SPARC Projects

Open Education Leadership Program

Open Education

Empowering Leaders for an Open Education Future

Open Education Leadership Program

The SPARC Open Education Leadership Program is an intensive professional development program to empower academic professionals with the knowledge, skills, and connections to lead successful open education initiatives that benefit students. Launched in 2017, 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. Structured as a fellowship, each cohort becomes a vibrant community of practice that is further enhanced by expert instructors and mentorship support.

Program Outcomes

The SPARC Open Education Leadership program is designed to benefit academic professionals with any level of experience in open education, including those just getting started with a new initiative and those with more experience looking to take their work to the next level. By putting practice, community, and real-world impact at the center, the program provides an environment where participants, instructors, and mentors learn and grow from both the curriculum and each other.

  • Gain a comprehensive understanding of how to approach the discovery, creation, adoption, licensing, and stewardship of open educational resources and how this connects to open pedagogy, teaching and learning.
  • Build a network within the open education community, both through a cohort of peers and access to leading experts in the field.
  • Develop skills to define, communicate, and advocate for open education to a wide variety of stakeholder audiences.
  • Learn how to assess local needs and barriers relating to open education, and design an initiative to address them, while centering equity and inclusion.
  • Gain practical experience planning, implementing, and assessing an open education project that both has an impact locally and contributes back to the community.
  • Develop as a leader through personalized feedback, mentorship, and peer-to-peer support.

Cohort Profiles

Pilot Cohort Group Picture

2017-2018 Cohort

2018-2019 Cohort

2019-2020 Cohort Profile Picture Array

2019-2020 Cohort

2020-2021 Cohort Profile Picture Array

2020-2021 Cohort

2021-2022 Cohort Profile Picture Array

2021-2022 Cohort

What Fellows are Saying

“The most important takeaway from the SPARC OER Leadership program was the connection it provided for me to my peers in the cohort. One of the hardest parts of getting started is identifying potential partners and collaborators, by going through this program I have built connections with other professionals that will last throughout my career. I can’t overstate how important the bonds we developed through learning and working together in a sustained space has changed the way I work.”
— Amanda Larson, Open Education Librarian, Penn State University

Who Should Consider Applying?

  • Eligible candidates must be employed at a higher education institution, consortium or related organization in the U.S. or Canada, or at one of SPARC’s international members. 
  • The program is open to all academic professionals with open education-related responsibilities, including library professionals, instructional designers, project coordinators and related roles.
  • To be successful in the program, candidates should have job responsibilities or other professional activities that relate to open education during their participation (although it does not need to be the primary focus of the candidate’s job).
  • Candidates should be prepared for a significant time commitment (6-8 hours per week for online coursework in the fall, average 5 hours per week for capstone work in the spring) and have the support of their institution and/or supervisor to participate.

2022-23 Tuition

Tuition is inclusive of both semesters, and covers all costs except attendance at the Open Education Conference (which will be held virtually in October 2022). Institutions are expected to sponsor tuition on behalf of the accepted applicant, and will be asked to sign a standard enrollment agreement.

SPARC Member Rate: $1,995 USD / $2,495 CAD (2022-23)

Non-Member Rate: $2,995 USD or $3,995 CAD (2022-23)

SPARC recognizes that all institutions are facing budget pressures due to COVID-19 and has worked to reduce costs as much as possible. The 2022-23 tuition rates reflect a more than 20% discount over pre-COVID rates.

Tuition discount

SPARC offers tuition discounts by additional application. Those eligible and encouraged to apply for tuition discounts include:

  • Candidates who self-identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color)
  • Candidates employed at community colleges 
  • Candidates employed at minority-serving institutions
  • Candidates for whom the cost of tuition would be a barrier to participation

The tuition discount application may be requested at the time of application. The tuition discount application form requires applicants to answer one additional short answer question, along with basic information about the requested discount.

Online Instruction & COVID-19

All aspects of the program are conducted online, which was part of the program’s original design. SPARC is well-prepared to be flexible and understanding of challenges that fellows may face with regard to COVID-19.

Application & Selection

Criteria considered when making selections includes:

  • Potential for the program to accelerate the candidate’s growth as an open education leader.  
  • Potential for the candidate to advance open education in their community and/or field during and after the program.
  • Strength of candidate’s contributions to the cohort, including but not limited to contributions of diversity in institutional context, professional background, and lived experiences.

Please visit our FAQ for further information. For questions not addressed in the FAQ, please contact Hailey Babb at [email protected].


Tanya Spilovoy, Instructor

Tanya Spilovoy, Ed.D. designed and currently leads instruction for SPARC’s Open Education Leadership Program, a first-of-its-kind professional development program to empower librarians as leaders for successful open education initiatives. Tanya designed the program’s curriculum and innovative format that blends online, peer-to-peer and project based learning.

Tanya has a two-decade career in higher education leadership, during which she has led numerous education technology and open education initiatives. Currently, she serves as Director of Open Policy for WCET, where she leads the Z Initiative which focuses on the policy, practice, and implementation of Open Educational Resources in states, systems, and higher education institutions. Previously, she served as the Director of Distance Education and State Authorization at the North Dakota University System where she also led a statewide OER Initiative.

Tanya received her B.A. in English from Union College, a M.A. in Education from Hamline University, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership and Organizational Change from Benedictine University.

Photo of Nicole Allen

Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education

Nicole Allen oversees the Open Education Leadership Program as part of SPARC’s Open Education portfolio. A veteran grassroots organizer and pioneer of the Open Education movement, Nicole infused the curriculum with more than a decade of history and proven strategies for effective change. Nicole manages the mentorship component of the program, and works with fellows to build networks in the Open community.

Nicole was inspired by the idea of open education as an undergraduate student, and has dedicated her career to advancing the vision of a world where everyone, everywhere has access to knowledge. Now an internationally-recognized advocate and leading voice in the movement for Open Education, she has been widely cited in the media and has given hundreds of talks and trainings in more than a dozen countries.

Nicole joined SPARC in 2013 to develop and launch a program on open education. Under her leadership, SPARC’s open education program has been a driving force behind accelerating the Open Education movement within the academic library community. Throughout the last decade, she has spearheaded advocacy efforts that contributed to significant policy victories, including securing Congressional funding for an open education grant program, establishing an open licensing policy at the U.S. Department of Education, and passing state and federal legislation to reform anti-consumer practices by the textbook publishing industry. Nicole’s career began in 2006 at the Student Public Interest Research Groups, following her graduation from the University of Puget Sound with a BA in Philosophy.


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