Question #3: Please tell me about an Open Education project, textbook, or group that you have been a part of.
I’ve been part of a lot of great projects and groups in the Open community, like the SPARC Open Education Leadership Program and the Rebus Textbook Success Program. Some things I’ve been getting excited about recently are projects that take place internally with my colleagues in the library. For example, I did a presentation at Open Texas 2021 with my colleague about assessment strategies. We’ve done so much work this past six months or more around assessment for our incentive program at the University of Houston.
Myself and the library’s assessment coordinator have been working on improving the way we gather and analyze data on the courses that use OER. A lot of that is around cost savings, but not all of it. We’re mindful about assessing OER use in more ways than savings from textbook costs. Previously, I had an excel spreadsheet where I kept track of all the information I had, and that worked fine, but if we put that into Tableau we’re able to visualize it and get more information out of those visualizations. Simply having that information in a way that is more easily visualized, analyzed, and more robust at this point leads to a lot more meaningful information. I can now see the cost savings in different colleges and different departments across campus rather than one total number. Or the percentage of projects that are using OER compared to library resources to replace commercial textbooks. That kind of stuff really helps, because I can share that information and make an impact just through sharing it in certain ways.
We have a new Dean of Libraries and as she was meeting with other Deans across campus, I was able to tell her the impact of our incentive program in each college – including the number of faculty and courses, number of students impacted, how much they saved by removing textbook costs, and the benefits OER has for teaching and learning. That way she can go into each meeting with the other deans knowing exactly how OER or alternative textbooks have impacted student success in their college. We’ve had adoption in almost every college. Having that level of detail readily available was possible because of the assessment work we’ve been doing.
Another example of a project I’m getting back into right now deals with putting OER in our institutional repository, which is something we haven’t focused on in the past. It’s one of the things that people don’t necessarily see – it’s not publishing or promoting a new open textbook, or doing presentations or workshops. I’ve been thinking about how much in the past year I’ve been able to focus on those behind-the-scenes projects that people don’t see or may not recognize right away just how much they contribute. But these are the kinds of projects that really allow our program to be effective and even more impactful. I can go out there and be doing a ton of campus outreach, which I have not been doing as much in the past year, but we also need to complete these projects that support our work behind the scenes. On one hand, you want more instructors to use OER, the more the better, because that’s part of the whole goal of what we’re doing. But then the level of outreach and individualized faculty support can quickly get overwhelming and all of these other things wouldn’t be getting done. I’m really excited about having time to do those hidden supports.