Troy Swanson: CJ, Mary Ann, and Angela, welcome to Circulating Ideas. To get us started, could you all just maybe tell us a little bit about yourselves and how you became interested in OER? Maybe we’ll start with CJ.
CJ Ivory: Sure. I am CJ Ivory, Associate Professor and Librarian at the University of West Georgia. I’ve been there now for about six years, and while I’ve been there, I served as the Affordable Learning Georgia Liaison, which is a statewide initiative to increase the use of open education resources in higher education. But my journey with OER started before I became an employee at UWG. I started back at UCF and before being invited to help the College of Business faculty develop low cost and no-cost courses for the College of Business. I didn’t have a lot of experience in open education resources, but librarians generally are considered a great resource, and when people don’t know where to look for answers, they start with us. So that’s kind of how I got roped into OERs and I was like, “okay, sure I’ll help.” And I didn’t really know where to start, but I started that deep dive down the road and I was just completely engrossed, enamored with the possibility of OER is from that start.
When I got to West Georgia, I really started understanding the transformative nature of open education resources as it intersects with social justice since I started teaching a credit bearing course, Library 2100: Information Literacy and Research, and using a social justice lens to teach that course, but of course using open education resources. And that’s when I connected with Angela since we both work at the same institution and through our work with our course and my work with open education resources, we decided that there is a market for this book. There’s a community that can share the approaches that they’re using to incorporate social justice education alongside open education resources and their instruction.
Troy Swanson: Angela, tell us a little bit more about how you got pulled into this through CJ.
Angela Pashia: So I am Angela Pashia. I’ve been at University of West Georgia for almost a dozen years. It’ll be 12 years, September 1st. And I really got into the OER stuff from working with CJ. I’ve been a supporter of open access for as long as I’ve known that it existed. But I didn’t really take it any further than only publishing in open publications. An open access, I should say, not fully open in this context.
My background was really the social justice focus, but through collaborating with CJ, we recognize this as an area where there’s so much potential to bring more social justice approaches into OERs. I might be getting ahead of us on this, but so much of the discussion around Open is focused on affordability, and that’s hugely important, but there are so many more opportunities to diversify the voices that are included in textbooks. And some of the chapters in our book are from scholars in Africa who have had to rely on textbooks from the west, and now they can actually create materials that are locally relevant and that’s the part that I’m really interested.
Troy Swanson: Fantastic. Very cool. And we’ll talk more in depth on some of that for sure, but first let’s pull Mary Ann into the conversation. Tell us about yourself, Mary Ann, and about your journey with OER.
Mary Ann Cullen: I’m a Librarian Associate Professor and Associate Department Head at the library at Georgia State University’s Alpharetta Campus. That’s one of the Perimeter College campuses that merged with Georgia State in 2016. The way I got involved in OER was back before consolidation, our interim president at Georgia Perimeter College, as it was known at the time, was presenting to an all faculty meeting and through a class he was teaching where he discovered that one of his students’ grades were falling because she couldn’t afford the textbook. He had no idea his textbook was over a hundred dollars until she told him. This was such an awakening to him that he challenged the faculty to try to find ways to make their course materials more affordable. And I actually had an ulterior motive. I thought, “Ooh, if they’re gonna make textbooks and stuff, this is my chance to get information literacy in the textbook!” So I volunteered to be on a project and I really found out how much librarians could contribute to that conversation because back then a lot of the faculty were scared, “We can’t have students having computers in the class, they won’t pay any attention to us.” So things have evolved, fortunately, but that’s how I got involved. So here, I’ve written a book about it.
Troy Swanson: We’ve already thrown around the term OER and open education resources, so I think we need to start by defining what that means from any of our listeners who maybe aren’t familiar with that, and maybe also talk about the five Rs of OER, a lot of abbreviations. So what is OER and what are the five Rs?
