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by: Rachel Dilley, Open Educational Resources Librarian – Reference & Instruction, Columbus State Community College

At Columbus State Community College in central Ohio, a handful of our forward-thinking faculty members were already using OER by the time I began working as an OER librarian 18 months ago. However, there was no cohesive college-wide effort to explain to faculty the benefits of using or creating open resources, let alone any plan to incentivize them to do so. Encouraged by administration, the library director and I began to research the best practices in structuring an OER initiative.

Stipends Are a Frequently Used Incentive

We interviewed OER advocates from leading institutions across the country, both from four-year and two-year colleges. Determined to model our initiative after what we learned from these interviews, we organized our internally-funded grant proposal just like many other institutions had — with a tiered stipend model as an incentive for faculty to do the hard work of converting course material to OER. Under this proposal for an OER initiative, our faculty who were to identify an existing open textbook that needed little revision would receive $600 to redesign the course around the OER and to compile any needed ancillary materials that might not already exist. For faculty who could not identify a mostly “plug and play” open textbook, our proposal would have paid a $2,500 stipend for faculty to adapt or remix a number of OER together to create a customized set of course materials. Finally, if an exhaustive search did not yield sufficient OER in the subject area, then faculty would receive a $4,000 stipend to author original content. Teams of up to four members were also encouraged under this model, with each team member receiving the full stipend.

We thought we had a great proposal, and we did. Our stipend amounts were in-line with other community college OER leaders. We had administrative support for the initiative. Once the grant proposal had been refined, the college pitched the OER incentive proposal to our faculty.

Time is of the Essence

The general consensus among our faculty was that the proposed stipend structure was generous, but they wondered where they would find the time to do this work? OER research shows this question echoes across many institutions. West, Hofer, and Coleman in their 2017 OER project analysis found that, “Even with support built into the grant structure, the consistent theme from faculty was the large amount of time needed for projects” (p. 6). Faculty consistently report that lack of time is a barrier to OER adoption. Faculty are already spread thin, and OER adoption takes a lot of time whether a stipend is provided or not.

Consequently, we revised our OER initiative grant proposal to use faculty reassigned time as an incentive rather than stipends. Reassigned time can be defined as “a deliberate management action, either discretionary or mandated, that releases full-time faculty from teaching duties in order to perform other tasks” (Petrowsky, 2002). We still wanted to keep a tiered structure to reflect the increasingly involved work in adopting, adapting, or creating OER. We had no idea how to tier reassigned time. How much time is fair to both the college and to faculty? Department chairs would need to find adjunct faculty to teach the courses not being covered by full-time faculty receiving reassigned time, which is a hurdle that would not have been raised under the stipend model.

I posted a query to the CCCOER listserv to see if any other colleges were using a tiered reassigned time model for OER work. A useful reply came from Amy Hofer, who shared the aforementioned analysis of how much time OER work took both librarians and faculty. Learning from this research, we structured our faculty incentives in the following way.

Adopt an OER Textbook Adapt or Remix OER Create OER
6 hours/week for 1 semester 6 hours/week for 2 semesters 6 hours/week for 3 semesters
Total paid time: 90 hours Total paid time: 180 hours Total paid time: 270 hours

Small teams of faculty are encouraged under this model, just as they were under the stipend model. As far as the initiative’s budget, the reassigned time model was more expensive than the stipend structure we had originally planned. Institutions seeking to use a reassigned time model for their OER incentives will need to work with their accounting or budget office to determine the hourly faculty rate for reassigned time in preparing an overall budget.

We are now in the early stages of marketing the OER initiative to faculty at Columbus State. Our library director, five OER Faculty Fellows, and I have scheduled meetings with each academic department to explain the initiative and to answer questions. Thus far, faculty questions seem to gravitate toward the idea of creating OER, though I think some of them are not aware of the resources that already exist and are available for remixing. Part of my job will be to show them the abundance of existing OER for their subject areas. We hope to offer guidance to faculty so that the appropriate amount of reassigned time is provided according to the body of available OER with which they have to work.

For more information on our OER initiative called Open Texts @ Columbus State, see http://cscc.edu/opentexts.

 

Works Cited

Hofer, A. (2017, December 19). Reassigned time as incentive for OER adoption/adaptation/creation update [Online forum comment].  Retrieved from https://groups.google.com/d/msg/cccoer-advisory/r8tRepZJMkA/BQqS5rAQBAAJ

Petrowsky, M. C. (2002). The Reduction of Faculty Reassigned Time as a Community College Cost Containment Initiative: A Case Study of  the Maricopa County Community College District. Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED464691)

West, Q., Hofer, A. & Coleman, D. (2017). Librarians as open education leaders: Responsibilities and Possibilities. Retrieved from https://libraryasleader.org/loel-research-report/

2 thoughts on "Reassigned Time as Faculty Incentive to Adopt OER"

  1. Arnie Schoenberg says:

    If you’re worried about time as a factor, you should abandon Petrowsky’s very narrow definition of release time. Most colleges allow release time for adjunct faculty, and most adjunct faculty are capable and willing to work on OER. Their experience in multiple districts and teaching situations is beneficial when preparing OER to be broadly useful beyond a single campus. They tend to understand the high-cost of living, and have an intrinsic motivation to help students with the high cost of textbooks. In most colleges part-time or contingent faculty make up over 70% of the faculty. Instead of scrambling to find adjuncts to cover classes, why not give the OER work to the adjuncts in the first place?

  2. Rachel Dilley says:

    Thanks for your perspective, Arnie. In environments where adjuncts are eligible for reassigned time, I can see where they would be eager to do the OER work. Columbus State Community College has a different environment than what you describe. Our faculty union contract stipulates that full-time, tenure-track faculty get the right of first refusal for reassigned time opportunities.

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