Reflection: Enhancing the Institutional Repository – Learning from the OER Experience

Why is so hard to get faculty to self-submit their papers in our institutional repository? Our recruitment is moderately successful for short periods of time after we make presentations on the value of open access to faculty and the university. I began to think that we might need to strike a chord with more essential values in order to motivate faculty. Student success is both an essential and urgent value. In fact, student success is featured in a Chronicle of Higher Education report as a movement that “has made greater completion rates, equity, and social mobility institutional responsibilities at two- and four-year colleges.” [ ] Will faculty be motivated to deposit academic articles in an open-access institutional repository to support student success?

While working with faculty on using Open Educational Resources (OER) in their classes for almost two years, I observed a connection between OER development and academic institutional repositories. For me, the most striking observation was to see faculty eager to submit their OER to our institutional repository –the same repository where  our open access articles reside!– to enhance discovery in the university community and on the web. This caused me to think about harnessing some of the factors that propel faculty to submit their OER to the repository to motivate them to self-submit their scholarly publications as well—submissions which at our college have been slow to accumulate in a widespread, sustained pattern. I think the big factor to harness is making a connection between our repository of open access materials and  student success.

Student Success

Faculty developing OER are deeply committed to student success. The investment of time and energy in creating or adapting an e-textbook, or curating open-access materials on an OER website, is substantial. It is a natural extension of the desire to support the students in their classes for faculty to want their OER to be available to a wide population of students worldwide. Enter the institutional repository. Faculty grasp easily the value of the repository in providing free access to learning materials to students beyond their classes. Moreover, many OER are designed for self-paced online learning and appeal to an audience of learners in the general population. Equally as important to faculty, is making their OER available under Creative Commons licenses to educators who can employ the Five R’s (Remix, Revise…) to spawn a variety of new OER from the original work. The institutional repository disseminates work beyond the university to plant seeds for future development and collaboration.

Why is it that when encouraging faculty to deposit their scholarly articles to the repository we have not received the same response? We might get agreement in principle, but sporadic follow-up actions. Perhaps we are not placing student success front and center in the many benefits of posting to the repository.  In pitching open-access to faculty, we often stress metrics, boosting one’s academic profile, links to a community of scholars, and we might fail to highlight the significant benefits to students.  We could emphasize the benefit of open-access to the wide community of students worldwide who are studying for degrees and entering the workforce post-graduation.  These students will benefit from free access to scholarly articles in repositories– articles that will be available in full text through Google or Google Scholar. These students might be studying in online degree programs or in schools without libraries, or without extensive access to databases. As librarians, we need to connect the dots for faculty between the institutional repository and student success. We need to unpack and discuss this repeatedly with faculty, in formal and informal venues, so that it becomes self-evident.

Student Work

On my campus, Lehman College of CUNY, there is interest in Open Pedagogy among faculty who are developing OER. Open Pedagogy emphasizes renewable materials, which are assignments and activities where students create materials that are shared with their fellow students or anywhere in the world through web portals and repositories. This learner-generated content can enhance student engagement and learning outcomes. As students become more involved in OER, librarians could mentor the process and close the circle of open-access publishing by posting both student and faculty authored materials in the institutional repository.

Could we seize this opportunity to encourage faculty to deposit their own publications (beyond OER) in the repository as well? The cohort of OER faculty, dedicated to student success, will be receptive to hearing about how the repository helps students with all types of open-access publications. Often we have found that faculty first become aware of the repository when it comes time to post their OER. It is the perfect moment to entice them to deposit their scholarly articles.

Moving Forward

My work on OER and the institutional repository have taught me that placing a high value on student success is crucial to both projects.  OER and scholarly publishing are integral parts of at least two frames of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Information Creation as a Process and Scholarship as Conversation. [ ] I think librarians could consider emphasizing the connection between student success and widening access to faculty publications in the repository, in much the same way we link student success to OER. Raising the awareness among faculty to this core value will be a slow, ongoing process that will benefit faculty themselves, their institutions, and their students.

Author: Madeline Cohen is Associate Professor and Head of Reference, Lehman College, CUNY. She is co-coordinator of CUNY Academic Works at Lehman College, and the OER initiative at Lehman.


Peer Reviewed OER in Academic Works

Open textbooks are the rock stars of OER (open educational resources). They can save students significant amounts of money, and the adoption and creation of open textbooks attract financial support from our Governor here in New York. But when it comes time to put textbook learning into practice in accordance with college goals, assignments come into play. The Assessment Leadership Team (ALT) at LaGuardia Community College collected OER at the assignment level to create a peer reviewed library of assignments exemplifying the College’s Core Competencies and Communication Abilities that reflect the College’s collective vision for student learning. Called the Learning Matters Assignment Library (LMAL), this collection launched in October 2017. It supports faculty assignment development and encourages reflection on this process.

ALT’s Assignment Library leaders created a submission and peer-review process for assignments, many of which emerge from seminars held by the College’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Each assignment is reviewed by a faculty member in the discipline who focuses on how the assignment meets the core competency and communication ability it aligns with as well as the course’s learning objectives. The assignment creator receives this feedback and makes revisions as appropriate. Faculty with assignments accepted into the Assignment Library can use these as college contributions on their annual evaluations. This can help junior faculty on the road to promotion and tenure.

ALT also chose CUNY Academic Works, CUNY’s institutional repository, to house the Assignment Library. ALT leaders collaborated with the College’s Metadata Librarian and the University’s Scholarly Communications Librarian to develop a workflow for collecting metadata and posting assignments to a curated subsection within LaGuardia OER on Academic Works. Each assignment carries a Creative Commons license selected by the author and is available online for reuse, distribution, and more. And people are using these assignments. As of June 8, the Learning Matters Assignment Library has seen 1,122 downloads in 2018 with around 30% of those coming from outside the United States.

