All posts by Sarah Crissinger

Finding and Valuing My Own Voice

Today is my birthday. I am 24 years old. Today also marks the end of my time as an ACRLog blogger. I wanted to use this last blog post to reflect on how much blogging for ACRLog has been foundational to my development, not only a librarian but as a whole person.

When I started blogging, I was a second-year LIS student. I saw ACRLog’s call for new bloggers and, desperate for more lines on my CV in preparation for my upcoming job search, I applied. I had no idea how much blogging would impact me and, someday, become much more than a credential. I had never read Hack Library School (HLS) or seen LIS students blog regularly. I am thankful that the administrators of the blog, Maura Smale and Jen Jarson, accepted and encouraged me. They believed that it was worthwhile to give voice to an LIS student perspective.

My first post, which was about Dr. Steven Salaita’s intellectual freedom case against the University of Illinois, was an amalgamation of many half-developed, disconnected thoughts. I wrote about what the case meant for faculty governance, scholarly communication, and evaluation processes in higher education. I was taking my first scholarly communication class at the time, which meant that I had already started grappling with these ideas. Writing the post gave me the opportunity and the space to piece my thoughts together and shed light on how all of these seemingly unrelated conversations were connected. I was empowered to imagine something new and, even more importantly, reflect.

Every post I have written since that first one has happened in the same way. While (I hope!) that my writing has improved, my process has stayed the same. Before a post, I find myself revisiting conversations, experiences in the classroom, blog posts, and Tweets that push me to think differently. I reflect on how these pieces connect or how they’ve shaped my practice. Often this means that my posts are disconnected, with multiple theses and tangents. But it also means that I’m always becoming a better, more introspective librarian. I know that ACRLog has helped me find this process. It’s something that I hope to continue long after this last post.

There’s a difference between finding one’s voice and valuing one’s voice. I share my age above for a reason. Before I started blogging, I had a hard time believing that anything that I had to say was worth sharing. As someone incredibly inexperienced, I did not have the courage to share my perspective. I hadn’t taught extensively. I was just learning about openness and scholarly communication. I felt like a true novice. When others started sharing, lifting up, and commenting on my ACRLog posts, it helped me realize that a novice perspective is incredibly valuable. It helped me recognize that I could reframe and question concepts that I was still learning about. I found that my new, fresh perspective could be an asset. I always knew that I had something to say. Blogging helped me realize that it was worth saying.

These realizations have solidified my commitment to lifting up LIS students. I have found that our field often conflates ability with experience. Like much of my first year as a librarian, blogging for ACRLog has taught me that newness is not always a limitation. Newness sometimes enables us to see brokenness when others can’t, particularly in ingrained and entrenched practices. That’s why I’m thankful for ACRLog’s collaboration with HLS last January. I’m appreciative of Maura and Jen, and their willingness to run with the idea. I know that we highlighted LIS student perspectives as well as Hack Library School’s blog. I hope that the collaboration gave regular ACRLog readers who might not read HLS an opportunity to recognize and grapple with LIS student concerns.

Finally, being a part of the ACRLog team has been refreshing and life-giving for me. It’s been a constant reminder of the generosity and kindness of many of my library colleagues. I applied to be an ALA Emerging Leader last month. As a part of the application, I was asked to describe effective leadership. I wrote the following:

Effective leadership creates space for others to grow to their full potential. Thus, for me, leadership is not centered on power or control. I believe that we can have the greatest influence when we teach, mentor, and help others develop to be the best that they can be. While it is time-intensive, the investment in others enables them to create lasting, impactful change in the future…It is centered on the principle that working with others always makes ideas stronger and strategies more thoughtful.

Working with encouraging, invested mentors and colleagues through ACRLog has made this abundantly obvious to me. From the writing suggestions they’ve given me to the example they’ve set for shared collaborative work, the ACRLog team has helped me grow to my full potential. Working closely with the First Year Academic Library (FYAL) bloggers has also given me the opportunity to help others grow. I’m thankful for the opportunity to grow while also playing a role in the development of others.

