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- Billy Meinke-Lau
- Jessica Norman
- Michelle Brailey
- Karen Lauritsen
- Zoe Wake Hyde
- Jonathan Poritz
- Mark McBride
- Anita Walz
Zoe: So, we will be picking up on some of the threads out of that conversation and then also exploring a few new things as well. There’s an awful lot to talk about on the topic, so I’m excited to see how this goes and where we end up. Partly as well ’cause I did miss the first one. So, I’ve just been recapping myself on really interesting conversations coming out. So, for those of you who don’t know, my name is Zoe from the Rebus Community.
And we are delighted as always to partner with the OTN on these Office Hours sessions. And so, now I’ll hand you over to Karen to introduce our speakers for the day.
Karen: Thanks, Zoe. My name is Karen Lauritsen I’m a managing director with the Open Textbook Network, and like the Rebus team we are delighted to partner on these monthly Office Hours sessions, when we talk informally about issues related to open textbook publishing. As a reminder, these conversations are really community driven, and so if there are topics that you would like to cover in the future, things that you think of, please let us know, either in the chat or drop us a note in the future.
Today, our guests are going to share details about working within their campus, system, state, and regional context to develop OER policy. Today, we’re going to hear about other experiences, developing publishing policy, rolling out institutional OER policy via training, developing institutional goals to support open pedagogy, and pushing back against the collection and use of personal data along with other topics that will emerge.
We have three guests today, Billy and Jessica are returning from the July session and then, Michelle is new to join us. And then, I’m sure there’s many people who are in this call who can also share their experiences. So, I’m going to go ahead and give a brief bio of our three guests, and then turn it over to them. Our format here today is as always brief and informal. Our three guests will share three to five minutes about their experience, and then we’re going to open it up to all of you to drive the conversation with your questions and comments.
So, joining us today are Billy Meinke, he’s the open educational resources technologist at Outreach College and the Dean’s Office at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. We also have Jessica Norman, she’s the e-learning librarian and library liaison in construction, hospitality and tourism at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. And then, we have Michelle Brailey, who’s digital initiatives projects librarian at the University of Alberta. We’re going to start with Billy, so I’m going to turn it over to you.
Billy: All right, good morning, or good afternoon everybody. My name is Billy Meinke-Lau. And I am the OER technologist for the Outreach College at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. So, I’m just going to give my spiel right now about open policy, okay. Great, so a lot of my work has to do with building textbooks with faculty and supporting technology that allows that and looking at processes that support that. But what has come into play inevitably is policy.
And so, at two levels, I’ve had to work with policy at the institutional level. When I dug in and started to look at the existing textbooks that faculty were using and the shift towards inclusive access and textbook rentals, I found some problematic things. Having to do with the terms of service and the privacy policies associated with textbook rentals and the like. And so, I did quite a bit of digging and I’ve worked with counsel and I’ve worked with other policy makers to figure out what to do with this.
Essentially, at the first stage we are giving students more of a heads up in terms of what types of data collection, personal information is collected by publishers, when they do click through the terms of service, when they open their digital rentals. And the next step will be working with publishers to bring their terms of service and privacy policies in line. Because at the end of the day, data collection and extracting information about our students, about how they learn doesn’t really have anything to do with their learning.
And so, separating that and their business models associated with that from the learning itself and from the classroom experience has been really important. At a state level, here in Hawaii, things have been interesting. Last year, we had a surprise OER bill at the state legislature. And nobody saw it coming, and it was more or less the result of our students’ governments speaking with senators about what they really care about, and textbook affordability was one of the main items.
And so, we had a bill that we had to watch carefully as it made it through the legislature. That bill did not make it through and fell out of Senate. We’re not quite sure how it all happened, but I can drop a link into the chat if you’d like to read more about that. But the good news is that we have two fresh OER bills that were just introduced at the state legislature last week. So, both the house and the senate at the Hawaii State Legislature are interested in supporting OER, which is wonderful.
And after what happened last year, both chambers are now more or less in line in terms of knowing better how to support OER. Both bills at this point, they haven’t accepted testimony or anything significant yet. But both bills are calling for a taskforce or a council to be set up to assess the needs system wide, state wide here in Hawaii for OER. The University of Hawaii is the state university.
There are 10 campuses, I’m at the flagship campus, and the state legislation basically is to do a survey and say, “You know, if we want to do OER system wide how do we go about doing that? What’s it going to cost? Who has to be involved? What’s the nitty gritty of getting this done?” And so, having support at the top down level is really nice. And it’s giving us an opportunity to interact with legislators and open conversations about how they can support the university in a broader way, and how OER is part of that.