The Learning Matters Assignment Library now contains 25 assignments across a range of academic disciplines, from physical therapy and biology to composition and theater. It can be found at or by browsing to LaGuardia’s OER section in Academic Works and clicking on the Learning Matters Assignment Library link. ALT is considering expanding the LMAL in future to include different kinds of materials, so stay tuned.

–  Elizabeth Jardine, Library Media Resources Center, LaGuardia Community College

This blog post is based on a presentation given at the NEC OER Summit in Amherst, Massachusetts on May 31, 2018.

Thoughts on Pedagogy and OER Development: A Faculty-Driven Approach — A Lunchtime Seminar at Hunter College ACERT, March 20, 2018

I was invited to participate in a seminar on OER and Pedagogy at Hunter College ACERT (Academic Center for Excellence in Research and Teaching) along with faculty from Baruch, Lehman and Hunter Colleges involved in development of OER (Open Educational Resources). I would like to share the key topics that came up in a lively discussion with attendees after presentations from panelists. This lunchtime seminar was attended by about 30 faculty, mostly from Hunter.

Panelists from three CUNY schools gave presentations on OER development emphasizing the influence of OER on pedagogy.  Baruch, Lehman and Hunter colleges are participating, along with other CUNY 2-year and 4-year colleges, in the 2017-18 SUNY-CUNY Scale-Up Initiative funded by New York State.

Allison Lehr-Samuels, Director of Baruch’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), and Andrew McKinney, OER Fellow, spoke about the Baruch OER Course Development Initiative run by the CTL, in partnership with the Newman Library and Baruch Computing and Technology. Allison gave an overview of how faculty were recruited, incentivized, and supported. She emphasized the need to look at all costs involved in development of OER to plan for sustainability, including administrative, training, platform, incentives, ongoing support, printing, and more. Andrew spoke about the impact of OER on pedagogy, emphasizing that developing OER offered opportunities for faculty to change their courses to achieve refreshed learning outcomes. He underscored the point that OER accomplishes more than saving students money, which is the primary goal, but at the same time can improve pedagogy and learning outcomes.

As Co-Coordinator of the OER program managed by the Leonard Lief Library at Lehman College, I spoke about the benefits of OER-enabled pedagogy, a term I learned from hearing David Wiley, Chief Academic Officer of Lumen Learning, at OpenCon2017.   In particular, I listed these advantages: (1) Continually improved resources; (2) Drawing inspiration; (3) Collaboration with colleagues; (4) Incorporation of a wider range of content. To illustrate these and other pedagogical benefits, two Lehman faculty talked about their experience teaching with OER they developed. Sharon Jordan, professor of art history, spoke about her OER for her course, Introduction to Modern Art, and Anne Rice, professor of Africana and Women’s Studies, spoke about her OER for her course, African American Literature.

Sharon Jordan was able to tailor the slides and texts in her course materials posted on her WordPress site to focus on the artists she felt students needed to learn about. She wrote texts, curated slides and created weekly assignments for students to complete. She feels strongly that for introductory art history, her OER was more flexible and relevant than a static textbook for students. She was able to structure her hybrid online course in ways that emphasized independent, active learning instead of lecture supported by an expensive, static textbook that covered more material than was instructive for her course, and that students often did not purchase because of cost.

Anne Rice spoke about the enhanced experiences that her students had when using texts from digital archives on the web. Students could delve into a rich archive of personal slave narratives that were curated and posted along with audio, video and other supplementary materials. Instead of reading a selective anthology of texts in a published book, students could learn about a growing digitized archive of resources expanding the canon of African American literature. From a practical standpoint, having texts posted on a WordPress site enables students to read wherever they are, reduces time spent copying texts from books on Reserve in the library, and consequently improves student performance.

Hunter professor of political science, Charles Tien, spoke about teaching an introductory political science course with an open textbook plus readings that are free of cost to students (mostly library subscription resources). He described the selection process that he and his colleague engaged in to select an open textbook on American government that satisfied most of their learning objectives. Compared to previous semesters when students were required to purchase an expensive textbook (and many did not), students now reported having access to all of the readings on day one. This is crucial for their participation in discussions and completing assignments.

A lively and interesting discussion followed the presentations. The faculty asked questions related to the following topics:

  • What is OER exactly? True OER vs. Hybrid
  • Library subscriptions—will these disappear? Only available to registered students
  • How much work is involved for faculty? Commitment / Incentives
  • Do students/faculty want Print copies? How to cover costs
  • What about other costs to students? Publishers’ fees (if not funded)
  • How is BlackBoard (or other LMS) used with OER?
  • Could student work be incorporated into OER?
  • Revising OER: do additional authors get credit? Creative Commons licenses
  • Annotation tools for group work by students—what is available? Hypothesis WordPress plugin
  • How to sustain OER development beyond government funding? Need to keep track of all costs and services to develop strategic plan
  • Is there assessment of student learning (grades) with OER?

I was impressed with the interest of the attendees in issues related to OER that delved deeply into the ramifications and challenges of OER. This group discussion went beyond speaking about the agreed-upon need to save students money. The questions raised issues that everyone working on OER is wrestling with, and that will be solved as OER becomes more accepted into the curriculum. It was both inspiring and reassuring to hear such perceptive, insightful presentations and discussion that could serve as a beginning agenda for future conferences and professional reading.

–Madeline Cohen, Leonard Lief Library, Lehman College,