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Libraries Lead in OER Work on Campus

A recent report covering the open educational resource activities at 132 colleges and universities found that library departments — and particularly, departments that handle scholarly communication — lead the way with OER on campus. Beyond library activities, faculty "champions" are way out in front, encouraging instructors to try out OER, followed by teaching and learning units, student government and e-learning. About half of responding schools reported that the IT organization is also actively engaged in OER activities.

The latest analysis by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), a global organization that advocates for open resources in education and research, noted that just over half of institutions had a faculty or staff position that was dedicated to working on OER. While 16 percent mentioned "OER" or some equivalent term in the job title itself, more than a third (36 percent) referenced OER in the job description. In almost all of those schools (87 percent), the OER position is based in the library.

Data was pulled from Connect OER, a platform that collects and shares data about OER activities at campuses in the United States and Canada.

The analysis of the OER data found that degree programs that relied solely on OER materials for their courses ("z-degrees") were still rare, existing in only two institutions out of the 126 that answered the question. Another 14 schools reported that their z-degree programs were "under development." Among community colleges, specifically, one said it currently offered a z-degree and eight stated that such programs were under development.

OER traction by subject area

OER traction by subject area. Source: "2018-2019 Connect OER Report," from SPARC

The social and behavioral sciences are the leading academic subject turning to the use of OER, followed by math and statistics and biological and related sciences. Business and administration is the least common set of subjects tapping into OER.

To encourage faculty effort in OER, most colleges and universities turned to financial incentives. Those existed within 69 percent of respondent institutions. The average total of grant funding for OER programs within schools was $35,249, with an average of 26 grants awarded; the average individual award was $1,339. The next most common program incentive was help by an instructional designer, used by about half of schools. The use of course release time was the least favored incentive, present at fewer than one in 10 institutions.

A snapshot report of the state of OER activities at participating institutions is openly available on the SPARC website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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