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In the Spirit of Openness

By Lindsey Gumb, Instructional Technology Librarian

If you’ve read any of my articles here on the library’s blog, you may have noticed a theme of openness.  I’ve been interested in this movement for the last several years and have worked hard to nudge Roger Williams University in the direction that the rest of the world seems to have already moved.  Local support for open education and open educational resources (OER) is finally gaining momentum, but I knew that in order to best serve RWU, I needed a broader perspective and deeper understanding of the topic aside from the overstated “what is OER and why should we encourage faculty to incorporate it into their curriculum” spiel.  So in early March I journeyed to Cape Town, South Africa to attend the 10th annual Open Education Global conference.  Every year the conference hosts an intimate international gathering of minds to share new research, practices and theory behind the movement of open education.  This conference provided me with exactly what I was looking for: a fresh outlook on the research of open education that pushed beyond the tangible financial savings to students.   What I had hoped would be an informative and “worthwhile” few days abroad turned into the most inspiring week of my life.  The friends who I met at and outside of the conference and the experiences we shared together  will not soon be forgotten.  This blog post will give you a brief insight into both my personal and professional experiences, because without one the other would have been far less substantial.


After flying 13 hours to Ethiopia and then another 8 to Cape Town, I found myself standing at the gate of my beautiful Airbnb nestled among the tropical coastline. I was renting a room in a large house in Bantry Bay and after ringing the bell was welcomed with open arms (quite literally) by the housekeeper, Ronel, a beautiful woman with kind eyes and a shy smile.  Ronel and I immediately hit it off and shared a cup of delicious tea on the balcony overlooking the splendor of the Atlantic Ocean.  I was exhausted from my trip, but the two of us spent hours sharing story after story, evoking laughter and tears over the struggles and joys that bond all of us together in this world, regardless of race, class or geography.  She reflected on the harsh realities of growing up as a black woman during Apartheid, about the daily emotional and physical abuse from her ex-boyfriend that led her to miscarry 4 children before she was even 25 years old, and how most recently the South African government has denied her Congolese husband re-entry into the country because his ID expired while he was teaching out of the country: it’s been three long years of separation.  The racial injustices, heartbreaks, and disappointments this woman has endured in her 60 years is enough to break a person’s spirit, and yet she perseveres – no, she flourishes.  This one cherished evening that I spent with Ronel set the tone for my week abroad and encouraged me to push my normally introverted-self to engage with as many people as I could.  I wanted to experience more meaningful connections with strangers like the one I had just been privy to.  I went to bed that night pondering why I had to travel half way around the world to share such a personal experience with a stranger, when I could just as easily knock on my neighbor’s door.  Better late than never?


Carrying Ronel’s spirit and energy with me to the conference, I made it a point to introduce myself to others during all of the coffee and lunch breaks.  If you know me, being social in these situations is intimidating.  Not because I don’t like people, but because I’m an introvert, and while I love interacting with others, I tend to shy away from initiating conversations.  Peter was the first person I met.  While I was wandering around the Civic Center looking for the keynote session, I noticed a man with a similar confused and desperate look on his face.  “Are you looking for the keynote?” I asked.  “Yes!  Please tell me you can help me,” he replied.  I laughed and shook my head.  “I’m afraid I’ve been searching for the last ten minutes myself with no luck – I’m Lindsey, nice to meet you.”  Peter and I eventually found our place, but we also found a friend each other, and he introduced me to a number of fascinating individuals over the course of the week.  Such a mundane and humorous situation brought us together, but I know we’ll keep in touch forever.  I met Joe in the espresso line.  He was in front of me and we shared a quick, acknowledging smile.  At the cream and sugar station we met again, and I noticed him looking for a spoon. I reacted by handing him mine– accompanied by a big smile.  We talked throughout the break and I learned that he works for the UN, lives in Paris with his wife and boys, but that he was born in Boston and his sister currently works in Providence.  During lunch, I met Jasmine: a brilliant and friendly young woman who teaches Communications at Ohio State. I was inspired by her enthusiasm for teaching and learned that she had just written her first open text book.  That night for dinner, Jasmine, Joe and I ventured to the waterfront and had a delicious dinner under the stars and learned more about one another’s lives.  It was wonderful feeling so at ease with these two individuals who were strangers only hours before.  Each day afterward was similar in spirit: new adventures in learning and meeting interesting people from all over the world and being inspired by their stories.


