Student-Centered Course Design & Facilitation

When it comes to course design and delivery, there are many strategies to centering DEI. In the storytelling section, we mentioned the idea of getting to know your audience through storytelling. The act of storytelling can be a great pedagogical tool to build relationships and trust with your class, and show care. While there is no “one size fits all” approach to teaching nor learning, being student-centered and flexible is one of the best tools to keep in your toolbox!

Student-centered design can be broken down into two distinct categories: content and processes. Content refers to the materials and resources you use in the classroom — are the materials and resources diverse and allow for flexible learning opportunities? Processes asks you to consider the best types of activities to allow for diverse learners to understand the content – this could be large-group or solo activities – are you encouraging and supporting students to demonstrate their understanding of content in a variety of ways on tests, projects, and/or assignments?

Consider co-designing class expectations, syllabi, texts, and assignments with your students to increase engagement and active learning. Co-designing learning experiences provides students with agency in what they learn and how they demonstrate their learning. It also removes assumptions about students since you’ll be designing with them, not for them. Open licensing can be a great way to keep syllabi, texts, and assignments up to date and reflect the students in your classes.

“OER loses its power as a community driven effort if we only focus on the goal of making all knowledge accessible, in-spite of community desires.”If you plan on using open licensing, be sure that students fully understand open licensing prior, so they can make informed decisions about what it means to license their work. Students need to know the differences between licenses and consider which license works best for them. It’s important to note that very permissive open licenses may not work for all content, contexts, or creators. When it comes to open licenses, many in the open education community do not feel that the CC-BY-ND (no derivatives) is actually considered open, but this sentiment fails to consider that not all knowledge can or should be accessed completely open. Britt Dzioba (2021) explains that “OER loses its power as a community driven effort if we only focus on the goal of making all knowledge accessible, in-spite of community desires.” Learn the protocol for knowledge sharing when it comes from outside your culture. Allow the holder of this knowledge to self-determine their license. Check out our Office Hours episode on Talking to Students about Open Licenses and the Licensing chapter of A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students for more information.

There are multiple benefits to co-creating materials with students. Aside from relationship building, collaborating with students puts students into an active learning environment, where they can create rather than consume knowledge. It can also help support OER sustainability, as pointed out by Sam Arugnwa in the Office Hours session What Happens When My Author Leaves? Policies to Support OER. (2022) On the topic of renewable assignments, Sam notes: “David Wiley talked about having students do homework that would live forever essentially. And that would contribute to making the world a better place. And I thought that is our sustainability plan. Our students come to our class to learn. We can choose to make that learning more affordable by making their textbooks open resources. But we can also do it in a way that we partner with them, we do what we call collaboration with our students and make it part of their homework.” To see more student collaborations in OER, check out Pressbooks’ collection.

Pause & Reflect on Content and Processes to Support Equitable Learning

  • How does the selection of texts, knowledge, and assessments impact the student experience?
  • How could you organise a curriculum to maximise long-term retention and transfer of knowledge?
  • What elements should inform a student-centered course-design and delivery?
  • How important is it to see students as whole persons in the teaching process?
  • From your experience as a student/instructor/librarian/support staff or administrator, what good and effective examples for content and processes do you know and can share with the teaching and learning community?

Action Plan: Cater to Unique Student Needs

Using the following resource, begin thinking of some ways you can meet students’ needs.
Cards for Humanity is a great site that generates two random cards and challenges you to think about how you can meet their needs.
While this game offers broader scenarios outside a typical classroom environment, it can be a good exercise to help you think about the wide and whole range of characteristics that students walk into classrooms with, so be sure to consider a variety of learners, lived experiences, and accommodations.
Find an editable worksheet here.


Dzioba, B. (2022, June 1). Sovereignty and tradition: Indigenous knowledge & open educational resources. Digital Tattoo. Retrieved November 20, 2022, from

Open Education Network. (2022, May 16). Office hours: What happens when my author leaves? policies to support OER. YouTube. Retrieved from


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Making Ripples: A Guidebook to Challenge Status Quo in OER Creation Copyright © 2023 by Rebus Community (Kaitlin Schilling, Apurva Ashok, Jördis Weilandt) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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