Building on the Public Domain: Open Pedagogy

Student Rights and Faculty Responsibilities

When making publicly-available open textbooks or open pedagogy projects with students, faculty have a responsibility to keep student rights front of mind. Privacy and licensing are among the main issues to consider.

In terms of privacy on the web students should be provided with the option to use a pseudonym rather than their own name.  

Another thing that faculty working on an open pedagogy project should ensure is that students have agency over their choice of license.  Students should not be completed to use an open license without understanding what it is, and what the alternatives are. Giving students agency over the type of Creative Commons license they would like to use or giving them the option to keep their work in an LMS if that is their wish is always a good idea. Students own the copyright to their work, so they should have agency on how their work is distributed. Don’t be worried that your students will not be open to open licenses.

Robin De Rosa’s found that over the three courses in which she has focused on creating an open textbook, she has only had one student opt to keep their coursework fully private inside the LMS. “I don’t think there’s any problem giving them all of that choice. It only works to reinforce the Open Pedagogy, which is that you are in the driver’s seat and you have control over what you do,” she said.

There may be a few students that want to use a more restrictive Creative Commons license that might not be compatible with the overall license of a project, but then you can make clear that if they choose a more restrictive license their work might not be included in a final published project.

One way that you can ensure that students are aware of their rights and responsibilities is to sign a Memorandum of Understanding at the beginning of an Open Pedagogy project.

The following agreement template can be used to clearly lay out the rights of students when participating in a collaborative open textbook project, and the responsibilities of the faculty member to their students. Its purpose is to make sure that students are informed about the requirements of the project and the implications of the license they choose.

Please feel free to adapt it or extend it as you see fit for the purposes of your class, and share any feedback that may improve the template for future uses.

Agreement to Contribute to Open Project

For Students:

I _______________________________, agree to participate in the creation of _______________________________, an open project, in collaboration with my professor, _______________________________. This work will comprise [part of] my coursework for _______________________________ [class/course name].

I understand that inclusion of my work in the final project is conditional upon my willingness to license my contributions under a CC-BY license.

I have read the Guide to Creative Commons Licenses and understand that a CC-BY license allows others to share, use and adapt my work so long as they attribute me as the original author.

I understand that I have the right to request that my name and/or work be removed from the original project or change the license on my contributions at any stage prior to publication.


Signed: _______________________________

Date: ____________________

Downloadable version of Student Release Form (pdf).

For Faculty

I, _______________________________, agree to work with my student _______________________________ on the creation of _______________________________, an open project in [partial] completion of _______________________________ [class/course name].

I commit to supporting ____________________ throughout this project, and ensuring they have the knowledge and resources they need to be an informed contributor.

I agree that the student may request that their name and/or work be removed from the original project or change the license on their contributions to this work at any stage prior to publication of the work.

I confirm that the student’s decision to change the license they place on their work or to not participate in the project will not impact on their course assessment.

Signed: _______________________________

Date: ____________________

Downloadable version of Faculty Support Form (pdf).


Key Takeaways

  • Get a librarian to talk to your students about the various types of licenses. You can read more in the online Rebus Guide to Creative Commons licenses.
  • Conduct an exercise in which students can choose their own license.
  • Consider using a Memorandum of Understanding at the beginning of an Open Pedagogy project.

Adapted from A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students by Zoe Wake Hyde which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


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Public Domain Core Collection Faculty Guide Copyright © 2022 by Brock University and Ryerson University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.