I have provided leadership and advocacy for open education and course materials affordability at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) since 2016 through an ad-hoc, library-led initiative called Open UAS. To support the initiative I have presented and led workshops for faculty on OER and open pedagogy at convocation, department meetings, regional campuses and for the UAS Teaching and Learning Technologies Roundtable committee. I have collaborated with faculty at partner universities on a grant proposal (unfunded) that outlined a system wide open education initiative (OER @ University of Alaska) to include development for faculty at all three universities and strategic and operational planning support through a consortial membership in the Open Education Network. Despite the disappointment of not receiving funding, partnering with colleagues on this proposal brought to light an abundance of faculty expertise, energy and interest in open educational practices and a common vision for the benefits these practices would provide our students in terms of access, affordability and engagement.
For the past two years I’ve had to accept the hard lesson that change making is slow. I’ve been advocating for the development of formal open practices on campus tirelessly and am still only making ripples and finding allies. The most substantial challenges I expect to face in building an open education program is that of legitimacy and sustainability.
Those of us working in this arena are working against a legacy of commercial publishing, sage on the stage pedagogy and the significance placed upon seminal texts. However, I frequently remind myself that even small changes can have an impact and lay the groundwork for future changes. I recently contributed a case study of this work, including the many additional challenges I’ve encountered to the open monograph, The Evolution of Affordable Content Efforts in the Higher Education Environment: Programs, Case Studies, and Examples (UMN Libraries Press, 2018).
Beyond Alaska I’ve engaged with the work of SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), primarily through their Libraries & OER Forum (LibOER), a vibrant community of practice for academic and research librarians interested in open education. I’m also currently participating a faculty learning community on open pedagogy through Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia. In 2019 I participated in the inaugural cohort of the Certificate in OER Librarianship course provided by the Open Textbook Network. During the program I created an OER Action Plan to guide the near term goals for Open UAS.
I am incredibly proud of the work that has begun at UAS, due in part to my leadership, however I recognize that the work is not adequately supported at the institutional level so as to be sustainable. On our small campus, academic programs are often developed and discontinued on the back of one faculty member.