Growing Open Educational Practice with OER grants

Angie Williamson, Program Coordinator (Open Education), Deakin University Library, angie.w@deakin.edu.au.

During 2021, Deakin University commenced a grant program, coordinated by the library in conjunction with the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Teaching and Learning, encouraging academic staff to explore Open Educational Resources (OER) for teaching and learning. OER are free resources that are made available with a Creative Commons licence. OER include resources such as textbooks, quizzes, videos, even full courses that are reusable and adaptable to teaching and learning needs. These resources can be modified to include local content making these more contextual and representative of the students and the local environment.

The grant program forms a major part of the Inclusive digital environments project aimed at raising awareness of OER and developing capabilities in staff to use and create OER. OER have been around for 20 years but the use of OER in Australia has had a slow start. Overseas higher education institutions have been very active in this space often supported with grants from government bodies or foundations such as the Hewlett Foundation. In 2020, the Californian governor announced a $115 million commitment to OER. Universities and colleges highlight savings made by students in textbook purchases and this can add up substantially. In Canada, BCCampus has saved students over $20 million with open textbooks since 2012. Higher education institutions overseas develop Zero degrees where student have no costs for instructional resources for their entire course. OER textbooks not only benefit students with reduced costs but also by removing barriers in access to resources. The use of OER has been shown to increase student success and retention (Colvard, 2018) as students have access to the materials from day one of their study and can access the resources when they need them without limitations. The necessity to move higher education online in the pandemic has increased awareness of OER (McKenzie, 2021) and open pedagogy for teaching and learning. This program at Deakin will not only increase the usage of OER, but also contribute to the revision of existing resources to include Australian Content and facilitate the creation of additional Australian resources.

This inaugural OER grant program at Deakin enabled staff to explore the OER environment to locate, use or create resources for their teaching. As this was the first time these grants had been on offer, we were unsure of the level of interest. Not solely focused on textbook replacements, the program also encouraged creativity to fill a gap in available teaching resources that would result in the creation of an open resource. Applications were sought for the OER grants in June 2021 with 11 applications accepted. The successful applications displayed a diversity of concepts and covered a range of OER usage and creation projects including textbook replacements and the creation of resources.

Replacing a current textbook with an OER textbook was the focus of a number of the projects and will result in substantial saving for students. In one of these projects, the current textbook retails for about $180 and student numbers are over 1,000 per year. For projects aiming to replace a textbook, this necessitated locating resources and evaluating if they fulfilled the needs of the unit. Some OER textbooks have ancillary resources such as videos, question and exercises available to support their usage. Some required the creation of content to fill gaps or the remixing of numerous OER to create a resource tailored to the required learning. Another current project focuses on the updating of an existing OER textbook and developing of new activities to support it.

Other projects identified gaps in available resources and sought to create an open resource to fill the need. These include:

  • The creation of Australian case studies in Human Resource Management
  • An extensive resource developed to assist students in reading MRI scans for the study of anatomy
  • The development of an online book introducing the assessment potential in play-based approaches
  • A 3D interactive tour of a building to support construction management students in experiencing the behind-the-scenes functions in buildings inspired by COVID restrictions in access.

Some projects also embraced the wider concept of open. One project focused on student motivations and concerns and created a series of videos of students discussing these aspects of study. Another project combined open software and OER by moving to an open source software for statistical analysis. The associated open book will be adopted as the textbook and supporting activities developed, replacing an expensive textbook prescribed to around 2,000 students per year.

We all know that 2021 was challenging for higher education in Australia in many ways. With the OER program commencing in June, participants experienced almost a perfect storm of impediments. Extended lockdowns and additional student needs due to COVID, working from home challenges, fully online teaching and major organisational changes all impacted the delivery of the projects. Through this challenging time, participants appreciated having a positive project to focus on and even with these challenges, one project commenced using an early version of the resources in teaching a trimester earlier than planned! We learned that OER projects take time to develop, with the development and implementation of the resources to continue through 2022.

The program coordinated by the library included offering grant recipients OER training, hosting a Community of Practice and establishing a Teams site to facilitate knowledge sharing and as a forum for discussion. Discussing OER related topics such as accessibility, open pedagogy, copyright and licencing, the Community of Practice sessions provide a forum for the program participants to discuss their progress, ask questions and gain understanding of OER concepts. Detailed copyright advice was also provided by the copyright team. A website has been created to highlight the program with the purpose of providing access to the created resources when they are available.

window with a multi coloured flourescent sign hanging in it saying open.

Further details of the projects are available on the Open Educational Resources Grants 2021 website.

Image by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

References:

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.

