# 17 From Start-Up to Adolescence: University of Oklahoma’s OER Efforts

Jen Waller, Cody Taylor, & Stacy Zemke

## The Not-So-Terrible Twos

During the second year of the initiative, the OER team continued an awareness campaign—now about OER in general and the Alternative Textbook Grant specifically—and continued to look for additional strategies to save students money. The first year’s outreach had focused on “likely candidates” and “low-hanging fruit,” but it was now time to recruit instructors who may have never heard of OER.

Therefore, a key component of building awareness in the program’s second-year initiative was to go to the faculty members, instead of relying on personal contacts. One successful outreach strategy was to meet individually with faculty members, in their office, as a traditional publisher’s textbook representative might. Instead of representing a traditional publisher, the OER team members became the “Open Textbook Representatives.” Prior to these meetings, the OER team would research existing open textbooks and other OER that were applicable to the discipline and the class taught by the faculty member with whom they were about to meet. They would then go to the faculty members’ offices with a curated list of sources and perhaps a complimentary coffee.

The OER Coordinator, where possible, attended faculty meetings to discuss OER—even if it was for only five minutes. Developing, practicing, and memorizing an “elevator pitch” targeted to every campus constituency (faculty, administrators, students, etc.) in as many disciplines as possible became important to this effort, because it was often necessary to quickly relay the benefits of OER and open initiatives in very short conversations.

Staff in the OU Libraries Circulation Department were already receiving a textbook list from the university bookstore in order to purchase copies of highly used textbooks to place on reserve, a strategy that certainly saved students money. The OER team began using this textbook list for an additional purpose—identifying the top 30 courses requiring the most expensive textbooks. This exercise prepared the team for focused faculty recruiting in the classes that would demonstrate the highest cost savings for students if the expensive textbooks were replaced with OER. The textbook list also allowed the OER Coordinator to glean additional insight about assigned texts. For example, she could now easily determine which classes were using a traditional textbook authored by an OU faculty member or which classes were using “custom” books assembled by publishers. The OER team chose to forgo outreach to these faculty members, for these would perhaps be more difficult conversations with higher barriers. Instead, the OER team used the textbook list to focus on faculty members who were assigning expensive texts but who would likely have fewer objections and obstacles.

Additionally, the OER team identified the most expensive course packs (collections of articles printed and bound at a local copy shop), and analyzed them to determine if they included materials that were available through library databases. While other academic institutions may have had success with this strategy, the second-year OER team did not. Many of the articles were not available through OU Libraries subscriptions. Additionally, the resources necessary to disentangle associated copyright issues prevented the team from exploring this idea more fully until 2017 when OU Libraries purchased a subscription to Leganto powered by Proquest SIPX, formerly Stanford Intellectual Property Exchange (Ex Libris Ltd., 2017).

In the initiative’s second year, the OER Coordinator made the decision to partner with two existing organizations and, along with a handful of other academic institutions, became early partners with OpenStax (Rice University, 1999) and the Open Textbook Network (Center for Open Education, n.d.-b). Membership in these two organizations provided OU’s OER initiatives with the additional support and resources necessary to grow the OER program. For example, OpenStax provided a textbook rack and physical copies of several of their then-current textbooks. The OER Coordinator used this rolling display rack at outreach events as a way to increase awareness among students and as a way to demonstrate the quality of open textbooks. Using the OpenStax books in this way also clearly demonstrated that open textbooks were available in a physical format should students desire to purchase them.

The Open Textbook Network’s initial support included an on-site workshop, which at the time was a half-day learning opportunity for faculty members and librarians. Staff from the Open Textbook Network presented the background and context for open textbooks, and they provided the structure and incentives for OU faculty members to review open textbooks on the Open Textbook Library platform. This activity was extremely successful. By allowing faculty members to judge the quality of open textbooks themselves, they confronted one of their preconceptions—that open textbooks were not rigorous enough for their classes. Of the 18 faculty members who attended the workshop and wrote reviews, 14 have gone on to adopt, modify, or create an open textbook for use in their classes.

