First year as an OER Coordinator – a look back…

I am presenting today at the Open Education Conference in DC today – so very excited they have a library track this year!!!  Last year way my first OpenEd and I LOVED it – learned so much that I have been able to use in my first year as an OER coordinator.  I am really honored to have the opportunity to present this year. I have been mulling over slides, and visuals for the presentation (just FYI, not a PPT fan).  I kept going back to this blog to gather content and images (wow, maybe this whole blogging/transparency thing is working) and figured, why not just build my presentation into the blog?  Why have a separate set of slides when I can put all the juicy content here… so that is what I am going to do…so brace yourself, this will be a long post, but I will try to give it some structure so hopefully you can quickly skim (if you know me, you know I am a lover of bulleted lists…)

How to get started as an OER coordinator – pick your target audiences and come up with an engagement plan…
For me, this boiled down to four audiences.

There was some overlap in the plans for these groups – but I knew I wanted to try to touch these groups in some way.


Create your voice, be transparent – Libguides, Blog and Twitter: One of the primary initiative goals is sharing anything that we do (I am lucky enough to have Cody to work with me, he also blogs here), because we have learned so much from others and hope that something we do will be helpful to someone else.   we started in an area that we knew was comfortable to other librarians and a place where we naturally go for information, and built LibGuides! There are many great existing LibGuides that talk about what OER and Open education are, why they are important, and many general lists of OER/OpenTextbook repositories.  I wanted to build on these, and try to give some additional direction to faculty – for me that meant focusing on listing resources by discipline.  I have spent a lot of time looking in the wrong repository for discipline specific content, and am hoping to help. We manage three LibGuides

 –  Open Educational Resources
–  Adopt an Alternative Textbook
–  Creative Commons Licensing

We are continuing to build out our subject specific OER Resource pages, and hope to be expanding them soon. We also started this blog – where the LibGuides serve as our formal information space, the blog is more for casual reflection. As we are working on or thinking about projects, as we solve little and big problems – we are documenting the troubles and victories here in this space.

OER Repository reviews: Taking a subject approach to our guides meant I needed some help from our Subject Liaison Librarians to find the best repositories by discipline. I asked each liaison to review the major repositories based upon their disciplines. The bonus is that this would hopefully connect the new world of OER to something that liaisons do all of the time, evaluating content databases. I created and evaluation matrix, so that it would be easier to compile responses, and let them know that we would be publishing this information and quoting them on the LibGuides. As the reviews cam in, I added this input to the OER Repository pages.

I met face to face with each liaison, and talked in general about OER, and why it was important, as well as discussed the review process and the repositories I was asking them to review. In these meetings, I asked liaisons if they knew of anyone in their subject areas that were already using an open textbook, and found 3 faculty who were using open content, or interested in open content. Some of these faculty have become great champions for our initiatives.

Open Initiatives task force within the library. This was a group that had already been formed when I started, but had not been active pending the hire for my position. This task-force created a charter for how to reach out to faculty and students during the first year of the initiatives. The task force consisted of 2 subject librarians, an ILL librarian, a cataloger, and me.

OER workshops: I have talked about OER and open textbooks in any venue I could find the first year, and invited the liaison librarians to attend. We also had an OER session at the summer liaison in-service training.

Attending Collection Management meetings: one of the best ways to get some face-time with liaisons every month. I have used these meetings to introduce our new initiatives (like the repository review and the OpenStax textbook cart). This is also a great way to stay in touch with what is important to our academic departments.

Wikipedia Edit-a-thon. I worked with a faculty member, John Stewart from the History of Science Department to host an Edit-a-thon on Women in the History of Science at the Library. I asked the liaisons to identify reference resources that would be helpful to have ready for students coming the event. With their help, I was able to pull a lot of great resources and have them ready for students to use during the event, as well as identified a good set of online resources for future use.

Best Takeaways – Libraries:

  • Start with more education. I kind of leapt right into the repository reviews with the liaison, and should have delivered some workshops or orientation sessions first, they were still really not aware of what OER was, and though I thought I was tying into a standard workflow, there was still some uncertainty about what/why OER. I had a better response after some of the OER presentations.
  • Though the task force was only tasked with coming up with a project plan for the initiatives, I would try to work through the task force more. I would keep it as a standing advisory board, and try to wrk more of my in itiatives through the board and not just something that was coming out of my office.
  • Talk to liaisons more about support for teaching. I think for many years we as academic librarians have been focused on supporting research, and have abdicated the teaching/learning support. I found that many of the liaisons I work with are not as comfortable discussing these kind of resources, but as our library has increasingly stepped into a mode that is focused not just on providing research materials, but is an integral part of learning and creating knowledge as well, integrating open resources into this conversation is very important.

Faculty: As we all know, it is the faculty who select materials for student to purchase/use for learning – that is they control the textbook. So I really wanted to spend most of my first year energy targeting outreach to this population.

Go to them: I wanted to reach as many ears as I could quickly – so I proposed sessions at all of the OU supported faculty outreach events I could find. Some of the events I gave a presentation about OER and open textbooks (what they are and where to find them), as well as to emphasize the support that we in the Library could offer to faculty who wanted to adopt an open textbook. For other sessions I had a panel of faculty that were already using open textbooks talk about why the selected open, the process of adoptions and their best tips for interested faculty. I also hosted a lunch and learn in the library, inviting a broad base of faculty and academic support staff.