And so, I will drop in links to the two measures, if anybody is interested in actually getting in and taking a look. First one is our house bill and the second one is the senate bill. And if you look at the first link that I dropped in, there is a link from there to SPARC’s open education policy playbook. And inside that playbook they made a few recommendations as to at the state level what states might adopt in terms of legislation that support OER.
And one of the key pieces is setting up a taskforce, and another one is a grant program. And so, there is a possibility of that at this time. In terms of the two bills and the similarities and differences, those are calling for a taskforce assessment, about what would it take to do OER across the entire state. This senate bill is more specific in terms of specifying who is going to be on that taskforce.
And they’ve asked the vice chancellors of academic affairs from each campus, which is pretty hard to pull together. They did not yet add or designee to the end of it, which would be really nice. So, they specify who they want to be on the taskforce, but they actually have not included on that taskforce information technology IT people. They have not included a student voice, they’ve not included accessibility, or disabilities, that sort of expertise on the taskforce.
We may be asking for that at a later point. But at any rate, at the institutional level, helping students make better decisions, and helping faculty be more aware of data collection with regard to the kinds of textbooks that they may have been using, that they may be moving away from. That’s one part of it. And then, at the state level, on the policy front looking at the attention that the legislators are putting on OER as it approaches textbook affordability.
And helping make sure that legislation that goes through is actually useful, it’s actionable, it’s something that we can work with. And something that other states and jurisdictions might be able to model. Great. I will pass it along.
Karen: Thank you. Super. Jessica, I’m going to turn things over to you, if you want to unmute and turn your camera on, in case it’s off. There you are, we see you.
Jessica: Sure. So, hopefully the sound is okay. Excellent. So, as she said, my name is Jessica Norman, and I’m at the SAIT, otherwise known as Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, in Calgary Alberta Canada. We’re a two-year polytechnic, applied education institution with approximately 11,000 students enrolled, if that gives you a sense of our size. I’m currently the e-learning librarian, here in our library.
And OER is part of my position description, so it’s an explicit part of my job. So, when I was here in July, the discussion was around a newly adopted institutional policy. So, in May 2018, our board of governors approved an institutional OER policy here on campus. It clearly stated that our institution promoted the use of OER, which was a real change from previous culture.
It specified the type of open license that was preferred, clarified some of the other procedures around adopting, adapting, and creating OER. And also, clarified training and support measures, so that was really big for us. Since then, in the academic year we’ve really seen a transition on our campus from what is OER? To how do we do this effectively? So, the policy was really instrumental, at least for us to raise awareness with not only our faculty, but also our academic chairs and administrators and even with our students.
And it really shifted our culture to an answer of yes when administrators or faculty were thinking about new curriculum projects or developing content that OER was an option. What that means in a practical sense is we’ve seen an explosion of OER activity on campus. We had 13 small scale projects for adoption or adaption this Fall. And another five course textbook replacement projects, where the course went fully OER for all materials.
One of the projects that I worked on over summer and then Fall was to replace the traditional textbook in 88 sections of our communication courses. So, that was an immediate impact on 2,300 students this Fall semester. And we’re following that up with an assessment project on student perception and the use of materials. We’ve got approval to share the results from that afterwards.
And then, from a student perspective, we saw our first student association campaign to really educate and promote to the students the value of OER. It riled some people up on campus, it got some interesting rumors going. But it also really opened up some conversations, too with faculty, that we may not have seen otherwise. But the other interesting thing about all this activity, at least from my perspective, is that there was finally an acknowledgement on campus that for OER to be sustainable in the future, it can’t be a one-woman show. (Laughs)
So, I’m the only person on campus with OER in my title, or in my description on campus. And I’ve spent a lot of time this Fall talking to folks about how all aspects of our program so, advocacy, training, project management, content creation, assessment, renewal projects, how we can integrate those into institutional practices in other departments on campus. And one of my main projects starting this Fall is the development of a strategic plan for campus.
So, that we can document how we as an institution are going to support these activities going forward. And that we can distribute out the workload and the time required to make this successful. It looks like that I’ll be able to have those approved by March of this year and be able to really put that out there and start promoting those activities on campus. And also outside of campus with folks to help them better understand what we need to do to make this a really comprehensive program.
