Open Educational Resources for Utah’s Institutions of Higher Learning

Open Educational Resources for Utah’s Institutions of Higher Learning

As librarians who work in Utah, we know it remains our professional duty to ensure access to high quality information for our fellow citizens, residents, and neighbors. As librarians at Utah’s institutions of higher learning, we also know that our duty extends particularly to the students, staff, and faculty on our campuses, to deliver content that meets teaching, learning, and research needs.

The content related to these aspects of higher learning have grown, both in amount and cost, over the last three decades. It’s no secret that textbooks are expensive for students, just as journal subscriptions are expensive for library budgets. And it concerns us that a student might not be able to afford a textbook, just as it pains us to know that a researcher might get turned away when trying to access a journal article online. Utah’s academic librarians have a sense that there might be a better way to provide access to content especially with the web and other new information technology.

To that end, a small team of librarians from four institutions in Utah applied to the State Library’s leadership program called Innovative Librarians Explore and Discover (ILEAD). The team consisted of the following:

Jen Hughes
Archives, New Media and Educational Initiatives Librarian
Salt Lake Community College

Allyson Mower
Head of Scholarly Communication & Copyright
University of Utah

Mary Naylor
Reference and Instruction Librarian
Utah Valley University

Donald Williams
Collections Manager
LDS Business College

Trevor Young
Circulation Services Librarian
Utah Valley University

Our application was accepted and we attended the first ILEAD session in March 2015, where we established our team name, a list of goals, and a workplan. We settled on the name Utah OER. The acronym stands for open educational resources and represents a deliberate attempt on our part to address the textbook affordability issue facing Utah students. But it’s not just about students. Professors and instructors play the central role of assigning textbooks that students use. While our outcome focused on saving Utah students money and ensuring they have access to their required course material, our immediate goals involved working with Utah professors to provide information about and assistance with finding and reviewing open educational resources. We recognized that professors and instructors might inherit courses and textbook assignments from others in their area and might not be aware of or have significant amounts of time to explore and switch existing assigned texts.

We received a small grant as part of the ILEAD program and decided that we would utilize the funds to compensate Utah faculty for their time in selecting and reviewing an open educational resource. We put out a call on all of our campuses in late summer and asked professors to choose from a list of open content to review or, if an instructor had already adopted or developed an open resource, describe his or her experience in a recorded video interview.

This work resulted in a website called Utah OER that compiles all the relevant information surrounding use of open educational resources in Utah’s universities and colleges. The website defines OER and includes a weighted list of open textbook sites, based on the amount of material provided on a given subject matter, so that professors can quickly and easily locate content for their discipline area. Utah OER also provides information on copyright, as well as brief tutorials on how to find open journal articles and open images. The site hosts the videos describing experiences Utah professors have had using OER.

Our team had an excellent time working together on the project and, in the end, felt that the website demonstrated the power of libraries when they collaborate. We hope to continue working together to add to the site and to build an even broader network of Utah academic librarians in support of open educational resources.

am/10-26-15

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