A Reflection on Open Education Network’s OER Librarianship Certificate Program

By Emma Wood

It had been some time since I was an enrolled student of anything outside of a conference or webinar so when an opportunity to participate in OEN’s Open Educational Resources Librarianship Certificate program arose, I was delighted at the chance. Open Educational Resources (OER) have been near and dear to my heart since I learned of the concept while I was a college student struggling to afford textbooks.  From my BA in English to my Masters in Library Science, my saving grace was always working in a library and using interlibrary loans to get my hands on my textbooks. My undergraduate degree was comprised largely of novels and Norton anthologies, but still, I did complete coursework that required expensive, traditional textbooks. A textbook with a $180 price tag for Spanish 101 always comes to mind because even as a young student, it occurred to me that there had to be a less costly publication to convey the basics of the Spanish language. 

My a-ha experience was in Prof. Robin Peek’s Open Access course at then Simmons College (now Simmons University) as part of the Library Science program. I recall that the class ran even though there were only two students enrolled, myself included, so we were able to spend a lot of time having informal conversations about the concept of Open Access and its implications. We also contributed to the Open Access Directory by adding links and content under Prof. Peek’s guidance. How remarkable it was to realize that a movement was taking place with the goal of breaking down paywalls and freeing online content. I reveled in the possibility that textbooks could someday be free.

The application process for the OER certificate was straightforward. I was able to use a consortial rate, and there are further reduced rates available for applicants who request financial assistance. I submitted my contact information, CV/resume, and a written description of my experience with OER and my goals for joining the certificate program. I received notice of my acceptance about a month after applying and a month in advance of the start of the program.

The coursework spanned from Feb. 2022 – Oct. 2022, all entirely online. The first segment (February – May) consisted of online instruction, readings, and discussions with other participants, all managed through Canvas. We had meetings and discussions with the certificate participants, but we were also grouped into “cohorts” of about 10 people, each one named after a band in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  Participants are geographically diverse so it was a nice opportunity to have OER exchanges with advocates from different regions. From May–September, we watched required video content and met periodically with cohorts and mentors to talk about our real-life OER progress and to discuss the video content. Final projects, OER action plans, were due in September, and we held a wrap-up meeting as a cohort shortly thereafter to reflect on those plans and the program as a whole. In addition to this final conversation, there are opportunities to provide program feedback at every step of the way. 

The overarching goal of the certificate is to produce an action plan that can be implemented at each participant’s institution. Online instruction and discussion cover topics such as Copyright, Creative Commons Licenses, discovery and curation of OER, and building campus alliances. Students are asked to synthesize the strategies that they have learned into a document of varied length, but approximately 20 – 40 pages that will guide OER efforts at their respective institutions. Some of the content that participants produce throughout the program can be integrated into the action plan such as the “pitches to stakeholders” that we draft early in the program. The end result is a living document (under a Creative Commons license of course) that presents an OER strategy inclusive of SMART goals, a timeline, and a budget.

I found that being part of the program opened up OER conversations on campus for me, first because a discussion with library leadership was a required assignment, but communication deepened as I followed the program’s approach to building my network and bridging advocacy across campus. The first step to building OER momentum is just that – getting the conversation started. My takeaways are the collegiality and support built from within my cohort, the resulting inertia to reach out proactively at my institution, and the tangible action plan that I can draw from and continue to build in the future. I enjoyed hearing the experiences of others in my cohort, and ironically, the most motivating aspect was not in their OER successes but in hearing about their obstacles, hesitations, and perceived knowledge gaps. This uncertainty was relatable and actually bolstered my own confidence by making me feel less alone in striving to move the OER needle on my campus. I think that with legislative interest building and education costs rising, now is the time for OER. So I’ve framed my OER Librarianship Certificate and placed it on my office wall, and it’s a reminder to revisit my action plan, read OER case studies, and to keep in mind that there are other OER advocates out there trying to get the conversation started. 

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Emma Wood (She/Her), Scholarly Communication Librarian, University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth; http://ssrn.com/author=2198912