OER/Open Pedagogy outreach and advocacy

a sales contract with "This job is free" written on it

from Tin Men (1987)

Before I was a librarian I worked in the printing/publishing industry. I left because it looked like the only jobs that would be left in the industry would be for salespeople, and sales is not what I want to do. So now I’m an instruction and outreach librarian in charge of an OER program. Where I basically have to do sales as a main function of my job.

A big challenge for those of us who promote OER is that we have several other job priorities as well. For some people it’s not even part of the job, just something that they think is important. Whereas commercial publishers have commissioned professionals in charge of their sales, whose only job is to develop relationships with faculty to keep the books moving. This is one of a host of challenges with OER outreach, such as:

  • People don’t know what OER is or how it works
  • People wonder how it can be any good if it’s free
  • People think that if it’s free there must be a catch
  • People value all the ancillaries that come with commercial texts – PPTs, question banks, autograded homework and quizzes
  • Inertia – change is hard

Some challenges are less apparent. One of my colleagues soured on the open movement several years ago after initially embracing it. He saw the benefits of leveraging the web as a learning tool, and appreciated open resources as an outcome of open educational practices. But he also recognized that policymakers were seeing OER as a way to justify reducing public investment in education further. That is a challenge that I think we need to be aware of, and have answers for. SUNY has had cohort workshops on making OER programs sustainable. Perhaps we should consider how open practices help make education sustainable.

David Wiley has said that promoting OER as a cost-saving measure is problematic. Publishers and vendors can compete on price, but they have no answer for open. The pedagogy that open licenses enable is the strategic advantage. Can we make that the focus of our advocacy? But open pedagogy is a challenge in itself. Some faculty don’t want to hear about it. Part of the problem is inertia – change is hard – but part of it is also a lack of time and space to experiment. We have an adjunct faculty member who does many interesting and creative things in her courses, but she only teaches one or two per semester, and invests extensive time in between semesters on planning and preparation, which she recognizes as unpaid labor. We can’t expect people to go above and beyond like that without rewarding them. I’m wondering though – are there easy ways into open practices? Small steps to open pedagogy? Something that looks fun and exciting without a lot of effort or risk?

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