Caring Connections: Metaliteracy, Affect, and Learning

by Katie Greer

Katie Greer, Associate Professor and the Fine and Performing Arts Librarian at Oakland University in Rochester, MI

I begin a recent article published in the Journal of Academic Librarianship, “A pedagogy of care for information literacy and metaliteracy asynchronous online instruction” with a question asked by Nel Noddings a generation ago: “What would schools be like under an ethic of caring?” (Noddings, 1984). While Noddings was referring to the K-12 environment, I strongly believe that we could and should be asking the same thing of the higher education environment.

While it may seem counterintuitive to prioritize care in the post-secondary environment–our students in higher education are technically adults and responsible for their lives and decisions, some might say–think back to the last time you had a family emergency, or an illness, or an argument with your partner. How productive were you then? Traditional-age college students tend to be on their own for the first time, navigating new responsibilities and new relationships, which can be and feel very overwhelming. As demographics shift and more of our students fit into the “non-traditional” category, we will see more veterans, more adults who are balancing caregiving and full-time jobs with advancing their education, more who are returning to school after many years and may be overwhelmed by all of the technological changes that have taken place. I know I have seen every one of these scenarios and more in my students.

Metaliteracy is a natural fit within an ethic or a pedagogy of care; the model’s incorporation of the affective domain of learning both acknowledges and prioritizes affect’s important role in teaching and learning.

Four Domains of Learning (Jacobson & Mackey, 2022)

Our information environment is saturated with the affective. Social media’s algorithmic deep learning front loads content for users that triggers our moral outrage–over, and over, and over (Fisher, 2022). Users are constantly subjected to extremes and overreactions. The result, as we are all painfully aware, is a society that grows ever more divided and radicalized.

It is in this chaotic information landscape that learners must be able to rationally find, evaluate, create, share, and ethically use information. To be effective at these tasks requires an acknowledgement of the affective information environment–which may be extremely difficult for learners who have never before critically queried their own internal biases, cognitive authorities, or epistemic bubbles. In my article, I argue that metaliteracy can provide the key to effectively function in our socially networked spaces, while a pedagogy of care provides the support needed for learners to be comfortable taking those deep critical dives into the affective and other metaliteracy learning objectives.

Affect and care get trickier in the asynchronous online environment. As I mention in my article, I don’t see my students, aside from one required meeting at the beginning of the semester (and even then we may just be on the phone). Online activity logs in the learning management system do not allow me to gauge if my students are struggling, or suffering, in the same way that I would be able to visually assess or pull them aside to check on them in a physical classroom. I can reach out virtually, but oftentimes due to the nature of this instruction the burden lies with the student to communicate if they are in distress and need extra help. That can be a heavy ask for those who are already struggling. As the article details, by prioritizing care in my course design and my interactions with students I create a space for learners that anticipates their needs, prioritizes learning and a growth mindset, and builds relationships instead of focusing on ranked assessments. My students’ metaliteracy learning is better for it, and their mental health is better for it.

I chuckled this year when a student commented in a course evaluation that “the professor is a sweetheart and does care about her students and their well being!” Professional blushing aside–that student was not the only one who mentioned caring in the evaluations, which confirms for me that I’m on the right path. I hope you will join me.

Fisher, M. (2022). The chaos machine. Back Bay Books.

Noddings, N. (1984). A feminine approach to ethics and moral education. University of California Press.

Katie Greer is an Associate Professor and the Fine and Performing Arts Librarian at Oakland University in Rochester, MI. She is pursuing a PhD in Higher Education Leadership and is grateful to have had Dr. Thomas Mackey as a mentor for all things metaliteracy and higher education over the past two years.

Editor’s note: We thank Katie Greer for this wonderful guest post about her latest article for JAL! Tom has very much appreciated the chance to serve as Katie’s metaliteracy mentor as part of her doctoral program.- Tom and Trudi

Metaliteracy MOOCs Continue to Reach Learners Internationally

Since the launch of our two Coursera MOOCs, Metaliteracy: Empowering Yourself in a Connected World in 2016, and Empowering Yourself in a Post-Truth World in 2019, we have reached learners from around the world. So far, the first MOOC has enrolled 4,870 learners and the second has had 3,549 total learners worldwide. At times, we have been lucky enough to hear directly from the participants who successfully completed one or both of the MOOCs. Recently, Dr. Haleema Anwar from CMH Lahore Medical College and Institute of Dentistry in Lahore, Pakistan contacted us about her experience with the Coursera MOOC Empowering Yourself in a Post-Truth World. According to Haleema:

I am a final-year medical student, a researcher, and an author. I discovered the MOOC while going through the recommendation of courses for me on my app. This was a topic I wanted insight into. 

I learned that there is a diverse variety of roles that a person can take to create a community of trust in a Post truth world- leading to  prosperity.

Thank you!

