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.” [https://blog.scholarshipamerica.org/the-student-success-movement-creating-a-college-completion-culture ] 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. [http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/ilframework ] 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 shortlib.org/s/assignmentlibrary 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.

It’s Not Just Always About You: Thinking about Preservation and Academic Works 

This morning, I walked past City Tech’s showcase for faculty work. The showcase is located in a stairwell that many students and faculty use to go from the main entrance to the first floor. Most of the time, the showcase features a faculty book with a reproduction of the cover and a press release featuring a photo of the author. 

Today, the display featured our student/faculty journal TECHNE. Published by our Architectural Technology department, TECHNE is a high quality, open access publication. It is common for schools of architecture to publish journals that features essays by students and faculty. TECHNE, like its counterparts at Yale, MIT, and other architecture programs, also highlights current student/faculty projects. For example, City Tech successfully competed in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon as Team DURA.  TECHNE, as a formal publication, helps to document Team DURA’s accomplishments.  

So, what does TECHNE and Team DURA have to do with scholarly communications and Open Access? TECHNE is open access. Anyone can read it. Team DURA has a beautiful, comprehensive website. All wonderful but will readers be able to find, let alone access, TECHNE decades or even nearer in the future? The answer to this question is where librarians and Academic Works come in. 

Ting Chin, one of the editors of TECHNE, reached out to the library in June 2016 about using Academic Works to disseminate the journal. After further discussion with Ting and a consultation with Megan Wacha, CUNY’s Scholarly Communications librarian, we decided to create a designated archives area for TECHNE within Academic Works. This ensures that the journal gets a wider readership: each issue has metadata to make it more findable. More importantly, TECHNE is now preserved.

We do not talk enough about preservation and the institutional repository. Why? Most non-library faculty are far more concerned with increasing their dissemination and related citation rate through making their articles open access. When I promote Academic Works, I keep the message focused on the immediate and short-term benefit to faculty. The profound importance of long-term preservation, however, does not usually come up in conversation unless I sense that my colleague is concerned about broader issues of information equity.

 Preservation, which provides for long-term findability and maintenance of our scholarly, creative, other works, is a core librarian and archivist value. For any librarian working with institutional repositories, preservation is also a core concern. When Megan came on board with CUNY, she shared Clifford Lynch’s still important article from 2003, “Institutional Repositories: Essential Infrastructure for Scholarship in the Digital Age.” Lynch’s words are still so powerful:  

an institutional repository is a recognition that the intellectual life and scholarship of our universities will increasingly be represented, documented, and shared in digital form, and that a primary responsibility of our universities is to exercise stewardship over these riches: both to make them available and to preserve them. (1)

Academic Works and other institutional repositories differ from other open access platforms specifically because institutional repositories are committed to long-term preservation. So many of our works are born-digital and lack the important metadata that makes these works findable. That further strengthens the need for preservation and the need for sharing your work in Academic Works.   

Yes, it’s not always about you. As we have moved away from print, we have not sufficiently thought about how future generations will have access to our creations. When you share your work in Academic Works and advocate for institutional repositories, you are making a major contribution to a sustainable scholarly future.  

(1) Lynch, Clifford A. “Institutional repositories: essential infrastructure for scholarship in the digital age.” portal: Libraries and the Academy 3.2 (2003): 327-336.