Although faculty awareness and use of open educational resources (OER) is currently growing at many institutions of higher education given the continued conversation about course content access, course material costs, and retention and completion efforts, in 2012, the level of awareness among college and university faculty members was not as widespread. Given the gap in faculty awareness and adoption of OER, faculty librarians at Delaware County Community College (DCCC) wanted to not only bring increased awareness on campus through advocacy but also take a leadership role in the process. Using a model of advocacy through institutional professional development, faculty librarians at the college were able to build awareness and use of OER. The Professional Development Committee drives all professional development at the College. This is a committee made up of representatives from all constituencies at the college to design and implement a total of eight days of mandatory professional development opportunities for members of the college community. Although these professional development days were originally designed exclusively for faculty, these experiences have evolved to address the overall needs of the college community. These days consist of several approximately 90-minute sessions that utilize a variety of modalities including lectures, panel discussions, workshops, and meetings.
College costs continue to dominate the discussion among politicians, parents, and prospective students. Since the recession in 2008, colleges and universities have looked at ways to reduce tuition, room, board, and ancillary costs to attract prospective students. Students at all institutions of higher education face financial challenges related to housing, food cost, and rising tuition prices. At the macro level, within the greater Philadelphia area where DCCC is located, Rosemont College made national news by announcing a significant reduction in the cost of tuition to attract new students (Snyder, 2015). In addition to reducing the tuition costs of attendance, colleges and universities also understand the importance of reducing the number of obstacles students may face at the micro level to improve retention and completion rates. Specifically, for community college students, there are additional financial obstacles that are not necessarily faced by students at other institutions of higher education. In addition to tuition costs, community college students often struggle when faced with personal financial obstacles as well as other non-tuition educational costs (Camera, 2016). These non-tuition financial obstacles include housing, food, transportation and the cost of educational resources and materials (Camera, 2016). While these obstacles are not exclusive to community college students, as this impacts students at all institutions of higher education, the nontraditional population of community college students makes the use of OER in the community college environment a natural fit (Vitez, 2018).
OER “demonstrate great potential as a mechanism for instructional innovation as networks of teachers and learners share best practices” (William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, 2011). The case to migrate course content away from traditional publisher content toward OER has never been stronger. The growth in the range and quality of content now available to faculty members from across disciplines demonstrates that OER have a place in higher education. Academic libraries and professional librarians are well positioned to advocate for the use of OER based on our service to the college community at large and our professional knowledge, skills, and abilities.
Beginning in 2012, faculty librarians at DCCC offered institutional professional development programs during the college’s faculty in-service days related to OER. The first professional development program, titled “Alternatives to the Textbook: Open Educational Resources and Open Access Journals” was well received by faculty members throughout the college and resulted in a second professional development program titled “Open Educational Resources: Alternatives to the Traditional Textbook” the following year. This advocacy of OER by the faculty librarian built interest among the general faculty and administration, which led to the formation of the Alternatives to the Textbook Committee—later shortened to Alt Text Committee. As interest in the use of OER continued to grow at the college, members of the Alt Text Committee created additional professional development programs for faculty related to licensing, creation, and adoption of OER. The continued advocacy of OER via institutional professional development opportunities inspired the college to invite an outside keynote speaker to a faculty in-service professional development day to discuss OER.
This continued focus on OER through institutional professional development has further contributed to the realization of several institution-wide OER initiatives, including: an awarded grant to fund the migration of business courses away from traditional textbooks toward OER, an increased interest by the general faculty in the application of OER, and a formal discussion among administration on the feasibility of developing a zero textbook cost degree program. The role of the academic library in building an OER program centered on an information campaign focused on the larger college community about the growing importance and practicality of these resources. This case study describes the importance of advocacy through the use of institutional professional development at DCCC; it will also interweave how other approaches to advocacy intersect with professional development.