I know that, while it’s difficult, leaving ACRLog will create space for new voices and give me time to pursue other projects (some of which ACRLog has made possible). I hope that the next set of bloggers finds and values their own voice—blogging has been an invaluable tool for helping me to do so.

The Time is Now: Scholarly Communication and Undergraduates

“Open Access empowers all scholars, not just those with a Ph.D appended to their last names.”

~char booth, open access as pedagogy

Several recent developments in the scholarly communication world have left the future feeling bleak. An April news piece in Science concluded that millions of pirated papers continue to be downloaded from Sci-Hub. The piece states that for access or convenience (or both), “[o]ver the 6 months leading up to March, Sci-Hub served up 28 million documents” for researchers around the globe (para 6). Some of the papers downloaded were open access, with more than 4,000 papers available from PLoS. Even more surprisingly, “some of the most intense use of Sci-Hub appears to be happening on the campuses of U.S. and European universities” (para 10).

Let me be clear: I believe that Sci-Hub and the work that Alexandra Elbakyan is doing is imperative and eye-opening (if for no other reason than that it “has hastened the speed and vigor of [the OA] conversation.”) But I wanted to share two immediate, visceral reactions that I had to these findings. The first is that this is undeniably an indictment of current library systems and how functional and accessible they are to our users, particularly if those that already have access through their library databases and Interlibrary Loan still prefer using Sci-Hub. The second, which is perhaps more important, is that this will have repercussions with vendors. Last open access week, our library hosted two showings of “The Internet’s Own Boy,” which is a documentary about Aaron Swartz’s life and work. One of the people interviewed for the documentary talked a bit about “underground” or illegal movements. This person expressed that they are important and even central to progress (particularly when all legal routes have been exhausted) but that they can inhibit the legal, mainstream progress that is in motion.* I have to wonder how strict vendors will be in the future in an effort to shut Sci-Hub—and sharing—down.

Since the Science article was published, more has happened. It is difficult to say if these developments are a direct result of the Sci-Hub findings or simply part of vendors’ constant quest to create more revenue. In May, Kevin Smith published a blog post entitled “Tightening their Grip.” In the post, he discusses publishers ever-growing control over access to scholarship, including Wiley’s “control over the pre-peer review copy of scholarly manuscripts” (para 2). He ends the post by discussing Elsevier’s purchase of SSRN and their interest in data on scholars’ behavior and impact. Last week, Phil Davis wrote about two-step authentication and its possible repercussions for Sci-Hub. I would add that this addresses my first reaction—this could potentially make library systems even less intuitive for our users (which, in turn, makes Sci-Hub even more attractive!).

I hope I’ve made it clear that it’s incredibly messy. Yet, while all of this happens—we see more evidence that our students are using Sci-Hub and we watch Elsevier continue to acquire more pieces of scholarly workflow and the scholarly communication system—it becomes more and more evident to me that librarians are missing an important opportunity.

Most of our efforts to move the system closer to openness seem to focus on helping faculty understand the importance and impact of making their work open. This is a start but it is clear that out of all of the populations that the library engages, this group has perhaps the most developed and ingrained practices for sharing their work. I’m not implying that we shouldn’t try to work with faculty. But I am asserting that we aren’t doing enough to engage graduate students and undergraduate students. Yes, you read that right. Undergraduate students.

In 2010, Warren and Duckett claimed that undergraduate students “largely remain excluded” from scholarly communication outreach (pg. 352). While their article started a conversation and Davis-Kahl and Hensley have added to it, I believe that we haven’t come far enough. Amy Mark has written that “[b]ecause of how knowledge and expertise are arranged in the academy, there is little trust in the student voice” (pg. 5).