Mary Ann Cullen: The current definition is the educational resources includes textbooks, and it can be anything from a whole course to like an image or an infographic. So the educational resource can be anything, not just textbooks. The idea of open has evolved over time and currently to be an OER, by the currently accepted definition, the item has to either be in the public domain or have an open license in which the copyright holder has abridged their rights to give blanket permission so other people can reuse, retain, revise, remix, and redistribute. Those are the five Rs, and the item has to be freely available to anyone, so like library resources are only available to people that can use those resources, so this is freely available to anyone.
CJ Ivory: That definition of open is the strictest definition, and I don’t know how many of us can faithfully adhere to it. One, as librarians we are often also promoting some of the resources that we use in library. And I generally, when I’m talking to faculty will say anything that does not incur additional cost to students. So that is my very, very generous term of open. But I will say more theoretically, the first section of our, book is theory and problematizing, and a part of that talks about some of the problems with having that very strict definition of open and some of the agency that it takes away from the very people in the communities that we are trying to amplify and give voice to and.
As a community, as an open community, we need to be mindful that while it is great to share and share alike that maybe not every story needs to be opened or shared or adapted or remixed, and we need to leave space for that. We need to be mindful of that so we can share materials produced by folks from marginalized communities, our historically excluded communities, but being mindful and understanding of cultural differences. Also the conversation about compensation because while it is great to share, is it fair to take this labor, and then redistribute it without compensating the folks that produce that content? That is a conversation that the community is having, so there are still some questions out there.
Troy Swanson: Okay. Well, let’s talk a little more specifically about your books. And maybe if you could tell us a little bit about the books and how you see the needs that they fulfill and the approaches that they take.
CJ Ivory: There is a growing body of research and information and resources out there to help folks who will have no background and no experience with open education resources and figure out how to get started. Like, where do you start, where do you look, where do you go?
So our book is for the beginner, so you can start thinking about these questions, but also for the more intermediate and advanced audience who have been working in this space or who understand open education resources as they exist now, but want to really maximize the potential of open education resources.
So there wasn’t as much literature out there about the intersection of OERs and social justice and what can really be done to bring in those marginalized voices and to amplify them and to decenter the white, heteronormative lens, and basically center different backgrounds, more diverse voices in our knowledge production process.
And so this is what our book does. It gives practitioners and educators tools and resources and ideas about how to approach that in their own development.
Angela Pashia: So much of what I had seen before we started on this project was if it talked about social justice at all, it was focused on affordability, which again, is important, but there’s so many ways to push beyond that. Also problematize some of the institutional situations. So we’re asking faculty to create these materials. Well, one of the drawbacks is if you use something from a publisher, you get all kinds of quizzes and PowerPoint presentations.
So we’re putting more work on faculty who are already overburdened. How do you get institutional support so that we’re not shifting too much onto the faculty? There are so many issues that we can get into, and we wanted to push the conversation further into some more of those kind of topics.
Mary Ann Cullen: The idea for our book was Elizabeth’s, I’m just gonna say it was Elizabeth’s idea. She’s a librarian and she was teaching theater at one point and her class didn’t make, so she hadn’t really developed it, and then at the last minute it made, and she didn’t have a textbook, so she just decided to do an open pedagogy thing and have the students assemble. In the course of that project, she realized how much information literacy was involved in that project, and that’s how she got involved in it.
And she got in touch with me because of my OER expertise, if you want to call it that. She had seen a webinar that I had done and invited me to participate. So I was really happy to do it. In terms of the needs that it fulfills, our book is also, I would say, for the intermediate or advanced, and as I was putting it together, I realized there wasn’t like a grounding chapter that explained things. So I wrote the first chapter with, I call it open primer, where it was just, primer, I guess is the way you’re supposed to say that, so it’s kind of the introduction, but the book has conceptual ideas, it has practical application, it talks about advocacy, it talks about training future practitioners, and there’s also a social justice part of our book. The social justice part is something that I really learned about in the course of this project ,and one that Elizabeth and I did previously, where we edited a Library Trends edition, and so I was kind of like, you know, I kind of wish we had done a book about OER and social justice and then here came Angela, CJ and I was like, yay, they did it.
