–Submitted by Kate Manger (LW)
I was fortunate to be able to attend the 13th OpenEd Conference recently held from November 2-4, 2016 in Richmond Virginia. As one of the two faculty librarians, the other being Greg Bem, who are helping support the Achieve the Dream OER degree initiative at Lake Washington Institute of Technology, this conference was a great opportunity to hear more about the efforts, grant-funded or otherwise, that colleges and universities are doing across the country. To avoid droning on, I’ll stick to sharing my three main takeaways. Feel free to be in touch though, if you have comments or would like any additional information.
My first takeaway is the shift I saw from adoption of OER to a focus on pedagogical change through OER. Rather than stressing the cost saved by switching one textbook, sessions stressed the impact to teaching, to student engagement, and to learning that could come through the adoption of OER. One faculty even eliminated the cost saved from his OER adoption presentation and replaced it with the learning students will have achieve.
My second takeaway comes from the Keynote speaker Sara Goldrich-Rab, author of Paying the Price. Her speech and research highlighted, in a rather daunting and depressing way, how great the struggles can be for students seeking an education. Personal challenges aside, the financial and educational structures meant to support and provide a step forward in life is, according to her research, shoving people back and even removing the aspiration for higher education altogether.
My last, and brighter, takeaway is the growing work across institutions. Instead of degree paths or one changed course, there are growing efforts to work through consortiums or statewide to implement OER. Unfortunately, I wasn’t involved when OpenWa launched, but that seems to be a similar line of thinking. Some examples from this conference include those by OPEN SUNY and Maricopa Millions, as well as the newest endeavors through GO Open Massachusetts. I realize that there are unique instances and policies at each institution, but it seems like as OER becomes more widespread, this kind of collaboration and cooperation can take larger steps forward and help, what Richard Sebastian coined as, horizontal rather than vertical columns of adoption.