Empathy, the Library, and Open Education

By Adrian Stagg, Manager (Open Educational Practice), University of Southern Queensland

During an interview, the anthropologist Dr Margaret Mead was asked what evidence she considered noteworthy as a society first progressed toward ‘civilisation’. If we consider the question, physical artefacts such as farming or hunting implements, or perhaps pottery seem likely answers.

Dr Mead used a broken (and healed) femur as her reply.  The healed bone inferred that another human being had demonstrated empathy.  Rather than abandoning this person, another had cared enough to nurse them back to health. Empathy, she asserted, was the start of civilisation (Byock, 2012), and a consideration for the welfare of others differentiated humans from the animal kingdom.

It can be reasonably argued that librarians – whether public or academic – require empathy as a professional skill.  Libraries continue to be places for democratic empowerment, places that value equity, and promote safety. Libraries also become food pantries on many campuses, a function well outside information and digital literacy. 

During a reference interview with a first-year student, most librarians concentrate on normalising confusion and creating a welcoming space as they do answering the questions.  As academic spaces, libraries invest in student-centred design for services and function; when supporting academic colleagues we attempt to understand context to which solutions can be linked.

Unsurprisingly, open education finds a home in many university libraries.  Their remit includes the organisation, access, and maintenance of knowledge resources, and is usually accompanied by supporting infrastructure and staffing (despite consistently conservative or diminishing budget allocations). 

Open education meets pragmatic library needs such as mitigating library expenditure by transitioning to open texts, reducing workload by using existing OER, or accessing low-cost, openly licenced professional learning.

Open licencing affords unique opportunities that connect academic staff with learning and teaching approaches (such as open assessment), and position the library as a key stakeholder in learning design. Furthermore, these partnerships often yield scholarship and research outcomes, raising the profile of librarians-as-researchers.

However, openness is – like libraries – foundationally aligned with social equity. Openness reduces barriers to access and increases participation in education, equalises readership and access to information, and addresses systemic issues of financial inequality and educational attainment. For librarians – exposed to the ‘macro-view’ of the university through interactions with students from all disciplines – it is difficult not to respond with empathy to trends that reinforce inequality.

Our failing in open advocacy is often untempered empathy. Many library-run OER workshops can be summarised as ‘a solution looking for a problem’, presenting openness as a self-evident good without necessarily considering the audience. The results are workshops populated by ‘the usual suspects’ and an inability to sustain open practices beyond small pockets of already-dedicated practitioners.

Starting with OA Week, I’d like to propose that ‘It matters how we open knowledge’ refers to our engagement as much as processes, policy, and infrastructure.

Professor Geoff Scott, when speaking at an ACODE Institute introduced the mantra ‘Listen, Link, Lead’. When advocating for sustainable change, he encouraged the audience to actively ‘listen’ to, and understand the context of others. Then ‘link’ the challenges to new approaches that directly influence a positive outcome for the individual.  Lastly, is the opportunity to ‘lead’ the change and build momentum based on success.

Transforming open education from ‘open as library business’ to ‘open as everyone’s business’ requires empathy and connection. 

Take time this week to review your strategies.  Do you ‘listen, link, lead’? Have you unintentionally excluded teams from your initiatives, and are there opportunities for collaboration (such as Learning Designers, Student Services, the Student Guild)? 

The unique affordances of openness lie in reuse, remix, and repurposing content to suit local contexts and learner needs. Perhaps, using the lens of empathy, we explicitly consider our skills as librarians with similar affordances.

Take the opportunity to share and learn this week by reflecting on your practices in the Comments.

Reference:

Byock, I. (2012). The best care possible: a physician’s quest to transform care through the end of life. New York. Avery. 


The Digital Skills GitBook project: creating an open-source online guide for researchers and the broader academic community

By Dr Sara King, Training and Engagement Lead, AARNet (Australia’s Academic & Research Network); and members of the GitBook project group

It is of critical importance that publicly funded institutions create open knowledge that is available to everyone. So we’re embarking on an adventure to create the Digital Skills GitBook. It will be a living, open-source online guide to ‘modern not-quite-technical computer skills’ for researchers, library staff, and academics, ideally written in a way that will be accessible for everyone. In the spirit of Open Science, the contents of the book are being created so that they will be accessible to all levels of an inquiring society; amateur or professional.  