Haleema Anwar

As part of the MOOC experience, participants apply the “learner as producer” role of metaliteracy to create a final digital media project. We share with permission, Haleema’s final project for the MOOC entitled “Metaliteracy in Action”:

Haleema describes this project in the following way:

This mind map is to walk us through the idea of meta-literacy and its practical implication.

The credit for the content is directed to a course by SUNY “Empowering yourself in a post-truth world”, a course I found on Coursera.

A central theme I learned is- “meta literacy is an integrated model for us to be a lifelong learner and to create a truthful community”

-Haleema Anwar

Thanks to Haleema for sharing such valuable insights about metaliteracy after completing our Coursera MOOC.

We always welcome this kind of feedback about our open metaliteracy projects! If you complete one of our MOOCs or any of our Metaliteracy Learning Resources, feel free to drop us a line and let us know if you would like to share your work via our blog.

To explore an analysis of the Post-Truth MOOC and how it was designed, read Embedding Metaliteracy in the Design of a Post-Truth MOOC: Building Communities of Trust (Mackey, 2020) in Communications in Information Literacy


Tom and Trudi

Metaliteracy Featured at the Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning (IELOL) Global program

The application of metaliteracy in a Digital Arts course at SUNY Empire State College about Ethics of Digital Art & Design was featured at the 2022 Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning (IELOL) Global program. IELOL Global is a leadership development program that is facilitated by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) and features narratives about collaborative work in relation to both local and global digital learning initiatives. Tom Mackey was invited to share a story about his teaching of metaliteracy in relation to one of the the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He presented Reflections on Quality Education: From Cyprus to Online to the 2022 cohort during the “Discovery Phase” of the program. The presentation explores the translation of a blended, international residency about Ethics of Digital Art and Design into a fully online course in the Digital Arts. He wrote about this course previously in an essay entitled “Translating a Blended Cyprus Residency Study in the Digital Arts to Online” for All About Mentoring, a SUNY Empire State college publication.

Mackey, T. P., “Translating a Blended Cyprus Residency Study in the Digital Arts to Online” All About Mentoring Issue 55 Autumn 2021, (pp. 37-42).

Metaliteracy Book Reviewed in College & Research Libraries (C&RL)

How do practitioners in the field respond to our latest book Metaliteracy in a Connected World: Developing Learners as Producers? To find out, read a book review by Cal Murgu, Instructional Design Librarian at Brock University, St. Catharines, Canada in College & Research Libraries Vol 83, No 5 (2022).

According to the author of this newest review:

In Metaliteracy in a Connected World, Thomas Mackey and Trudi Jacobson make a strong case for the adoption of the metaliteracy framework, a pedagogical model that seeks to empower learners to be reflective and informed consumers and producers of information in an increasingly connected (digital) world. This monograph builds on Mackey and Jacobson’s previous efforts, spanning two decades, to normalize metaliteracy as the framework for teaching and learning in libraries.

(MURGU, 2022, P. 863)

Murgu highlights the theoretical chapters (1,2 and 6) as well as those focused on practice (3, 4, and 5). He is especially interested in the way the book applies the metaliteracy model to open pedagogical settings as defined in chapters 3 and 4. This latest review joins the insights offered by Jodie R Heap from Staffordshire University in a review in the Journal of Information Literacy.

We appreciate this interest in our latest book and welcome your insights about how metaliteracy is applied in a wide range of disciplines and pedagogical settings.

Tom and Trudi

MURGU, Cal. Metaliteracy in a Connected World: Developing Learners as Producers. Thomas P. Mackey and Trudi E. Jacobson, eds. Chicago, IL: ALA Neal-Schuman, 2022. 232p. $64.99 (ISBN: 978-0-8389-4944-3). Special issue of C&RL, edited by Nicole Pagowsky, [S.l.], v. 83, n. 5, p. 863, Sep. 2022. ISSN 2150-6701. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 18 Sep. 2022. doi:

Metaliteracy Virtual Presentation at the “National level Symposium on Skilling for Higher Education” in India 

A new presentation by Trudi Jacobson and Tom Mackey entitled Developing a Metaliteracy Mindset: Benefits for Yourself, Employers, and Society was featured as part of an invited talk at the “National level Symposium on Skilling for Higher Education” in India. Tom and Trudi were invited to present at the symposium by Dr. Tessy Thadathil, Vice Principal, Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce, Pune. This event was organized by the Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce in cooperation with the Symbiosis Centre for Skill Development. The Symposium was funded by Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), which was launched in 2013 to provide strategic funding to eligible State Higher Educational Institutions and supported by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. 

The metaliteracy session focused on shifting mindsets for a connected world:

How do you shift mindsets for today’s complex information environment? The opportunities for producing and sharing informative content today are myriad, collaborative, far-reaching, and fluid. In today’s global society, businesses need ethical information producers and self-directed learners who are able to keep up with dramatic changes to the work environment. In your personal life and communities, you may face the same change-related challenges. Regardless of the setting, you need to consider how you contribute to a connected world as an effective information evaluator and reflective information producer.

Explore the slides for this presentation and note the survey response to two questions about the metaliterate learner roles: