Over several weeks, an assignment of the SPARC Open Education Leadership Program led me to interview numerous stakeholders regarding their awareness and positions on the use of open educational resources (OER). It was necessary to hear from a variety of folks for whom OER are, or could be, important. As such, I interviewed:

  • 5 students (2, humanities: 2, social sciences; 1, sciences)
  • 3 professors (2, sciences; 1, social sciences)
  • 3 librarians (1 outreach librarian, sciences; 1 Head of Collections; 1 Head of the Digital Scholarship Lab) + my library dean (more of a casual conversation)
  • 3 stakeholders representing the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning (CETL), the Office of Educational Effectiveness, and the University Bookstore

The following summary condenses the thoughts of all stakeholders except for the bookstore. As a separate conversation, that specific set of questions led us into directions, unique from the rest.

When describing OER, particularly from the role each stakeholder plays, a few interviewees relied on the terms open, educational, and resources to make their best guess. Others knew a lot about OER and even distinguished between such concepts as “open” and “free.” Every interviewee mentioned the cost associated with OER; namely free. Professors, especially, all stated their concern with rising costs of course materials in an era where college tuitions are also spiking. While none I spoke to besides Dr. Jonathan Holz (featured in this video) are wholly using or adapting OER, they are taking other measures to reduce students’ costs – e.g., developing course packs, permitting older editions of the assigned textbook, choosing lower cost monographs that are accessible through the library’s course reserves. Access was another idea that surfaced. When students cannot afford their course materials, OER allows for unfettered access to the texts, assuming a computing device and internet connection. Finally, improved learning was a common answer, and this is partly because with OER, students can access their required materials, thus improving their chances for greater course engagement. The adaptability and interactive, real world, and collaborative teaching strategies that may accompany OER use is another big reason leading to improved student learning outcomes.

Interviewees discussed why it is important that faculty and students know about OER. Answers here mainly focused around improved education for all – including learning by students AND faculty – reiterating that access to materials helps to level the playing field and that modifying teaching practices to allow for greater interactivity, real world application, and information creation (as opposed to mere consumption) set students on a path to increased employability. Elements of social justice were apparent in that OER increases access to all, but serves an even greater impact for students of lower income or underrepresented minority status. Without ensuring such access, universities unwittingly withhold a solid education from their students.Furthermore, by involving students in the process of modifying OER, we give them agency and ownership over their learning, and can improve the public record on issues such race and intersectionality.

Other benefits that surfaced from the interviews include:

  • Supplemental materials from the required text – particularly those that can be modified and adapted – support increased independent and reinforced learning
  • The quality of OER have been tested to be commensurate or improved as compared to the typical commercial textbook
  • Professors can satisfy their innate moral obligation to simply help students learn without the stress surrounding financial burden, and to openly share their expertise with the world
  • The learning impact of openly licensed course materials can extend beyond our own campus and elevate the reputation of UR professors, thus increasing annual enrollment

With benefits, however, come barriers.  I’d be remiss in not highlighting the concerns on the stakeholders’ minds.

Students understand that professors can be resistant as they have been teaching to a certain pedagogy and with certain texts for years. These habits are hard to change. Students realize that the time it would take to make these adjustments and take a chance on allowing students into an equal learning partnership would cause a barrier. The use of technology in new ways could be intimidating to professors but may also inadvertently place additional obstacles in students’ paths (e.g., cost/access to computing devices, internet, and printing hard copies, difficulty absorbing information from digital screens).

For faculty, their concerns center around reputation, permissions to go open, and promotion and tenure processes, specifically at a prestigious R1 institution. The time it takes to investigate, adopt, and perhaps modify an entire curriculum is labor intensive, and based upon departmental and overall quality criteria on campus, the end result may be deemed as less than tenure-worthy. The OER produced may not be viewed as prestigious a work if it is “given away” for free, open for anyone to use and modify, and not covered under a top tier publication within the field.

Strained relationships surfaced as an interesting concern in a few interviews. First, a professor who has authored their own textbook and then requires students to buy it for course readings breaches a trust between teacher and learner. Second, if the trend toward adopting OER becomes great enough on campus, what happens to those professors who choose to stick with traditional texts? What loss of rapport exists on the first day of class after students have spent money on their textbooks vs a class that converted to OER? And, third, how can students approach their professors about issues of open without risking a fair assessment of their character and abilities?