A figurine of an oktokat in the center, in the background a laptop with the main page of the GitHub open.
Photo by Roman Synkevych on Unsplash

CAUL’s Digital Dexterity Champions and their communities have set out to create an online book using static web technology on the GitBook platform. Utilising the connected GitHub notification system, creators and users can submit content, flag issues, and ask questions related to the format and the content via GitHub. The continuing maintenance of the book, to adapt to the ever-changing requirements for updates, is designed to encourage participation as an essential part of the process of creating a truly community-created resource.   

Our progress so far:

  • We submitted a proposal to CAUL with the help of their new Director of Strategy & Analytics, Kate Davis. They approved our project brief and we were launched.  
  • We attended ARDC GitHub training – on Zoom! This was a 3.5-hour workshop where our patient instructors, Matthias and Liz, showed us how to create a repository, how to edit our GitBook ‘from the back end’ in GitHub, and how to make sure that we shared all of our adventures with each other in one space.  
  • We created a test private GitHub repository and GitBook – sharing recipes, recording our steps as we went. This is a place where we could experiment and fail, and help each other.  We learned some important lessons here without damaging our main project! For example – don’t delete branches …  

How we are collaborating:

  • Members from WA all the way to NZ attend fortnightly meetings over Zoom to discuss our progress, barriers, workarounds, and how we can spread the word to our wider communities. 
  • We are making the most of a wide variety of systems and channels to keep track of our progress – Slack, Teams, CloudStor, GitHub issues log, and email.  This is extending our capabilities in digital communication, collaboration and participation – together with stretching our brains! 

Still to come:

  • We have SO MANY new concepts to learn – slugs, merges, pull requests, static web technology… it’s exciting!  
  • We are creating our strategy and content plan, and developing a chapter outline (one idea is to use CAUL’s Digital Dexterity Framework categories as chapter headings to make it relevant for our library communities). 
  • We’re even planning to present at VALA 2022! 
  • We want to extend the project beyond the Digital Dexterity Champions network, to others in our library and university communities. 

This project is part of our own push towards Digital Dexterity and using some of the attributes outlined in the framework, such as agility, collaboration and creativity, in order to produce a useful resource for our broader communities and their own Digital Dexterity. If we get it right, it’ll be a win-win! 

If you are interested in learning more about the Digital Skills GitBook project, please contact sara.king@aarnet.edu.au

Digital Dexterity Educators: a platform to share digital dexterity resources

By Kelly George, Academic and Research Librarian, Charles Darwin University Library

Ever needed some inspiration, a quick activity, or a handy infographic?

Where do you go to look for activities, lesson plans, handouts, and anything else related to the teaching and learning of digital dexterity?

As library professionals, many of us in the Digital Dexterity (DigiDex) Champions network use OER repositories like Merlot and OER Commons to get ideas and supplement our teaching materials. However, with the development of the Champions network we wanted to encourage the sharing of our own resources, relevant to our context, and to raise the profile of the work that we do as educators in the Australian and New Zealand tertiary sector.

Which platform?

There was no one place already established where we could easily find and share resources. We asked ourselves: what features do we need in a resource sharing platform? What is most important to the Champions network?

One of the most important things that emerged was openness – you wouldn’t need a log in to browse or download the resources, and it would be accessible to anyone, not just the Champions network.

In fact, we developed a long list of desired features and set forth to identify the platform that best matched our needs. OER Commons came out on top, with its ethos of Explore. Create. Collaborate, and it enabled easy upload, licensing, tagging, and version history. ISKME (the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education) designed OER Commons to be much more than a simple online repository of OER; it is also a collaboration and teaching platform and aims to involve educators in a sustainable culture of sharing and continuous improvement.

The Digital Dexterity Educators group

You may already be aware of OER Commons, but what you may not know is that we have created a group on the platform which gathers together relevant resources for the Australian and New Zealand tertiary sector. We can also add to the group any resources already published on OER Commons that we think useful. To become a member of the group and to upload or add a resource, you do need to create an account, but this is a simple process. On the OER Commons website, click on the Sign in/Register button as indicated by the first arrow in the below image.

Screenshot from www.oercommons.org of the top menu banner to indicate with two arrows and corresponding text boxes where to 1. click to register for an account and where to 2. click to search for groups on the website

Find the Digital Dexterity Educators group, and others, by clicking on groups (as indicated by the second arrow in the image above) and then see all groups (in the ellipse in the below image). For a quick search, try popping our tag, MyDigiDex, into the search box to find resources added by the DigiDex Champions. You can also search for Digital Dexterity Educators to find us (second image below).

