Regional Collaboration in Promoting OER Adoption

Today WCET Frontiers is excited to showcase the recent Open Educational Resources (OER) Implementation and Policy Summit for the MHEC States. This multi-state OER meeting brought together OER advocates from across campuses, legislatures, faculty, students, and more to collaboratively learn about OER and OER expansion for their states. To give us a review of this outstanding event, we’re joined today by Jenny Parks, MHEC, and Russ Poulin and Tanya Spilovoy, both from WCET. Throughout the post I’ve included quotes from attendees who appreciated the opportunities found at the meeting.

Thank you all for today’s update and congratulations on such a successful event!

Enjoy the read and enjoy your day,

Lindsey Downs, WCET


Textbook prices have risen at a higher rate than any other consumer product. Efforts to use Open Educational Resources (OER) have often been limited in scope. How can we take what has been learned and scale it across institutions, systems, and states?

On November 28-30, 2018, seventy delegates from twelve Midwestern states gathered together to learn, share, and create state action plans for the implementation and expansion of the use of open educational resources. The OER Implementation and Policy Summit for the MHEC States was the first multi-state OER meeting of its kind bringing together national advocates and state-appointed delegates from libraries, distance education, systems, legislators, faculty, students, and K-12.

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The Partnership and the Goal

This multi-state summit was a partnership between the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) and WCET, which is a unit of a sister regional compact, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). WCET’s Z Initiative lead the charge, as it is focused on research, practices and policies promoting the adoption, implementation, scalability, and sustainability of open educational resources in states. WCET’s Z Initiative was able to secure about half the funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and MHEC was able to fund the rest.

Our faith in OER as a solution was based on state OER initiatives like Open NYS, Affordable Learning Georgia, and North Dakota OER Initiative, which have achieved 10 to 20 times the return on investment (in terms of student textbook savings) and the same or better academic results. Our goal was to learn from the experience of others and focus on duplicating success across states and compact regions. The participants were asked to develop plans for promoting and supporting OER adoption in their respective states.

“The biggest takeaway from this event is that when stakeholders work together across institutions and state boundaries, they can have an even greater positive impact for students. Open education is all about collaborating to address shared needs while empowering adaptation to meet local needs. The use of open educational resources is taking off at campuses across the country, and this event has laid meaningful groundwork for collective effort to benefit students across the Midwest. Congratulations to MHEC and WCET for pioneering this model, and I hope it will expand to other regional compacts.” Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education, SPARC

The MHEC event is envisioned as the first of similar events to be held in the other three regions (New England, South, and West) and on-going partnerships to support each other.

Organizing and Holding the Summit

To plan the summit, Jenny and Tanya used theirteaching backgrounds to design a “Flipped Summit” (as in “flipped classroom”). Participants were given pre-work and readings prior to attendance, lots of opportunity to learn and work together during meeting time, and follow-up homework. In addition, everyone was clear on the conference objectives which focused on how each person could help move OER forward in their states.

“This was a knock it out of the ballpark, awesome event! I was so impressed by the engagement, commitment and energy shown by participants who attended the MHEC OER Implementation and Policy Summit. A big thanks to all who shared great ideas and innovative approaches to better serving students and reducing the costs of higher education across the country. MHEC enthusiastically support this compact level approach as an excellent way to help states leverage and implement OER initiatives. Onward!”

National and state OER champions were there to support, challenge, and help all fellow participants accomplish the following:

GOAL 1: Learn about OER

  • What are its opportunities and advantages for students?
  • Learn about OER in general
  • Learn about OER efforts within states
  • Learn about OER efforts in other states

GOAL 2: Create a State Action Plan

  • What strategy will work for us and how will we implement it?
  • State participants will analyze the status of OER efforts in their states, learn about options that have been successful in other states, and devise action plans for increasing the use of OER in their states.
  • Action plans will emphasize multilevel approaches and leverage strategies learned from others at the multistate meeting.

GOAL 3: Commit to Follow-up Networking

  • How do we continue after the workshop?
  • MHEC will facilitate regular calls among team leaders so they can share their successes, challenges, and questions. MHEC also anticipates providing webinars following the convening to address OER interests, opportunities, and challenges.

Highlights of the MHEC OER Summit included a student leaders’ panel, keynotes by Nicole Allen (SPARC) and David Ernst (Open Textbook Network), a faculty and librarians’ panel, presentations from MHEC and WCET staff, and great food and networking opportunities. Participants met as state teams and with their counterparts from other states. Each attendee contributed a unique perspective; there was so much interaction- everyone learned from everyone. As Abbey Elder from Iowa State University reminded us, “Never build what you can borrow.”

