SPARC Projects

Open Education Leadership Program

Open Education

Empowering Libraries to Lead the Way on Open Education

Open Education Leadership Program

The SPARC Open Education Leadership Program is an intensive professional development program to empower library 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 space coupled with practical know-how to take action on campus and beyond. Fellows participate as part of a cohort that becomes a vibrant community of practice, enhanced by expert instructors and mentorship support. The program enrolls library professionals in the U.S. and Canada.

2017-2018 Pilot

Our pilot of the program began in September 2017 with a cohort of 14 fellows selected from SPARC member libraries. Pilot fellows are both students and creators, helping to evaluate and improve the curriculum along the way. Fellows are currently completing capstone projects, and are expected to publish their portfolios by the end of May. To check out what they have been up to, follow the hashtag #LeadOER.

SPARC Open Education Leadership Pilot Cohort

The SPARC Open Education Leadership Program Pilot Cohort at the 14th Annual Open Education Conference in Anaheim, CA, October 2017.

Program Outcomes

The program is designed to benefit library professionals with any level of experience with 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 and mentors learn and grow from each other, not just the curriculum.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Build a network within the open education community, both through a cohort of peers and access to leading experts in the field.

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

2018-2019 Cohort

The 2018-2019 cohort has been filled, and SPARC is no longer accepting applications. We were thrilled to see both the quality and quantity of passionate, committed advocates seeking to take their work on open education to the next level, and could have filled the program several times over with qualified applicants.



September 24, 2018 Fall semester starts
October 10-12, 2018 Open Education Conference
December 7, 2018 Fall semester ends
January 7, 2019 Spring semester starts
May 17, 2019 Spring semester ends
June 30, 2019 Certificates of completion issued

Openly Licensed Curriculum

In keeping with SPARC’s commitment to setting the default to open, the program’s text and course content will be published under a CC BY license once it is revised following the pilot. The materials will be posted here. We hope that these materials will benefit open education leaders everywhere.

More Information

Please visit our FAQ for further information. For questions not addressed in the FAQ, please contact Nicole Allen.


Tanya Spilovoy, Instructor

Tanya Spilovoy, Ed.D. 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.

Become a Mentor

SPARC is currently seeking mentors to work with pilot fellows during late 2018 and the Spring 2019 semester, as they develop and implement a capstone project to advance OER in their community and beyond. To get a sense of what capstone projects look like, you can visit the profiles of our 2017-2018 fellows, and see the stellar cohort of mentors who worked with them.

Each mentor will be paired with one of our 24 Leadership Fellows to provide one-on-one leadership development and support between December and mid-May. The expected time commitment is 3-4 hours per month, and further details on expectations and requirements see below.

To apply as a SPARC Leadership Mentor, fill out this application form by November 9th.

Mentor responsibilities:

  • Commit 3-4 hours per month December-May to working with a fellow one-on-one.
  • Read the SPARC Mentor Manual and attend an optional mentorship training.
  • Approve the fellow’s project plan and evaluation rubric.
  • Submit brief monthly updates on the fellow’s progress as they implement the project.
  • Complete a 2-page final evaluation of the fellow’s achievement in May.

We anticipate most mentors to come from an academic library background, but other backgrounds including publishing, teaching, policy, and leadership development are most welcome. Selections will be made based on matching the needs and interests of fellows and potential mentors. Twenty-four spots are available.

Learn more about our work