The second year of the OER initiatives also saw a rise in the outreach and support the OER Coordinator gave to using Wikipedia in the classroom. Wikipedia allows students to contribute in a way that helps further worldwide knowledge, instead of writing a term paper or capstone paper that gets graded and sits on a shelf (or worse). Wikipedia for Education’s tag line is, “The end of throwaway assignments and the beginning of real-world impact for student editors” (“Wikipedia,” 2017), and Wikipedia has enhanced their educational resources and tools, making it much easier for faculty members and students to participate in a Wikipedia-guided and structured course. Supporting faculty members on Wikipedia projects had the added benefit of engaging subject specialist librarians in OER projects, which until then had been relatively challenging.

## Growth Toward Adulthood: Next Steps

The OER team at OU has much to celebrate, especially the \$1,000,000 milestone. But the celebration will be short-lived as the team looks toward future growth of the program. Some of these plans include:

• Formation of an OER Action Committee: the original OER Strategic Initiative Planning Committee was an internal library group, and it disbanded after delivering on its original goals. Recognizing the need for additional collaboration, the OER team, with support from the Dean of Libraries, has formed an “ OER Action Committee” comprised of stakeholders across the university. These committee members include representatives from the Center for Teaching Excellence, the College of Liberal Studies (which houses OU’s online degree programs), the Provost’s Office, the Disability Resource Center, Information Technology, the Office of Academic Assessment, the OU Bookstore, and OU Press. Additionally, the committee will have a faculty member representing STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math), a faculty member from the University Libraries Committee, a faculty member from social sciences or humanities, and undergraduate and graduate representatives from Associated Student Government. The OER Action Committee is charged with promoting the awareness, reach, and uptake of OER at OU and will begin meeting in fall 2017.
• Enhancing access to OER used at OU: The Alternative Textbook Grant program has enabled the use and creation of a great number of OER, and these resources have clearly saved OU students money. The OER team has stayed busy keeping OER initiatives running and enhancing its existing programs, which has meant it has been challenging to make OU-authored works available to learners across the globe. Too often grantees use their OER in the learning management system, but it is not shared more broadly. One of the OER team’s highest priorities is to provide better access to these works through a dedicated collection in OU’s institutional repository, SHAREOK.
• Better promotion of our textbook on reserve program and ebook collections as alternative textbook solutions: Purchasing hardcopy textbooks of the most popular classes and placing them on reserve is neither a sustainable nor sought-after solution, yet it still helps save money for students. Unfortunately, not enough students are aware that they can check out textbooks on reserve at the Libraries. Additionally, like many, OU librarians are purchasing more ebooks. When licensing terms allow, the OER team would like to better market these ebooks to faculty members as low/no-cost solutions for OU students. While neither of these solutions fit the strict definition of OER, they do help lower the amount students spend on their education.
• Refining Markdown authoring/publishing workflow: As the 2017–18 academic year is the pilot year for using Markdown for authoring and publishing, the OER team will be making adjustments and enhancements to the Markdown Converter and the ways in which they assist faculty members in its use.

In addition to these actionable items, the OER team has also been thinking more philosophically about how it supports and advocates for OER in the future. For example, the Alternative Textbook Grant gives preference to authors who create original OER. These are the grantees who, generally, receive the most money and support. But perhaps it would be wiser to prioritize the adoption of already existing OER, which requires less time and energy on everyone’s part. Additionally, the team has begun to rethink the term “ROI” and how administration views a “return” on the amount of money used for Alternative Textbook Grants. A “return” on OER is best analyzed over the long term, instead of on a semester or even yearly basis, for they cumulatively build over semesters of use, which for OU’s OER team is an apt metaphor for the value of OER in general.