Throughout the conference, I observed that while the United States is still heavily focused on the financial benefits of implementing OER, much of the rest of the world has moved on to identifying a deeper understanding of the intersection between pedagogy and OER.  It was interesting for me to hear the phrase “open pedagogy” used in nearly every presentation, because prior to my arrival in Cape Town I had only (maybe naively) been in tune with the dialogue about saving our students money as opposed to focusing on the pedagogical innovation that can accompany open resources.  I wouldn’t say that the US is “behind” the rest of the world but rather that our higher education system is structured so that we simply have different (financial) priorities at the moment.  After  some back and forth discussion with my fellow American veteran-conference attendees, I learned that they too noticed a shift in the dialogue from OER to open education practices (OEP), more so now than ever before.  It was fascinating for me to see where the potential lies in this movement, and how as an OER advocate I can encourage our local community to participate in manageable and meaningful ways now, regardless of what the rest of the world is doing.  Many invested in this community, such as Robin DeRosa argue that they “… don’t want to be part of a movement that is focused on replacing static, over-priced textbooks with static, free textbooks,” however, as one of my new acquaintances, Rajiv Jhangiani, said during his presentation, it’s all about knowing one’s audience (faculty) and engaging them in ways that will work for them and their students.  If that’s just adopting an open textbook right now and saving students money, then that’s a step in the right direction.  In my opinion, there is no defined right or wrong approach to this, and my role as a librarian and educator is to help guide faculty through the process of identifying and evaluating relevant content and resources that will best suit their pedagogy and the defined student learning outcomes!


I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to travel abroad to this incredible conference and incredible country, where I was able to coax myself out of my shell and meet so many wonderful people.  I came back inspired to redistribute the passion and energy I gathered in Cape Town to our own campus here at Roger Williams University.  My hope is that I can take steps to continue to interweave my personal experiences with the professional, because I truly believe that when we open ourselves to sharing experiences in our personal lives, it’s easier to translate that openness in our pedagogy, which in turn benefits our students.  Stay tuned for more of my involvement in this exciting movement!





Library Announces 2017 OER Faculty Fellows


By Lindsey Gumb, Instructional Technology Librarian


The University Library, in collaboration with the Center for Scholarship, Assessment, Learning, Teaching and Technology (CSALT2) is excited to announce this year’s accepted participants for the 2017 OER Faculty Fellows program.  After last year’s successful pilot, we knew we needed to offer this opportunity again to our faculty, and here are the individuals who have stepped up to the challenge:


Paula Bailey – Mathematics

Bob Dermody – Architecture

Peter Hahn – Business

Chantelle Messier – Writing

Heather Miceli – CORE

Kathy Micken – Business

Janine Weisman – Journalism


The Fellows are asked to take a course in which they traditionally assign a textbook and to instead collaborate with a librarian and instructional designer during the summer to identify openly licensed resources that will ideally address two factors: they’ll be free (or low cost) for the student, and they’ll also offer the instructor an opportunity to better address student learning outcomes by implementing new pedagogies.  The process of locating and evaluating quality OER can be difficult at times, especially when faculty are looking for resources in disciplines that are not fully represented in the OER community.  These challenges can also be wonderful opportunities for faculty members to author new resources, which can then be openly licensed and shared with others.  OER is all about sharing – whether you are the consumer or creator!