So, one of the first examples is simply going to be that we need to have a training program that will allow faculty and staff to have access to information on a scalable platform and it’s not just me giving workshops (laughs). ‘Cause there comes a limit to how many places I can be at once. So, that and several other areas that we’re going to be focusing on will hopefully set a foundation where we’ll have a long-term successful development project here at SAIT. That’s what we have been doing.
Karen: Thanks, Jessica. I’m sure there are several people out there who can identify with the idea of it needing to move beyond a one-person show. (Laughs)
Jessica: Sometimes you get caught by your own success.
Karen: (Laughs) Thank you. I would now like to turn things over to Michelle.
Michelle: Hi, can you hear me okay?
Karen: Yes, we can hear and see you.
Michelle: Perfect. Well, thank you so much for having me here. And thank you Jessica and Billy for sharing your experiences first. So, I’m at the University of Alberta, Canada. So, to give you an idea of the size, this is a large institution. So, there are six campuses, 40,000 students. So, practices and policies are often at a department level and they get quite complex.
So, I don’t have really an institutional wide policy to speak to, but what I thought I could speak to is some of our library publishing practices and how policy fits within that. So, specifically my role is on the library publishing and digital production team in the library. And on campus we also have an existing OER awards program, which is a partnership between the library and the Center for Teaching and Learning.
So, through these funded projects we started to see some needs emerge for OER publishing infrastructure. And that’s something a program we’ve been working to publish and build on our campus. So, working alongside that pilot project, the portfolio I’m in also has a strong existing open publishing program. So, we’ve been working on building our open publishing program, mirroring those existing practices that are already working as best that we can.
So, as well as working on things, practical things like technology, planning, workflows, all that practical stuff. We’ve also been developing memoranda of understanding, so MOU, really just a document that outlines the responsibilities of each partner. So, as the content creators know each other’s responsibilities and it creates an effective partnership. So, where the MOUs within other service is content creator is required to put the MOU before access to our publishing tools.
So, the kinds of things that are included in the MOU so some of our responsibilities are things like providing access to Pressbooks and establishing a unique account, allowing them to transfer content to our servers. We will be updating the software, providing OER hosting across, assigning DOIs, assisting with disability. And it allows for discontinuation of the services with six months’ notice.
For the content creators they’re required to, of course, make their content freely openly available with the CC license, that allows to create derivatives. They must be fully responsible for all aspects of creation and transfer and updating their OER content. They must provide us with contact for one designated contact for their project. And they’re responsible for obtaining if their party permissions are seeking copyright so that’s required.
And of course, they’re also able to discontinue the service with notice, as well. So, policy kind of fits within defining our goal within the libraries and how we’re supporting OER in our campus. Just speaking from what Jessica had mentioned, kind of a latter shift from those one-off workshops all the time, of going in and doing the OER show to being able to have a defined bubble for the services we can provide and where we fit within the OER spectrum on our campus.
Karen: Thank you, Michelle. And if you have examples of the MOU or some of the other resources you were discussing, I’m sure people on the call would really appreciate those links. Okay, now is when we put it to all of you to engage with our guests and ask questions about what they’ve shared so far or add your own stories. So, feel free to do that in the chat, or to unmute.
I think we’re doing okay with our audio and thank you for turning off your cameras, I think that really helps with what we’re all trying to do here in this big group together. So, I have not been monitoring the chat perhaps as closely as others. So, let me know, are there questions outstanding that we should start with here?
Zoe: We did have one in the chat that came while Jessica was speaking, from Cathy asking whether you have provided financial incentive for those projects that you were talking about that have been kicking off at great speed on your campus?
Jessica: So, that is a good question. The answer to that would be that no, we currently do not have a separate funding process or mini-grant process for OER. At our particular institution, the way that we’re currently looking at it is that OER is built into the ongoing curriculum development processes that already exist. The institution felt like their first step was simply to encourage folks to use OER while they’re developing new materials for classes.
And they’ll support that work, so if they get a contract to do a new course development and they develop OER as part of that, then obviously they’re being compensated. But, at this stage at least, they aren’t having a separate grant just for OER development. It is part of our strategic plan, so we’re looking at it as a phase two. But right now, they’re focusing more on existing processes and existing funding.
And then, just the big thing for us is putting the word OER into current grants, so we have curriculum development processes, and we have an in-house grant that’s really interesting. It’s called a Cisco e-learning grant, we offer up to five a year. It’s a $20,000 development grant plus a full semester of off-load time. And OER is now allowed to be one of the possibilities for that. So, I’m trying to be creative with current funding models, rather than getting new funding that we can apply.
