Choose your own adventure with OER

This post was written by Angie Williamson, Program Coordinator (Open Education) at Deakin University Library. A member of the CAUL Enabling the Modern Curriculum (EMC) Advocacy Project team, Angie is one of the expert co-facilitators lined up for our upcoming EMC Melbourne workshop. For more OER learnings register for the workshop or the online Conference sessions.

Flag with "Explore" written on it as a call to action for OER engagement.

The possibilities of OER

Often when open educational resources (OER) are discussed the focus is on open textbooks.  Open textbooks can greatly impact a student’s learning by increasing access, increasing student satisfaction, and strengthening student success (Colvard, 2018). All of which is amazing but there is so much more to OER than just free textbooks!

"OER are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions” (UNESCO, 2017).

If we frame OERs as “teaching, learning and research materials”, OER encompasses multiple and diverse resource types. Think of the types of resources that you use in teaching – videos, review questions, presentations, infographics, simulations and associated ancillary activities to name a few. The formats of OER cover a whole range of resource types that can be used in inventive and engaging ways to support the learning needs of students. Additionally, as the UNESCO definition outlines, creative commons licences mean you can also adapt resources to the format that best suits your teaching. If a text is more in depth than you need, revise it to an infographic or a set of slides (with an attribution). This flexibility is what makes OER so useful and an invaluable treasure for teaching.

Imagination, pedagogy and participation

A step into the world of OER may lead to a personal journey shaped by your teaching philosophy. Exploring OER can be a beginning, maybe leading to the adoption of a resource, such as a textbook. This flip to an open textbook with creative commons licencing might nudge your imagination to create videos or animations or quizzes if they haven’t already been made. These newly created supporting resources in varying formats can then be shared as OER. Your work would then become part of assisting others using the open textbook for teaching. A supportive circle of reciprocal teaching practice!

In searching for resources for your specific need, you might find a textbook to adapt or even create your own using a variety of open resources. There are so many teaching opportunities that can be developed utilising open resources within the context of your pedagogical paradigm that can enhance student learning and interactions.

Participation in revising or creating OER is not limited to teachers, students can create too. Consider learning activities enabled by OER or the co-creation of open resources with students as part of their learning or assessment. The Creative Commons licences enable revision and adaption of open resources and learning activities can be designed to make use of this. Students could comment on open textbook chapters using a web annotator or could peer review, create question banks or diagrams based on an open text, developing lifelong learning skills while gaining an understanding of open practices such as attribution. Student assignments could even form part of an openly published text. With creativity and using open resources, teacher-student collaborations can produce innovative resources grounded in open educational practice for use by the wider community.

Multiple OER formats for new content creation and revision + the diversity of existing OER you can adapt = the application of open educational practice is only limited by your imagination.

Where to start on your OER journey

Start with exploring some platforms – you never know what you might find. Places to look for OER include:

  • OER Commons or MERLOT are both good starting points. Search for your topic and use the limiters to refine the material type if you need a particular format of resource.
  • Mason OER Metafinder has a real-time federated search which means it will search across multiple OER sources at the same time.
  • OAsis is an online open access repository where you can search over 100 sources for various resource types.

For ideas in open pedagogy and practice, have a look at the Open Pedagogy Notebook, Extending Into the Open or the Open Pedagogy Project Roadmap.

My key take-away for you

No two paths into open will be the same but the journey will be an adventure.

References and attribution

  • Colvard, N. B., Watson, C. E., & Hyojin, P. (2018). The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics. International Journal of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education, 30(2), 262-276.
  • UNESCO. (2017). Second world OER congress Ljubljana oer action plan 2017. 2nd World Open Educational Resources (OER) Congress, Ljubljana.
  • Explore photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Recruiting open textbook authors

This post was written by Adrian Stagg, Manager (Open Educational Practice), University of Southern Queensland

For many Australian institutions, open education represents a new opportunity that offers advantages and freedoms for staff but can present challenges of workload, buy-in, value, and even the risk of being seen as ‘the newest higher education fad’. Therefore, librarians advocating for open text adoption and adaptation need to demonstrate the value of open approaches, which means aligning with their academic colleagues’ existing needs. What follows is a list of methods that have yielded positive results by positioning openness as an extension of existing practice.