Screenshot from www.oercommons.org of the top menu banner to indicate with an ellipse where to click to search for groups on the website
Screenshot from www.oercommons.org to indicate with an arrow where to search for 'Digital Dexterity Educators' in Groups on the website

After clicking on the Digital Dexterity Educators group, anyone involved or interested in promoting digital dexterity can join the group so please go ahead, explore the site, and add yourself as a member (see image below).

Screenshot from https://www.oercommons.org/groups/digital-dexterity-educators/5554/ to indicate with an ellipse where to join the 'Digital Dexterity Educators' group on the website

Here’s a taste of what you’ll find posted in the group: from Curtin University Library, we have the comprehensive 23 Things for Digital Knowledge; from Queensland University of Technology Library, the in-depth modules of AIRS – Advanced Information Research Skills, and from Griffith University Library, the handy digital dexterity tool designed for self-assessment.

Share and share alike

A vital feature of the platform is the ability to assign a Creative Commons (CC) licence. Adding a CC licence to a resource enables us to reuse, adapt, and share resources without having to ask permission. If you are creating resources, or adapting existing resources, consider sharing them with your community of fellow educators. The process for adding or uploading a resource is easy—contact your DigiDex Champion, or leave a comment in this blog post, if you have any questions at all.

Image depicting the CC BY SA licence logo

We recommend assigning a CC BY SA license to your resource whenever possible—find the Guidelines for Licensing Learning Objects for Re-use with Creative Commons on the Digital Dexterity Educators group.

Maybe you could set this as your ‘digital dexterity’-goal for 2021. Let’s see how many resources we can share by December!

So get creative, review your copyright literacy, and start adding resources to the Digital Dexterity Educators group on OER Commons.

Note: All screenshots are from OER Commons where the content is licensed under CC BY NC SA 4.0

Five ways to advocate and promote OERs within your own institution.

By Frank Ponte AALIA (CP) Academic/Research, Manager, Library Services (Teaching), RMIT University Library, frank.ponte@rmit.edu.au 

There are many ways to engage with open educational resources (OERs).  Start your journey with these five easy steps.

1. Understand the language of OER: 

Open: Free to share adapt or modify.  
Free: Free to access but not necessarily allowed to share adapt or modify. 
Fair use: An American phrase that permits limited use of material for educational purposes in the United States. In Australia, we are bound by several educational licenses set out within the Copyright Act 1968. 
Public Domain: Works that are publicly available because intellectual property rights have expired or been forfeited. 
All Rights Reserved: Copyright holder reserves, or holds for their own use, all the rights provided by copyright law.  

2. Badge:
Badge your content with a CC license and host it on a shareable platform.  By doing so we: 

  • contribute to the Creative Commons worldwide repository. 
  • increase our professional connections and reach through attribution. 
  • build a large collection of locally created and customisable content. 
  • have access to a broader selection of adaptable materials  
  • streamline our workflows. 

Speak to your Digital Dexterity champion at your institution to discuss hosting your
       creative commons licensed content on a shareable platform.  

3. Share: 
Librarians have an entrenched ethos of sharing. Become experts at curating OER content and sharing your original and remixed resources.  
textbookscoursescourse materialsInteractive simulationspublic domain booksaudiobooksmodulesopen access booksvideospodcastslearning objectsprimary resources  
 
Use Metafinders to help uncover materials quickly.  
Here are some shareable materials from RMIT University Library.  
 

4. Collaborate, Customise & Co-Create: 
Here are some examples: 
 
Customise – Remix an OER by adding your original content with adapted content for your audience. Example: Social Science Research: Principles, Methods and Practices (Revised edition) is an Australian University remixed textbook that has modified the original work to include editing and formatting changes and the inclusion of content in Chapter 16 to describe the Australian context. 
 
Make OERs culturally specific: Localise content to an Australian audience. It can be as simple as using Australian names and places or using local case studies.  
Example: A Charles Darwin University academic teaching Cultural Capability has added four case study chapters written by students. 

Co-create content with your students. Robin De Rosa, a Plymouth State University Professor built an open anthology with her students that is now free to access. 