These and more questions are on stakeholders’ minds. Big questions. Social justice questions. Questions about the future of education.

I hope that we can continue the conversation, making sure everyone is heard and together, we are raising the profile of how open education can enhance the UR experience. Meliora!

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

It’s been a long time since I wrote on this blog, but there is no time like the present! No longer at SUNY Geneseo, I have been spending the last 4.5 years developing leadership and management skills, working toward building capacity and confidence across an Outreach Department of about 16 librarians, and pursuing interests that continue my passions from my last job.

Inspired by Robin de Rosa who spoke at the University of Rochester in April 2018, and coupled with my teaching experience at SUNY Geneseo, I am currently working on the openly published manuscript, Open Pedagogy: Varied Definitions, Multiple Approaches. I have a great team surrounding me – Alexis Clifton from SUNY Geneseo as well as seven colleagues at the University of Rochester – and the support of the Rebus Community to help lead us to success in publishing our very first openly published manuscript.

To follow our progress, see https://www.rebus.community/c/open-textbooks-in-development/open-pedagogy

Building on the momentum from last year’s inaugural 3Ts conference, we invite you to spend a day with colleagues from across disciplines, moving beyond exploration and into active use of the technologies enhancing proven pedagogy.

Mark your calendars to participate in

3Ts 2012: Engaging Students with Teaching, Technology, and Transliteracy

March 16, 2012

Hosted by: University Libraries, University at Albany

Albany, NY

What is the 3Ts conference?  Visit: http://threetees.weebly.com/

Co-Sponsored by
CPD, FACT2, SUNY Librarians Association Working Group for Information Literacy (SUNYLA WGIL)

3Ts: Exploring New Frontiers in Teaching, Technology and Transliteracy
Fulton-Montgomery Community College, Johnstown, NY
March 25, 2011

As budgets continue to shrink and the number of online or blended classes continues to grow, the need for instructors who are comfortable with the wide array of digital learning tools becomes of paramount importance. From the writings of Donald E. Hanna and associates1, we are reminded that “the challenge is not simply to incorporate learning technologies into current institutional approaches, but rather to change our fundamental views about effective teaching and learning and to use technology to do so.” Keeping this in mind, the 3 T’s conference aims to explore issues surrounding the intersections between teaching, instructional technologies and the growing number of literacies all students need for learning and succeeding in today’s information-rich academic and professional worlds.

1. Hanna, Donald E. Associates, Higher Education in an Era of Digital Competition: Choices and Challenges, Atwood Publishing, 2000, p.61.

As one of the primary goals of the 3Ts planning committee, we are offering a discounted “buddy” registration fee to encourage cross-disciplinary discussion among our participants.

What constitutes a “buddy”? Buddies are created by a pair of attendees (registering at the same time) who are complementary and/or collaborating professionals (i.e., teaching faculty and a librarian, a librarian and an instructional designer, two teaching faculty from different disciplines).

SUNY Registration Fee $20.00; Non-SUNY Registration Fee $30.00
SUNY Buddy Registration Fee $15.00; Non-SUNY Buddy Registration Fee $25.00

What is Transliteracy? For conference information visit:

Co-Sponsored by SUNY Librarians Association Working Group for Information Literacy (SUNYLA WGIL)
SUNY Center for Professional Development
SUNY Faculty Advisory Council on Teaching & Technology (FACT2)

Are you interested in teaching, technology and transliteracy?

Do you use your students’ fluency across media, modes, and disciplines to their and your advantage?

Are you using technology to extend learning in the classroom (physical or virtual)?

Are you experienced in successfully blending technology into your teaching?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, the conference planning committee for The 3 T’s: Exploring New Frontiers in Teaching, Technology, and Transliteracy wants YOU to consider submitting a proposal (now closed).

Co-sponsored by SUNY FACT2 and the SUNY Librarians Association Working Group for Information Literacy (SUNYLA WGIL), The 3 T’s: Exploring New Frontiers in Teaching, Technology, and Transliteracy is a one-day conference focused on placing pedagogical theory at the foundation of seamless, engaging and productive teaching practice when infusing various technologies into the classroom experience. Educators, Faculty, Instructional Designers, and Librarians hailing from K-12 and higher education institutions will gather in Johnstown, NY at Fulton-Montgomery Community College on March 25, 2011 to share their successes, challenges and overall understanding of the theory to practice connection.