Even with more of an emphasis on the “student as creator” in library discourse, our outreach seems to reflect this claim. We seem to question whether undergraduates will be able to engage with the complexities of access or even care about the economics of scholarship. By doing this, we’re shortchanging our students, compromising their ability to be truly information literate, and impeding the greater open access movement. Introducing undergraduate students to the complexities of access and scholarly communication can make them more informed authors, information consumers, and future advocates for open access. Stephanie Davis-Kahl (2012) adds,

Asking students to consider if and how they want their own work to be shared and used by others shifts the nature of discussions from cautionary and reactive to reflective and proactive, and explicitly acknowledges that the students’ work is valued enough to be shared if they choose. (pg. 213; emphasis mine)

At my own institution, students get scholarly communication. I don’t mean that they understand the cost of information, how and why they can access it (more on this later), or the stakeholders in the scholarly communication system. I mean that they get the root of scholarly communication—that the point is to share so that knowledge can progress. As an example, in our college’s newspaper, The Davidsonian, there is a section called “The Yowl.” This satirical section pokes fun at the quirks of Davidson College and the greater Davidson community. Some of the satirical section headings have included “Davidson Creates New Interdisciplinary ‘Undecided’ Major” and “Local First Grader to Allow ‘Unsatisfactory’ Report Card Grade to Haunt Him for the Rest of His Life.” In the April 2016 issue, one of the headings read, “Student Excited for Thesis to Collect Dust in Dark Corner of the Library.”

I know that this is meant to humorous. But I also think that it is telling. Students understand that their work has to be shared to have an impact. Though they might not be able to articulate it, they might even be frustrated with the library’s inability to give them a mechanism to share their work widely through an institutional repository. They spend hours and hours of their time researching and writing important, original research and they don’t have an avenue to see this research have an impact in the world. Someone has to ILL the print copy of their thesis from us to even read it! As I think about this, I’m reminded of what a faculty member that I admire once said to me: “Davidson students’ work is too good to be sitting in a drawer somewhere. We have to share it.”

And while they get the root of why scholarly communication is important, so many of our students don’t understand how and why access happens. A few weeks ago, my colleagues Cara Evanson, James Sponsel, and I presented at Library Instruction West. We talked about an assessment we created last year that utilized case studies to better understand students’ misconceptions and understandings of the research process. One of our most important findings was that our students didn’t understand the complexities of access. I presented this finding by using the following slide, which is composed of student quotes. All of the quotes are from incoming Davidson students who were asked to evaluate at least two case studies, one of which describes a researcher hitting a paywall:

access quotesStudents didn’t understand that non-scholarly information, like articles in the New York Times, can also live behind paywalls. They didn’t understand the limitations set by copyright and what that means for access. They didn’t even understand why someone might have to pay for information or, surprisingly, that some people just can’t afford to pay for information. I know that this might appear to reflect poorly on our students. I would argue that this is just as much a reflection of librarians.

These students have presumably accessed subscription-based content, possibly with the help of a librarian. But no one ever explained to them why they could access the content, who couldn’t access the content, what that meant for progress and knowledge creation, and what their role in all of this was. Do we systematically explain to students that they will lose access when they graduate? Many of them might be using Sci-Hub right now. Do we even engage them in why Sci-Hub exists? Are we transparent about the role they play in changing the system as an information creator? Don’t we think that their understanding of these systems is central to information literacy?

I’m in the process of co-authoring an article that will present some of the ways we’ve had success in answering these questions at Davidson. I know that I don’t have it all figured yet. But I do know that these questions have to be answered in an institutionally-relevant way. We have to use the context of our specific information literacy programs, missions, workflows, and student bodies to engage these questions on our campuses in a way that makes sense. We have to tailor our programs and outreach to fill this gap.

I also know that this work has to be built upon some basic principles: undergraduate students are legitimate creators of information now. They will be the faculty members, scholars, and citizens of the future. Right now, we meticulously train them to use resources they’ll lose days after they graduate. We’re doing them—and ourselves—a great disservice by not introducing them to the complex, ethical questions surrounding openness.

*I am not critiquing the underground movements both Swartz and Elbakyan have created. It is both shortsighted and privileged to claim that progress can only happen through legal venues. It is outside the scope of this post to get into the complexities of ethics and progress but others have started to speak publicly about this. See John Sherer on our collective needs (last paragraph), Kevin Smith on malum prohibitum and malum in se, and Carolyn Gardner on libraries’ complex position.

OER Outreach for Newbies, Part III: Embracing the Messiness

This post is the third in a three-part series devoted to OER outreach (here are the first and second posts). I’ll use this post to advocate for more transparency from the library open education community in order to encourage OER newbies to take risks and share mistakes.