Angela Pashia: If I can jump in, that was part of why I reached out, because these books were published so close together in time, both by ACRL Press, both connecting to OERs and then I’m looking through yours and realized, oh, you have a section on social justice. Maybe there’s some ways that we can connect and work together to promote both of these books.
Mary Ann Cullen: There’s an ad for my book on the back of your book.
Troy Swanson: Oh, that’s great, so they’re complimentary in so many ways.
CJ Ivory: Even the publishers recognize that complimentary juxtaposition there. I mentioned knowledge production earlier, and this conversation around OER is just kind of really transform also that knowledge production potential, and I think we’ll talk about it a little bit later, but I do wanna make sure that we make space to have that conversation around who was at the table and that knowledge production process and how OER really kind of opens that up quite a bit. So that is another space that these books feel it’s talking and having that conversation.
Troy Swanson: We’ll definitely leave some room to talk about those spaces and those voices. I’m in Illinois and in our state, there’s a lot of conversations in the academic community related to that. Like, how do we use OER as an avenue to diversify some of the textbook offerings that are out there.
But I do want to go, before we get too far away, Angela had mentioned the idea that you often hear from faculty about, you know, if I go with OER, I lose all these things that publishers provide. And I think that’s an avenue to talk about these ideas of open pedagogy and open scholarship, which aren’t actually new ideas. There’s a broader thing. So it’s not just that we have these open textbooks, but there’s an open community that’s building resources that are broader.
CJ Ivory: I will say that that is a concern that I do hear a lot with faculty, and I understand it. You know, our faculty are super busy. They’re pulled in a hundred different directions, and the traditional textbook publishers know it and they package those textbooks so appealingly with test banks and ancillary materials, PowerPoint presentations and any manner of activities or resources. But I am happy to say that the open community has really met the challenge and they have stood up and recognized that that is a difficult selling point when it comes to adopting open education resources.
So now there are actual open homework platforms, and I’m happy to report that our mathematics department for all of our introductory mathematics courses are now using open mathematics textbooks provided by OpenStax and also the open homework platform because it’s one thing to get the textbook, but then now students also have to pay for the access fee to practice the homework or to practice the mathematics problems. And so you see more examples of the open community building those open platforms and adding those additional ancillary materials and benefits. So it’s less of a difficult choice now. So it just comes down to educating faculty about what’s available and what’s out there.
I will also say, Angela mentioned earlier about having institutional support and you mentioned that your state Illinois also has kind of an institutional or statewide repository. And so Affordable Learning Georgia fills that gap for us. You can apply for grants for faculty who maybe don’t have any open resources that are already existing out there. But the institutions and governing bodies recognizing the value and cost benefit are willing to put their money where their mouth is and support this initiative. And so they’re awarding those grant funds to give faculty the time they need to buy class relief so they can develop these textbooks and develop ancillary materials. So it makes a difference.
Mary Ann Cullen: Two of the biggies in the open world, OpenStax and Lumen Learning. Both either have open ancillary materials or they have low cost ones. So oftentimes the access codes are a hundred dollars or more. I don’t remember what the price ceiling is for OpenStax, but they’ll partner with some of these very same publishers to develop a homework platform or something, and they make sure it’s less than $50 or something, and it goes along with OpenStax, but Lumen Learning, it really has a lot of technology that people can use to integrate into their courses and textbooks and they share those.
Troy Swanson: For academic librarians that don’t know a lot about OER. I will say, number one, obviously they should get your books, but number two, there are these communities out there that you can connect in with, and then additionally, I know in Illinois we’re working to get, as, CJ, you mentioned, we’re working to get state support for the production of OER. I know from some research we’ve done, there are 24 states that already offer that in some form or another.
Sometimes it’s grants, sometimes there’s different avenues to get to that, but if you’re on a campus and you’re not sure how you might help facilitate this growth, there are resources available out there with some digging around. So that’s fantastic. So let’s go back to this idea about who gets to be part of this conversation and the voices that are there, and maybe we could talk about this idea of information privilege and how this connects in with OER as an avenue to get to that conversation.