This approach uses Professor Emeritus Geoff Scott’s ‘Listen, Link, Lead’ maxim; that is:

(i) Listen for the problems and opportunities when working with academic staff. Liaison librarians do this daily and have excellent relationships with Faculty, often based on a ‘problem solver’ reputation.

(ii) Link (where appropriate and relevant) the issue at hand with open education. There are plenty of examples below, and again, part of the daily practice of any liaison work.

(iii) Lead. Be prepared to offer a strategy evidenced by practice examples.

Whilst ‘Listen, Link, Lead’ is core business for most librarians, it’s a handy way to frame discussions.

Linking examples

The examples below might serve as a touchstone for your experiences or as a base for extending practice with potential academic authors.

Textbook design and use

Custom texts: There are many good reasons to create custom texts, from providing a curated selection of the most relevant chapters for students to broadening the disciplinary narrative beyond a single author to providing varying points of view on key concepts. Commercial publishers will provide these texts, but they are often very expensive for students, and the legal frameworks for sharing may restrict the content. The same approach can be used with open textbooks when the licences are compatible. Faculty can select a range of free and open texts and construct a custom text. They also have the freedom to add or revise content that provides introductory or bridging information to create context.

Edition wars: Sometimes, a new edition creates chaos and miscommunication between the lecturer and students. Based on course/unit renewal cycles, transitioning to the new edition may be problematic. This, of course, creates supply issues for students, potential challenges for the campus bookshop, and plenty of opportunities for misunderstanding. Given that open texts remain free and openly accessible, lecturers might consider adopting a text and then slowly updating and contextualising the content over semesters. Then, they can publish the changes at the beginning of the semester and link to the texts via the learning management system.

Online and interactive content: Interactive activity design has been a staple of higher education. Keeping students engaged with study during disruptive events (such as COVID lockdowns) is even more important.

Most universities offer online modes from 2020 onwards, and open texts can support that transition. Lecturers who want to embed existing assets or have expressed interest in tools like H5P could be your next authors. Suggest they use legacy content (appropriately checked for third-party Copyright) with embedded activities as the frame for an open text. For example, they might consider a smaller-scale text that slowly grows each semester.

Access issues

Supply chains: Do you know any lecturers affected by supply chain issues during COVID? Delays on shipments led to student access issues, library closures made accessing texts (as opposed to purchasing them) more difficult, and Australian unemployment levels also exerted financial pressure on students. Textbooks are the only cost a lecturer can directly influence, and online open texts are readily accessible in various formats on the first day of semester.

Access and achievement: Many lecturers will report that enhancing engagement with learning resources is challenging. Whether it is due to cost, hesitancy to purchase, supply chain issues, or even perceived relevance to learning, there are several reasons why students do not engage with set texts. Ask lecturers ‘if we could guarantee access to the text on the first day of semester, would it affect student engagement and achievement?‘ Open texts can be stored locally, redistributed legally, and linked to via the learning management system, providing multiple access points.

Open-book exams: Librarians know that access to electronic texts is predicated on publisher restrictions – how many concurrent users? Does the version in the catalogue include the same features as a private version? How timely are publisher notifications of ‘downtime’ for maintenance and other issues? What is the cost to the library? If you know lecturers who are reluctant to assign an electronic text for these reasons (or have a negative experience), open texts could be a solution. 

Workload

Course renewal cycles: If you are involved in course/unit renewal or program accreditation cycles, this is an opportunity to suggest open texts. If the workload has been allocated to redeveloping the curriculum, existing allowances could be tasked to open education, with support from the Library. Additionally, a newly accredited program might become more attractive to students if they never need to purchase a text – so there is a market differential to consider. Open texts are then aligned with existing processes for setting and developing resources.

