ED 650: OER and Libraries

Open Educational Resources and Libraries:
ED 650 Current Issue Paper 2

Though open educational resources (OER) are anything but new, their rate of adoption in higher education in the United States has only just reached a tipping point, according to Dr. Cable Green (2015), a leading force in the OER movement. They have reached a point where they will no longer be at the periphery, with an instructor here or there adopting them, but will become central to conversations of student success, equity of access, course design/redesign, responsible use of public funds, and more. They have also reached a point where there are enough quality OER out there to make quick discovery possible (at least for high-enrollment courses) (Bell, 2015; Green, 2015).

Where I work at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), I have heard few mentions of OER prior to the past month or so. Certainly there have been instructors incorporating OER as supplementary materials and even some using only open materials in their courses, forgoing a paid textbook entirely. (I know of one, the library research skills course I helped redesign last year, but I am confident that there must be others.) However, since Academic Innovations and eLearning at UAA made OER a key theme for their faculty outreach and professional development this fall, there has been a real buzz among faculty. Since Dr. Cable Green’s workshop, a day doesn’t go by without me hearing at least one mention of OER. Part of the conversation is centered around the library’s role: Dr. Green (2015) mentioned that in order to be successful campus-wide initiatives must include funding for a dedicated OER librarian to assist in locating, creating, and distributing OER (also see Bell, 2015). This talk of OER that is beginning on campus and at the library where I work prompted me to explore the roles that libraries are taking.

Readings on the subject revealed a great list of ways that academic libraries can get involved in campus OER movements. These include:

  • Increase faculty awareness of OER and dispell myths about OER (Bell, 2015; Jensen & West, 2015; Walz, 2015)
  • Educate faculty on OER (including a definition of “open,” issues with copyright, open licensing, and differences between open and just freely available online or the library’s licensed content) (Bell, 2015; Jensen & West, 2015; Walz, 2015)
  • Assist faculty with navigating “copyright, intellectual policy, and University policy concerns”  (Walz, 2015, p. 28; also Jensen & West, 2015)
  • Provide faculty with instruction and support in finding quality OER relevant to their courses (Bell, 2015; Jensen & West, 2015; Walz, 2015) and fill in gaps with licensed library content (Bell, 2015)
  • Facilitate communities of practice for faculty exploring, adopting/incorporating, or creating OER (Walz, 2015)
  • Provide assistance to faculty in evaluating OER for use in their courses using established rubrics; encourage them to provide critical reviews to various sites that collect them (Walz, 2015)
  • Provide and promote the use of an institutional repository to provide access to OER that faculty create (Walz, 2015); become a publisher of open textbooks (including paying faculty to author them, editing and/or formatting the works, providing a the platform for distribution, etc.) (Bell, 2015)

Bell (2015) points out that libraries wishing to move beyond simple education and support roles to develop campus-wide OER textbook projects should note that successful project nationwide tend to include faculty incentives for participation, are highly collaborative with other campus units, do not require development of an entire textbook (when any creation of OER is required), have a “competitive application process,” effectively incorporate a means for assessing project success, and focus on “both cost savings and enhanced student learning” (Bell, 2015, p. 3).

However academic libraries are involved in the OER movement on their campuses, it is essential that they are involved. Whether the library is leading the charge or finds itself joining the conversation, the campus library needs to play a role in the collaboration of key campus departments. As one of the first librarians on campus to learn about OER, I am excited to bring what I have learned to my colleagues and Dean to see how we can support — or lead — our campus effort.


Bell, S. (2015). Start a textbook revolution, continued: Librarians lead the way with open educational resources. Library Issues, 35(5), 1-4.

Green, C. (2015, September 25). Open Educational Resources Workshop. Lecture presented at University of Alaska Anchorage.

Jensen, K., & West, Q. (2015). Open educational resources and the higher education environment. College & Research Libraries News, 76(4), 215-218.

Walz, A. R. (2015). Open and editable: Exploring library engagement in open educational resource adoption, adaptation, and authoring. Virginia Libraries, 61(1), 23-31.

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