006). Faculty-librarian collaboration to achieve integration of information literacy. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 46(1), 18-23.

Reidel, S. (2005). Edward Jenner and the history of smallpox and vaccination. Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings, 18, 21–25.

Ritchhart, R. (2015). Creating cultures of thinking: The 8 forces we must master to truly transform our schools. Wiley.

Shapiro, P. and S. Dew. (2018). A Design Team Approach to Online Degree Pathways. CCCOER.

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. (2018). Resource manual for the principles of accreditation: Foundations for quality enhancement. SACS COC.

Widmer, T. (2014). How an African slave helped Boston fight smallpox: Centuries before Ebola, Cotton Mather faced down another global epidemic with a health tactic from abroad. The Boston Globe.

Zleinman, Z. “Has Fyre Festival burned influencers?” British Broadcasting Corporation. January 22, 2019. Retrieved from on August 30, 2019.


Contact Information

Author Mary Lee Cunill may be contacted at Author Sheri A. Brown may be contacted at

Feedback, suggestions, or conversation about this chapter may be shared via our Rebus Community Discussion Page.


Full text description of Figure 1.

Sample A.A. General Education Academic Degree Plan

First Term

Course I.D. and Title Credit Hours
ENG1101* English Composition I 3
MGF1106 Topics in College Math 3
ECO2013* Principles of Economics I 3
PSY1012* General Psychology 3
LIS1001E Introduction to College Research 3
Total Hours 15

Second Term

Course I.D. and Title Credit Hours
ENG1102* Writing About Texts 3
STA2023* Elementary Statistics 3
HUM2210 Humanities: Prehistory to Medieval 3
SPC2608* Fundamentals of Public Speaking 3
BSC1005* Life in its Biological Environment 3
Total Hours 15

Third Term

Course I.D. and Title Credit Hours
AMH2010*E U.S. History to 1877 3
DEP2002E Child and Adolescent Psychology 3
SYG2000*Intro to Sociology 3
LIT2000* Literature in the Humanities 3
AST1002* Intro to Astronomy 3
AST1002L Intro to Astronomy Lab 1
Total Hours 16

Fourth Term

Course I.D. and Title Credit Hours
PHI2010E Philosophy in the Humanities 3
POS2041*C American Federal Government 3
AMH2020*EC U.S. History from 1877 to Present 3
REL2300E World Religions 3
AMH2092E African-American History and Culture, African Origins to 1877 3
Total Hours 15

Total Credit Hours: 61

* Credit by exam available (CLEP, DSST, Excelsior)

E Notes an elective course

C Satisfactory completion of this course with a “C” or better fulfills the civic literacy graduation requirement.


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Open Pedagogy Approaches Copyright © 2020 by Mary Lee Cunill; Sheri Brown; and Tia Esposito is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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