I have been working with departments to present at faculty meetings. Standing in front of faculty, and talking to them is so far the best way to make contact – there are just too many emails floating around out there to make enough traction.

 Identify Champions: I have worked at OU for the past 10 years in various capacity, so I knew that there were already some faculty who were interested in open content. I also asked the liaisons to give me any names of faculty that they know of that were using OER. I contacted these people in person, and had an advisory board luncheon, just to get some ideas from them about advocacy and finding interested faculty. Some of the major concerns the faculty voiced were the lack of ancillary materials, and the time/energy it takes to convert to a new textbook, as well as having the textbook com from a respected source.

Alternative Textbook Initiative: With the above in mind, I looked around for other initiatives (BTW, sign up for any/all webinars you can – I always get one more great idea). Based upon the initiatives from Temple, Kansas State and University of Massachusetts Amherst, we launched an alternative textbook initiative in the spring of 2014 – with a big roll-out from a presentation at the January Academic Tech Expo. We awarded grants to faculty of up to $2,400 if they would adopt and open/alternative textbook that would save money for students. I talked about this initiative at every subsequent workshop that I gave, as well as at faculty meetings. For this first year, I had the most success by reaching out directly to faculty that I knew I had a resources for. I also adopted an open textbook for my summer course, so I could talk about my specific experience.  In the summer of 2013, we had 5 adoptions. We will run the initiative again this coming spring and are targeting a total of 15 adoptions.

Open Textbook Review Workshop: We were very luck this Fall to participate in the textbook review workshops hosted by Dave Ernst and Kristi Jensen from the University of Minnesota. 22 faculty attended the workshop and agreed to review one of the textbooks available from Open Textbook Library. I hope to be working with the participating faculty to adopt an open textbook in the spring.

Adoption Highlights: I worked with the Center for Teaching Excellence to identify faculty who are using open content for their courses ( we sent out a quick survey around textbook adoption time). I have been contacting these faculty and writing up their stories for our website and our blog. Each of the faculty”s experiences are very different, and show the many ways that faculty can work with open materials.  We are also writing up similar entries for faculty in the Alternative Textbook Initiative.

Best Takeaways:

  • My most successful approach to faculty has been to keep it simple – I always start with “I am your open textbook representative. I am just like any other book rep, when you want to find, adopt, select a new textbook, let me know I will bring you some great books to review. My books will be free for you to adapt to your needs, and free for your students.”
  • Buy some print copies of open textbooks to show to faculty.  Once they see it is “just a textbook,” they are much more comfortable talking about adoption.
  • Be open, having a website and a blogs has been great for faculty follow-up and to let them know what we are doing and how we are doing it.
  • Find champions and use them. I try to have faculty who have adopted at all of my events so they can talk about their experiences.
  • Think about you message, we didn’t come up with a well named campaign – the “alternative textbook initiative” is a mouthful, and hope to do better next time.
  • Future initiatives – continue with the alternative textbook adoption initiative. Start to look for faculty who have published books that are no longer in print, and see if we can make these books available as open texts.

Students: I know it is harder to reach students, because they tend to just use the materials that are assigned by faculty. But we wanted to start to raise awareness of textbook choices for students, and hopefully encourage them to be open content advocates.

Open Education Week: For Open Ed week in 2014, we focused on interacting with students. We had open textbook tables at 3 locations on campus where we showed students open textbooks as well as encouraged them to tweet a thank-you to faculty who use open textbooks. We used #textbookBroke and #TextbookHero. Had open question boards – where we asked students how they save money on textbooks, how much they had spent on textbooks. Just to encourage conversation..

Pilot an OER Study Guide: Working with Dr. Heather Ketchum, CTE, and natural sciences L]librarian Kristi Kulp to support a flipped class. We are building a set of additional study materials for student in Introduction to Physiology, including OER and other publicly available publisher materials. This is specifically targeted to help students study. We are working with the OU Action Tutoring center to also encourage students to use the guide.

Students as creators of open content: Based on the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, we are working with the OU Writing Center and faculty to encourage students to contribute back to the conversation when they work on their research. One way is to edit a Wikipedia article that they started their research with once they have finished a paper/project. This is something we have just barely addressed, but want to work with faculty and the writing center to host additional edit-a thons or to encourage Wikipedia editing as a class activity.

OpenStax textbook rack.  Thanks to Nicole Finkbinder, and OpenStax College, we have a great set of OpenStax textbooks that are available for students to use located in our busiest study space, the Helmerich Collaborative Learning Center.  These books get a lot of use – the 2 most popular have been adopted by OU faculty (Introduction to Sociology by Dr. Kelly Damphousse, and Physiology by Dr. Heather Ketchum).

Best Takeaways:  This is an area I am still working on.  I have met with our Student Government, and hope to work more closely wit them in the future.

Administrative: I am lucky to have good support at OU, many of our faculty and administrators are familiar with the issues of textbook costs, and are using open materials for their courses. But I know there are too many faculty for me to touch them all. Creating working relationships with other faculty support units on campus has been really important to help me get connected with interested faculty.  I have met with our D2L support team, the College of Arts and Sciences Online Program staff, the Action Tutoring Director, and the OU Writing Center.

Best takeaways:  Talk to any and everyone.  Have workshops for your campus, and invite faculty and support staff.  Talk to the departmental staff that work with faculty on their textbook adoptions.  You usually have to touch 10 people to get 1 person to participate in a project, so don’t be discouraged – embrace the role of open textbook rep and get out there.

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