RLI 280
Open educatiOnal ResOuRces as leaRning MateRials: pROspects and stRategies fOR univeRsity libRaRies
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SEPTEMBER 2012 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
guide to open educational resources.6 This guide aggregates resources such as Academic Commons,
Rice University’s Connexions, FlatWorld Knowledge, MERLOT, and the Open Courseware Consortium,
among others. Once this guide was created, the libraries reached out to campus partners to develop a
support structure for the initiative and then held an internal workshop for subject liaisons to discuss
available OERs and useful library databases. The campus partners included the Center for Teaching and
Faculty Development, Academic Computing, and the Information Technology Program. Collaboration
with these groups provided assistance with technology, teaching, and assessment and provided
membership for the grant application peer-review group.
The libraries’ Communication and Development Office and the key campus partners rolled out
publicity for the Open Educational Initiative over several weeks. Deans and department heads were asked
to encourage their faculty to apply. Library subject liaisons were asked to speak to their faculty colleagues
about the grant and the available resources. Interested faculty were encouraged to attend a workshop put
on by the OEI partners or to schedule an individual consultation to review available resources.
After faculty attended workshops and/or individual consultations, it became clear that, in addition
to OERs, the existing library resources, specifically subscriptions to Books 24x7 and Films on Demand,
were substantive enough to replace the need for high-cost textbooks or supplementary textbooks entirely.
Faculty who did not find adequate existing OERs to accomplish what the grant required, realized that
using library resources in conjunction with OERs would be enough to replace or supplement the textbook
at no additional cost to their students. These became the toll or club goods referred to earlier as hybrid
OERs.
Through the use of OERs, hybrid OERs, and the development of entirely new materials, the first
round of the Open Education Initiative granted 11 awards to 9 faculty members in a variety of academic
subjects. By using class enrollment numbers and the costs identified in the grant proposals, the total
student savings approximated $70,000 in a single semester. Faculty and student responses to the new
materials were observed to be favorable in all courses. The success of the first round of the OEI prompted
a second round of grants in the fall of 2011. During this second round, 12 faculty teaching 15 courses were
awarded grants, for a total of $15,000 dispensed and approximately $135,000 saved. The total recurring
savings from both grant rounds came to just over $205,000 from a $27,000 investment. Using course
enrollment figures, over 1,600 students stand to be affected by the Open Education Initiative each time
these courses are taught—the average savings per student per course will be $128.
The libraries are currently launching a third round of grants, specifically aimed at high-enrollment
general-education courses. These classes, typically with an enrollment of over 300 students, are the
required 100-level courses taught every semester. Though intrigued by the success of the program, many
faculty responsible for these courses have identified a need for larger grants to compensate for the greater
investment of time and effort for these larger classes. Formal assessment of the Open Education Initiative
is underway using the standard end-of-semester “Student Response to Instruction” forms, as well as
separate focus groups and questionnaires for faculty and students.
Challenges and Next Steps
Following the first two rounds of awarded faculty grants and the implementation of (predominantly) new
digital materials in courses, it became clear that this initiative was heightening the current definition of
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