OER Project at Sacred Heart University – Five Factors That are Driving Change

Concurrent Session 5

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Sacred Heart University’s OER initiative has seen positive results in its first stage of planning and implementation. Five factors have been driving change – tactical planning, collaborative networking, awareness building, impact measurement, and pedagogy focus. Using evidence-based examples, we will share strategies for cost-savings, increased access, and enhanced pedagogical practices.


Jaya Kannan is Director of Digital Learning at Sacred Heart University (SHU) in Fairfield, CT. Her seventeen years of academic experience in India, Singapore, and the US have a strong education technology focus: a PhD in Computer Assisted Language Learning, innovative teaching practices in online/blended/face-to-face contexts, and action research on learner autonomy in online environments.
Zachariah (Zach) Claybaugh is the Digital Learning Initiatives Librarian at Sacred Heart University (SHU) in Fairfield, CT. During his time at SHU, he has worked to expand information literacy instruction on campus, increase awareness about and use of OER (Open Educational Resources), raise the profile of OA (Open Access) publishing, and evolve Sacred Heart University Library's services to the university community. Zach holds a B.A. in History from West Texas A&M University, an M.A. in Russian, East European, & Eurasian Studies, and an M.S. in Library & Information Science from the University of Illinois.

Additional Authors

Extended Abstract


Sacred Heart University launched a campus-wide Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative in 2016 with three goals in mind – reduce the cost of textbooks for students, increase access to course materials, and enhance pedagogical practices.


Under the Provost’s leadership, the Office of Digital Learning, Sacred Heart University library, and faculty leaders have partnered to build a strategy for effective OER integration. The first year of work involved the creation of an OER taskforce with faculty, programming to build institutional awareness, expansive research to stay abreast of the OER movement in higher education, needs-assessment survey administration, and the development of a plan of action to identify and adopt OER in teaching and learning.


In the second year, the evidence-based approach has already shown important results. We have collected survey results on faculty perspectives, and these results are shaping our awareness-building efforts. The OER task force has formulated and implemented policies that include incentives for faculty work. An open textbook list, which included open resources for each major subject area taught on campus was created by SHU librarians and posted on DigitalCommons@SHU, Sacred Heart University’s digital repository. This list has made a global impact in the OER community with 4000+  downloads to date from 78 countries. Within a year, faculty teams from five disciplines – Mathematics, Sociology, Nursing, Economics, and Psychology – have reviewed open textbooks for their respective courses and shared their review results. Notably, the Mathematics department has made appreciable progress by moving from open textbook review and pilot adoption to 100% scaling up for the College Algebra course. The action research with the College Algebra course shows positive impact on cost savings, student perceptions, student learning, and enhancement to pedagogical practices. For example, the college algebra course has integrated digital scaffolding using online supplementary materials.

This presentation will describe the OER project at SHU (from 2016 spring to 2018 spring) and identify key factors that have been instrumental in driving change through this early phase  of OER implementation. Each of these factors will be described in detail. When sharing the results for each factor, this presentation will also address the challenges the initiative has faced and provide strategies that SHU found particularly useful in driving forward the OER initiative. These key factors are:

1.Strategic Action – Institution-level goal setting was focused on tactical planning. Rather than casting a wide net, the University has identified disciplines with clear open textbook alternatives available, courses taught regularly and with significant student enrollment to reach maximum impact on textbook cost savings, and disciplines with strong potential for meaningful and sustainable integration of OER.


2. Network of collaborative efforts – Our OER task force is led by the Digital Learning Director, librarians with expertise in open education, and faculty. Even as a wide network of collaborators was set up to promote OER on campus, clear roles were assigned for accountability. We will share the steps in building process mechanisms and how accountability considerations and faculty leadership in policy formulation contributed to the OER initiatives’ overall impact.


3. Awareness building using a multi-pronged approach: At SHU, we have been utilizing a multi-pronged approach for the institution-wide implementation of OER.  Using a results-driven approach, we have designed and delivered awareness-building sessions using a combination of webinars, departmental sessions, small group consultations, and panel discussions at the annual Digital Pedagogy summer institute.  Our efforts include capturing student voices inappropriate forums, and partnership with  faculty collaborators for OER outreach.


4. Measuring impact with growth mindset: In presenting emerging results from the OER project, the presentation will focus on the following quantitative and qualitative data – 1) survey results from faculty that reveal faculty perceptions of OER and existing classroom usage of OER , 2) survey results from students in  math courses that piloted open textbooks in the spring of 2017, 3) faculty use of the open textbook list by discipline that was put together by our librarians. When presenting an analysis of the data, the presentation will look at what worked for us and what did not, and we will list useful recommendations for launching an OER implementation program.



5. Pedagogy focus when studying effectiveness: In addition to discussing the integration of OER materials, we will be sharing concrete examples of OER-enabled pedagogy that highlight the enhancements to course design and teaching practices. This is a clear attempt to go beyond open textbooks and optimize the use of OER materials in a wide variety of formats. We will share snapshots of OER-enabled pedagogy practices based on faculty work in the following disciplines – Media Studies, Literature, Physics, and Math.


Math case-study:

In addition to the five factors driving change at the macro level, we will highlight a case study of the Math OER project as an effective practice at the micro level. This case study will outline the steps used in the process for identifying, reviewing, and adopting an open textbook in the freshman College Algebra and Precalculus courses. We will show the positive impact on cost savings, student perceptions, student learning, and refinements to pedagogical practices for this open textbook College Algebra course.


Take-away for the audience

  1. This presentation will offer concrete examples of approaches utilized in our OER and open textbook initiative. The effectiveness of this initiative will be looked at through an evidence-based lens, allowing attendees to see the results of our work.
  2. The scalability of disciplines and the impact of adoption will be considered and used to help illustrate how to replicate similar initiatives at other universities.
  3. It is essential to take a reflective  look at the challenges we face as we continue to move forward and expand our initiative. Discussing these challenges will hopefully help others who may encounter similar difficulties in their own work with OER. Specifically, since many examples of OER initiatives focus on state universities and community colleges, our case study offers the perspective of a medium-sized private institution.
  4. We will openly share a) the list of open materials by discipline curated by our librarians, b) the guidelines developed by the taskforce for reviewing open textbooks, and c) the open textbook reviews completed by our faculty for College Algebra, Precalculus, Sociological Imagination, Intro to Economics, and Intro to Psychology courses.


Interactivity in the presentation

To encourage interactivity in this presentation, we will utilize online polling to get a sense of the experience, thoughts, questions, and opinions of attendees. This will help us tailor our discussions based on attendees’ interests, as well as specific scenarios, which will help attendees gain a better understanding of our initiative and how it can be used at their own institutions.