Reblog: Open Pedagogy as a High-Impact Practice

Hello friends — save to say (as of May 6, 2021) this is not going to be a weekly blog and I should probably change my main page. Maybe the new goal should be one a month? I have a newfound and deep respect for those writing daily or even weekly. No easy task.

Anyways, I haven’t NOT been writing – I just haven’t been writing for this. So, I wanted to share a post that I wrote for the International Journal of Open Educational Resources blog “IJOER and Beyond”.

For those new to Open Educational Resources (OERs) (and for those who follow this blog who may be hearing that term for the first time), OERs are different educational materials that have a type of copyright license called “Creative Commons” that allows them to be re-used, edited, re-published, etc., after they are published – free of charge!

This blog was posted under a CC-BY license which means that it can really be used in whatever way you want as long as you contribute me (tiff) as the author. So, I thought I would re-post it here for you! If you want to read this blog from the IJOER website, use this link! Additionally, if you want to help spread the word on Twitter, here’s the link to a tweet about it!

In 2008, Kuh coined the term “High-Impact Practices” (HIPs) for ten evidence-based activities that positively impact students’ deeper learning, academic and civic engagement, and overall student retention. The original HIPs are collaborative assignments, undergraduate research, writing-intensive courses, first-year seminars/experiences, common intellectual experiences, learning communities, service-/ community-based learning, internship and field experiences, global learning, and capstone projects (Kuh, 2008). In 2017, e-portfolios became the eleventh HIP (Kuh et al., 2017). Kuh outlined these activities and eight key components necessary to make a HIP (Kuh, 2008; Kuh et al, 2017).

 To summarize, the eight components are: 

  1. The practice creates space for faculty and students to connect and converse on substantive matters.
  2. The performance expectations are appropriate for the student, allowing a task to be challenging but not impossible and discouraging. 
  3. There is a significant time investment by the student over time. 
  4. The faculty gives consistent and constructive feedback to the student. 
  5. The practice introduces students to diverse experiences where students work with people and situations that differ from their norms.  
  6. The practice allows students to connect their learning to a real-life application. 
  7. The practice creates a public demonstration of the students’ competence and highlights their work.
  8. Throughout the practice, but especially at the end, there are structured opportunities for the student to reflect on their learning (Kuh, 2008; Kuh, 2017). 

While all eight of these components are not necessarily required to make an activity high-impact, a combination of some must be present (*see author’s note below). As a research fellow studying high-impact practices, I spend much time thinking about the future of high-impact and experiential learning opportunities. Using the HIP framework, an obvious twelfth HIP lives in the realm of open educational resources: open pedagogy. Open pedagogy projects require many of the same components as HIPs; thus, this blog will discuss how open pedagogy could be the 12thhigh-impact practice and what that would mean for students, staff, and faculty both inside and out of the OER world.

In the OER Stater Kit, Abbey Elder defines open pedagogy as “[a] set of pedagogical practices that include engaging students in content creation and making learning accessible to all.” Expanding on Elder’s definition for the context of this discussion, open pedagogy projects allow students to be both learners and educators through creating openly licensed resources as a part of their required course assignments. Through examples of two open pedagogy projects, we will draw parallels to how open pedagogy incorporates the components that make a practice high-impact and incorporates various high-impact practices through its execution. 

Environmental ScienceBites

The OER’ Environmental ScienceBites‘ (CC-BY-NA), edited by Kylienne A. Clark, Travis R. Shaul, and Brian H. Lower, was developed by the students in the ‘Introduction to Environmental Science’ course at Ohio State University. The book contains sections on different environmental issues such as climate change and the energy sector written by the students within the course. At the beginning of the book, Lower explains what the students, as first-time authors, learned outside of the exact topic they decided to write about, ranging from research skills to the value of peer review. 

HIPs within this open pedagogy project: undergraduate research, writing-intensive course, collaborative projects. 

Components of HIPs within this open pedagogy project: faculty/student connections, appropriate difficulty, significant time investment by students, frequent feedback, public demonstration of the students’ work. 


At Plymouth State University, Dr. Robin DeRosa’s first-year seminar “#OpenSem” embarked on an ambitious (and fascinating, in my opinion) open pedagogy project to answer the question “Whose Course Is This, Anyway?” The course, co-designed from topic to assessment with the students enrolled, developed an open book, “OpenSem: A Student-Generated Handbook for the First Year of College” (CC-BY). The book contains information on navigating university by students, for students through research, poetry, and opinion pieces. In a blog, “Extreme Makeover: Pedagogy Edition,” DeRosa discusses the project from start to finish, including student feedback. Students discussed the benefits of the group environment, how the topics benefited them within and beyond the classroom. 