Zoe: Thanks for that, that sounds like a great approach working with what’s already there.
Karen: Jessica, just to follow up on something you said in your intro, you mentioned that there is a preferred license, there’s some language around that. Can you talk a little bit about the preferred licenses at your institution?
Jessica: Sure. So, one thing that I should definitely highlight is that being at a two-year polytechnic we have a different model for IP or for intellectual property than maybe at a four-year university. In that our current policies and our faculty contract with our institution state that all work that’s developed during your employment is owned by the institution and not by the faculty member.
So, if we do create content during curriculum development, or other activities that relate to class, the material itself and therefore the license is held by the institution and not by the instructor. The reason why that’s significant for us is because historically that meant then, that the institution or its designee, so someone in our curriculum development group or maybe a dean would declare this is copyrighted, and we can’t or won’t share it.
The policy then, for us, in the Fall or last year was really significant, because it meant that our institution had a declared statement that said the default would be open and not traditional copyright. And therefore, the designee, the curriculum development person or the dean was allowed to then say, “Yes, we will license this through creative commons, and yes, we can make it available.”
So, the language we use right now says that in consultation with their dean or other designee the faculty member will apply the appropriate creative commons license. We as an institution have said that we promote the use of CC BY unless there is some outstanding reason not to. So, we’re not going to say it has to be a completely open license, there might be a few instances why we need it to be non-commercial or something.
But we have it clearly stated that we want it to be CC BY unless there is a compelling reason. And then, there’s a nice statement that says they should consult with me, if they’re not sure what to do and I will help them choose the most open possible license.
Karen: Nice. Billy, there’s a question for you in the chat from Rob, who’s asking about some of the benefits and challenges of getting legislature involved with OER.
Billy: That’s a great question. So, as I mentioned, last year’s OER bill at the state level, it was a surprise, nobody saw it coming. And at first glance, some people were saying, “Well, do we need a bill to make OER work here?” And that was the question we were grappling with this whole time, like is it going to help or hinder our progress with OER? And as the OER bill, as the waves of news spread out across the entire state a lot of people were like, “What’s OER? This is new, what are you guys doing?”
And a lot more people became involved and interested in it. And so, for that reason it was good to have something even just a proposed bill out there for OER. But still the question that we’re struggling with is do we need an OER bill at state level to make OER work here? And I’m leaning towards yes. And mainly it’s because University of Hawaii is a state school, we’re funded largely through the state. We have reporting duties to the state for this funding that they give us. And so, there’s a higher level of accountability.
And this isn’t to say that the state is going to give us funding directly for OER, but there is some oversight of the university’s activities with the state, and we need to improve that relationship, if we can. So, that said, I think setting up a formal taskforce, which is a part of both bills that are on the docket this year, I think that’s a good thing. And I think it will again, raise the accountability level and get more folks at the administration level involved and aware.
And having them help move their resources, people resources, too around to make sure that we have a report, we have a plan, we have a better idea at the system level. Because my work primarily is focused on my campus, but like I said, we have 10 campuses and OER expertise and OER leadership at each campus is a little bit different. And so, if we’re working at the system level top down, and if we can have the grassroots and bottom up support where they meet in the middle, I think that’s the sweet spot.
So, they can look up or over if you will, and say, “Okay, look, we have support from legislators.” And they can look over to the side and say, “Oh our peers are really interested in this, too.” And where they meet, I think that’s where we’re going to see most blossoming, the most blooming, the most really interesting work. But having that accountability and the support and maybe some funding down the line from the state, that’d be really neat.
But yeah, it’s still a toss-up, and not everybody’s in agreement over whether or not we need an OER bill for this to work. I know personally a few folks I work with they don’t think that we need a bill at all, and they’d rather see it move on, and not get passed. But at any rate, just having a bill, having policy at a high level around OER really just brought it to the forefront of everyone’s mind.
And now, they’re more closely associating OER with online learning, as opposed to OER being this amorphous abstract thing that’s on its own. Now, it’s like, “Oh, well, you can do online learning how you would like to do it anyways, and just have the content be open. And it’s a lot of what you want to do anyway.” But yeah, I hope that answered the question.
Karen: Thanks Billy. In the chat, there is a continuation I think Jessica, on your comments about licenses. So, Alexis is asking if a professor doesn’t want others profiting from their work, would that be considered a valid reason to make something NC, for example? Do you see that as taking away academic freedom if the answer is no? Have you ran into any case studies like that, yet?