‘Scratch-the-itch’: Some lecturers have driving passions in learning and teaching and seek certain freedoms or innovations to support this drive. If you know lecturers like this (often ‘early adopters’ or ‘early followers’), you could align the freedoms of open licencing with their needs.

Collaboration: Reviewing, revising, and/or writing an entire text is daunting. Collaborative authorship can reduce the workload, has an in-built circle of peer reviewers, and (if the co-authors are across different institutions) provide an immediate impact on a large number of students. Authors seeking to demonstrate impact and even engage in research publication arising from their open education work would be well advised to seek out colleagues.

Research

Reputational: Open texts provide seamless access to a lecturer’s work, potentially expanding both reach and attention. Like the dialogue supporting Open Access research, open texts provide greater exposure and potential readership. These texts can be prompted via professional bodies and accrete interest based on access. Additionally, for smaller disciplines, researchers may collaborate (writing a chapter or more each) for a comprehensive national text.

Specialist knowledge: Every university has lecturers involved in specialist research that may have a smaller audience. This can mean publishers are loathed to invest in these texts, usually citing a project’s poor financial return. However, sometimes these lecturers have manuscripts (completed or not) that could be an excellent starting point for an open text.

‘Mind the Gap’: Australian research in open education is neither widespread nor sufficiently diversified for contemporary evidence-based practice examples. Nevertheless, researchers seeking to address aspects of Australian practice may be attracted by the prospect of using their open text work to generate research and reputation.

Students

Authorship opportunities: Learning design already includes the appropriate use of student authoring platforms, online annotation, and other types of resource creation. Identify lecturers who already use these assessments and link the activities to open outcomes. For example, students could co-author an open resource, design ancillary learning resources for a text (such as self-assessment quizzes or case studies), or undertake a structured review of existing content using annotation tools (like Hypothes.is). Open assessment practices may be well-aligned with these existing approaches or offer affordances that current approaches do not. There is also a strong connection between student-authored content and portfolios that support graduate employability.

Conclusion

The thirteen opportunities above rely on creating relationships with Faculty, connecting open education approaches with existing and emerging needs, and then leading an appropriate response. This type of practical advocacy is well within a librarian’s skill set and simply a different arena for current practice.

More opportunities and examples exist beyond this list. Add yours to the ‘Comment’ section below. Collaboration and sharing are cornerstones of librarianship and open education so be generous.

Enabling a Modern Curriculum 2022 Conference online program – Call for submissions

Share your work or ideas with peers – pitch your online mode presentation or lightning talk now!

The CAUL EMC Conference aims to bring together industry experts and sharing of evidence based practice, projects and innovations shaping our academic library work within tertiary education. This means your voice and your experiences are a core part to the success of this Conference.

Together we create sign
We want to know about the work you and your Library does! 
The CAUL Enabling the Modern Curriculum (EMC) Project is now inviting submissions for its inaugural Conference in September. Put forward a submission to be part of this hybrid event’s online offering (Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 September).

When are submissions due?

Submissions officially open today Friday 29 April! You have until Friday 27 May to get your submission in.

What does a submission involve?

It’s a short, sweet and not onerous format. There are two submission types to pitch for: 

  • Online Presentation (20 mins + 5 mins question time)
  • Online Lightning Talk (7 mins + potential question time)

The submissions need to reflect and engage with the following themes: 

  • Open Resources to Enable the Curriculum
  • Evolving our Digital Practices
  • Bending and Blending in Learning and Teaching
  • Partnering to Enable a Modern Curriculum

Themes are explained in more detail on the Call for submissions webpage.

What’s the submission process?

The submission process is simple. The Call for Submission webpage details information needed and links through to the submission portal. 

Where to find out more?

To check out the conference details or to make a submission visit the CAUL EMC website


This post was written by Lindsey Fratus (University of Newcastle Library), Liz Walkley Hall (Flinders University Library), Arlene O’Sullivan (La Trobe University) and Kat Cain (Deakin University Library)
All four writers are part of the CAUL EMC Conference project.

