The OER Capability Toolkit – Reflection and Learning

by Frank Ponte, Manager, Library Services (Teaching), RMIT University Library

E: frank.ponte@rmit.edu.au or
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/francoponte/ and Twitter: @ponte_frank

The OER Capability Toolkit

Cover of the OER Capability Toolkit from RMIT

Read and download the OER Capability Toolkit from:
https://rmit.pressbooks.pub/oercapabilitytoolkit/

Eighteen months ago, I formed a team to investigate how we would address OER awareness, adoption, support and capability for teaching staff. We addressed these needs through the development of an OER Capability Toolkit designed for the RMIT University audience but shared openly for others to adapt.

The authoring and development of this work was conducted remotely in the shared Teams environment. The OER Capability Toolkit was published in July 2022. The published work also spawned a set of four open education self-directed modules via the university HR platform for onboarding of new staff and professional development, an authoring toolkit and a style guide. Collectively, these works are the fundamental building blocks to open education knowledge building and all designed to provide the support structure required for educators to successfully author an open work.

Building the OER Capability Toolkit allowed me to reflect on the process that was undertaken and share the learning from our project.  

Sustainability

Sustainability is key driver in the development of an open publication. Educators are tasked with bringing together large groups of authors, and consequently need to ensure clarity and purpose. Therefore, a strong foundation of support is required. The library has provided this through the aforementioned publications, self-directed modules, and the Pressbooks authoring platform. In addition, the library created an open publishing team to reinforce our commitment to open education, streamline the support the library provides, and assign each open textbook project an open publishing team member to provide advice and guidance for a successful outcome.

A publishing workflow

When we embarked on our project to develop the OER Capability Toolkit our understanding of an open publishing workflow was emergent. In retrospect, it would have been a simpler task if we had a clearer understanding of the fundamental principles, processes and tasks associated with publishing rather than vacillating between authoring and addressing complex problems. The subsequent emergence of the CAUL publishing workflow  now anchors our support with educators and ensures that the seven stages of publishing and associated tasks are addressed at the appropriate time.

Creative Commons licensing

The OER Capability Toolkit is a remix. That is, the publication is a combination of existing creative commons resources and original content. Lessons learned include:

  • Ensuring there is an understanding of the license type you are publishing under from the outset. This will determine what resources you have at your disposal and can use in the adaptation process.
  • Knowing a non-derivative license cannot be used in any adaptation.
  • Maintaining track of what was being used in the adaptation. Doing so, assisted in creating the reference list and acknowledging the original resource.
  • Reflecting on your level of comfort with releasing an open work. That is, are you happy for your newly created work to be adapted, remixed, or monetized.

Formative and summative assessments – H5P activities

H5P is a plugin available in Pressbooks which allows the author to create formative and summative assessment tasks for learners. There is evidence to suggest that this kind of interactivity assists learners to stay focused and engaged with the content.  I wanted to include these activities in the OER Capability Toolkit as learning and engagement was a critical element to building and delivering this work. The toolkit contains a number of H5P activities used as formative assessment and presents a summative assessment called the “open pedagogy plan” in Part 5 as the culmination of this learning.

Open publications that contain formative and summative activities have the capacity to be embedded within the context of a broader course curriculum and provide the flexibilities required for educators to engage with open pedagogical practices.

Referencing

Ensure that attribution and citation are clearly defined and articulated from the beginning.  Even though the terms share characteristics, citations and attributions play different roles and appear in different places. A citation allows authors to provide the source of any quotations, ideas, and information that they include in their own work based on the copyrighted works of other authors. It is used in works for which broad permissions have not been granted.

Attribution on the other hand is used when a resource or text is released with an open licence. This legal requirement states that users must attribute — give credit — to the creator of the work and encompass these critical elements at a minimum:

  • Title of the work
  • Author (creator) of the work
  • Source (link) or where the work can be found
  • License of the work

Peer review, front and back matter

Peer review was an important element to get right. We engaged in three rounds of peer review. Starting by reviewing each other’s chapters within the authoring group. This exercise provided an initial opportunity to assess, grammar, language, the use, or overuse of acronyms, and finesse language and comprehension. The second peer review involved an external cohort of colleagues from other Australian universities who provided a similar overview but from an external perspective. A third peer review was undertaken using a tool called Hypothe.sis. This tool is a plug-in in Pressbooks and allows for social annotation with students. It is also a useful tool to implement as part of a peer review process. All commentary is contextualized within the chapters and responses are received by email and easily edited.


Front and back matter was important to include as part of the publication process. Including the front and back matter provided completeness to the work and offered context to the reader. The front matter introduced the new work and helped the reader understand the evolution of its creation and the back matter included a glossary and appendix.

In conclusion

The open education philosophy seamlessly interconnects with RMIT Library’s ethos of sharing knowledge and supporting learning. RMIT Library is well positioned to work with academic staff to create, produce, and disseminate open works via open platforms for maximum impact, and the library as publisher, can lead and shape the transformation of curriculum pedagogy where every learner is supported and valued.

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.