## References

Billings, M. S., Hutton, S. C., Schafer, J., Schweik, C. M., & Sheridan, M. (2012). Open educational resources as learning materials: Prospects and strategies for university libraries (Research Library Issues: A Quarterly Report from ARL, CNI, and SPARC, no. 280). Retrieved from http://publications.arl.org/rli280/

Feynman, R., Gottlieb, M., & Pfeiffer, R. (1963 [2006, 2013]). The Feynman lectures on physics. Retrieved from http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/

Griffiths, H., Keirns, N., Strayer, E., Cody-Rydzewski, S., Scaramuzzo, G., Sadler, T., … Jones, F. (2015). Introduction to sociology 2e. Houston, TX: OpenStax. Retrieved from https://openstax.org/details/books/introduction-sociology-2e

Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education. (2007, 2017). OER commons. Retrieved from https://www.oercommons.org/

Kansas State University Center for the Advancement of Digital Scholarship. (n.d.). The open/alternative textbook initiative. Retrieved from http://www.lib.k-state.edu/open-textbook

Taylor, C., Waller, J., Zemke, S., & Biamah, B. (2017, May 31). Open educational resources: Home. Retrieved from http://guides.ou.edu/c.php?g=113934&p=739332

Waller, J., Taylor, C., & Biamah, B. (n.d.). Alternative textbooks: Grant instructions. Retrieved from http://guides.ou.edu/AlternativeTextbooks/GrantInstructions

Wiley, D. (n.d.). Defining the “open” in open content and open educational resources. Retrieved from http://opencontent.org/definition/

## Appendix A: OER Initiative Scope

This project will focus on piloting sustainable and scalable OER/ALS adoptions on campus.  The project will focus on four implementation areas:

• OU Libraries will support the development and use of OER and ALS to replace textbooks in the classroom, to save students money, and to give faculty more control over their educational content.
• OU Libraries will support the development and use of OER and ALS to replace course packs in the classroom, to save students money, and to give faculty more control over their educational content.
• OU Libraries will work with the University College (University of Oklahoma, 2016) to identify appropriate OER as study aids for students.
• OU Libraries will provide an appropriate platform to support the discovery, creation, reuse, revision, remixing, and redistribution of OER and other affordable learning materials for faculty and students.

## Appendix B: OER Repository Evaluation Exercise

Site being evaluated:

Subject area evaluated:

General Questions:

1. Who are the main content authors and what are their affiliations/qualifications?
2. Who are the reviewers/curators for this site?
3. Is the site content actively updated?
4. What audience(s) is the content designed for (select all that apply)
1. K-12
5. How easy is it to navigate and find resources on this site?
1. Very easy
2. Somewhat easy
3. Easy
4. Difficult
5. Very difficult
6. Are the materials represented:
1. Primary sources (images, graphs, drawings, recordings with little educational content)
2. Secondary sources (instructor created lectures, presentations, videos, audio)
3. Both
7. What types of media are represented on the site (select all that apply)
1. Text
2. Video
3. Audio
4. Simulations/interactive
5. Textbooks
6. Links to other web pages
8. Content can be exported from this site as (select all that apply)
1. HTML files
2. PDF files
3. EPUB2 files
4. EPUB3 files
5. Can only link to content; cannot export
9. Use restrictions for content on this site:
1. CC licensing
2. Fair use
3. Copyrighted to the owner (but content can be linked to for educational use)
4. Varies by individual item
10. This collection is strongest in (select all that apply)
1. Complete courses
2. Textbooks
3. Individual lessons
4. Audio/visual
5. Simulations
11. Site recommended for subject area?
1. Yes (why?)
2. No (why not?)
12. General comments or suggestions for using this site and content area by faculty.

## Appendix C: Alternative Textbook Grant Application Questions

• Basic Information
• Name
• Position/rank
• College
• Department
• Course information
• Class prefix and number (e.g. MATH1113)
• Title of the class
• Catalog description
• First semester your alternative textbook solution will be implemented
• Number of sections you will be teaching
• Number of sections of the course taught by others
• Will any of them be using this textbook alternative?
• If so, please include these instructors’ names
• Is the course taught every semester?
• Course enrollment – maximum and expected
• Is this a new course?
• Resource(s) being replaced
• Title(s)
• Author(s)
• ISBN(s)
• Retail cost (from Amazon)
• Link to item on Amazon.com
• Granting category in which you fall (see for additional information):
• Creation
• Modification
• Library Resources
• Alternative(s) to be implemented: Discuss the materials you are planning to use to replace a traditional textbook (if you would like a consultation on available materials, please contact Jen Waller, Cody Taylor, or your liaison librarian).
• Project Details: How will students access the alternative content? If delivering content via the web, what hosting platform do you plan to use?