Leading the Change Towards OER


Kevin Corcoran, Executive Director of Digital Learning, Connecticut State Colleges & Universities System

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IMPLEMENTING OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCESThis week is Open Education Week, a week-long, global celebration of the benefits and impact of Open Educational Resources (OER). In honor of Open Ed Week and in keeping with OLC’s emerging leadership theme, I would like to discuss leadership within an OER initiative.

Some may equate leadership with charisma, bold visions and passionate speeches, but the most important characteristic of an OER leader is the ability to manage and direct change. After all, effectively leading an OER initiative is to guide a change management process within your community.

Whether your approach is focused on student savings, student success, or students as creators and contributors, you will be calling for some form of change in current practices, policies, and/or culture. So, after you have laid out a bold vision and passionately made your case for OER, what happens next?

Dr. John Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change is an excellent model for leading your OER initiative:

  1. Create a sense of urgency – Understanding your community and addressing the “why” of OER is critical. What is the catalyst for change for your audience? Is it the cost barrier that commercial textbooks may present? Is it about student persistence and performance? Is it about authorship and contribution to the community? Or is it student engagement and presentation? Determine your “why” people within your community will want to learn about OER, then create your case for action.
  2. Build a guiding coalition – You cannot effect change alone. You will need allies, believers, and supporters. Who in the library is already developing supporting materials? Which faculty have already adopted OER (and have data that supports your “why”)? Are there instructional designers and accessibility experts who can support your OER activities? Identify those within your community who are interested or are already doing this work and formalize your shared objective by creating a coalition workgroup.
  3. Form a strategic vision and initiatives document – Now that you understand your audience’s catalyst for change and have a workgroup established, write down what the workgroup plans to accomplish. Are you aiming to accomplish a cost savings goal? Are you looking to have OER options for all general education core classes? Do you want to tackle a high impact program (like Nursing or Early Childhood Education)? How will you know work efforts have had an impact (what is the data now and what do you hope will change)?
  4. Enlist a volunteer army – In addition to your guiding coalition, who else is interested in your efforts? Who is missing from the conversation? Do you have representation from the bookstore? Accessibility Services? Faculty Senate? IT? Office of Diversity? Enrollment? Student Senate? For large scale change, there must be large scale support of your efforts.
  5. Enable action by removing barriers – Utilize your volunteer army to help break down barriers and increase the impact of your initiative. What is preventing success? Awareness? Discovery? Incentives? Libguides and library displays of OER materials can increase awareness and access for faculty, spotlighting existing faculty adoptions and recruiting those faculty to serve as mentors can assist with discovery and adoption. While grants can certainly help with incentivizing OER work, recognition by leadership may work as well.
  6. Generate short-term wins – While your overarching goal may be to save students millions of dollars over a period of time, remember to celebrate focused successes, like an individual adoption, open practice/pedagogy change, or the creation of supplemental materials.
  7. Sustain acceleration – As you achieve success, both large and small, take advantage of the momentum gained to tackle your next barrier or task. Look for ways to use the skills and unique knowledge of your coalition to implement support structures, as well as practice and policy changes. These could range from greater support for adaptation and creation to implementing Open Pedagogy to establishing a faculty mentor group.
  8. Institute change – With each effort, make sure you are capturing the appropriate data to illustrate the positive impact of your OER work. Depending on your audience, it may be dollars saved, student persistence, GPA, faculty downloads, or student works created. With the power of your data, you may be able to call for OER responsibilities to be embedded in job descriptions, establish course designators for no-cost or low-cost course materials, or recommend institutional policy.

In Connecticut, I believe that we are at the stage where we are simultaneously accelerating and institutionalizing change between our systemwide and statewide OER efforts. As we explore how to sustain our efforts, we will look to the SUNY OER Services Sustainability Field Guide as a means to assess our own progress. I am curious to hear from others on how they have led their OER initiatives. Were there additional steps or different approaches taken?

Kevin Corcoran is the Executive Director of Digital Learning for the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities System. Corcoran is responsible for the development and support of system-wide strategies for the effective use of digital learning tools and content that focuses on quality standards and practices, student engagement, accessibility and affordability. Corcoran is the statewide coordinator for the legislatively created Connecticut Open Educational Resources Coordinating Council. He co-founded the Northeast OER Summit and the OpenCSCU Library Network. He currently chairs the CSCU system-wide Open Education Resources and Accessibility councils as well as the WCET eLearning Consortia group.

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