The most important thing I’m going to do moving forward is be open about my OER work—both the pretty parts and the ugly parts. Emily Drabinksi has acknowledged that the stumbling blocks of our work often don’t make the cut as conference proposals. They aren’t flashy or impressive. But they’re important. So I’d like to ask: how can we, as a community of librarians, make our OER work more open?

Many (though not all) of the OER sessions I’ve attended, particularly those that were facilitated by librarians, have been success stories. These sessions usually focus on (currently) high buy in from stakeholders and administration, high adoption rates, and increasing infrastructure. These sessions can be incredibly intimidating to someone new to OER outreach. Moreover, they privilege product over process and hide the messiness, the mistakes, and the misunderstandings—the work that I believe is most important for us to share in order to grow as a community.

As an example, Eleta Exline, the Scholarly Communication Coordinator at University of New Hampshire, shared tips and “what I wish I would have known”s with me before I started our OER stipend program and, as a result, I was able to think proactively and improve logistics before the program was even announced. Eleta encouraged me to create OER support teams for our recipients and brainstorm opportunities for the recipients to build a community and cross-pollinate by sharing successes, failures, and stumbling blocks with each other throughout the semester. Our faculty have a much more robust and thoughtful support structure in place because of her. For this reason, I’ve been explicit about what I wish I would have done differently here on ACRLog (for everyone to read!) but I also hope to continue to share moments of learning through Twitter and possibly conferences.

Perhaps one of the most important (and frankly disappointing) things I’ve learned as a new librarian is that academic librarianship can sometimes be an exclusive, impermeable club where our hiring practices enable us to swap superstars back and forth and our conference decisions mean that the same people are asked keynote again and again. We don’t always make entry and success easy for those new to the field or a specific area, like open education. I’m not yet embedded in the open education community to know if the same is true there. But I want to continually ask myself: am I making space for new voices? If I have an opportunity to lift up someone new to this area, do I? How do I privilege the same voices, knowingly or unknowingly? We need both transparency (the tools newbies need to get started) and inclusivity (the space newbies need to learn, grow, fail, and most importantly, share).

OER Outreach for Newbies, Part II: Moving Forward

This post is the second in a three-part series devoted to OER outreach. Find the first post here. I’ll use this post to reflect on my next steps for OER outreach. I’ll also suggest that OER outreach has to look different for liberal arts colleges, particularly those that aren’t using textbooks—traditional or open—in a majority of their classrooms. A quick reminder: while I am (and this post is) inextricably linked with my current place of work, I do not (and this post does not) represent Davidson College.

Two revelations are guiding my next steps: 1) an acknowledgement that our current OER landscape (which focuses heavily on textbooks and media) is not enough for the pedagogy at my institution and 2) OER outreach should be intentionally diverse, holistic, and varied to reach different audiences and stakeholders.

While our OER stipend program is a great start, it’s just that—a start. We cannot reasonably expect it to make a significant impact on one department, let alone the entire campus. All of our stipend recipients are also in STEM departments, leaving entire disciplinary gaps in our OER outreach. Implementing more stipends might be useful, but what about the faculty member that is afraid to make the switch? What about the faculty member that sees the CFP and doesn’t even know what open education is? For these reasons, we are hoping to intentionally offer a variety of programs, conversations, and incentives across campus.

This May, Robin DeRosa, an open advocate and faculty member at Plymouth State University, will be the keynote for our annual Teaching Showcase. I know that Robin will situate her talk in what makes Davidson unique (Davidson’s “ethos,” if you will)—a commitment to access to education and learning, a desire to innovate, and pedagogy that is student centered and student led. I hope that Robin’s talk will help wary faculty see that their work and values already intersect with open education and that we can help them take it a step further.