Through the examination of the specific literature stream related to approaches utilized by academic libraries when advocating the use of OER at the institutional level, the literature provided relevant and practical approaches to ensure positive results. When academic libraries advocate for the use of OER, they need to move beyond the basic marketing efforts that have been a hallmark of library services promotions. This will require moving beyond writing columns for the library’s newsletter or posting information on the library’s website (Kachel, 2017). The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) offers a relevant definition of advocacy that can be applied in the higher education setting. The AASL (n.d.) defines advocacy as an “ongoing process of building partnership so that others will act for and with you, turning passive support into educated action for the library program. It begins with a vision and a plan for the library program that is then matched to the agenda and priorities of stakeholders.” Using this definition to inform the process to develop an impactful OER program, Fasimpaur (2012) offers four concrete steps to advocating for the use of OER. The first step that Fasimpaur (2012) identifies is “start with your curriculum goals and involve teachers from the start” (p. 38). This is followed by “offering high quality professional development – early and often” (Fasimpaur, 2012, p. 38). The final two steps are “find the OER that are right for your students” and “use OER to customize curriculum and differentiate learning” (Fasimpaur, 2012, p. 39–40).
The academic library’s role in developing OER programs is outlined within the four steps put forward by Fasimpaur (2012). Most importantly, academic libraries can build awareness and advocate for the use of OER by first educating the college community, specifically teaching faculty, about the resources that are available. As Allen and Seaman (2014) note, there is a lack of knowledge among faculty concerning OER, how to find the content, and how to use the materials in a legal and ethical manner. This lack of knowledge concerning OER offers libraries the opportunity to develop professional development programs that advocate for the proper use of these materials. These educational and professional development opportunities can be workshops, learning communities both within the library and outside, and other opportunities (Hess, Nann, & Riddle, 2016; Miller & Homol, 2016; Smith & Lee, 2017; Woodward, 2017). Grant programs are another approach and provide a similar opportunity to advocate for OER use on campus through the creation and/or adoption of content (Blick & Marcus, 2017). Ultimately, successfully advocating for the use of OER and building a successful program require collaboration between the library and the faculty members (Goodsett, Loomis, & Miles, 2016). Using these collaborative approaches to providing educational or professional development opportunities within the college or university, libraries can take a leadership role in advocating for the use of OER.
Founded in 1967, DCCC serves suburban, urban, and rural populations in two counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Currently, DCCC has nine campus locations in Delaware and Chester counties. As of the spring 2017 semester, the College has a total student population of 10,998 students and a full-time equivalency of 7,765 students in a range of transfer and career and professional degree programs (Institutional Effectiveness Office, 2017). Currently, 60 percent of students enrolled at the College take classes on the main Marple Campus, with the remaining 40 percent of students enrolled at branch campus locations in Delaware and Chester counties (Institutional Effectiveness Office, 2017). At DCCC, the Online Campus offering distance learning courses and programs continues to grow with a 3.1 percent increase from 2016 to 2017 and a total enrollment of 6,936 students (Institutional Effectiveness Office, 2017). Teaching these students are approximately 830 full- and part-time faculty members (Delaware County Community College, 2017).
Institutional Professional Development Priorities
As part of DCCC’s shared governance structure, the College Advisory System (CAS) focuses on “support[ing] the college’s mission to facilitate learning by providing quality educational programs and services that are student-focused, accessible, comprehensive and flexible to meet the educational needs of the diverse communities it serves. In doing so, the college will enable its students to develop themselves to the limit of their desires and capabilities and to be successful” (College Advisory System, 2016, p. 3). One standing committee associated with CAS is the Professional Development Committee (PDC). This committee is charged with identifying “professional development needs, interests, and priorities of full- and part-time faculty members, support staff, and administrative employees through committee members and general advertisement to the College community” (College Advisory System, 2016, p. 22) (see Appendix A for a complete list of committee functions).
Part of the work of the PDC is to develop faculty in-service opportunities twice each semester for a total of four professional development in-services each academic year. Before the start of each semester in August and January, faculty members are required to attend two days of professional development. During the fall semester in October and during the spring semester in February, faculty members are required to attend two additional days of professional development. Recently, these professional development days have grown to include administrators, staff, and adjunct faculty as participants. In addition to faculty, divisional, and administrative meetings, professional development programs are offered throughout the day. It is during this period that faculty librarians offered professional development programs related to resources and services with specific attention to new resources or important topics. With an increased focus on the rising costs of textbooks, faculty librarians began exploring the feasibility of using OER at the College.