CJ Ivory: There is a Lee & Low publishing survey about diversity in the publishing industry and it includes the four major publishing houses and associated university presses. But right now, the gatekeepers, the folks who gets to decide whose book is going to be published, whose voice is gonna get to be heard, whose text is gonna be disseminated is 76% white. I was surprised to learn that it’s 74% women, 81% straight, and 89% non-disabled.
Angela and I both work at institutions that have a large minority student population, and so that does not reflect our student population and also our college faculty, the folks who are responsible for producing, open education resources are not as diverse as our student body either.
So if we want to invite more representation and at least have it mirror our diversifying student bodies, and I know that’s a trend not only on my campus, but across the nation, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, we have a growing diversity in our undergraduate population, at least now, and public institutions, 65% are still white, but the other 35% is minority students, black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, and so, I would like to see that same diversity reflected in the knowledge production process.
And with open education resources and open pedagogy, you can invite students into that process. So if there’s no diversity anywhere else in that knowledge production process, then we start with our students. And that’s what I really like about the potential of open pedagogy is to bring their voices into the conversation.
Angela Pashia: That’s the United States, but worldwide, there’s the issue of the global South not having the same level of access to the prestigious publications. There are other logistical issues like reliable internet access that the chapters in our book looking at OERs in Africa get into. The issue in the United States is important, but there’s also the global perspective to consider.
Mary Ann Cullen: Yeah. This is the “open” in open education where the open refers to the removal of barriers. Like Angela said, the traditional thing to talk about really is like the removal of the financial barriers, but there’s also the technological barriers and the cultural barriers and the format barriers for people that have accessibility needs. But yeah, having the idea of the information privilege is including a lot more voices, both in the production and in the access to the information. So it’s like putting the universe in the university.
Troy Swanson: I like that. I’m gonna steal that. That’s good.
Mary Ann Cullen: I stole it. So you can too.
Angela Pashia: Who continues to have access is also important in terms of professional education programs. I forget off the top of my head which chapter it was, but one of the chapters in our book looked at professional students who are used to having all of these resources through their program, but then they graduate and they lose access. How do you continue to progress as a professional when you lose access? So there are a huge number of angles to get at this.
CJ Ivory: And I’ll add to that the challenge of, something I think, academics are grappling with universally, is publishing even on the academic level, it’s still really sought after to publish in a Western publication. So even if they have their own local publications they are hoping to publish in a Western journal, and get their work there. But of course we know with that closed system that then now it hides behind a paywall because you then have to sacrifice all of your intellectual property rights. That was one of the challenges we and Angela faced, and also another reason we decided to write this book with someone who wanted us to sign over all of our intellectual property rights. And so, the very communities that they’re studying and that they’re writing about are not privy to the information that’s then now hidden behind the paywall because they have submitted it to these Western journals for the prestige, but then now their communities are cut off from it. And how do we overcome that as a community?
Troy Swanson: Well, and I think that’s a good segue into talking about libraries and OER and I do think when I’ve talked to people about it, they’ve wondered like, why libraries? Like, what does this have to do with us? From our audience, I’m sure just from this conversation can see some of these connections, but maybe we can make some of them a little more explicit. Why should librarians and libraries be the ones on their campus to lead the way on OER as opposed to bookstores or other potential leaders that may step forward? Why should it be us?
Mary Ann Cullen: Well, I mean, everybody needs to work together. Working with the bookstore, working with the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and whatever it’s called on your campus is great and we need all the support we can get. Librarians serve all departments. We’re used to working collaboratively and a lot of us have technology skills that can be useful in these things, but also we’re really good at finding things, whether they’re OER or library resources or whatever. We find things, and a lot of us have some background in copyright and licensing that, it’s not the sexiest part of OER, but it’s inevitably part of the conversation and working with faculty on these projects, the copyright and licensing issues are oftentimes the hardest part for them to understand and having us there to go, hey wait, you need to do attribution. Just cuz it’s open, you can’t just stick it in there, that kind of thing. We just love spreading knowledge around. That’s just who we are.
