Stronger Together: Building Cross-Campus Partnerships
This article is part of our August 2020 spotlight on open educational resources. Click here to read the introduction and view the other articles in the series.
Encouraging an OER partnership to begin as and ultimately remain a grassroots effort is critical to its continued success. Programs and partnerships at Millersville University that are led by faculty and staff initiatives and not administrative directives gain more recognition and active participation than an optional participation program. At Millersville we have been highly successful in our partnership efforts to collaborate with administration on OER adoption. Our OER implementation started out with a group of faculty and staff representing a variety of content areas and roles joining together to support their own efforts at OER adoption. That initial group eventually expanded their work to recruit additional teaching faculty to adopt or create OER materials for their courses (or both). The administrative team at Millersville has been vocally and financially supportive of this OER adoption movement and at the same time recognizes the need to remain as hands-off as possible. Their encouragement comes in the form of financial and administrative support to provide professional development funds for faculty to adopt OER texts and participate in the Open Textbook Initiative (OTI) program.
Starting a grassroots effort for OER adoption
Millersville’s Open Education Working Group started when a small group of like-minded faculty and staff from across campus came together to support one another. The group’s composition was and remains faculty from several departments from the arts and sciences, including faculty from the library, and a staff member who was an instructional designer. This early group’s members came from different backgrounds and were using and integrating OER in different ways in their courses. We believed then as now that this unique composition allows us to explore the full spectrum of OER because of the diverse thought and skill set we have within the group. Through consistent weekly meetings during the academic year, members discussed and shared integration practices and other opportunities for learning and development. As a result of these meetings, the group was motivated to put their ideas to work. Starting in 2017, members of the working group presented sessions during Open Education Week, where they could connect with other faculty who were considering adopting OER and share their expertise on how their own adoption affected student success. Members of the working group also coordinated efforts for local conferences to attend, lead, and facilitate professional development centered around OER. These efforts began to bear fruit as colleagues began to ask about OER and ways they could consider adopting for their classes. As interest across campus increased, the working group saw that partnering with university administration could promote adoption and strategically advance the goals of the Open Education Working Group.
Collaborating with administration
The relationship between the Millersville Open Education Working Group and the administrative team is a result of effective communication between the groups. After the working group made a presentation of the anticipated financial and academic success of OER adoption by faculty, the administrative team was interested in supporting our efforts to recruit additional faculty to not only adopt but also participate in professional learning communities during and after the adoption process. The Open Education Working Group believed that if university leadership could make a small investment in the faculty who moved to adopt OER, it would encourage further faculty to adopt OER for their course materials. Through open dialogue, the dean’s council, president, and provost responded by providing $1,000 in funds for each of the 16 faculty members in the first round of faculty adopters for the OTI (OTI 1.0). The working group provided the support and professional development for the OTI and shared data to the university administration related to student cost savings, student success, and faculty and student interest in the continued use of OER. The administration works to advance the messaging across the campus, with news outlets, engaging with alumni, and sitting down with local politicians. The working group is given autonomy on developing and implementing professional development on the campus related to OER. In both cases, we are working together to ensure student success, both academically and financially, and raise awareness to aid in recruitment and publicity for the university.
Our journey together is defined by our collective efforts. Individually, each of us works in a different area of campus, recognizing the different needs of students, discussing various strategies with our faculty peers, and engaging our staff support to cultivate new learning and foster OER adoption across campus. Among our group members are subject expert faculty, who bring a wealth of content knowledge and instructional skills to the group. Other members include library faculty, who along with their content knowledge and instructional skills offer support and guidance for navigating databases and resources for OER and other zero-cost materials. Additionally, the group includes instructional designers, who share new pedagogical approaches and technical skills to support faculty with course design and revisions, both in the classroom and through our learning management system (LMS). Through this partnership of skills, ideas, and action, we as a group stay active to push one another to support our peers and campus with OER adoption. The group works because we each lead from the positions we hold and lift one another up to support new faculty adoption of OER while welcoming those adopters to group meetings. The administration is keenly aware of this and recognizes our unique skill sets and acumen, which allows them to take a hands-off approach so we guide the work and development across campus. The sustainability of the Open Education Working Group and continued success of the OTI are the results of faculty, staff, and administration collaborating for student success.
Stephanie Pennucci, EdD, is an assistant professor and the education librarian at Millersville University.
Matthew D. Fox, MS, is an instructional designer at Millersville University