Jessica: That’s a really interesting question. I just saw that in the chat. Give me a second, I’m reading through that twice. Let’s see. Profiting off the work a valid reason to make something in NC license. I see. And I have to give full props here to Cable Green, Creative Commons, and the rest of that crew, because I took the Creative Commons certificate this past summer. And one of the things that I learned there is that NC doesn’t mean what you think it means necessarily.
And so, I’ve actually spent a decent amount of time on our campus trying to clarify for folks why we want to be as open as possible. How labeling something as NC can really sometimes cause issues with using current material as well as sharing it back out. Because when you start applying an NC SA license, that share alike element can sometimes cause some issues in ways that people don’t expect.
I’ve also at least on our campus had several conversations around what it means to be non-commercial in terms of creating copies and providing students access to print and things like that. We actually did a small revision to our policy, it was officially approved in May with a statement that said that our institution would not print copies for students. Because some of the legal information they had previously was that somehow that would violate an NC and they didn’t want to go near it.
And luckily, I got some information through Creative Commons, in fact it may have been an email from Cable, along with some of the new outcomes from some of the court cases. And we were able to have our copyright officer write a statement in support of printing and providing access to the students in print. And we got a legal brief basically that officially said, “Yes, we can do this, this is still acceptable under NC.”
And so, we were able to have them revise our policy and open that part up and have it republished under the new language that says, “We can print things and that NC doesn’t eliminate that option through say a Xerox center or something.” So, I can’t really answer the question of taking away academic freedom or not. I’m not sure I feel comfortable doing that off the top of my head right now.
What I would say though, is that it’s really important to understand clearly what non-commercial really means. And that by locking things down under non-commercial I’ve found that it actually has a much bigger impact than you would originally think of.
Karen: Thanks, Jessica. And I invite anyone else to chime in, if they would like to. I’ve also had similar conversations lately about NC with Cable. So, I’m sure this is a big part of your life, Cable. I’m pausing to see if anyone would like to unmute and speak up.
Billy: I can speak a little bit to the licenses. So, I used to work at Creative Commons with Cable, and so I just want to reemphasize the point that the licenses are the lynchpin of why this is all working, why OER is so impactful. And so, the NC license debate and the case law some of which is still being mulled over, it’s very, very important. You shouldn’t be afraid of copyrights. Not every campus, not every institution has a copyright librarian, or a copyright specialist, we don’t at our institution.
But I’m not sure if we do throughout our entire system. But fortunately, the CC licenses are easy enough to understand, and when folks do have complex questions, there is a community to reach out to to get those questions answered. They usually come with a little disclaimer, like this is not legal advice, I am not your lawyer, but that’s just what they have to do to protect themselves, which is great.
Just to finish that thought, so we do an OER grant program at UH Manoa as well, and there are OER grant programs that are happening at the community college level as well. And we do prefer CC BY as what the license that the folks put on the outputs of their grant. But we do allow other licenses, if there is justification. In one, possibly two cases we did allow NC licenses, when there was content being developed and it hadn’t previously been OER, but they’re making a new version of it, and they wanted to make it OER.
And so, we funded them to do that, and they did choose an NC license, because there was some pressure from a publisher that was considering borrowing in big ways from the work. And they wanted to put that on hold, until they solidified their position and made sure everything was all good to go. And they’re looking at a later point licensing with a more free and more open license. But they’re doing a more tempered approach in the beginning with an NC license, with plans later on to revisit that conversation and to license it more openly.
Zoe: And I wonder if Michelle, you want to jump in? I think you mentioned that you’re allowing licenses, any of the CC licenses apart from ND? And so, I wonder if you could talk maybe about how you came to that position? And I was thinking from what Billy mentioned as well about who’s involved in the shaping of these policies, was that done with consultation with faculty? Or with others within the library system? How do you get to that within your arrangements at the moment?
Michelle: So, we’re fortunate on our campus that we do have a copyright librarian. While building our memorandum of understanding we worked very closely with copyright librarian. Our copyright librarian often our OER community, knowledge of the community. We were also looking at our of understanding we were already using for our OS program, the open journal publishing. And really, just adapting that as possible to fit with our—
So, giving them the freedom to select an appropriate license, but of course, to be an OER in my opinion, it has to not have that ND license. So, the understanding that with each project there will be some consultation to educate and determine the most appropriate licenses. That answer your question? Perfect.
