OER Toolkit – Advocacy
The use of OER has tremendous potential to change education. Advocacy is a core process for addressing this change, bringing the issue to the forefront of the agenda for decision makers. This module will help both teachers and library staff to communicate the value of OER toward influencing decisions that will impact teaching and learning at their schools and beyond.
Advocacy Top Tips
Focus on the Why: Focus on the problem that OER can solve for your stakeholders. For administrators, this might be textbook costs; for teachers, it might be lack of quality content.
Maintain Objectivity: Listen and maintain your position of why. Being aware of the barriers to change will better equip you to relate to their challenges.
Engage the Engaged: At the early stages of change, spend much of your effort on those who are listening. These are the early adopters, and they align with your “why”.
Reinforce the Change: Keep your early adopters engaged through reinforcement strategies. Seek their feedback, showcase their work, and know what they are doing next.
STEPS TO SUCCESSFUL OER ADVOCACY
Tap Into Core Advocacy Skills
Successful OER advocacy requires a range of skills, knowledge, and interests, including:
- Passion about the concept of openness
- Clarity on the economic and pedagogical benefits of OER
- Insight into how the policy environment may constrain or enable OER use
- Understanding of the pros and cons of different open licensing arrangements
- Access to practical examples of OER use to illustrate key points
- Up-to-date knowledge of the arguments for and against the use of OER
- Ability to engage audiences effectively
- Capacity to leverage students, administrators, teachers, and library staff as advocacy partners
Understand Your Policy Context
Before embarking on your advocacy effort, it is important to review the following policies that might impact the adoption of OER in your district.
Intellectual property policies and employment contracts – These address how works created by staff within the scope of employment may be shared with or used by others. Under the United States Copyright Act, the author of the work is generally the owner of the copyright. However, if a work is created within the scope of the author’s employment, the employer holds the copyright unless there is an agreement to the contrary. Check your districts intellectual property policies and employment contracts OR contact your library for information on faculty and staff’s rights as creators and sharers of educational materials. Sample policy for Nebraska schools districts and ESUs
Human resource policy guidelines – These outline whether or not the creation of certain kinds of work (e.g., learning resources) constitutes part of the job description for staff, and what the implications are for remuneration and promotion purposes.
ICT policy guidelines –These address access to and use of appropriate technology and technical support, as well as provision for version control and the storage systems for the institution’s educational resources.
Materials development and quality assurance policy guidelines – These help ensure appropriate selection, development, quality assurance, and copyright clearance of works that may be shared. This category also encompasses library collection development policies and guidelines, and whether those policies explicitly support OER and open access as part of collection building.
Understand the barriers to Adoption
Understanding the barriers to OER, and why your stakeholders may be resistant to its adoption, will help you to better tailor your advocacy strategy to specific audiences. Below are some types of potential barriers to OER Adoption. To view the full diagram, download the PDF.
- Lack of interoperability between platforms & tools
- Lack of compliance to metadata standards
- Gaps in technical skills to identify OER
- Gaps in OER alignment to accessibility requirements
- Technology infrastructure costs
- Content curation and development costs
- Content maintenance and improvement costs
- Instructor training costs
- Misalignment between open licensing and district copyright guidelines
- Lack of knowledge about intellectual property rights and open licensing
- Proprietary knowledge concerns
- Skepticism around OER quality
- Lack of time, incentives, knowledge to work with OER
- Uncertainty around the necessary pedagogical shifts
- Lack of curatorial and collaborative workflows to support OER
Tailor Your Message
Sharing your passion and reason for being an OER champion is powerful, but what about your audience? Before presenting on any change initiative, consider who you have in the room and what’s in it for them.
Understanding of the value of OER at a senior leadership level is beneficial to ensure the time and money is allocated in support of implementation. Key messaging to address the “why” of OER for senior leadership may include:
- Using OER can reduce costs to students, which is beneficial to institutions as a whole
- Using OER brings in different perspectives and provides more variety for students
- Using OER can result in decreased dropout rates and increased persistence for students
- By participating in the OER Movement, the institution is raising its reputation by increasing its capacity to provide effective teaching and learning.
FACULTY, LIBRARY STAFF, AND INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGNERS
These are your key stakeholders. They are potential champions themselves, and they are the change makers at your institution. Your messaging to this group of stakeholders should center on the adaptable, flexible nature of OER, which allows for continuous updates to ensure content relevance. Furthermore, your messaging may include messages about how:
- OER increases student retention by reducing costs
- OER assures academic freedom to modify or add content to your specifications
- OER provides more relevant and engaging materials for students
- Use of OER can help to extend your academic profile
STUDENTS AND PARENTS
Key messaging to students may include:
- Using OER results in direct cost savings in materials and textbook purchases
- Using OER brings in different perspectives and provides more variety in course materials
- Using OER enhances learning experiences by promoting more engaging teaching and learning practices
Identify Your High Impact Engagement Strategies
Below are some engagement strategies which have been identified by OER implementation project leads, and that are encouraged for exploration.
- Formal Presentation: Securing a time slot with one stakeholder group can allow you to focus on their interests and create a pivotal moment of change in their perspective on OER. Speaking the language of those in the audience is a foundational stepping stone to cultural change.
- Informal Sharing: Sharing your personal story is a great way to declare yourself as an OER champion in your community, and can draw engagement and interest from people in a way that educating and informing may not.
- Modeling: The “unknown” of change can be the biggest barrier of all. Modeling the outcomes of change and helping people observe what the end state will or can be is a great way to alleviate change related apprehension.
- Embedded Championship: This would involve identifying individuals who have high-touch roles to personally champion OER. Ideally your champion would be an active participant on teaching and learning projects where opportunities for OER can be organically raised.
- Social Media: Consider blogging, tweeting, and posting on listserves as important tools for advocacy and outreach. A great place to start is to read and comment on blogs of relevance that interest you, and to follow other academic library staff and educators who are prolific writers and tweeters on OER.