Faculty librarians examined the textbook costs at DCCC. Using prices from 2012, the faculty librarians determined what the cost would be for students taking four typical courses during a semester at the College, based on existing academic program structures. At that time, the total cost would be $646.33. For comparison, those textbooks were found on Amazon at a less expensive price of $505.12.
Table 1. Textbook Costs Comparisons from 2012
Evans, A. R.,
Reece, J. B., Urry, L. A., Cain, M. L. Wasserman, S. A., Minorsky, P. V., & Jackson, R. B (2010). Campbell Biology (9th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Benjamin
Roberts, E. V., & Zweig, G. (2011). Literature: An introduction to reading and writing (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
College Algebra and Trigonometry
Sullivan, M. (2011). Algebra and trigonometry (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Addison Wesley.
It was this information that initially convinced the faculty librarians to advocate for the use of OER, and to do so through the existing professional development program for faculty. The mandatory professional development day was ideal to begin this conversation because of the cyclical nature of these events (occurring for two consecutive days, four times per year) as well as the captive target audience they provide (mandatory for all full-time faculty). The textbook cost comparisons illustrated in Table 1 were also utilized to initiate the conversation with teaching faculty regarding the value of exploring and possibly adopting OER at the College. At the time this information was first reviewed and evaluated by the faculty librarians, there was some concern about electronic access to course material, because the Florida Distance Learning Consortium (2011) survey indicated that only 45 percent of students would prefer that some or all of their course material be available in an electronic format. While Dahlstrom, De Boor, Grunwald, and Vockley’s (2011) study indicates there was an increase in personal computing device ownership at the time, they did note that “students at associate’s colleges and other two-year programs are more likely to own stationary technologies, such as desktop computers and stationary gaming and video devices, particularly in comparison to students at doctorate-granting institutions” (p. 9). With these considerations in mind, the plan to advocate for the use of OER was developed and the focus was through the institution’s professional development days. This provided the faculty librarians with access to the greatest number of faculty members at one time and would allow those interested in learning more about this topic to self-select into attending these sessions.
Faculty In-Service Presentations
Beginning in January 2012, two faculty librarians offered the first professional development program related to OER to the College community. As Fasimpaur (2012) stated, it is important to “offer high quality professional development – early and often” (p. 38). As part of this advocacy through professional development approach, the first program was designed to provide a foundation of knowledge about the issues of rising textbook prices and what alternatives existed at the time. The professional development program was titled Alternatives to the Textbook: Open Educational Resources and Open Access Journals (see Appendix B for the professional development program description).
This program was well attended and resulted in faculty members approaching the librarians to discuss both current, informal open educational projects the individual faculty members were working on and to discuss best practices on migrating away from a traditionally published textbook and adopt OER in their classes. It was clear after this session that although many faculty members showed an interest in OER adoption, they were largely isolated events without collaboration or larger vision. Some of the singular projects and ideas that were shared as a result of this session were: the adoption of an open access textbook through Flatworld Knowledge and OpenStax, the development of OER by a faculty member in the area of studio arts, and the creation of a collaborative project between the library and an English faculty member that would load OER onto Amazon Kindles to ensure students had continuous access to course material. The interest in reducing textbook costs on campus both from faculty members and administrators allowed the library to purchase these Kindles through funding from the Provost’s Office. The two faculty librarians that offered this program developed a LibGuide as a starting point for faculty members interested in moving in this direction.
The interest generated from this first institutional professional development program led the PDC to request a second program on issues around OER. The use of professional development in advocating for the use of OER proved successful. A second professional development program was offered in October 2012. While the first program was offered by two librarians, the second institutional professional development program included the faculty member who used open educational content loaded on Kindles, the Director of Online Learning, and instructional design staff member in addition to two faculty librarians. The program was titled “Open Educational Resources: Alternatives to the Traditional Textbook” (see Appendix C for a complete professional development program description).
As with the first presentation, this second one was well received. It was at this time that the campus-wide Alt Text Committee was formed to examine the use of OER on campus. This committee included faculty members from across the college including librarians and interested staff and administrators. In addition to the committee, the Provost’s Office offered funding for faculty members interested in developing OER for use at the college.