Zoe: It does, thank you. And I think we’ve had another one from Cathy in the chat. And I’m not sure if this is targeted at anyone in particular. But she’s asking to what extent do you expect your creators, grant recipients, etc to participate in subsequent OER advocacy? Do you request it formally or informally? And then, for you Michelle, do you include in the MOU? Anyone want to jump in on that one?
Billy: I will jump in. So, I will say that we’ve had a little bit of a challenge in terms of turning our OER grant recipients into OER champions. And that’s not because they’re not enthusiastic, it’s because they have very little time. So, we’re an R1 research institution, and these faculty, our grants are up to $5,000 to adapt or create a new OER textbook. And in comparison to the other research grants that our faculty might be working under, that’s a drop in the bucket.
They have lots of duties, they have teaching responsibilities, they have to be publishing and this, that, and the other thing. So, what we did was build into the grants that they would be blogging about their experience. And that’s a way to put a marker and document their experience, and even if they’re not necessarily going to be the ones walking down the hallway talking to all their companions about OER, we at least have something to point back to.
And initially, I wanted to have all the faculty who received the OER grants blog on our OER.hawaii.edu site, and I realized that they don’t always want to do that. Sometimes they want to have more ownership over it, and that’s totally cool. I’m a huge fan of domain of one’s own, and those sorts of things, owning your own web space. And so, in some cases, we’ve had faculty that deferred to blogging on the Math Department blog, and we can just link to it, that’s great.
And we asked that they openly license that as well, so I can scrape the copy and keep it, in case that ever goes away, that sort of thing. But allowing people to be champions and support others in the departments in their own way, as long as it does sort of fit with the greater vision of having more people involve openness into their practice, and have OER be something they regularly work with, even if they’re not getting grant funding right away or at that point. That’s been our approach.
Michelle: I can jump in as well. So, for our OER awards program, it is part of that program that they’re required to share about their work. So, not as strong as advocacy, but just be open to sharing about their experiences with those projects. And as part of our OER publishing program, we don’t have anything formally established in that regards, yet. But we do have a strong relationship on our campus with our students’ union.
So, they’ve been actually the strongest advocate to pull in those faculty who are involved with OER projects and getting them to share their experiences with students’ union planned events. So, that’s how it’s fit in with the OER creation and advocacy. Actually, our OER advocacy committee is actually chaired by our students’ union. And they actively recruit members across campus who are involved with OER.
Jessica: So, I’m not sure if this is up and running, but I could share from our perspective what we’re doing, kind of like Billy said. We don’t want to formally set the requirements for advocacy, because it can look different to different people. We’re also very aware of the time commitments. I’m at a teaching institution, where our faculty are typically coming from a non-traditional background. So, they’ve been practicing in their profession, they’re plumbers, they’re welders, they’re bakers who are coming to teach.
And so, interesting enough what I find is I have a lot of enthusiastic folks who are adopting or creating content. But when I ask if they’re interested in being more of an advocate or speaking publicly, I often find I run into a lot of concerns about their expertise, and I have to spend time kind of reassuring them from perspective that well, the whole concept of being an impostor syndrome, right? That they’re saying to me, “Well, I’m not good enough at it, yet.”
Or, “I just wrote a video, I’m not really wanting to talk about it from a larger theoretical.” So, what we’ve done is we’ve gotten permission from folks to either record them talking about concepts, so that they can feel comfortable with the content, prep their conversation, maybe even if we need to edit the responses, so that they are okay with that. We’re also asking them not to blog necessarily but to either create a reflection piece, or in some cases we interview them and then write up the results from the interview.
And then, I can use that content to craft posters that we can use around campus with their image, or we can use the video clips during events and presentations. And we find that people are more comfortable doing that kind of work than being live in front of a group and talking about the process or having to find time outside of a class teaching schedule to come to an event. So, those kinds of activities have worked a little better for us.
Karen: Thank you all for sharing your comments. Cable is pointing to Jonathan. Jonathan Poritz, if you’re willing to share what Colorado is doing regarding the open education statewide council and how they’re working with their state legislature? That it could be useful since Hawaii is considering a statewide council, too.
Jonathan: Can you hear me? No.
Karen: Yes, we can hear you now.
Jonathan: Okay, great. There we go. So, yes, so what Billy describes is interesting to me that it came out of the blue. I guess it came a little out of the blue in Colorado as well, the committee of the state legislature got interested. And apparently it was a legislative aide who told the legislators, “Hey, don’t just jump into creating a program, do a little study first.” And so, the first bill they passed, which had a tiny budget just got a bunch of people from round the state to sit on a council and make a proposal.