Don’t miss out on your chance to spotlight your classroom ingenuity and achievements!

Proposals should address the following questions:

  • How have you drawn upon student transliteracy to support learning?
  • How have underlying principles and theories guided your inclusion of a specific technology or technologies in the classroom?
  • How did teaching and technology work collaboratively to improve both technological literacy and learning?

As proposals undergo a peer-reviewed process, emphasis on the following are highly encouraged:

  • Connecting theory to practice as discussed and modeled through your presentation delivery
  • Collaborative projects/lesson plans that could include (but are not limited to) cross-disciplinary teaching, faculty/librarian partnerships, K-12/college experiences

Proposals can include any meaningful integration of technology and teaching used to support the growing number of literacies students need for learning and succeeding in today’s information-rich academic and professional worlds.  Possible tracks and technologies might include:

Literacies Technologies
  • Information literacy
  • Visual literacy
  • Digital literacy
  • Media literacy
  • Cultural literacy
  • Critical literacy
  • Open Source Technologies
  • Web 2.0 Technology
  • Social Networking (Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Ning)
  • Mobile Technology (Mobile apps, texting)
  • Classroom Technologies (Smartboards)
  • Collaborative Technology (Wikis)
  • Multimedia (Podcasts, Vcasts)

Conference sessions will consist of 30 minutes speaking/workshop time with 15 minutes allocated for Q&A.

The deadline for proposals has passed.

Presenters will be notified by November 15, 2010 if their proposal has been accepted.

Presenters will receive free registration for the conference and will have the opportunity to publish their work in the conference’s online proceedings.

For further questions, contact:

Kim Davies-Hoffman
Reference/Instruction Librarian
SUNY Geneseo
(585) 245-5046 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (585) 245-5046      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (585) 245-5046      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

As I get my head back in the game in terms of looking toward the opening day of classes, I wrote to a professor earlier today to see about a planning meeting for two library sessions and a workshop we’ll be offering early in the fall semester.  I thought that I’d have until next week before we met, but circumstances pushed for a spur-of-the-moment meeting this afternoon.  Fine by me!

Instead of the typical meeting held in one of our offices, I was on my way “uptown” for a coffee and that provided the perfect location for discussing lesson plans and upcoming projects.

This Anthropology professor is working toward an interdisciplinary food project that he hopes will take root and spread across campus.  The librarians at SUNY Geneseo, among other invested classroom faculty, are very interested in helping nurture this endeavor.  While plans were expected to be simple (work with our closest classroom faculty partners to suggest infusing a food-related slant into lectures or assignments, where appropriate, or solicit contributions of food-based research and/or creative projects to form a gallery show), they may turn out to be much more elaborate than any of us ever imagined.  Current thoughts are to write a grant proposal to secure funding for a full-out gallery exhibit (even multiple exhibits across campus), complimented by a series of cultural and academic events and encouragement to classroom faculty to incorporate food issues into student projects.  The hope here is to offer a scaled-down version of Heavens Above, an interdisciplinary, college-wide exhibits and programming project that Milne Library hosted in Fall 2007.

Professors in the Anthropology Department are committed to working with food-related issues, if only as a segment of their course content.  I am fortunate enough to have already established a close working relationship with these professors, feeling confident and well-respected enough to provide my own advice and librarian expertise to a topic that I, myself, am passionate about.  Who doesn’t love to talk about food?

So, what will we be working on in the fall?  Two courses – ANTH 100: Intro to Cultural Anthropology and ANTH 235: Ancient Civilization in the Americas – where I’ll work with the students in one library session a piece, another – ANTH 229: Film and Ethnography – where students may seek my help informally and a GOLD workshop entitled Food, Glorious Food: Working Personal Interests into your Research Projects where we (professor, librarian and a student) hope to excite student researchers into adapting food-related topics into course writing assignments.  That is our own personal agenda, but overall, the workshop will advise students to incorporate any personal interest into their scholarly writing . . . if applicable.  Food seems to be a ubiquitous enough concept to lend itself to just about any subject area.