5. Celebrate Your Success by 
Sharing a new OER resource with the world. 
Mapping student financial savings
Demonstrating impact

RMIT University Library host the Open Textbook Initiative and is interested in highlighting student textbook affordability by building a student savings bank when academic staff adopt an OER textbook in their teaching. This initiative is open to all Universities to participate. Tell us if you are using and OER Textbook in your teaching practice by filling in this form.  

If you’re interested in reading more on OER, have a look at this recently published article by Frank Ponte, Anne Lennox and Jennifer Hurly.

The Evolution of the Open Textbook Initiative. https://doi.org/10.1080/24750158.2021.1883819

Day 4 of Championing the Digital Dexterity Framework Virtual Festival – Using collaboration to understand engagement with OERs

by Susan Vickery, Associate University Librarian, Macquarie University

Day 4 of the CAUL Digital Dexterity Virtual Festival explored the concept of Open Education Resources in Higher Education with Sarah Lambert sharing some of the findings from the research related to Australia Open textbooks as Social Justice, a study funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE).

Whilst the affordability benefits and accessibility options are easily identified as incentives for the use of Open Education Resources, Sarah’s presentation explored the opportunity of OER practice to incorporate diverse perspectives and collaboratively create/curate more inclusive range of learning resources. Sarah also reported that the research identified that some Australian academics may be more ready than we realise with frustration over dated content and limited access conditions associated with commercially produced texts. OER offers a solution to deliver current content that can easily be updated to grow with the knowledge of that field.

So how do we translate that understanding back to our own institutions where some of us may already be worried about the feasibility of convincing our administration that whilst using OER makes perfect sense, are they equally supportive of our academics also “giving it away” for free?

The second part of the Day 4 Digital Dexterity program gave us the opportunity to workshop this together. In teams we explored what we could do in reality to help bring our teaching and learning partners along in the understanding of the wider benefits of collaborating in the practice of Open Education. Led enthusiastically by Kristy Newton (Digital Literacies Coordinator, University of Wollongong) the groups employed a design thinking methodology (on speed) to step through the first few phases: Empathise – Define – Ideate – Prototype – Test.  

persona: Melanie Chang (Undergraduate Student)
●	Summary of Studies:
Melanie worked really hard during her VCE to get a high ATAR in order to study dentistry. Melanie has a family history in dentistry, her father and uncle are both practicing dentists. Before the COVID-19 lockdown, Melanie was only able to buy a couple of her textbooks (in print), as the cost of her textbooks range from $200-$500.

During the lockdown Melanie returned home to Melbourne, this meant her study relied on her teachers making sure all necessary resources were available online.  Chapters from textbooks were uploaded to the LMS by teachers for students to access. Certain textbooks were not able to be provided online as this breached copyright, this led to students sharing PDF copies of chapters through email. All the PDF scans were in black and white, which made it difficult for students to identify symptoms relating to gum disease, infected teeth, etc. Melanie raised this issue with her teacher and the PDFs were uploaded again in colour, this resulted in a delay in vital information required for Melanie's studies.

Melanie’s demanding course schedule means she has no spare time for causal work, thus her parents are supporting her financially. Melanie finds it difficult to ask her parents to buy textbooks on top of paying her rent. Melanie feels it is especially hard to justify the purchase of textbooks that are only going to be used for one semester and as the curriculum is changing next year, there is no option to sell the textbooks to next year’s dentistry students.

●	Icon Info:
○	Lives in Bendigo on campus in a single room with shared amenities with 11 other students
○	Basic Digital Skills, can navigate social media really well and use basic Microsoft software.
○	Collaborative Learner – Able and willing to try new things with friends.
○	Spends most of their time studying
○	Likes catching up with friends outside of class, running, yoga, reading books on her Kindle.

●	Key Factors(Quotes):
○	“I missed the initial library sessions about how to search to find materials, but have picked up some skills using the pre-recorded content and additional resources added to the help guides. It took me awhile to get the basics and I am sure I am still missing heaps of online resources, but you don’t know what you are missing out on I suppose”.
○	“It is really hard not having all your resources in folders waiting for you to use like we did in high school, it is so time consuming searching through databases and library search for good quality items we can use.”

With the help of personas, each team collaborated to brainstorm and identify the needs of academic and students and then define how OERs might meet those needs. At the end of the two hour session we had collectively developed a range of practical ideas and strategies including potential assessment tasks that facilitated students to co-create lists of OERs to complement assigned readings.  

