Tuesday, January 21, 2014

OER13 > Academic: Libraries and the OER Movement: The Need for Awareness, Understanding, and Collaboration

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Gema Bueno-de-la-Fuente, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, LIS Department, University Carlos III of Madrid


Universities are facing an extremely changing and challenging environment: the information is available everywhere, for anyone, and for free; self-learning and collaborative learning are gaining traction; and new models of teaching, learning and accreditation are emerging, hitting the current educational systems. Many universities around the world are coping with this situation allying with the ‘threat’. They offer their contents as OER, including complete courses’ content as OCW, or even as MOOCs. This trend is quickly spreading all over the world, as many prestigious universities are launching their own initiatives or joining already established ones, proving their strategic value for gaining impact, attracting students, and even have a return of investment through formal accreditation of open courses.

At universities, academic libraries are committed to support research, teaching and learning activities, improving user’s access to scholarly and educational content. With that aim in mind, they should regularly create collections of learning and teaching materials. Therefore, they are called to play a key role at the selection and management of OER. Libraries have already a long expertise in many of the activities required by OER initiatives, thus their involvement would be of great benefit, even if they still have to develop or improve some specific skills related to the creation, management and promotion of OER (Bueno-de-la-Fuente, Robertson & Boon, 2012). Nevertheless, their importance for the OER movement has not been widely recognized at the same level as for Open Access to science or data. The Library and their librarians are well valued by those OER initiatives where they are already engaged with, though their involvement is still not widespread. A significant lack of awareness exists both from OER initiatives with regards to library activities and from the libraries about the resources released by OER initiatives. Furthermmore, academics themselves are not recognising the importance of OER as a source of information for their students, as part of the digital resources’ collection that Libraries maintain. There is a clear need of promoting and building awareness among stakeholders, highlighting the expertise and competencies of libraries and librarians and their key role as OER advocates within and out-with their institutions.

Moreover, libraries, libraries associations, and LIS education institutions, should take on the development of the skills that librarians need to better support OER initiatives, designing and offering training programs and improving syllabus. This paper describes our research in these context, with a twofold objective: on the one hand, the identification and systematization of a set of skills relevant to OER initiatives, where libraries/librarians can offer their expertise on, then designing a promotion and awareness campaign addressed to all the stakeholders; on the other hand, the identification of those tasks useful for OER initiatives, for which libraries/librarians have still to develop or improve their expertise on, demonstrating the need for updating LIS academic and training programs, and finally, designing a MOOC on OER for librarians as a response to the current needs of this professional body that will ultimately impact on the success of the OER movement.

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