The focus of the library sessions and/or informal assistance – helping students identify and access scholarly, peer-reviewed materials on their given topic(s).  Based on previous classes arranged by this professor, he has seen the value in outside contact and source evaluation by the librarian with students and has asked that I take a quick glance over first wiki submissions of students’ article/book choices.  If we (the professor and I) can cut students off at the pass of bad (inappropriate is a better word) material selection at the beginning of the semester, we hope that the growing annotated bibliography from the 70+ students will serve as a “study guide” of sorts, instilling the key characteristics of scholarly and academically-appropriate sources.

And it’s all about food.  What fun!

I think I have lost my creative, narrative mojo at this time of the day and the week, so here are “just the facts.”

RYSAG summer camp 2010

The storyline: Over 50 middle to high school students from the Rochester City School District (RCSD) arrived at SUNY Geneseo on the morning of July 19.  They were greeted with the news that SUNY Geneseo had received a national grant that allowed for two weeks of security training to prepare for the imminent migration of a new population.  For the first week of this two-week overnight academic camp, students would engage in a series of courses that would offer the necessary skills and knowledge to gain more information on the incoming population once security clearance was achieved. On the Monday of the second week, students were told that the Etans would be arriving from their planet Eta located some 20 light years away from Earth.  Not only would big Etan masses be settling in the Rochester area, as well as other areas of the world, some had already been living among us, scouting the location to determine the best cities to suit their needs.

The challenge: As selected peace agent candidates, our students were asked to compile the necessary information and develop the necessary skills to craft a final peaceful integration plan that would merge the incoming Etan community into the existing Rochester population with as little conflict as possible.  The proposal would be presented to a panel of highly esteemed “officials” – one from NASA, another from Homeland Security and a third from the National Grant Office.  Presentations required the following pieces of data:  an introduction to the history of immigration in Rochester, a profile of the Etan people, potential conflicts that could arise with the merging of two communities and each teams’ ideas for strategies to mitigate conflict and promote a peaceful coexistence.

Security training: Students rotated through four core classes – homeland security science lab, natural resources lab, global studies and communication.  In homeland security lab, students learned how to detect gunpowder residue and how to isolate DNA and create personalized DNA necklaces.  They also engaged in chromatography and forensic toxicology.  In natural resources lab, students were instructed in the scarcity of resources like fresh water and how a competition over such resources can lead to conflict and war.  A simulation was created in the classroom that encouraged students to fight over desired resources and then reflect on the reasons behind the behavior.  Peace agent candidates studied issues of immigration, both legal and illegal, in global studies as well as viewing other cultures with a subjective lens.  In this context, an activity surrounding the anthropological study, Nacirema, helped students to see American culture from an outsider’s perspective.  Finally, in communication class, students worked inside and outside of the classroom.  In class, they learned of different key concepts in intercultural communication – chronemics, chromatics, proxemics, appearance, artifacts and nonverbal communication . . . to name a few.  Outside of class, students split up into subgroups and interviewed a number of campus staff and faculty to gather more information about a wide array of experience in cultural transition, conflict and resolution and peacekeeping.  Some of the interviewees posed as Etans and donned the traditional markings from their culture.  Within the first week, the Etans’ stories needed to be believable within a modern day context (an argument with a family member over cultural beliefs, inner conflict over the inability to bear children, a living adjustment from one place to another), but needed to also represent the Etan story of struggle and migration once their identity was confirmed in the second week of camp.

The fun: Using the face of a faculty member who has been tangentially involved in past camp storylines, librarians, professors and RYSAG planning members created an Etan persona of this “first male leader” by tinting his photo blue, inserting his messages into each team’s blog, displaying his photo prominently (or in some cases, subtley) during scheduled interviews and producing a final day message from the “mothership” that addressed the good work completed by each team.  Additional hijinx included a “peace offering” that was left at each team’s headquarter location – a wine glass decorated with the Etan female symbol for water and maturity (envision the aquarius symbol) and filled with blue liquid (blue Kool-aid), a blue candleholder with one flameless candle lit and scattered multicolored beads – and a screen shot of a fake wikipedia entry describing the Etan culture fed into each team’s blog.  And did I forget to mention the Etan Intergalactic Library Blog?

Anyway . . . the general gist of the camp.  Perhaps the following video can bring greater life to the engaging, enriching and unforgettable camp experience.