Tuesday, July 10, 2018 News

Engaging Public Interest Stakeholders in Open Education

Open Education

For many of us, the primary stakeholders that come to mind for open education include students, faculty, librarians, bookstores and textbook publishers. It might even be easy to think of additional stakeholders at the campus level—distance learning, registrar’s office, etc. When my library is working on OER initiatives, these are the stakeholders we think of too.

However, we don’t often enough think about open education stakeholders beyond the academic community. There are actually many more potential stakeholders that work on public interest issues. For example, when I talk to friends in the nonprofit, community organizing, media and labor fields, they see open educational resources as relevant to their interests and concerns. However, they don’t always know that libraries, universities and information organizations like SPARC (as well as Wikimedia, Creative Commons, etc.) have been working on these initiatives for years. Nor do they know that open education is an international movement. There is much more we can do to engage these potential allies.

During my fellowship at SPARC, the focus of my work is to build and strengthen SPARC’s relationships with public interest and social justice organizations in order to expand the open education movement outside the primary academic stakeholders. A major goal of this project is to keep librarians at the forefront of these initiatives as conduits who are organized, knowledgeable and collaborative. My work will focus on engaging four main stakeholder groups:


In particular, labor shares many overlapping concerns with the open education movement, including affordable education and accessible training for the future workforce. This field is also interested in transparency and ethical information practices (e.g. data collection). Labor organizations also intersect with other key constituencies, most importantly faculty and adjuncts. As more states and campuses adopt policies concerning OER, it is important for labor groups representing academic professionals to be informed about how OER supports academic freedom.


Clay Shirky an Internet sociologist at NYU said, “Media is increasingly less just a source of information, and it is increasingly more a site of coordination.” Grassroots media projects and other outlets share our interest in presenting accurate yet digestible information, critical looks at access, connecting the public to policy makers and preservation of the public record. The open education movement has a tendency to emphasize savings, but there is a lot of room to involve more people in conversations about open pedagogy, publisher data practices and other implications of student debt. Refreshing and reframing the way we talk about open education with new stakeholders can mean a richer discourse.

Community Groups
Organizations ranging from the National Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to the American Institute of Mathematics (AIM) have issued statements endorsing OER. These kind of statements are important because they provide evidence that academic and public community groups support instructors who may otherwise feel isolated in their interest to adopt open resources on their campus. I plan to work with more community organizations to issue endorsements, increase public interest, and possibly establish criteria for best practices that can advance the OER community as it evolves.

Student Groups

Students are not just the beneficiaries of open education, but natural allies in advocating for it. Student groups are already actively engaged in advocacy on related issues such as student data practices, student debt and affordable education. However, it is important to reinforce the importance of OER as a potential priority for their agendas. Expanding on existing relationships, I am working with Right to Research Coalition and U.S. PIRG to reach out to more national student groups about OER.

For the OER movement to be successful, we should grow and collaborate with other movements. I look forward to doing this outreach as Open Education Fellow. I look forward to reporting back about what I learn through the process.


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