CJ Ivory: At our hearts, but it’s absolutely true. You know, it goes back to how I was tapped to start helping adapt those low cost / no cost courses and they didn’t even know if I had any experience with it. It was like, Hey, you seem like someone who can help, and that’s who we are as a profession, we generally are service oriented, so why not bookstores? I definitely think it needs to be a collaborative effort. And I will say I’ve gotten more traction on my campus when we have administrators and different folks from different segments of the community invested in this movement.
But I will say bookstores often have a competing interest with the open education component because in a lot of institutions they are a profit sector. And so, yes, it improves affordability for students, but as for the bookstore, it hurts their bottom line, and so they’re not always as willing to collaborate. Now, they may not say that openly, but in practice I have had challenges, especially at my previous institution because it was managed by a third party. And I will not say that third party, but it is a big bookstore business, and they told us we wanted to get the textbook listed. It was a huge institution, and they denied us access to the list of textbooks just to see if we could purchase some from the library or find other alternatives. They said that that list was proprietary and they could not give it to the library. I am happy to report that UWG is independently managed bookstore, and our bookstore manager is fantastic and works with us to help save our students money, but sometimes those are competing interests.
Mary Ann Cullen: One thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that the print version of OER, like OpenStax has print versions of their textbooks. Even though it’s non-commercial, like OpenStax isn’t making money and the authors aren’t making money, the bookstore is allowed to have a standard markup and still call it open. And our bookstore is, we have the indicators in the course management system when the students go to register that say if the textbook for the course is free or low cost, and it’s the bookstore that puts that information in there. They do cooperate. I don’t know if all the campuses are as friendly as our bookstore at Alpharetta, but our bookstore lady is very supportive.
Troy Swanson: Well, and I know that there’s some places that are not. There’s some different models out there that may interest listeners too. I know some places do like a small fee, like most bookstores aren’t making a huge markup on books anyway. So adding a one or $2 fee and some places take that fee and give it back to faculty to develop more OER. And so if you are listening and you’re trying to get into this game, there are some different ways that you can jump in that still might not threaten some of that budget reality, like some of the challenges that we face.
Angela Pashia: I’m gonna jump in with a kind of dissenting opinion that I don’t care if libraries are the leader or if somewhere else on campus. Bookstores tend to have a competing interest, but one of the chapters in our book looked at getting institutional support by having support for OERs as part of the campus diversity plan, and if you’re able to get that level of institutional support, putting it above the libraries at the provost or a VP level, take that and run with it because that can provide impetus to get more people involved. Librarians are passionate about it and where you don’t have those opportunities, we’re great for getting that ball rolling, but if we can get it at the higher levels and spread it everywhere. That would be my preference.
Mary Ann Cullen: Yeah, I totally agree. I think the reason that it took off at Georgia Perimeter College was that the president was the one saying, I challenge you to do this. One of the things that I noticed when we consolidated with Georgia State was even though the library had an active OER person, she did not have the upper administration support. So we’ve recently changed administration. A lot of the administrators are new, along with the new president.
So one of our goals right now is to get the administration on board. And one of the things we did was have a, what we called a mini conference. It was a one day conference and we got the Vice President for Student Success to be our opening speaker and talk about how these resources contributed to the university goals for affordability and diversity.
Angela Pashia: With that sort of approach, every librarian currently working on OERs could still do as much or more.
Mary Ann Cullen: Yeah. A lot of our efforts have just, you’ll plan a whole week of open ed week activities and the only people that come are the other librarians. So getting the administration to say, Hey, this is important, I think is huge. I think it’s a big part of success in our efforts.
Troy Swanson: I think that’s true. Further up, the food chain, the the better it’s gonna be. Right. But I also think there’s a reality that sometimes starting at the grassroots helps convince, you know? So wherever campus you’re on, you may need to figure out the best strategy that’s gonna work for you. When you work with faculty members who are interested in utilizing open resources, what directions do you give them and what kind of things should they consider as they’re deciding, do I get rid of this textbook that I’ve been used to using and I want to go in this new direction? How can we better guide faculty?
