Davidson College’s New Open Education Initiative

Last week, the E.H. Little Library, in partnership with the Center for Teaching and Learning and Digital Learning Research & Design (DRLD), announced five new $500 stipends for faculty interested in integrating Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Pedagogy into their Fall 2016 courses. Each faculty member that receives a stipend will be required to integrate free and open course materials into their course. Librarians will play a vital role in this process by helping faculty find, evaluate, incorporate, develop, and even re-share OER throughout the semester. This is an exciting opportunity that we hope will foster rich librarian-faculty collaboration, save students money, and potentially transform pedagogy.

What are OER? An Open Educational Resource can be almost anything that is used as an educational material, including textbooks, tutorials, videos, guides, lesson plans, quizzes, wikis, blogs, and syllabi. What makes an OER different from any other learning object is that it is open? Robin DeRosa explains that “for materials to be ‘open,’ they need to be both free as in no-cost (gratis) and free as in free to repurpose and share (libre)” (para 7). Essentially, this means that the educational material has been shared under a Creative Commons license and in a format that enables others to build off of the material by revising it, adapting it, deleting portions of it, adding to it, or combining it with another OER. David Wiley has created five criteria for understanding if material is truly open, which he has entitled the “5 Rs”: the ability to reuse, revise, remix, redistribute, and retain.

If material is shared freely, that’s great. If material is shared in a way that enables others to improve upon it, that’s even better. The Open Education movement goes beyond prioritizing access to content. It holds that access to knowledge creation is just as vital.

This can mean really exciting things for student learning. While using OER leads to huge cost savings for students that often spend thousands on textbooks each year, there are, as Wiley states, “much bigger victories to be won with openness” (para 1). Open Pedagogy is instruction built upon the new and exciting opportunities that open licenses afford instructors and students. Instead of assigning disposable assignments—papers or projects that have no impact beyond the course and are graded and then disposed of—instructors ask students to take ownership over their own course materials by creating materials that can be accessed by the larger public. This might mean asking students to create their own textbook or learning object, with the understanding that it will be shared with (and possibly adopted by) future courses around the globe. It might mean asking students to publically annotate and critique course materials.

This shift can make more students invested in their learning. Knowing that their time and effort moves beyond simply receiving a grade and will be utilized by the public, possibly in a way that improves learning for others, makes their work more meaningful. In addition, I know that I learn the most about a topic (and about how much mastery I truly have of it) when I attempt to teach it to others. Asking students to create course materials inherently pushes them to test their own understanding of course concepts.

We recognize that there will Davidson College will need to have a spectrum of adoption. Some faculty might be comfortable with adopting and adapting an open textbook but are not yet ready to involve students in that process. Others might not have any experience with openness at all and might need more basic help with selecting open course materials. Others might already be having their students drive or create their syllabus and are ready to have students select and critique materials. We encourage faculty to propose something that fits with where they’re at and what they think would be most beneficial to students at the level they’re teaching. We hope to honor this spectrum while still looking for both reduced costs to students for course materials and transformative pedagogy that impacts not only the Davidson community but the larger public.

Applications will be accepted until January 15, 2016 and recipients will be announced on January 29. Next steps will be announced at that time. Right now we’re focused on finding instructors that know that this is something that they would like to try.

With that, I’ll leave you with a closing thought from DeRosa:

“OER is only really OER (inasmuch as it depends on its openness) if it is a process, in movement, embedded in pedagogy, and deeply engaged in a reciprocal relationship with its users” (para 15)