McKenzie, L. (2020, August 13). Window of opportunity for OER. Inside Higher ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/08/13/pandemic-drives-increased-interest-open-educational-resources


Stretching my digital dexterity through ECU Library Digital and Information Literacy

By Liz Grzyb (MEd student, Charles Sturt University)

As part of my study for the MEd (Teacher Librarianship) course online at Charles Sturt University, I was required to complete a Professional Work Placement at a library. I am already working in a high school library, so I approached the Edith Cowan University (ECU) Library as I was interested in seeing the differences between secondary and tertiary/academic libraries.

I was lucky enough to be teamed up with the delightful Danielle Degiorgio in Digital & Information Literacy (DIL), as I had identified digital services and information literacy as some of the areas I would like to find out more about. My prac has been literally book-ended with Digital Dexterity – I began by sitting in on an online DigiDex meeting and it will end with this blog post!

During my time at the library, I have spent time talking with many experts on various different aspects of how the library is run. Many of these discussions were about information literacy (IL) and digital literacy (DL). IL in a university library has similarities to my experience in a school library, but it also has many more layers due to the variation in focus and intensive research needs of the users.

I had not realised until I arrived at ECU that the university is e-preferred, so I was surprised at the huge number of electronic resources the library facilitates, and how much digital literacy pre-loading was needed when introducing new students to the university. The Orientation Week workshops that are being planned cover introductions to many of the learning tools used by the university and the library will help to clear barriers to study. It is such an important service to ensure equity for students.

I have spent a lot of my working time this week looking into Open Educational Resources (OERs). Before this prac I did not know they were a ‘thing’, but I have found out that they are incredibly important for equity in education and life-long learning. I have unearthed a number of new-to-me databases and providers of open resources specifically for assisting learning or for information-gathering. I can see that this process will help me to support teaching staff at my school as well as expanding my own teaching strategies.

The image depicts a younger and an older humanised notebooks sitting on a bench. The older notebook has a cane. Both notebooks are looking at a laptop the younger notebook is holding. The laptop says OER on it. There is also an empty thought bubble above the notebooks.
Image by Manfred Steger from Pixabay

If, like me, you have not used OERs much before, here are a few places you might start investigating resources for your area:

Many of the OER databases are weighted to overseas resources, so it is wonderful to see that the DigiDex educators have a group bringing home-grown resources to the table. (https://www.oercommons.org/groups/digital-dexterity-educators/5554/)

The DIL team have been wonderful to spend my placement with, and I thank them profusely for their generosity in helping me to gain experience in their area of knowledge. Everyone I spoke with at DIL had amazing dedication to information and digital literacy for students – they were focused on providing workshops, services, and resources accessible to all. I have lots of new ideas to spring on my unsuspecting colleagues and students this year!

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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Can OERs address Teaching and Learning challenges in Higher Education?

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


Open Educational Resources (OERs) are teaching, learning and research materials that are published under creative common licenses. These licenses specify how materials can be used.  OERs can include textbooks, curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and software.

Driven by a reduction in international student arrivals, the sharp pivot to emergency online learning and a prolonged period of reduced revenue, universities are now pondering a new normal and envisaging a hybrid learning future. OERs have intersected and underscored many of the teaching and learning challenges faced by higher education institutions and advocates are now considering the efficacy of OERs to address these challenges.

Some of the Teaching and Learning concerns that OERs can address are outlined below:   

  • Student Affordability - Every student begins the semester with the same learning materials and has free digital access. Check these platforms and begin your search.  
  • Ongoing access and accessibility – Free access to learning resources in perpetuity. Access to resources in multiple formats. (select download this book to uncover the formats available.) 
  • Equity - Studies have found that using OER resources in coursework can increase grades for all students, but more so for low socio-economic students and ethnically diverse students.  
  • Retention - Studies suggest that students using OER textbooks were more likely to complete their course than those using commercial texts. 
  • Deeper Learning using Open Educational Practices – Studies suggest that OERs provide academic staff with the flexibility to customize the curriculum altering the student learning experience to achieve deeper engagement.  
  • Cultural diversity: OER’s can be used to reflect the diverse student voice. They can include gender neutral language, reflect the diverse names of students who make-up the classroom and include first nations representation and recognition.

Higher education has been challenged by many social justice issues in 2020, accelerated and reinforced by COVID.  The concepts above are some of the emerging issues that are being examined in higher education. Studies are now suggesting that OERs have a larger part to play in stemming the social justice disparities to create an even playing field for all students. Libraries are at the forefront of this fight demonstrated by this open letter in the United Kingdom signed by over 3000 Librarians, academics, and students to investigate the academic Ebook market and its practices. 

In the next post I will explore the ways to promote and advocate for OER use at your home institution.