To support the Provost’s Office’s desire to create OER at the college, the next set of institutional professional development opportunities were designed to provide faculty members with the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to produce content. During the February 2014 Faculty In-Service there were three sessions offered specifically to continue to advocate for the use of OER by faculty members. The three professional development program titles were: Look Ma! No textbook!, Building Alternative Course Content, and Copyright in the Academic Environment (see Appendix D for complete list of the series professional development program descriptions).
This final set of institutional professional development opportunities included bringing to campus a nationally known figure in the library and information science field to discuss the use of OER. The combined foci of the keynote address along with three sessions showed faculty how important this work was to the institution.
During the two years of concerted professional development opportunities the library was able to work with a range of faculty members on OER projects. This work included conducting a second pilot program using the Amazon Kindles as delivery tools for OER. It was clear this was an approach that alleviated fears among faculty members that students without home access to technology would still be able to access the content outside of class.
As these pilot programs continued, the work for advocating for the use of OER moved in a new direction based on the work of the Alt Text Committee. Because they were working with the Provost’s Office, this committee soon shifted from advocating for the use of OER and instead changed to working with faculty on developing their own content for use. The desire was that faculty members would create content specifically for DCCC courses based on the Master Course Outline, which dictates how a course is taught. This would ensure that course sections taught by full-time faculty members and those taught by adjunct faculty members would use this content so as to ensure all students would benefit from the program.
To facilitate the development of OER on campus, the Provost’s Office worked with the Office of Institutional Advancement, and received funding from a large local employer to fund faculty grants. These grants would fund faculty interested in producing OER during the summer months. The Alt Text Committee did not receive many applications. At this same time there were changes in senior leadership in the Provost’s Office, which resulted in new directions for the OER program. Because of this uncertainty the Library and Learning Commons once again took leadership for advocating and assisting faculty in migrating and integrating OER in their classes.
In 2016, the Library Services within the Learning Commons received a $10,000 Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant from the State Library of Pennsylvania, for use in working with faculty members in the business department to transition high-enrollment classes from traditional textbooks to OER (DCCC, 2016). Collaboration between Library Services and a business faculty member resulted in moving BUS 130: Business Communications from a traditional textbook course to one using OER. The success of this collaboration resulted in additional faculty members from other departments expressing interest in participating in this program. In addition to the business course, the college was able to transition COMM 111: Public Speaking from using a traditional textbook to using OER. The LSTA grant funded professional development, OER evaluation and review, and support for the transitioning of these courses. The faculty member who participated in this grant expressed strong support for the use of OER and plans to continue using these materials.
Because of the success of the LSTA grant program, the next step for OER is to begin another round of institutional professional development programs. Currently, we plan to work with the two faculty members who participated in the LSTA grant program and ask them to offer personal accounts of their process migrating and integrating OER into online and classroom-based courses. Having faculty as part of the professional development workshops enhances the credibility of OER and provides others with professional resources who can speak directly about what to expect. In addition, through collaborating with faculty members on the professional development workshops, we plan to revisit some of the previous professional development programs and update the content so that we reach new faculty members who joined recently.
While DCCC has a unique model for delivering professional development to the campus community through consistent opportunities for interaction, academic libraries can replicate this approach by applying similar strategies on their campuses. Academic libraries can develop short professional development opportunities during the course of a semester at times convenient for faculty members to attend by analyzing the semester course schedule or by targeting a specific academic division through their library liaison. These short programs should be approximately 60 minutes in length and can be delivered both in person and synchronously online, using affordable or free web conferencing software. Libraries should consider creating a professional development program in which each workshop is sequential and designed to
build on the work of the previous session, but would also allow for faculty members to jump into the series when needed without consequence. This allows faculty members who attend professional development workshops to become more aware and educated about OER and begin larger conversations within their own departments, divisions, or across the College. It provides them with an opportunity to discuss how they might migrate and integrate OER into their own courses.