Applications for DIY Open Textbook Grants are now open!

UPDATE: Please note the deadline for submissions has been extended to 13 May 2022.

They may be free to access and use, but open textbooks aren’t free to produce. That’s why a grants program is a key feature of the CAUL Open Educational Resources Collective.

There are costs involved in open textbook creation at various stages of the publishing cycle, some of which may be covered by institutions, while others may not. The costs don’t always involve invoices and payments, but may instead be time in someone’s workload, such as authors’ time or library staff time. If you’re writing an open textbook, or working with an author who is, some of the other costs you might encounter that require funding include those associated with:

  • Editing
  • Copyright permissions
  • Stipends for peer reviewers
  • Graphic design

To assist with these costs, academic authors at participating institutions in the Collective can now apply for a DIY Open Textbook Grant. To qualify for a grant, the open textbook is required to fall into one or more of four categories:

1. High impact. Open textbook projects in this category are targeted at first year, high enrolment courses (more than 200 students) in core disciplines.

2. Emerging disciplines. Open textbooks in this category have a specialised, novel, relatively fast growing subject area of focus with limited current textbook availability.

3. Australian and New Zealand content. Open textbook projects in this category are focused on Australian and/or New Zealand content in any discipline.

4. Rebalancing representation. Open textbook projects in this category are focused on subject matter or include content that aims to redress imbalances related to representation in academic literature, with priority given to ‘own voices’ projects (i.e. textbooks that will be written by authors with relevant lived experience).

Inclusion of Indigenous content written by Indigenous authors is encouraged across all categories, including content in or about Indigenous languages. Indigenous content must include experience or information that represents Indigenous peoples from Australia and/or New Zealand.

Grants of $1000, $2000 or $3000 (for one, two or three or more authors respectively) are available, and include additional funds for two $250 peer review stipends to be paid to peer reviewers.

Further details about the grants, including eligibility, requirements, timelines and evaluation criteria can be found in the 2022 Grants Guidelines. Links to the EOI form and submission form, as well as the Guidelines and key dates, are available here.

The grants are a great opportunity to assist authors to meet some of the costs associated with writing their open textbook as part of the Collective. If you are working with participating authors in your institution, please encourage them to apply!

The closing date for submissions is 29 April 2022. UPDATE: Please note the deadline for submissions has been extended to 13 May 2022.

A whisper growing to a roar

This post was written by Bec Muir (Manager, Libraries West) at Victoria University.

Guides, connectors, finders, interpreters: multiple roles of frontline staff

Supporting our frontline Library staff in enabling the modern curriculum

Frontline library staff are integral partners in the modern curriculum. They are the librarians, library technicians, and advisory staff who provide front-of-house services to our academic communities. Frontline staff may have a qualification in librarianship, library technician, or teaching; or have other academic qualifications such as certificates, diplomas, bachelors, or higher degrees. They are very highly skilled, qualified, or both.

The less-seen impact of frontline staff

Our frontline staff are a very present and very visible element of Library service, working as finders, guides, connectors, and interpreters of the modern curriculum. They empower their academic community to step confidently beyond the university by building their information literacy, knowledge of academic integrity, and digital dexterity. They instruct, demonstrate, troubleshoot, and guide students and academic staff through the information journey. Often their work is done quietly, conducted one-to-one at the service desk or via the online chat service instead of before a class. In short, the role of frontline staff in the modern curriculum is a whisper rather than a roar.

Why is this a concern?

By overlooking the role of frontline staff in the modern curriculum, the library misses an opportunity to improve its connection with our learning community and enrich their educational journey. If we do not see the role of frontline staff in this space, we risk not developing and upskilling our Library staff to enact these roles, which can disempower them in their interactions with our students and staff. This in turn can disempower our academic community.