We proposed a grant program, and an ongoing council to help coordinate efforts in the state. And now, we got into that legislature like that, and jumped on that. And so, we are now in our first year. We gave out grants of about $500,000 and supposedly we’ll have another $1 million in year two and another in year three. We’re trying to organize activities. I think we haven’t had as much student input as some people have said.
I don’t really know why, but we did a survey and there was a lot of student involvement in our survey. The state, the council is very active, and I think we’re meeting a huge amount of interest. And I think I really feel like there’s a critical threshold, once you cross it and it becomes on people’s radar, everyone starts talking about it, and everywhere you go. I can’t walk across my campus without faculty members stopping me and saying, “Hey, I’ve got this idea, could you help me?”
Literally, people see me, and they stop me. I’m thinking of wearing a disguise when I leave my building. But the state is, I think state efforts can be nice, it’s nice to have some money. I think as one of the previous speakers was talking about, we all have a lot of demands on our time. And the amount of money that typically is available for OER stipends or some kind of little bit funding, honorary almost, of funding to induce people to be involved or whatever.
It’s really it doesn’t it’s not a minimum wage job, if you do the computation of how much time you spend. So, my feeling is that the money is nice, but what really matters is a community and a support structure, if there are OER librarians or if there are people in the community that know, that can answer questions and do some of the work. I have colleagues who say, “I’m not going to spend the time.”
And I say, “Listen, I will come to your office, you will give me the content, I will type it into Pressbooks, I will do it all for you. Just use it when I’m done.” And they say, “Well, okay.” So, I think if I were redesigning things, I might give less money as direct grants to people in the project and provide more a well supported infrastructure. Anyway, I don’t know. I think it’s good to move forward, and I think it’s nice to have support from the politicians.
We have a new governor in Colorado, who was one of the co-authors of the United States Federal Appropriation that was spent and funded the Libre Texts thing. So, we’re hoping that we’ll get— I still haven’t a chance to meet him, but I supposedly we will have more input from the governor’s office. Anyway, thank you.
Karen: Thanks Cable for the suggestion, thanks Jonathan for hopping on and sharing your story. Cathy has a question in the chat. In any of your policies, do you include having the cost of textbooks stated clearly in the registration system, or is this more an institutional decision and not part of legislation? The students are working on it now at UConn, University of Connecticut. So, I put that to anyone who’s here.
Billy: So, I’ll just say, so our librarians at a number of campuses did a lot of work to at their own campuses standardize a way that zero textbook costs courses were marked in banner, which is our system for course registrations. And so, they worked on that for a year and a half, even two years, we talked about it for a while. But there was no system level change that would make that possible. And part of that had to do with the folks at the top, in IT, just not being able to do it right away, not having the bandwidth to it.
And part of it had to do with some pushback from faculty. You have the same courses taught by different instructors, and one of them maybe is using OER or a free textbook that presents some tension there. Tension also exists when you have the same course, one OER and one not, that’s taught at two different campuses because that can pull students from one to the other.
We have a lot of students take courses online, a lot of students who commute between campuses. They take courses when it fits their schedule. And so, there were some obvious, real reasons why folks did not necessarily want to have the cost of textbooks marked immediately. Obviously, we thought it was a good idea as part of the SPARC’s open education policy playbook.
And so, just back in November, December our ITS system level and a few librarians got together, and they made a dropdown menu inside a banner. Some courses are entered into the system, it makes it very easy to just select a marker and say this is zero textbook cost course. They integrate ZTC, but at the same time, because there are folks who are already using the comments section, using a somewhat standardized marker that way to mark zero textbook cost courses.
Then, the question came up of okay, cool, so we’re going to be doing this. But at each campus they can do one way or the other or both, which one do we choose? And so, we’re still having conversations about that. My thing is about giving students the most information as possible, to help them make an informed decision about which courses to take. And it maybe that they know the next semester the prof that’s going to teach this course is going to use an OER book.
And so, they may want to delay, they may not want to take the course now. They may want to do things a bit differently. But then, they need to make an informed decision and having the textbook costs, or a zero textbook cost marker on the course at the time of registration is huge. And so, if you’re at all able to do that, I highly, highly encourage it. Even if you come up against some bumps in the road in terms of how that is implemented, and how it’s done.
Anita: So, this is Anita Walz. I wanted to jump in and say that Virginia had legislation last year that was passed about OER and low cost commercially published course materials, which is something that was added by lobbyists in the first subcommittee and never taken out. And that there is another bill that is working its way through our general assembly which has to do with course markings.