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Key Takeaways

There were many lessons shared and learned during the discussions. While it would be impossible to share them all, here are some of the highlights:

  • Implementation Takes Longer than You Think.
    David Ernst urged us to make long-term plans as the effort requires funding, engaging faculty, and a continuous marketing and communications strategy.
  • Leadership Comes from Various Sources.
    Librarians were well-represented among the participants as they are well-suited for the leadership and management role for academic content. In getting the efforts moving, we heard stories about legislators who sponsored legislation, presidents who made it a priority, faculty who heard the pleas of students to help curb the costs, and governing/coordinating board members who championed the idea. For a few of the institutions, the student government was frustrated with slow progress and became quite vocal. A key takeaway is that leadership could come from anywhere. If leadership is absent in your setting, you need to step up to lead.
  • Leadership May Come from the Top, But It Needs to Be Grass Roots Driven.
    The presence of goals and funding coming from legislators, boards, presidents, or provosts is very helpful. To make OER adoption happen, faculty are a necessary component as they ultimately need to adopt the materials. Having the support of librarians, IT, and students is key to success.
  • States Were All Over the Map in Implementation.
    Many of the states had efforts that were well underway. Most were at the system level (e.g., University of Minnesota, North Dakota University System, IvyTech in Indiana), while many others were campus-focused (e.g., Kansas State University, Sinclair Community College). Most efforts were “siloed” as there often was little coordination across institutions or even within an institution.
  • Break Down the Silos.
    The Midwest is full of silos, but they are probably not alone in experiencing implementation happening in in some settings, but not universally. This makes implementation uneven and uncoordinated. One of the goals of this Summit was to begin breaking down those silos by bringing together individuals representing different points of view. Together, they will accomplish more.
  • Leverage Library Networks.
    Librarians are used to working in networks that often include both public and private institutions as well as community library networks
  • Need to Address ‘Inclusive Access’.
    Some publishers offer textbooks through an ‘inclusive access’ agreement that requires all students to buy the books, but at a greatly reduced cost. If the institution is already involved in such agreements, institutional leaders need to understand the difference between such models and purely open textbooks, as well as the pros and cons of each model
  • Data Standardization is Needed.
    Everyone collects efficacy, cost saving, and academic outcome data using different measures. For comparisons sake, a standard data collection protocol is needed.
  • If This Task Was Easy, We Would Not Be Here.
    Nicole Allen made the observation about the task being difficult. While the road to success may be rocky, we should be encouraged by the success of those who have gone ahead.key takeawys: Implementation takes longer than you think. Leadership comes from various sources. Leadership may come from the top, but it needs to be grass roots driven. States were all over the map in implementation. Break down the silos. Leverage library networks. Need to address “inclusive access.” Data standardization is needed. If this task was easy, we would not be here.

Next Steps for MHEC States

As MHEC wishes to support the efforts of Midwestern states to coordinate and accelerate the implementation of OER. The Summit was an important first step. People met other OER champions from within and among the MHEC states and learned about the wide range of options available for partnerships and frameworks for success. The next step will be for MHEC to facilitate and support the connections established at the Summit so that state OER champions can act on the OER implementation plans drafted at the meeting.

Such support will include monthly team conference calls in which state team members discuss their progress toward their 6-month OER goals and confer with each other about expanding their efforts throughout their respective states. MHEC staff will schedule the calls and provide record-keeping for the groups’ efforts as well as present webinars and collect information and contacts as they are requested by state teams. MHEC will also write and distribute a limited-run Midwestern OER newsletter to showcase important state efforts and successes and help stakeholders across the region stay connected with one another. Finally, MHEC will take the information and ideas learned from its work with the state teams to propose and implement regional level actions that will overlay and enhance the OER work unfolding in each state.

MHEC will work together with the other regions (NEBHE, SREB, and WICHE) to bring this model to those parts of the country.

Tanya Spilovoy
Tanya Spilovoy
Director, Open Policy
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies

 

 

jenny parks headshot, woman smiles into camera
Jenny Parks
Director of Academic Leadership Initiatives
MHEC – Midwestern Higher Education Compact

 

Russ Poulin
Russ Poulin
Senior Director, Policy, Analysis, and Strategic Alliances
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies

 


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My name is Lindsey Rae Downs. I am the Manager of Communications for the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET). I work remotely from beautiful Helena, MT.

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