UM System provides leadership in taking next steps to develop OER network


On Oct. 16–17, the UM System hosted the Open Educational Resources (OER) Boot Camp as a follow up to last March’s OER Statewide Leadership Summit. The event was suggested in March as a method for OER advocates to hold each other accountable in continuing OER efforts. The Boot Camp included workshops that focused on practical strategies to encourage OER adoption at higher education institutions. Participants included administrators, librarians, faculty, curriculum developers and other staff from over 20 2- and 4-year institutions of higher education in Missouri. Jana Moore, a leader in OER implementation for the UM System, coordinated the event as an opportunity for advocates across Missouri to share their experiences with OER and build a stronger, more collaborative network.

UM System President Mun Choi welcomed the group and spoke about the importance of OER to affordability in higher education, as well as OER’s potential to be a “dynamic resource in rapidly developing fields, such as computer science.” He also reaffirmed the UM System’s commitment to creating a statewide, centralized collection of accessible OER content.

Boot Camp workshops were led by Nicole Finkbeiner, director of institutional relations from Rice University’s free textbook initiative Openstax. Finkbeiner, who also presented at the March summit, returned to Columbia to share OER best practices and campus engagement. She stressed that key parts of OER implementation included effectively engaging faculty and setting defined goals for any campus initiative. Workshop participants also shared their own techniques to encourage faculty members to adopt OER, and acknowledged the importance of recognizing faculty that have implemented these affordable resources.

A highlight of the Boot Camp was MU Outreach Librarian Grace Atkin’s update on the efforts of the MOBIUS consortium. Missouri libraries in the consortium have been building one of the nation’s greatest OER collections. The curated resources will be publicly available at OERcommons.org, which is expected to go live at the end of October. The website will serve as a hub for educators looking for resources to transition to OER, as well as a place for OER developers to publish their work.

Representatives from the University bookstore also reported on their important role in furthering the OER initiative. Director Sherry Pollard and Sr. Associate Director Dale Sanders presented data on systemwide OER adoption and the savings that are generated for students. They also highlighted the importance of faculty reporting OER use to the University bookstore each year. Statistics collected by the bookstore are currently the only way to track OER use, this information is critical to reporting the impact of OER to decision makers.

Following the Boot Camp, an Intensive OER Symposium was held for approximately 40 faculty members from all four UM universities. The event provided training for educators interested in incorporating OER in their courses and covered the definition of and quality control processes for OER. The symposium was part of the systemwide effort to further engage faculty in the OER initiative.

The push for OER adoption continues to be a major initiative for the UM System and across Missouri’s higher education institutions. OER advocates are aware of the challenges ahead and the Boot Camp provided them the opportunity to learn from each other and maintain momentum. With support from UM System administration and the dedicated work of staff at participating institutions, Missouri universities will continue to lead the nation in implementing OER to support student success.

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