CJ Ivory: The first thing I tell faculty is it doesn’t have to be all at once because that can be an overwhelming prospect. So I say, let’s just start with a couple weeks at a time, are your supplementary materials, especially if they don’t have a course release release in their teaching, a four by four schedule, it seems like even more of a daunting task. But then I also like to find. What their instructional style is and what their instructional approach is. Is it a flipped classroom approach? Do they use heavily text-based materials or are they primarily relying on the course modules and the way they’re built in?
So I like to do my little mini survey. It’s kind of like an interview and then we determine what is the best way to approach how to rebuild their courses.
Mary Ann Cullen: It kind of depends on their goals. If they’re interested in incorporating diversity, they can pull some things in to supplement what they’re already used to. If it’s just the affordability thing and they’re teaching core classes, and I don’t mean to sound like an ad here, but OpenStax, I call the gateway drug to OER because it’s so much like traditional textbooks. There’s a print one, there’s ancillary materials, there’s a lot of people using ’em.
They’re peer reviewed, you know, all that stuff. So if that will fit, they don’t have something for every course, but a lot of core classes they cover.
CJ Ivory: Yeah, they’re really great at the core classes. I will say, it is a little bit harder to adapt those upper education courses or those graduate courses because the information is a little bit more specialized and unique, and so maybe the folks that are producing that content, the community is not as broad, but that also produces some of the better opportunities, because they are not necessarily as tied to that traditional textbook model, they’re already using different types of contents. I know for graduate classes, it’s a little bit easier sometimes to find their existing textbook through one of our vendors because it’s not considered a traditional textbook a lot of times, so it gives us more opportunity.
Troy Swanson: Earlier we had talked a little bit about one of our, I think, values as librarians about valuing academic labor. And I think there is a tension, and I know there’s conversations happening within open discourse about that tension between valuing that work, but also the value in making information accessible. Can we talk a little bit about, how should we incentivize authors? If you were an author you were gonna work with, to create an OER book versus a traditional book through a publisher. What are the things that we should think about and how do we kind of square this as librarians?
Mary Ann Cullen: Well, we could have another whole discussion about the unpaid labor of academics. It’s like ,we were gonna get paid? You mean people make money doing things?
Troy Swanson: We went into the wrong business if we thought we were getting paid, right?
Mary Ann Cullen: I haven’t received a royalty check yet. I should, but I told Elizabeth, we’re gonna be lucky, especially because all of us, in both CJ and Angela’s book and our book, we published open access versions with ACRL.
So while the print book is a hundred some dollars, there is an open access version. I’m like, nobody’s gonna buy our book, you know? But then ours is in the third printing, so somebody’s buying it. But I’m like, you know, Elizabeth, we’re gonna be good to get dinner out of this. We’ve gotten a lot more attention, promotions. I did it as much as I could on company time writing it.
Troy Swanson: So Mary Ann, you’re kind of saying, none of us that publish are retiring away to our own private island off of our royalties?
Mary Ann Cullen: Not yet. Like, maybe that first royalty check will be the thing that buys me the island, but I kind of don’t think so.
Angela Pashia: We do get some intangible benefits by publishing in this format. So it goes on our CV, we get to do talks about our books, our name is out there, and if we sell a whole lot and we leverage that, then maybe that boosts us into a higher paid position. And that’s how the whole academic game works, right? And it counts toward tenure or promotion.
How do we make sure that creating an open educational resource counts toward even promotion and tenure and those sort of incentives? One of the things that kind of frustrates me the most in working with faculty at West Georgia, our tenured faculty can serve on Faculty Senate and are involved in a lot of stuff that librarians in other universities can’t take for granted.
And even people talk about tenure and promotion documents as if it’s just like it’s written and that’s what we’ve got rather than a living document. But we have committees that can change and update these things. How do we get Faculty Senate and administrators on board to at least give credit for open publications in the way that CJ and I are getting credit for this book and the way that you’re getting credit for your book on your CV and in those processes?