The beauty of this exercise was a enthusiastic high-energy demonstration that through collaboration – surely one of the lynch pins of Open Education – the groups were able to collectively understand and unpack the pain points and related clients’ needs, and creatively identify possible solutions that might influence engagement and uptake of OERs.    


DigiDex – Championing the CAUL Digital Dexterity Framework – Day 4, Thursday 11 February 2021

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Day 2 of Championing the Digital Dexterity Framework Virtual Festival – Champion’s Report back from Wellbeing in educational contexts

By Kassie Dmitrieff, Academic Engagement Librarian UNSW Library and Digital Dexterity Champion, k.dmitrieff@unsw.edu.au 

Session 1Wellbeing, Disrupted

The first session for the day was an engaging workshop held by Adrian Stagg, Susan Carter, and Cecily Andersen of University of Southern Queensland (USQ). 

To start here are my key takeaways from this session:

  • The interactivity of this session was amazing, it’s really worth getting to know your options for engaging your audience with the shift to online presentations.  
  • There is value in committing time to wellbeing in the workplace as a manager rather than expecting your employees to take it upon themselves.
  • Behaviours need to be modelled by managers who encourage and foster healthy habits in their employees and trust them to know what works best.

Open Educational Resources in Australia

Now a little bit more about how I got to these takeaways. The presenters for this session are the team behind the textbook ‘Wellbeing in Educational Contexts’ which I consider a hallmark in what an Open Educational Resource (OER) can look like. I have found the Australian tertiary education arena to be reticent to engage with OERs. This is not to say that libraries aren’t all over OERs for example I have even had the experience of making a LibGuide to already existing resources to guide our academics some years ago. I just look around and don’t see uptake in these resources in Australian universities. The Digital Dexterity Champions aim to create and share resources in an open way so I am so sure you will hear more and more from us on this topic in the months to come. 

Wellbeing During COVID-19 and Beyond

 a screenshot of one of the Mentimeter questions from session one that features a picture of a field of wildflowers and underneath that the question ‘What is well-being?’ followed by a free-form text box for participants to enter their responses. These were then discussed by presenters and used to frame the next part of the presentation

The session itself covered not only reflections on OERs and the creation of the textbook, but the research that the group has carried out about how wellbeing has been constructed up to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were multiple opportunities for attendees to participate along with the presenters, including Mentimeter questions and breakout room discussions. 

The discussion I wanted to share was from the first breakout room where we were asked:  What does wellbeing in the workplace actually look and feel like – and how do we measure it? One of the people in my breakout room shared that: “after the experiences of COVID19 – what was evident was that WFH [work from home] contributed hugely to staff wellbeing”. The measurement being that staff took less sick days, and there was a huge increase in work output. This mirrors my experience, and I would like to challenge library managers to aim for true flexibility in their ongoing arrangements with staff in ‘COVID-normal’.

Session 2 – Reframing OER practice

Session 2 was a focused session from Adrian Stagg on what has worked and hasn’t worked about the grants structure for OER content creation and utilisation at USQ. The session included more interactive elements that allowed us as the audience to provide feedback to Adrian about what we thought about the process – including what doesn’t work about grants, followed by a deep dive into case studies of OER creation and the community backbone required for successful, ongoing, meaningful adoption and engagement of OERs. 

My key takeaway from this session was more simple: How to use your position in the library to encourage OER adoption in tertiary education? Start small and get some wins, know who to share the wins with to make them want more!

Asking the Right Questions 

I’m going to be selfish in this part of the post to talk about the question that I asked Adrian during the Q&A. I asked:

“Would you have any advice on how to present OERs to the rest of your institution? The library can only control so much with regards to learning resources – it would make my job so much easier if the chancellery mandated OER use! or encouraged it at all really”.

And Adrian responded that the budget crunch we are all under due to the pandemic is a perfect opportunity to highlight the limitations of subscribed online resources, especially examples where your institution had to buy multiple user access to textbooks at short notice. It helps to have these extraordinary examples to draw from to underscore the problems we have faced in the traditional publishing system. It’s not that OERs are all about the money – but this is often the bridge to understanding that administrators need. 

Looking Ahead 

The day made a huge impact on me, I will certainly be revisiting both OERs and workplace wellbeing as the year unfolds and we see if the positive changes we were able to make during 2020 are able to be carried into 2021. 


DigiDex – Championing the CAUL Digital Dexterity Framework – Day 2, Tuesday 2 February 2021

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