OER Literature Reviews in Context
by Elvis Bakaitis, Graduate Center Library
Over the past several years, there has been a growing nationwide interest in Open Educational Resources (OER), as an alternative to the increasing prices of textbooks and other course materials. There have been multiple initiatives across CUNY, including the Achieving the Dream OER Degree at several community colleges, and most recently the influx of state funding at CUNY and SUNY. Open resources contribute towards lowering the overall cost of college, and were endorsed in February 2019 by the CUNY University Student Senate.
There is significant variation in how open content has developed across the disciplines, as well as the types of materials that may be available. In its overview of the 2017 funding, the CUNY Year One Report notes the variation in courses that were newly converted to zero-cost or OER materials, with Mathematics, Biology, and English being the top three disciplines (followed by Modern Languages, Astronomy, Art, and others).
Partly due to the uneven context of adoption and growth, one challenge in introducing faculty to OER first involves a survey of the existing resources. Literature Reviews, like those done by eight Graduate Center students in 2018, can help fellow faculty members to assess OER through the lens of the following categories:
Quality: How comprehensive are the available resources: do they cover the typical course elements, or will multiple sources need to be combined? Is topic coverage consistent across the materials, or are there gaps/absences of content in any areas?
Openness: To what extent is the resource “open”? If released under a Creative Commons license, are remixing and revising allowed, and what is made possible by these permissions? If the resource is hosted by a for-profit entity, is student engagement limited, or privacy infringed upon?
Diversity/Representation: Who is the intended audience for this resource? Specifically, are there any assumptions or bias in the framing, delivery, or scope of content, and how might this impact CUNY students?
Open Pedagogy at the Graduate Center Library
The Graduate Center Library also developed a suite of programming made possible by the OER state funding in 2017 and 2018, including the Open Pedagogy Fellowships and OER Bootcamp.
In Winter of 2019, the Graduate Center Library accepted 14 applicants for the Open Pedagogy Fellowship. The Fellowship opportunity was open to doctoral students currently teaching across CUNY, who have the ability to shift their syllabi towards the use of open resources, with the intention of training future faculty members in identifying and selecting OER.
The primary component of the Fellowship was the OER Bootcamp, structured as an intensive learning experience over four days in January, and with invited outside speakers and presentations by library faculty. Andrew McKinney, of the Office of Library Services, offered an overview of the funding structure and program models at the CUNY campuses; Jean Amaral shared examples of Open Pedagogy at BMCC; and Emily Drabinski (Long Island University) lead a conversation about critical pedagogies. Participants entered the program with varying levels of experience with open resources, and were encouraged to think broadly about potential ways to interweave the conceptual framework of “open” into their teaching materials and pedagogy.
The Graduate Center Library is also in the process of developing Breaking Through: An Open Pedagogy Symposium, which will be held on Friday May 3, 2019. The Symposium will focus on the intersections of pedagogy and scholarly production that emerge around openly accessible, zero-cost materials, with an eye towards issues of labor and social justice. Given that questions of “open” are implicitly tied to deeper issues of access in higher education, openly-licensed materials raise questions about the behind-the-scenes work required to create them.
Keynote speaker Clelia Rodriguez (author of Decolonizing Academia: Poverty, Oppression and Pain) will speak broadly about such implications - which kinds of knowledge are contested, and which tend to be silenced. Using a decolonial perspective, Rodriguez's work explore the ways that “open” challenges existing models of academic hierarchy and authority.