My goal is to also vary the audience of our OER outreach through other incentives. I, along with six other librarians from Furman University, Duke University, and Johnson C. Smith University, recently submitted a request for Duke Endowment Library funding. The funding would enable us to hire an OER expert who would help us create an “Intro to OER” workshop for faculty. Then, we’d create a stipend program for faculty interested in attending the workshop and reviewing a learning object for a potential course that they teach. This incentive, while smaller, would allow faculty that are more wary of OER to investigate potential open resources without making them commit to transitioning completely. We hope that this will eventually encourage more OER adoption, as a similar program from the University of Minnesota has. OER expert Ethan Senack, writing about the Minnesota program, stated that “[w]hile the original intent of the project was to build open textbook credibility through reviews, it soon became clear that when faculty engaged with open content to provide a review, they were likely to adopt the open textbook in their class” (p. 13). Our application is still pending but I’m hopeful that, if it’s accepted, it will enable us to reach new departments and faculty members.

I’m also embedded in two Digital Learning Research and Design (DLRD) projects that have an open education element. DLRD is led by friend and colleague, Kristen Eshleman, and is fairly unique to Davidson. DLRD’s goal is essentially to reimagine the liberal arts and push back on what a traditional liberal arts education is supposed to look like. It does this by asking students (yes, students!), faculty, and staff to think past the constraints of higher education (the credit hour, time constraints, a fear of failing, distribution requirements, grades, space constraints, and a need to cover content) to reimagine what inclusive pedagogy, student agency, and experiential learning, particularly outside of the confines of classroom, might look like. I am so thankful to be even a small part of this project.

Essentially, my role in both of projects is to be the “OER expert.” For example, one of the DLRD projects is to design an Asian American Studies curriculum. Asian American Studies doesn’t currently exist at Davidson and because of this gap several students have had to create their own independent studies. These students would like to come together and, with the help of experts, craft a class or curriculum (including a much-needed introductory open text or online learning tool) from scratch. Supporting a project like this has really tested my knowledge about OER repositories and tools. But I believe that being truly embedded in these two projects will make open education more visible to humanities departments and other areas we aren’t currently reaching. It has been heartening to see students advocate for openness for whatever they create from the beginning of this project. I can’t wait to see their hard work and thoughtfulness come to fruition.

building asian american studies

Students designing the open/student-led Asian American Studies Course, photo by Kristen Eshleman

constraints

Constraints/barriers & potential experiments identified during our first design challenge

My point is that we have to be adaptable and think about OER outreach holistically—across departments and levels of familiarity. How can we maximize the number of champions on campus? How can we decrease the silos for sharing both successes and failures? How can we appeal to faculty across the spectrum of adoption that I discussed previously?

Finally, as I move forward I’m not going to settle for our current OER landscape. Anyone that skims a few OER guides can quickly discern that open textbooks dominate our repositories. I would argue that media (tutorials, lectures, videos via MERLOT or OER Commons) are close behind, though I’ve not done a formal analysis. This is okay for most R1 universities trying to make general education science lectures with 250 students open. But it doesn’t work for an institution like mine, where textbooks are not always the norm. We receive the course material list from the bookstore every semester and while textbooks are used in some of the introductory science and business courses, it isn’t the lifeblood of our classrooms. (I have argued elsewhere that creating open textbooks isn’t a radical endeavor anyway.)

My goal here is not be elitist or claim that my institution is better than textbooks. But what if we pushed back on the norm? What if we made a repository for liberal arts colleges or, better yet, for more active and inclusive forms of learning? As an example, one of our OER stipend recipients has his students create concept maps. He has them start by creating a concept map for one piece of the primary literature. Then, as they read more literature, they create higher-level concept maps that combine different pieces of literature together. This encourages students to see and question connections while better understanding how science evolves. As more literature is added, each node on the concept map becomes less granular. At the end of the semester, students create a compilation of their concept maps and submit their own “textbook” for grading.

Next Fall, we’re going to create an OER out of the best concept maps that students create. Students will intentionally curate this OER as a group. I will work with students to determine which Creative Commons license is most appropriate for the class as a whole and students will be able to decide which restrictions they’d like on their work. Then the faculty member I’m working with will provide citations to the literature they mapped (most of the literature is closed so we cannot provide the full text) and information about this exercise as a pedagogical tool. This is one of the coolest OER projects I’ve ever heard of—it pushes back on textbooks and what undergraduate learning should look like while nodding to the need for Open Access. But I have no idea where this thing should go! It isn’t a traditional textbook (OpenStax, UMN Open Textbook Library, Open SUNY Textbooks) but it doesn’t quite fit into OER Commons, MERLOT, or OpenCourseWare.