Individual and institutional commitment to professional development

If academic libraries are to fully enact their role in supporting the modern curriculum, professional development of frontline staff should be seen as a key strategic and operational objective. Shared institutional and individual responsibility for ongoing professional development (at all staffing levels) is a vital way to grow industry and professional robustness. This ultimately benefits our academic community by enriching the Library’s ability to speak to their educational needs. Once there’s a commitment to professional development, where can frontline staff access professional learning?

Industry-developed learning opportunities

There are many existing tools and resources that frontline staff can draw on for professional learning. A good place to start is with a framework that maps skills, knowledge and capabilities such as the Digital Dexterity Framework. Conference attendance – such as ALIA Information Online, the Library Technicians Symposium or the new 2022 CAUL Enabling a Modern Curriculum Conference – provide a way for frontline staff to engage in active learning from their peers. Platforms such as 23 Things for Digital Knowledge and FutureLearn, and initiatives like Library Carpentry  provide self-directed and cost-effective learning. Sector magazines, such as Incite, provide a consumable way to stay industry engaged and empower staff to see broader institutional responses to change.

Library-developed training opportunities

Library-developed training can prepare frontline staff to meet the challenges of the modern curriculum and the curriculum beyond that.However, a concern with library-developed training is that it may take a ‘trickle down’ approach where the program is developed by senior staff, and trickled down to instruct frontline staff in expected performance. Rather than being partners in the modern curriculum, frontline staff may be seen as trainees, or even students. While this may not be intentional, it can result in staff feeling silenced, lost, or disengaged from the training as a result. It is not ‘their training’, but ‘the library’s’.

A learner-led learning (triple-L model) opportunity

In contrast to library-developed training, learner-led learning shifts the balance in the learning relationship to one of mutual benefit. I envision learner-led learning (‘triple-L model’) as a training delivery framework shaped around scaffolded learning, shared authority, professional reflection, and learner engagement. The triple-L model creates an environment where the learner feels able to reshaping existing knowledge to build skills for future needs. Triple-L approaches training from a position of partnership.

The triple-L model approaches professional development across five phases, commencing with a position of partnership and concluding with a commitment to evaluation for success. While it is beyond the scope of this blogpost to fully unpack this model, it has already been tested at Victoria University. The triple-L model formed the foundation of our frontline training suite, DigiChat. More importantly, the triple-L model has cemented to every frontline staff member that the role that they play in the modern curriculum is an important one.

The implementation of this model occurred simply and organically from a position of partnering for success. Our frontline team were asked a single straight forward question: ‘what do you find hard when helping our patrons on LibChat?’. ‘Hard’ here was left broad; for some frontline staff multi-tasking became the challenge point, for others identifying the core of the question and conveying an answer, for still others discovering the resource required. We then reflected on position descriptions and changes in the industry to identify any areas missed. We observed that three theme areas were emerging in our frontline team’s identified needs: customer service, digital skills, and professional identity. These themes became the burgeoning phases of the DigiChat cycle: each enriching and speaking back to the other.

From these proposed sessions and phases, we sought reflection and input from our frontline team and engaged staff in a process of co-creation and sharing of skills. A learning theory foundation was employed that limited the length of sessions and introduced a scaffolded theory of staggered skills, in addition to building in opportunities for reflection through doing (theoretical activities); thinking (Teams chats and sharing); ownership (on-the-job skill usage); and growth (tying to current and future skills). Lastly, an important part of this process was embedded in the evaluation mechanism: a survey at the end of each session which asked our frontline team to reflect on their learnings and how they would apply it, and why, in addition to reflecting on the presentation and the presenter. This process yielded great results that have built our frontline team to meet (and embrace) the changes of the curriculum both in its current iteration, and into the future.

A stronger voice

We are all partners in enabling the modern curriculum. Through identifying the needs and skills of our frontline teams, enriching learnings and abilities, and visualising their value in the modern curriculum, the role that our staff play in this capacity changes. Recognising the role of our frontline staff means that we are all better enabled – as a Library and as a sector – to respond to the challenges of the modern curriculum.

A whisper growing to a roar.