Nursing educators shared their experience in a pocket of innovation. They teach undergraduate students in a second degree who have a variety of backgrounds in an online platform. They wanted to improve the meaning in the student experience. Instead of dictating what students wanted to do they wanted to improve student agency in order to make it more meaningful. The experience had several challenges and successes. The class size was around 40 and there were two educators teaching it.

Open Pedagogy

  • Learner generated: Students could focus on what they were passionate about.
  • Reflective practice: In nursing this is a natural fit. The e-portfolio on this course was an important part of the course.
  • Peer Review: There was a peer-review process built into the process. Students did have some discomfort in this area.


The journal worked similar to a journal review process. Students were given guides to posting and received detailed instructions. The faculty member was able to control assignment of the articles to other students for blind peer-review. The process was given low-stakes marks throughout the semester. It helped them think about the process for publication.

When students described feeling uncomfortable an honest and empowering discussion happened that reflected real-world experiences of publication.


There was a variety in the quality of feedback given. Most students put thought and effort into the feedback given to peers. The goal for them was not to produce a perfect document. It looks high quality.

Other faculty question how something so flexible can be good learning. I can share that other faculty can feel uncomfortable with allowing students so much choice.


The experience was very meaningful for students. Too often we expect students to come in with skills that we do not teach. Students learned about a process as well as a topic of interest. Because of the low-stakes marking intervention was possible at many points.

The students has pride in the final product. They empowered students to choose what would be published. Students opted to only publish the top ten. Students chose the license and if they wanted it published. You can see the work here.

Students started with discomfort but the outcomes were very meaningful. The reciprocal learning and shift in student comfort with this approach was something that stood out. Students were excited about putting the publication on their resume.


  • Start small – learn the tool before going live. Or maybe do it over the course of several terms.
  • Clear criteria/rubrics/expectations are needed – do not assume the students are familiar with any of the processes
  • Consider collaborative writing projects – in the real world we publish in groups. It also might help to decrease student anxiety.
  • Allow learning curve in administration of OJS – Give yourself time to learn how to use the system.


I find elements of the experience they shared here quite similar to my own experience in teaching an open course. Students can be uncomfortable with being given a lot of choice, re-submissions, and meaningful experiences like this. I thought my students would love it, but when we did negotiated grading.

The OJS system is quite intriguing as I think it would help meet some of my needs. This needs to be added to my list of strategies to review. They would not recommend doing it with one faculty member and 70 students, but say some of the pieces can be applied. Maybe limiting choice or the points of assessment would work. It was very valuable for the students to have the ongoing feedback so careful attention to the implications of these changes are needed. It may be possible to break this assignment across multiple terms as well.

It is hard to get buy-in for innovation from other faculty in several institutions. Why is is to hard to get others to see the value in student agency and empowerment? Everyone does the best they can with what they have – students and faculty alike. Change is slow. Working with other motivated people in the organization can help us move forward.

Co-teaching helped to support the success of this experience. Being transparent by emailing both educators was helpful for students and faculty. Mentorship is needed to help the project get going for future terms. Having past educators help future teachers develop improvements helped to advance the success of the project. Working with someone who has similar teaching philosophies is also helpful. Alignment is helpful for productive collaboration.


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit


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