Advocacy through professional development also ensures that the college community understands the role the library can play in leading OER initiatives. Librarians leading this project need to highlight their subject matter expertise when promoting and advocating the use of OERs on campus and discuss the value they can bring to the adoption of this content. It is essential to connect faculty members that are interested in using OER content with appropriate sources. Facilitating the use of this content will ensure librarians are viewed as subject matter experts. Librarians should be active partners in this work with faculty, be responsive to their needs and help to identify any possible pitfalls of adopting these resources. Ideally, this ongoing partnership should further strengthen the relationship between the faculty and the library. When a faculty member expresses interest in pursuing or even adopting an OER, follow-up by the faculty librarian is essential through one-on-one meetings and email. Early adopters are often the leading advocates on campus if their experience is a positive one and can be invited to present their own professional development program within the series.
Finally, librarians, while working with the library administration, need to connect with the larger institutional administration structure to ensure the support and resources necessary for OER adoption is available. The focus of this work should be through the Provost or Vice President of Academic Affairs office. For academic libraries interested in taking a leadership position on campus in advocating for the use of OER, there are a number of approaches. The literature on advocating for OER shares that collaboration, grants, and encouragement work when connections are made by librarians to the curriculum and through specific disciplines. Based on our understanding of the OER atmosphere on our own campus, our successful approach was advocacy through professional development.
Allen, I. E. & Seaman, J. (2014). Opening the curriculum: Open educational resources in the U.S. higher education, 2014. Babson Research Survey Group. Retrieved from https://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/openingthecurriculum2014.pdf
American Association of School Librarians. (n.d.). What is advocacy? Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/definitions
Blick, W., & Marcus, S. (2017). The brightly illuminated path: Facilitating an OER program at community college. College Student Journal, 51(1), 29–32.
Camera, L. (2016, April 14). Financial obstacles to education go beyond tuition: Tuition isn’t the only financial culprit for community college students. US News & World Report. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-04-14/financial-obstacles-go-beyond-tuition-for-community-college-students
College Advisory System. (2016). Working document. Unpublished document.
Dahlstrom, E., De Boor, T., Grunwald, P., & Vockley, M. (2011). The ECAR national study of undergraduate students and information technology, 2011. Retrieved from EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research website: https://library.educause.edu/resources/2011/10/ecar-national-study-of-undergraduate-students-and-information-technology-2011-report
Delaware County Community College. (2016). College receives grant to expand access to course materials. Retrieved from https://www.dccc.edu/news/09122016/college-receives-grant-expand-access-course-materials
Delaware County Community College. (2017). Faculty. Retrieved from https://www.dccc.edu/about/faculty-staff/meet-our-faculty
Fasimpaur, K. (2012). 4 Steps to getting started with OER. T H E Journal, 39(8), 37–40.
Florida Distance Learning Consortium. (2011). Florida student textbook survey. Retrieved from http://www.openaccesstextbooks.org/pdf/2010_FSTS_Report_01SEP2011.pdf
Goodsett, M., Loomis, B., & Miles, M. (2016). Leading campus OER initiatives through library–faculty collaboration. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 23(3), 335–342. doi:10.1080/10691316.2016.1206328
Hess, J. I., Nann, A. J., & Riddle, K. E. (2016). Navigating OER: The library’s role in bringing OER to campus. Serials Librarian, 70(1–4), 128–134. doi:10.1080/0361526X.2016.1153326
Institutional Effectiveness Office. (2017). Credit enrollment spring 2017. Unpublished data.
Kachel, D. (2017). The advocacy continuum. Teacher Librarian, 44(3), 50–52.
Miller, R., & Homol, L. (2016). Building an online curriculum based on OERs: The library’s role. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 10(3/4), 349–359. doi:10.1080/1533290X.2016.1223957
Smith, B., & Lee, L. (2017). Librarians and OER: Cultivating a community of practice to be more effective advocates. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 11(1/2), 106–122. doi:10.1080/1533290X.2016.1226592
Snyder, S. (2015, September 17). Rosemont College slashes sticker price; savings vary. Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved from http://www.philly.com/philly/education/20150917_Rosemont_College_slashes_sticker_price__savings_vary.html
Vitez, K. (2018). Open 101: An action plan for affordable textbooks. Student PIRGs. Retrieved from https://studentpirgs.org/sites/student/files/reports/Open%20101%20-%20An%20Action%20Plan%20for%20Affordable%20Textbooks.pdf
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. (2011). Open educational resources. Retrieved from http://www.hewlett.org/programs/education-program/open-educational-resources
Woodward, K. M. (2017). Building a path to college success: advocacy, discovery and OER adoption in emerging educational models. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 11(1/2), 206–212. doi:10.1080/1533290X.2016.1232053
Appendix A: Professional Development Committee Charge
1. To identify professional development needs, interests, and priorities of full- and part-time faculty members, support staff, and administrative employees through committee members and general advertisement to the College community.