Mary Ann Cullen: Yeah, it should not just be the goodwill of the faculty member to, to incorporate OER into their classes. It’s more work, even if you get something like OpenStax, it’s similar to a traditional book, it’s more work than a traditional textbook that you can just pull out the package and the homework assignments are online. The institutions need to provide the time and the financial support. If they really value OER, they need to give faculty the time and the money, too, incentives. And like Angela said, there needs to be recognition and promotion and tenure, evaluation awards, all of those things. One of the faculty excuses I heard is that they had deals with the publishers to review the publisher’s books, and contribute to the publisher’s books and stuff. And there wasn’t a similar kind of incentive with OER. I know some OER publishers do provide some nominal fee to the faculty who review the books, but they can’t do it on the scale that the commercial publishers do.
CJ Ivory: That’s really when it’s really important to have administrative support. You know, we’re all in Georgia and I would give my talks about ALG and the grants that come at least three times a year, and I would just have an AVP show up. And her whole goal in the meeting was to say that these competitively awarded grants were eligible for tenure dossiers.
And so you could put this on your resume and it just is an incentive. For a while now, I’ve been wanting to get kind of a local program, like UNCG, University of North Carolina, they have a chapter in the book, but they also have a $500 kind of mini grant fee on their campus that’s run through the library. Even something as small as that, because it still is competitively awarded, and it provides incentive. One of the chapter authors, the chapter on Caribbean studies and their directory, one of the things that they did was they provided acknowledgement and authorship for all of the authors that were a part of that project, not the ones that worked on the chapter, but if anyone that was a part of that project wanted to have acknowledgement and be included as an author, they did list them as an author. So you’ll see like almost 15, 20 names. There are some people who chose not to participate, but that is one way that you can, at least in this arena, give credit to folks. If you publish using some resource or some content that someone else has developed, give them credit. Just give them, a mention because it does make a difference, especially in academia.
Troy Swanson: I’ve always thought that, you know, some of the concerns with budgets from the university perspective can also be a little shortsighted where, if students can afford their books, we have all these conversations about retention and having students return instead of having to recruit new students. OER to me seems like a logical retention platform also, right? We’ve touched on some of these things, but I think it’s important that we talk about some of the challenges that are out there.
I mean, I think the open idea, open pedagogy’s been around, but really the spark and the growth of OER resources is really fairly within the last decade, I think, even more recently. So where are we as a community and what are the challenges that we face that we still need to overcome to really move this forward?
CJ Ivory: Since I’ve been working in this space, it’s been about eight years, I’m gonna say I’m really encouraged with the progress we’ve made. University of West Georgia is the second institution in our state that has over 50% of our core sections using low cost / no cost textbooks, that’s phenomenal. I know that’s not the standard, but I think that institutions and even faculty, especially in this age where we have declining enrollment and programs are kind of fighting for survival, students are electing those courses that have low cost / no cost materials. So we see that the students can kind of also lead increased adoption of open education resources, but also historically there was a challenge with faculty doubting the quality or the efficacy of some of these resources. And I will say the Open Education Group has done significant work collecting and collating all of that data and making a clear case that your students are not going to suffer their education by adopting these Open Education Resources.
So I do think that there is a little bit more work to do there because we have faculty that have been teaching for several decades and when they were introduced to open content, it maybe wasn’t at the standard that it is now because we’ve made great strides. So maybe reintroducing some of them and getting them comfortable with the idea of change is one of the things I have on my list, kind of my uphill battle.
Mary Ann Cullen: Yeah. There’s still a lot of misconceptions. It’s improved. Surveys have shown it’s improved. But I had somebody say, “Well, I don’t want to use something that somebody could change any time.” And I’m like, “It’s not Wikipedia.” You can change it and republish it, but it’s not like somebody’s gonna go into your textbook and change it mid-semester. It doesn’t work like that. But certainly there’s diversity issues and a lot of the first OERs were just repeats of the traditional canon. So I think the diversity issues are a big topic in the OER community right now, so I think there’s good things ahead in terms of bringing in more voices and using more diverse examples and that sort of thing.
