By Adrian Stagg (University of Southern Queensland), CAUL OER Advocacy Team Leader.
Later this year, the team will launch an OER Advocacy Toolkit designed to support and empower librarians in higher education to become advocates for open education at their institution. Given the contextual differences across the sector, it might seem like a daunting task; however, there appear to be more points of commonality than we realised.
Our team commenced its investigations by consulting with advocates in Australia and the United States and reviewing existing resources. Unsurprisingly, most advocacy resources are authored in the US and Canada, with very few from the UK and none related directly to OER and OEP for Australia. So we set about distilling those consultations and the review to provide clear guidance for the construction of the Toolkit.
- The experience of many advocates is one of isolation. Advocates are often driven by their values and intention to create change. The effort required for this is very exhausting long-term. Connecting people helps normalise challenges, pool resources, share practice, and maintain momentum.
- Librarians are at the forefront of open advocacy globally; initially, with open access (OA) research agendas, and now with open education. These two concepts are seen to be artificially separated rather than being seen as complementary, as governments and funding bodies explicitly promote OA research outcomes, whilst open education remains completely absent in strategies and targets for the sector. Librarians are well-positioned to link these concepts (‘it’s open access publishing, but for learning and teaching’) for a holistic approach to institutional openness as they support academic staff in both research and teaching.
- Librarians – and by extension, any advocates – are not usually empowered to directly change the status quo at scale, nor do they have the strongest voices in institutional forums. Locating, recruiting, and mobilising stakeholders and champions is critical to OER advocacy success.
- The Toolkit needs to consider a range of messages to be employed by librarians to link open education to university goals and to raise its profile nationally. Providing key messages such as affordability, student success and retention, increased academic freedom, and improved learning and teaching help tailor communications.
- Toolkit resources need to address the practical questions and include concise ‘fact sheets’, workflows, surveys, videos, answers to ‘tough questions’, FAQ banks, presentation resources and exemplar campaigns.
- As indicated previously, advocacy can be exhausting. Sometimes change doesn’t happen, or sometimes it happens at a near-glacial pace. Advocates and practitioners need to take the time to celebrate milestones and communicate those successes to champions and stakeholders.
The team is currently managing a review of the initial content and the core topics to be included in the Toolkit. Feedback from the open community is imperative at this stage. We will have further posts about our approach, feedback, and forthcoming events scheduled at the CAUL Conference.
In the meantime, if you are engaging in open advocacy, consider posting a comment below. Tell the team what you’ve found most useful and share your experiences.