2. To invite, collect, and evaluate proposals for professional development activities.
3. To be responsible for organizing needs-based and participant-driven professional development activities for the College community.
4. To collect and analyze data on the evaluation of the professional development activities.
5. To advocate for College community members to obtain professional training and resources.
6. To report the status of activities and make recommendations concerning professional development needs to the Steering Panel, as well as other stakeholders.
7. To evaluate proposals for mini-grants as awarded through the Center to Promote Excellence in Teaching and Learning (College Advisory System, 2016, p. 22).
Appendix B: Initial Professional Development Program Title and Description
Alternatives to the Textbook: Open Educational Resources and Open Access Journals
Do your students complain about the high cost of textbooks? Are you looking for an alternative? Does the idea of using the best of free online content appeal to you? This session will showcase free, high-quality, open educational resources and open access journals that you can use in your teaching, either to supplement or replace textbooks. We will define open educational resources and open access journals, investigate why they are becoming increasingly relevant in higher education, and offer tips for faculty interested in finding resources appropriate for their discipline. This session will also show how, in collaboration with librarians, your open educational resources and open access journal articles can be organized in a single place through the library’s subject guides.
Appendix C: Second Professional Development Program Title and Description
Open Educational Resources: Alternatives to the Traditional Textbook
Do your students complain about the high cost of textbooks? Does this lead to students not completing the assigned reading for your class? Are you looking for an alternative? This session will discuss the open educational resources movement and build on the presentation on this topic from January 2012. The panel will discuss developments in open educational resources, offer tips on locating material, address technology issues that faculty may experience when moving towards adopting OER, and offer practical advice on how to implement use of freely available resources in your courses.
Appendix D: Series of Professional Development Program Titles and Descriptions
Look Ma! No textbook!
“This idea of ditching the commercially published textbooks for free or lower cost materials sounds wonderful BUT…” If that is your response, then this discussion is for you! There are many opportunities and challenges in the adoption or editing or creation of non-commercially published course content. There are many possible formats. The pricing models are confusing. The technology might be daunting for you or your students.
The Textbook Alternatives Committee was formed in Fall 2013 to look at all of these issues (and more!) in order to determine what the possibilities are for us at the College. Please join members of this grass roots group in a discussion of what the issues are, what’s already happening on campus, and what the future could look like.
Building Alternative Course Content
Have you have you been thinking about adopting or editing course content that is not coming from a commercial publisher, or even creating your own course content? Here’s your chance! In this hands-on workshop, you will discover whether you want to adopt a resource completely, adopt but edit and mix content, or create content from scratch. You will explore which format might work best for your courses, e.g. an open textbook, a printed or e-course pack with both free and licensed content, a course management system-like format, a collection of digital videos, an iBook, or even something else altogether. There are many possibilities! You’ll learn where to look for existing content. You’ll also spend time working hands-on with online resources created to make your concept resource become a reality. (Please note: This workshop requires a working knowledge of copyright including Creative Commons licensing and the use of the Copyright Clearance Center’s Annual Academic License.)
Copyright in the Academic Environment
What is “Fair Use?” Can I put commercial video clips on my faculty website? Can I load the textbook CD into WebStudy? Can I copy and paste whole journal articles I want my class to read onto my WebStudy page? What happens if I unknowingly break the copyright law? How do I get copyright permission? What is the Annual Academic Licensing Service subscribed to by DCCC?
This workshop will address the questions faculty and administrators frequently ask when working with copyrighted materials in the academic environment. In addition, the workshop will provide practical information about Creative Commons licensing and a hands-on demonstration of the Copyright Clearance Center’s Annual Academic License that allows faculty and administrators to determine if the copyrighted material is covered by the site license, as well as how to request permission if it is not.