This isn’t an issue for just one OER! The same case could be made for the Asian American Studies learning object we’re trying to create. There are a lot of other awesome projects being built with Pressbooks/ Hypothes.is and Drupal that might be “textbooks,” but not in the traditional sense. Aren’t these projects—projects that actively involve students—much more interesting than textbook sprints?! What if we made an open pedagogy repository? What if we decided to change the open textbook scene to include work that asks students to interface with the literature? What would it look like? What technology would we need? How much more rich would the learning materials be? I don’t have answers. Only provocations. But I know that this needs to change. How can we get started?

OER Outreach for Newbies, Part I: What I Would Do Differently

 

My library, in partnership with our Center for Teaching and Learning, recently launched a faculty stipend program for faculty interested in either replacing their traditional course materials with OER or sharing their students’ work as OER for other educators’ use. We awarded four stipends this January and I’ve been working with those faculty to prepare for their transition to OER work, which will take place throughout the Fall 2016 semester. I’ll be using this space to reflect on how thought-provoking and rewarding the process has been. This post is the first in a three-part series devoted to OER outreach. A quick reminder: while I am (and this post is) inextricably linked with my current place of work, I do not (and this post does not) represent Davidson College.

Before I dive into reflecting on what I would do differently, it’s important to acknowledge that there is space at my current institution to push the boundaries of information literacy work. I’ve written before that I believe that open education outreach is a valuable part of the work that I do as an information literacy librarian. Still, I recognize that this might not be a given at all places. Other non-scholarly communication librarians might encounter budget or time constraints or a lack of support from administration when starting an open education program. While I don’t have an easy solution to propose, I would advocate that we are apt to do OER work and that OER outreach actually combines values and interests many librarians hold dear and have expertise in—pedagogy, instructional design, and the relationship between affordability/access and equality, particularly for minority and first generation students.

So what would I do differently if I was given the chance to re-create our stipend program? What advice would I give to someone just starting to do outreach? As I answered questions about the stipend program, OER, and open pedagogy, I realized that the biggest misconception that faculty have is that free is the same as open. Other librarians seem to be thinking about how to address this misunderstanding (even if it means losing “open”) so those doing OER outreach should be prepared to articulate why this difference really matters. DeRosa holds the power of the OER movement isn’t actually about the learning object—it’s about the license. Supporting OER isn’t just about advocating for resources; instead, it’s about advocating for the continuous improvement of those resources by empowering anyone to improve and build upon them. Telling faculty that we care just as much about improving an open resource for the world (open) as we do about saving each of our students money (free) can be difficult.

As I was answering potential applicants’ questions, I also had to come to terms with my own expectations and assumptions. Within my OER outreach, I constantly walk a fine line between wanting to see savings and affordability for students (and some amount of progress!) and a need to try to get everyone to full-blown, true open education practices like using open course materials and improving them and re-sharing them and involving students throughout the entire process. If I’ve learned nothing else, I’ve learned that while this might be commendable it is not realistic.

We need to recognize that there is the potential for a spectrum of OER adoption on our campuses. As with OA, each faculty members comes to open education with different fears, ideas, misconceptions, and teaching styles. Some instructors might only feel comfortable encouraging their students to use one of the library’s multi-user eBooks or course packs. Some instructors might only feel comfortable switching to an open textbook. Some instructors might feel comfortable having their students create a textbook and share it with the world. We should be prepared to help the instructors in all of these scenarios.

If I could go back, I would have set the application process up to acknowledge and clarify the tension between open and free from the beginning. The University of Minnesota does an excellent job of illustrating the spectrum of adoption for potential applications for their Partnership for Affordable Content program. They have also chosen a very intentional and clear title that explains the mission of the program (note that “open” is missing from the title but not necessarily the examples).