HIPs within this open pedagogy project: first-year seminars, undergraduate research, writing-intensive course, collaborative projects, learning community. 

Components of HIPs within this open pedagogy project: faculty/student connections, appropriate difficulty, significant time investment by students, frequent feedback, public demonstration of the students’ work, real-life application, an opportunity for reflection. 

While these are just two examples, many others can be named. Through editing Wikipedia pages, students contribute to a vast and often-cited public information repository. On Twitter and other social media platforms, students can contribute to discussions on many class-based discussions in a public sphere bringing information beyond the classroom walls. The opportunities for open pedagogy projects truly are endless.

Kuh, Kinzie, and others have published considerable data on how HIPs have significant and positive impacts on students’ deeper learning when HIPs are facilitated correctly (Kuh 2008; Kinzie, 2010; Finley & McNair 2013). Through literature reviews, evidence suggests that while all HIPs benefit students, the skills/attributes the students gain differ depending on the HIP they are participating in. In research-based projects, students develop a greater understanding of research methods, a greater understanding of how faculty address research topics, independence, and greater interest in further research activities (Kuh, 2008; Lopatto, 2010). In writing-intensive courses, students deepen their ability to ask and answer challenging questions, receive and incorporate feedback, and refine their written communication skills (“Writing to Learn and Communicate in Writing Intensive Courses”, n.d.), all of which are important for the 21st-century workforce. Through generalized HIP participation, students better develop their ability to communicate, confront unanticipated challenges, and work as team members and team leaders (Kuh, 2008; Lopatto, 2010). If we consider how open pedagogy projects merge various HIPs together, we should also keep cumulative learning outcomes at the fore of our conversations.

When institutions host discussions on experiential learning and high-impact practices, it is easy to default to our “norms” such as undergraduate research, service learning, and internships. Despite the ability for open pedagogy to combine HIPs in course-based assignments, it is seldom mentioned as an experiential learning option. Yet, as more open pedagogy projects are implemented, our education systems become more affordable to those within our classrooms as the cost for course-based materials decreases. Our education systems become more accessible to all through the openly licensed materials students create. In bolder terms, open pedagogy opens the door for what the next generation of HIPs can be — where students benefit as co-creators, co-designers, and partners in their learning. HIPs equip students with the tools to build a high-quality education that is more accessible and affordable now and a better workforce tomorrow. 

*Author’s Note

 As a current student, I can draw upon a personal example of a high-impact practice that failed to meet the above criteria. In my 4th year of my undergraduate studies, I took a writing-intensive chemistry course that consisted of myself, one other student, and the professor. The course required five 10-page papers and a 20-page project report. The small class size, having a faculty member as an instructor as opposed to a teaching assistant, the required writings, and the extra contact hours (3 in course hours + 3 lab hours per week, standard at my institution for science courses) provided an ideal environment for a high-impact writing-intensive course (Farris & Smith, 1992). However, while writings were due approximately bi-weekly, feedback and suggestions for improvement were not provided, grades were provided at the end of term, so relative benchmarking was impossible. The required readings for the course were suited for graduate/doctoral studies as opposed to undergrad. Despite the “ideal scenario,” I left that course discouraged and overwhelmed. 


Farris, C., & Smith, R. (1992). Writing-Intensive Courses: Tools for Curricular Change. In S. McLeod & M. Soven, Writing Across the Curriculum: A Guide to Developing Programs (1st ed., pp. 52-62). New Park, CA: Sage Publications. Retrieved from 

Finley, A., & McNair, T. (2013). Assessing underserved students’ engagement in high-impact practices. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Kinzie, J. (2010). Student Engagement and Learning: Experiences That Matter. In J. Christensen Hughes & J. Mighty, Taking Stock: Research on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (1st ed., pp. 139-154). Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Kuh, G. (2008). High Impact Educational Practices. What are they, Who has Access to them and Why they Matter. Washington, D.C.: AAC&U, Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Kuh, G., O’Donnell, K., & Geary Schneider, C. (2017). HIPs at Ten, Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 49(5), 8-16, DOI: 10.1080/00091383.2017.1366805 

Lopatto, D. (2010). Undergraduate research as a high-impact student experience. Peer Review, 12(2), 27-30.

Writing to Learn and Communicate in Writing Intensive Courses. Retrieved 1 April 2021, from

Open resources cited: 

Environmental ScienceBites by Kylienne A. Clark, Travis R. Shaul, and Brian H. Lower is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Extreme Makeover: Pedagogy Edition by Robin DeRosa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

OpenSem: A Student-Generated Handbook for the First Year of College by Robin DeRosa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

OpenSem: Policies & Info by Robin DeRosa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

The OER Starter Kit by Abbey K. Elder is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Open Pedagogy as a High-Impact Practice by Tiffany MacLennan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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