The other vital piece to this program is assessment.  It’s a wonderful thing to be able to save students money on textbook costs, but we are also extremely interested in how OER impacts student learning.  Our Fellows will work with CSALT2 to create an assessment plan to help them track student engagement with the OER content, and determine what kind of impact it has had on learning.  At the end of the Fall 2017 semester, Fellows will be expected to share their results in a scholarly manner by developing a conference presentation and/or manuscript for publication.

If you are a faculty or staff member interested in learning more about OER on your own, please contact librarian Lindsey Gumb to be directed to a new self-paced tutorial.


Image: https://maricopa.instructure.com/courses/805732


High-stakes Texts: Lowering the cost of textbooks to save Rhode Islander’s Money

By Lindsey Gumb, Instructional Technology Librarian

On September 27th Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo challenged the state’s institutions of higher education to save students $5 million over the next five years by replacing traditional (and expensive) textbooks with openly licensed (free) ones. Roger Williams University, along with 6 other colleges in the state have pledged to collaborate and engage with their respective faculty members to identify appropriate open textbooks to participate in this initiative.  As a part of this collaboration, a Steering Committee consisting of one librarian from each participating institution has been formed to provide guidance, learn from one another and to develop assessments along the way.  Instructional Technology Librarian, Lindsey Gumb, is representing RWU on the committee and is excited to marry the Governor’s initiative with the current partnerships the library has made on campus with the Open Educational Resources movement.

Developing and Implementing Affordable Excellence with OER

Kelly Donnell from the School of Education, Lindsey Gumb from the University Library and Linda Beith from the Center for Scholarship, Assessment, Learning, Teaching & Technology co-presented at the New England Faculty Development Consortium’s Annual Fall Conference on November 18, 2016 at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. The theme of the conference was Civic Engagement and Service Learning.

The trio’s interactive, 55-minute presentation was entitled: Developing and Implementing Affordable Excellence with OER. The focus was on the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) for both K-12 and higher education institutions to provide meaningful access to effective technology, current, high-quality texts, and Common Core State Standard resources. RWU’s OER Fellows program was introduced with examples of projects underway and OER collections under development.

Sticker-Shock Sparks Faculty-Librarian Collaboration with OER

By Lindsey Gumb, Instructional Technology Librarianpicture1

Typically, it goes a little something like this:  A student arrives on campus, prints his course schedule and then takes a walk to the bookstore to see what reading materials his professors may have assigned for his courses.  The panic that often ensues from the sticker-shock is very real and far too common.  For students studying in the United States during 2015-16, the average cost of textbooks for just one year at a private four-year university like Roger Williams University was $1,249 (source).  With exorbitant prices like this tacked onto already high tuition costs, it’s no wonder that librarians across the nation are investigating whether or not OER (Open Educational Resources) could be the answer.

So what are OER, and why is the library getting involved?  OER can be identified as teaching, learning and research materials in analog, digital, and interactive mediums that are free of any copyright or license restrictions.  OER are meant to not only alleviate the financial burden of student learning but also to enrich and revolutionize it.  Faculty utilizing OER now have far more flexibility in selecting whole or individual chapters of open textbooks (free) in addition to searching through online shared banks of interactive lesson plans, media, journal articles and more to create custom and engaging learning environments that encourage students to be active learners both inside and outside of the classroom.  It isn’t always easy to locate and evaluate quality OER that fits within the confinements of one’s syllabus, and this is where the RWU librarians have stepped up to collaborate with the Center for Teaching & Learning, Instructional Design, and 7 faculty members in all different disciplines wanting to make a difference in their students’ lives.

Stay-tuned for an inside look into all 7 of our faculty fellows’ experiences working with the library and OER.  We’ll showcase how each individual chose to incorporate OER into his/her fall semester courses and how they plan on assessing the benefits of access and student learning throughout.  The emergence of OER in higher education is creating exciting opportunities for faculty to reassess their pedagogical practices and engage students in deeper intellectual explorations of subject content.  Follow along and get inspired!