From the CJCLS Listserv: Is OER a threat or opportunity to libraries?

OER

Image Source:  Wordle Tagcloud for OER course by Jonathan Feinberg, wordle.net (Public Domain).

ORIGINAL EMAIL:

Are Open Educational Resources (OER) a threat or opportunity to libraries? As librarians promote OER, faculty may wonder why should they have their students use our books, databases, or other resources. I understand, however, that we need to promote all types of resources and that we may be able to create collections and work with faculty on them.

Whether they open-access journals, open online courses, or curriculum materials, OER grows in number every year. Heather Morrison, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa’s École des sciences de l’information / School of Information Studies, shares her OER growth studies in a series of blogs called Dramatic Growth of Open Access.  Libraries are increasingly facilitating or adopting the use of OER on their campuses.

One use of OER is to replace textbooks which students are often unable to afford, and also to encourage the use of open textbooks:

Use College Open Textbooks for a good starting place to educate yourself.  Textbooks can also be found through Google by doing a search for only Creative Commons-licensed materials.

Over the past 11 years, I’ve worked with students who couldn’t buy books at the beginning of the semester because they didn’t have the money. By the time they could, the students were so behind they had no hope of passing the course. OER has a potentially significant role in helping engage and retain a significant number of students.

Some respondents found that OER provides opportunities as being curriculum resources used in parallel with library resources:

I’m regularly asked to locate OER for online courses to both supplement the textbook and also to work towards an open adoption model for courses. I recommend OER in combination with ebooks and databases provided by the library. The primary goal is to eliminate the need for an expensive textbook which can be a barrier to students.

I’ve had numerous content requests that were not available as OER, so I turn to library resources. The library doesn’t have the funds to buy the expensive textbooks for the collection in support of classes, so I continue to recommend library resources alongside OER.

In one case, OER was used when library resources were defunded:

I added OER in direct proportion to my inability to secure funding for existing proprietary databases. I was able to keep access to state-funded electronic resources, but lost some major databases.

A few respondents thought OER will add some points to consider for library instruction:

We traditionally promote popular, trade, and scholarly periodicals for academic purposes and show their contrasts, but only leave it at that. The information landscape, however, has changed! Now various information sources (streaming video, ebooks, etc.) are available. Librarians need to give information about evaluating resources; after all, many predatory publishers and sham journals are out there. In my view, that’s where librarians come in.

OER may also influence our roles in supporting students and faculty:

OER ties in our roles as information curators and supporting student and faculty. I also like to think of OER as an opportunity to re-invigorate or rethink pedagogy as different ideas are often sparked with the useful, interesting, and fun resources for faculty and students to discover.

Librarians should embrace OER the same as any other education resource. We can inform faculty about them and their potential to replace traditional textbooks. Many faculty based their teaching too heavily on traditional textbooks instead of effective pedagogy, so using OER will make them rethink their pedagogy. Librarians have always prided themselves on finding materials for our students and faculty, so OER may make a real treasure hunter out of us!

OER does have limitations, as one respondent shared:

Faculty would have a hard time putting together a bunch of journal articles to supplant a textbook while still meeting all of their course objectives and learning outcomes.

OER presents opportunities for librarians to engage with faculty in other ways:

A number of our faculty started using OER materials instead of textbooks in several online courses. It brought a good opportunity to explain the Creative Commons licensing process to them. Textbooks in for some technical subjects had a pretty tight lock on instructional materials!

The National Council for Learning Resources has sponsored OER programs in the last 3 annual conventions of the American Association of Community Colleges.  One college president stated in the Q & A session in this year’s panel discussion, “when beginning an OER project, involve the librarian!” This was music to my ears!

The idea that OERs are a threat to libraries plays into the idea that librarians are only book keepers and not information intermediaries.  Librarians are needed to organize, evaluate, and retrieve OER for our libraries’ unique populations.

Do you think OER is a threat or opportunity to libraries?  How is your library or college using OER?  Please share your comments!

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About Kristy Padron, MLIS

Kristy Padron coordinates library instruction and provides information services for the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Libraries in Boca Raton, Florida. Prior to her work at FAU, Kristy served a broad range of communities. She held positions at Miami Dade College, The University of West Florida, and Wayne State University. When Kristy is not busy with being a librarian, she likes to travel, be outdoors, and hang out with her pet mini-dachshund.
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