So, I’m curious to know if other folks have had experiences where they think it’s valuable to mark OER instead of low cost or no cost. And then, how are you defining low cost? Because that’s pretty ambiguous (laughs). I think it’s unfortunate that it’s in our law, because it is really ambiguous and I’m just wondering if anyone has the silver lining on that, please.
Billy: So, I’ll just say so our administrators, their idea is that OER is one item underneath a larger textbook affordability umbrella if you will. And that is not necessarily how I think of it but that’s how they think of it. So, we have ZTC marking happening right now. We don’t have a low cost marking. I’ve heard— I don’t want to quote me, but I would have heard numbers of $30 per course, or $40 per course being a reasonable number to call it low cost.
And then, some cases you’re moving away from $150 textbook to a $30 book or set of materials is huge, that’s a big difference. That’s a big margin you’re gaining there. But at this time, I don’t see the value in doing that, I think that just sticking to ZTC or OER more specifically if you can, is a better route to go.
Mark: This is Mark, I’m from New York State, I’m part of the state university in New York system, SUNY system. I know one of the discussion points earlier was about state legislators and our state made a significant investment in OER two years in a row. And it looks like they’re going to make a third year of investment, which has really brought OER into full light here within the SUNY and in the CUNY system.
And we are really fortunate and trust us, we know how fortunate we are. But the one question that keeps coming up is about OER policies. And even though our state legislature has put money on the table, there has really been no discussion about policies. Within SUNY we’re kind of like a confederacy and so, our institutions all act essentially as their own institution, and though there are certain SUNY mandates that govern those institutions, for the most part they can govern themselves.
So, some campuses have gone through the process of putting OER into promotion and tenure requirements. Or acknowledging the acceptance of OER as worthwhile academic pursuit for faculty. And then, others have stressed the need to pursue OER to tackle textbook affordability, and then the discussion point that Anita brought up is exactly what we’re wrestling with right now.
And what Billy responded to is we have some campuses that really think that this is an affordability issue and that we should tackle student affordability with OER. And I don’t think anybody would argue against that. But we now have some faculty speaking up to say OER is more than just about affordability. And we’re in a unique spot where we think we can do some really decent analysis on the data that we’re getting from campuses.
So, that we can show what impact OER is really having on our classes, and especially our faculty, because our faculty are stating that it’s really helping them to customize the learning experience for students, that they traditionally could not do with commercial published textbooks. And I’m assuming everybody on the call is probably nodding their head, right?
Karen: (Laughs) Yes, behind all the turned off cameras, we can imagine many heads are nodding. Thanks for chiming in, Mark, really appreciate it. And Anita had actually the same question I did listening to you, which is do you know if any of the four years in the SUNY system have addressed tenure promotion or can you think of any campuses specifically that maybe we could take a look at what they’ve done?
Mark: So, one four-year institution, SUNY Delhi, it’s just a line inside the promotion at tenure requirements that comes out of their economic affairs office. It’s just kind of like an umbrella statement that OER should be considered a viable method for teaching and for scholarship. And I can share that link with the community, I wish I had it at my fingertips.
Karen: Super, thanks. And Jennifer is asking if you have a SUNY system OER policy?
Mark: No, we don’t, we just passed an open access policy at the system level, which means all our state operated campuses, because we’re a combination of state operated campuses and county controlled campuses. Our county controlled operations our campuses are what we call community colleges in the States. The state ops have to put an OER policy on their books by March 2020. So, we have the open access policy and maybe one day that’ll lead to an OER policy. We kind of hope so.
Karen: Nod, nod, more nodding. All right. We are closing in on the hour, we’ve got about four minutes left. So, if there are any last thoughts or questions anyone would like to try and fit in before we go? I think we also got a lot of ideas for future Office Hours topics, like on course markings, for example, perhaps revisiting tenure and promotion, and maybe hearing more from our SUNY guests and thinking about the statewide OER process. So, anything? Okay, I think we’re in a good spot here, I think we’re in a wrap up spot.
I see heads nodding, thank you. All right, so please join me in thanking our three guests and everyone else who chimed in today. We invited Billy Meinke, Jessica Norman, and Michelle Brailey. And we so appreciate hearing your stories, the ups and downs and where you think you may be going at your institutions. And thanks to everyone for joining us and asking your questions, sharing your resources. And we look forward to seeing you next month in our February Office Hours.