SLA session "Encouraging Openness at Your Institution: Trends in Open Education and Open Access"

SLA Annual Conference once again had more exciting sessions than one person could possibly attend.   I did make it to this session with a great presenter who gave a great deal of information on a relatively new initiative at her university and in the academic arena.  The presentation slides linked on the SLA conference website.


Encouraging Openness at Your Institution: Trends in Open Education and Open Access

Openness is a major trend that is reshaping scholarship, research, teaching and learning throughout the world. This session focuses in on innovative open educational resources (OER) initiatives being led by libraries that promote open access, and emerging opportunities for information professionals to play a critical role in supporting the adoption of open access through open education resources.


My quick take aways: (I have to do this quickly or I’ll never get it written up.  Please forgive typos and grammar.  And of course these are my personal opinions and not those of DOD or NDU.)


University of Mass developed a project to encourage faculty to use and/or develop open educational resources (OER).  The financial burden of buying textbooks is hurting students financially and educationally.  Faculty report that some students come to class ill prepared to take part in discussion because they haven’t bought the textbooks.  It is very difficult to receive the full benefit of a course if you don’t have access to the materials selected to support the course.   The Scholarly Communications Librarian became part of an initiative that provided grants to faculty who would develop or use OER in their courses.  There was an application process with peer review to choose the winners of the grants which were $1000 to $2500.   The money could be considered payment for time spent on the OER or used to pay a teaching assistant to work on the OER.   The Center for Teaching and Learning, which is located in the library, has educational designers and others who could assist in developing materials or polishing materials that faculty had already developed for a better user experience.  Library staff assist in locating OER materials because they are not easily discoverable.   Many institutions have them in local repositories and there is no central index or easy way of finding them.  Library developed a libguide to provide information to faculty on OER.   Faculty could use Creative Commons licensing to retain authorship recognition but allow reuse and redistribution etc.


Assessment was done to evaluate satisfaction of faculty with the OER materials; satisfaction of students; number of students x cost of commercial textbooks formerly used for cost savings, comparison of learning outcomes of those using OER vs commercial materials.    Some students have a definite preference for print materials so efforts were made to make it possible to get print equivalent of digital materials.  One textbook that was developed was online but agreement was made with Amazon to print on demand for $50 per textbook, still a great savings.


The number of applications for grants has risen, use of the materials has risen, and awareness of OER materials.  Student groups are eager to encourage use of OER.


This was a great session! I have heard of OER (I always think of Officer Efficiency Reports when I see the acronym) but haven’t read much on it.  It gave me concrete examples of how one institution is working to increase awareness and use of OER in a very reasoned way.  I’m glad to see it includes assessment to know if it is worth the effort and contributes to the educational experience.


I see a great savings if the PME institutions collaborated to develop OER materials that could be used by PME organizations as well as other institutions of higher education.   With our budgets being cut, the savings on textbooks could fund positions like educational designers and sabbaticals for faculty to develop materials.   It might be a way to stretch the budgets or survive cuts.  I don’t know if the military academies are using OER or if there are initiatives in DOD to foster development/use of OER in military education.


Lily McGovern