by: Juville Dario-Becker, Professor, Central Virginia Community College
Central Virginia Community College (CVCC) hosted 80 secondary and higher education professionals from 18 institutions on October 19, 2018 for the Operation FREE Textbooks drive-in conference. Our goal is to let the educators, particularly in our region, know the power of Open Educational Resources (OER) in shaping the educational journey of our students, and how they too, can adopt OER to foster student success in their own institutions. Participants were faculty, librarians, and administrators from four-year colleges and universities in and around Central Virginia, from some of our sister VCCS colleges, and from the Public School districts of Amherst, Bedford, and Campbell, three of the five school districts from where we draw our early college and dual enrollment student population. Our bookstore (Follett) manager also participated in the panel discussion.
Dr. Muriel Mickles, VP of Academic and Student Affairs welcomed the participants. She informed them that many CVCC students have benefited from the college’s OER initiative, with savings in textbook costs, and the availability of learning materials even before the first day of classes. She also mentioned that in Spring 2019, CVCC will introduce three re-designed degree programs, following the Guided Pathways Initiative, that are completely OER.
The program started with two presenters, Dr. Richard Sebastian of Achieving the Dream, Inc. and Prof. Anita Walz of Virginia Tech. After lunch, students Danielle Lewis, Susan Dykes, Megan Gainey, and Jeremiah Steel told the audience how OER affected their academic and personal lives. A panel consisting of Prof. Walz, Dr. Sebastian, CVCC faculty Dr. Cynthia Lofaso, Dr. Xavier Retnam, Prof. Jim Tuite, student Susan Dykes, and Follett Bookstore manager Bill Folger, followed.
Dr. Richard Sebastian, Director of the Achieving the Dream Open Educational Resources (ATD OER) Degree Initiative introduced the audience to The Open Movement. He described how the VCCS started and embraced the OER movement, driven by the singular mission of student success. He named some of the philanthropic and partner organizations that support and sustain the ATD and OER missions. He described the ATD OER Degree initiative grant to 38 community colleges nationwide, of which CVCC is one of the grantees. This program has re-designed and developed close to 50 academic programs and over 500 courses, all of which are OER, and open for sharing.
Anita Walz, Assistant Professor and Open Education, Copyright, & Scholarly Communications Librarian at Virginia Tech spoke on Advancing OER and Open Education on Campus. She brought and showed some of the OER textbooks authored and published by Virginia Tech faculty. She encouraged the audience to connect and collaborate and simply ask questions in order to find the answers. She asked the audience the rhetorical question, “How does OER connect with what you are currently doing?” and encouraged them to develop an open education campus plan based on the shared values and needs of the institution. She acknowledged that there would be some resistance, based on some incorrect information or some inherent ideology. The institution must find ways to incentivize and reward those who are up to the challenge of leading the change.
The panel discussion provided for a lively exchange of ideas between the audience and the panel members. Questions ranged from how to encourage reluctant faculty to adopt OER, to what the campus bookstore is doing to support the OER movement. Everyone in the panel chimed in with ideas and suggestions based on their personal and professional experiences. It is encouraging to note that many attendees asked specific questions about collaboration and partnerships, and are eager to share their resources. We expect more educational institutions in this part of Virginia will adopt OER, and we assured them that the faculty champions at CVCC are ready to help them adopt, adapt, develop, and implement OER on their campuses, should they need our assistance.