CJ Ivory: Just more on that diversity issue, and we talked about it a little bit just a few minutes ago, women and people of color tend to do more unpaid labor in academia. That’s just kind of a fact. If you look at the distribution of faculty of color, a lot of them aren’t in those instructor roles and they just don’t have as much professional development and growth opportunities built into their workload agreements. They’re the ones who are often, just out of sheer need, I know when I create my courses as a woman of color, I’m looking at this and like, “No, there’s, there’s no way I’m going to teach this content and deliver it in this way without modifying it, without updating it.” And so we see a lot of that unpaid labor done by them, and so I would also like to see more of a strategic conversation in this space about how to compensate the people we’re asking to do the labor, and hopefully it’s not all on faculty of color, but that is generally who I see working in this space to diversify that higher education content. And I would like to see a little bit more of a move to figure out how to compensate them.
Angela Pashia: Building on that, just the general adjunctification of the university is another challenge because when you have people in contingent positions, it’s really hard to devote the time and energy it takes to develop new materials, to develop the skills to teach using open pedagogy. I kind of laughed when Mary Ann mentioned it’s not Wikipedia because when I was in library school, one of my professors actually used Wikipedia as the text for the course. He just wrote the articles and maintained them and talked about how to watch for edits.
Mary Ann Cullen: Yeah, it’s not usually Wikipedia, but I’m seeing more and more open pedagogy-type projects. They’re not all technically the OER enabled pedagogy and things are published openly and stuff, but I’m seeing a lot more projects where students are creating material, either they’re learning from material other students have created or they’re creating material to express what they’ve learned. The classes that I’ve been involved in with those projects, the students are so much more engaged in what they’re doing, and they’re much more open to information literacy lessons, when it goes beyond the professor.
Troy Swanson: I think that’s a good point. I’ve always thought that, especially in the modern library, part of our job is to buy resources and provide resources that are out there, but also to capture the resources and ideas that are created on our campus and make them available, whether that’s undergraduate research publications that I know a lot of libraries are doing, whether it’s through the kind of collection of faculty publications that we make available, it seems to me that OER is just a logical extension of those kind of efforts. So, it works.
And CJ, I don’t wanna lose your point, which was kind of a core of this question about, who are the people picking up that labor that really doing that lift to diversify what’s happening in the curriculum and who does that fall on? I think that’s a very poignant point that you were making. And so, I think all of these are good and kind of the big steps where we are within these conversations.
I think you mentioned that both of your books are available as OERs, is that correct?
CJ Ivory: Honestly, if you Google “using open educational resources to promote social justice”, you’ll be taken to the ACRL Press website, and if you scroll to the bottom, there is a link that will take you to the full text of the book. That is the easiest way I can describe to get there.
Mary Ann Cullen: Yes, I was gonna say something similar.
CJ Ivory: They are available wherever books are sold. Okay. Can I get one more shameless plug for our book?
It’s interdisciplinary. So we had obviously librarians contributing to the book, but also faculty across disciplines and the work that folks are doing in the discipline is amazing and some of the projects that they’re working on, so please definitely take a look. One of the chapters I really like is the chapter on the music database and bringing in composers of different backgrounds. Just a faculty member decided to take that project on and then make it available for the community. I know Angela has her favorites as well, but I just encourage you to take that chapter and send it to your music faculty just so they know that they’re more diverse options out there please.
Troy Swanson: That’s fantastic. Well, as we wrap things up, if our listeners wanted to connect with all of you online, how can they find you?
CJ Ivory: I am @ivory_cj on Twitter.
Angela Pashia: I have a website at angelapashia.com. And you can also find me on LinkedIn.
Mary Ann Cullen: I’m an email person, mcullen@gsu .edu. I’m on social media, but I can’t promise that I’ll see it. Email’s safer.
Troy Swanson: Well, let me thank you all for your time. This was a great conversation.
Mary Ann Cullen: Well, thank you. It was fun.