Monday, October 2, 2023 News

Fellows Share Highlights of 2022-23 Open Education Leadership Program

Open Education

In July, SPARC was thrilled to congratulate the 2022-2023 cohort of the Open Education Leadership Program on their graduation from the program, bringing the program’s total graduate count to 126. This sixth cohort spent a year learning about open practices, building a network of colleagues, and completing a capstone project with the guidance of a mentor. Emerging themes from the cohort’s capstone projects included differentiating OER from industry-backed models such as “Inclusive Access,” developing train-the-trainer resources, conducting outreach to campus, and organizing events. 

Below are summaries of what some of the fellows took away from the experience. To learn about the 2022-2023 cohort and their capstones, you can visit their webpage.

Promoting equity in OER

Sam Cheng, Open Education and Copyright Librarian at Sheridan College in Canada says the flexibility of the leadership program enabled her to focus on the intersection of OER with diversity, equity and inclusion.

DEI is a key pillar of Sheridan’s strategic plan and Cheng says she saw an opportunity for OER to advance those goals. In the SPARC program, she says she learned more about effective advocacy from the experiences shared from other fellows.

Cheng wrote a research paper on how OER and open pedagogy help promote DEI for students. She reviewed a variety of research articles and recordings of presentations online to find examples of how faculty made their OER more inclusive and how they leveraged open pedagogy to elevate diversity in the classroom. “It takes an intentional effort to review content to notice whose perspectives are at the forefront and whose are missing,” Cheng notes.

In the summer, Cheng worked with a student to create a video highlighting key findings from her paper. As part of the video, they also interviewed a Sheridan faculty about her process of integrating diverse perspectives in her OER.  

Cheng hopes it will be a resource to educate and raise awareness about the issue on campus and beyond.

Leaning into leadership

As an administrator at Texas State University Libraries, Jess Williams works with a variety of librarians and champions of open on campus. She says the Open Education Leadership Program provided her with insight and confidence about how to best leverage her skills to advocate for OER.

“The program was a chance to have frank and organic conversations with colleagues around the country facing similar challenges”, says Williams, Assistant Director of Teaching and Learning at TXST in San Marcos, Texas. “It gave me the freedom to allow those around me on my team to step into roles and do work that their strengths are in.” Williams credits her mentor, Amanda Larson from Ohio State, for encouraging this aspect of her leadership. 

Williams was also grateful for the portion of the program that focused on advocacy, especially in light of the rise of “Inclusive Access” programs on campus. “We don’t get that training in library school, and we can channel our frustration into action,” she says.

For her capstone project, Williams created “One Minute to Open,” an email marketing campaign that adapts to the needs of the reader. Each email only takes one minute to read.  “OER can feel so overwhelming that faculty often get paralyzed,” Williams says. “We tend to want to give all the information at once, but I wanted to make it as easy as possible.”

Bridging the campus divide

Joanna Hunt says she’d like to combine her business background in procurement with library logistics to expand OER usage on campus. She came to Central Washington University as an undergraduate student in 2002 and has been on campus ever since. Hunt started as a buyer for the bookstore and then became head of access services for the library last year.

“I want to use my skills to bridge the gap between bookstores and libraries —they both have the same mission,” she says. Still, since the bookstore has a profit motive, there can be tension with the librarians when they push for OER. Hunt wants to better inform all parties on campus about the benefits of OER to student success and says the fellowship program provided a community of support.

“I’m concerned that librarians are being asked to do more with less,” Hunt says, who would like to see a variety of professionals, including those from bookstores, have more OER training. “There is a really deep desire for librarians across the world to be able to network in a way that can move progress forward faster.”

Working with her mentor, Hunt developed a slide deck for faculty that outlines key differences between OER and “Inclusive Access” programs. The project included data on drop-fail, withdrawal rates and other points that reveal the advantages of OER. 

Crafting basic OER roadmap

In the fall of 2021, Quetzalli Barrientos was hired in a newly created position of OER Librarian at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She’s applying the knowledge gained and contacts made through the SPARC fellowship program as she works with the library’s digital scholarship team.

“I really enjoyed listening to other participants about their experiences working with open education,” Barrientos says. “I liked how each week touched on a different topic—and was very encouraged to learn more about Creative Commons.”

For her capstone project, Barrientos created a roadmap for others in her position of building an open education program (with little to no experience) from the ground up. The website includes basic definitions, checklists, and research. There is also a feature to allow for feedback so it is a tool that will evolve over time.

“I’m happy to have a community now to reach out when I have questions,” Barrientos says of being in the fellowship program. “I feel more confident knowing there are others with similar struggles and successes.”

Designing for access

When Veronica Vold worked in disability services, she had the same conversations time and again about retrofitting content to be more accessible. She decided to devote her time to making learning materials designed to be inclusive from the start.

Now an Open Education Instructional Designer, Vold works with a statewide program in Oregon serving 24 institutions through the Higher Education Coordinating Commission. The SPARC program was a chance to build a network and gain a greater understanding of a variety of issues including open licensing, she says.

“Learning is social. We do some of our best growth when we are connected with people who have a shared curiosity,” says Vold. “The structure where you are co-creating, learning with others, building camaraderie and warmth, and being vulnerable together, that’s exactly how I want to learn.” Vold says she valued the time of exploring organizational change together as a cohort and the opportunity to interview others in the OER field about their experiences.

At the conclusion of the program, Vold designed an open education speaker series to raise awareness and give a platform for OER champions on her 24 campuses. She also developed companion guides with highlights of the five presentations, openly.


The SPARC Open Education Leadership Program is an intensive professional development program designed to empower academic professionals with the knowledge, skills, and connections to lead successful open education initiatives that benefit students. The two-semester program blends online, peer-to-peer, and project-based learning to build a comprehensive understanding of the open education field coupled with practical know-how to take action on campus and beyond. The program is designed and led by Tanya Spilovoy, Ed.D. and Nicole Allen.


*SPARC will not offer a full version of the program in 2023-24. Please keep an eye on our website for information about the next opportunity to apply.

Learn more about our work