Don’t get me wrong: we have to recognize that we lose something by straddling both free and open. But if we can continue to help faculty move along the spectrum—perhaps from the multi-user eBook to an open textbook, and eventually to their students editing and re-sharing improvements to that open textbook—isn’t it worth our time and effort to pursue these projects too? In a recent blog post about the power of openness as a practice, David Wiley argues that “when work is done privately–when it is carefully hidden from the public–no synergy is possible. When the individual nodes remain disconnected, no network can emerge” (para 18). This has to be the goal that we aspire to but it doesn’t have to define the steps that we take. Yes, the multi-user eBook example inhibits us and our faculty from creating synergies and networks. It also arguably just shifts the costs of a broken system from students to the library. Yet, I would argue that we have to start somewhere if we want to get more faculty on board with open education and, ultimately, make these networks more rich and diverse.

I’ve also realized that we shouldn’t hide the intricacies of open education. Try to go beyond explaining open education as only a cost issue, if you have the space and privilege to do so. Complicate access instead of simplifying it. Josie Fraser, a social and educational technologist in the UK, recently posed three questions to the OER community. I think that these are particularly relevant for librarians new to OER work. They were:

As a librarian, I know that I sometimes I make assumptions about others’ understanding of the importance of openness. Here’s another reason why it’s important to go beyond the cost conversation—every community (and person) has a different familiarity and comfort level with openness. You have to be prepared to address open education from every angle that you can think of—empirical research, retention, course completion, student costs, improved pedagogy, social justice, informal learners’ needs, the improvement of learning objects, the broken publishing system, and even the synergies between OA/OER/ and Open Data. In my opinion, it sometimes isn’t enough just to say “this will save students money so we should do it.” Different faculty will be interested in open education for different reasons. Being able to appeal to their interest in assessment or social justice is just as important as being able to explain the high cost of textbooks.

Finally, don’t underestimate faculty members’ existing knowledge of OER. I met with five faculty members a few weeks ago for an “Experimenting as Teachers” lunch that I facilitated, which was sponsored through our CTL. The theme of the lunch was essentially “Why Open?”  My abstract and rough talking points:

As more instructors embrace digital pedagogy, students are often asked to share their work with the wider public through websites, apps, and other open projects. Asking students to “open up” their research and discovery process beyond the walls of their classroom can make their learning more authentic and meaningful. In what other ways does working in public affect students? Should students doing open work have the ability to choose how their IP will be shared through anonymization, licensing, or other means? What copyright considerations are there? If students are hesitant to do open work, how might we assuage their concerns? How can we make that a moment for learning and reflection? How does the assessment of open work differ from the assessment of traditional research assignments? This EAT lunch will grapple with these questions and more.

 Talking Points

  •  How do you introduce students to “open”?
  • Are students ever hesitant? Why might they be (don’t want to be misquoted, will be embarrassed by their undergraduate work in the future, etc.)? How do you assuage those fears?
  • Should students be able to determine the level of openness their work is shared under, either through a CC license or embargo or some other means?
  • Is assessment of open work different? Why or why not?

I found that many of the faculty that I talked to (n=5; find more research on faculty efficacy and perception here), some of which are OER stipend recipients, had incredibly nuanced and complex reasons for wanting to encourage students to make their work open as well as thoughtful reasons for not wanting to. Their list of pros for openness included students learning how to write to and for their peers, an improvement of students’ digital literacy and skills, and a natural environment for collaborative learning opportunities. Their cons included the fear of having to compromise students’ work to abide by strict copyright rules, having to take class time to explain Creative Commons and copyright, and a concern that students might not want to be associated with the work that they were doing at the undergraduate level in the future. However, one faculty member thought through this and suggested that working in the open within the relative safety net of the classroom and peer/instructor review can help students grow so that they can have an online, public presence (if they so choose) after their time at Davidson. This made me realize that if our outreach is going to be successful and relevant, it has to both affirm the pros and recognize (and possibly reframe) the cons. Ignoring or failing to meaningfully address the cons cheats us out of an important dialogue.

In summary, throw your pre-conceptions out the window! Push yourself to learn about and be articulate about all of the benefits of open education. Be flexible and compromise, as long as your end goal is to increase collaboration, openness, and understanding.