Open Education Leadership Program FAQ

Open Education

Frequently asked questions about the SPARC Open Education Leadership Program

About the Program

What is the SPARC 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.

What do participants get out of the program?

  • 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

Who should apply?

  • Eligible applicants must be library professionals employed at an academic or research library (or consortium) in the U.S. or Canada. SPARC member libraries will receive priority. Non-members will be considered if there is space.
  • The program is designed to be most beneficial to those with job responsibilities related to open education. This may include any type of role within the library and does not require past experience with open education.
  • Applicants should be prepared for a significant time commitment (8 hours per week in the fall, 5 hours per week in the spring) and have the support of their library and/or supervisor to participate.
  • Applicants should be able to attend the annual Open Education Conference, which is typically in October with various locations across the U.S. and Canada. Note that participants/institutions are responsible for their own funding and arrangements.

How much does the program cost?

There are two major costs to the program: tuition and the cost of attending the Open Education Conference. Tuition is paid to SPARC and supports the cost of participation. SPARC members are eligible for a subsidized rate, and a limited number of further discounts are available based on institutional need. Conference costs should be arranged and paid for independently by the participant/institution. 2019-2020 rates will be pubished in early 2019.

2018-2019 Tuition Rates

  • SPARC Member Rate: $2,500 USD / $3,200 CAD (grant subsidized)
  • Non-Member Rate: $4,250 USD / $5,450 CAD
  • Conference Travel & Registration: estimate locally (conference details here)

How does the application process work?

Applications for the 2018-2019 cohort have closed. Applications for 2019-2020 will reopen in early spring 2019. Click the button below to sign up for notifications.

If there are more qualified applicants than there are spots, applicants from SPARC member libraries will receive priority. Further selections will be made in consultation with the SPARC Open Education Advisory Group to maximize diversity and potential impact on advancing open education.

Program Curriculum

How is the program structured?

A full outline of our curriculum is available here. The program is structured over two semesters:

  • The fall semester focuses on building a comprehensive knowledge base on open education, building a network within the cohort and the community, and starting to form a capstone project plan. The bulk of the semester is spent in an intensive online course, and the entire cohort will meet in person by attending the Open Education Conference that provides an opportunity to immerse in the community.
  • During spring semester, fellows will design and implement a capstone project related to advancing open education. Fellows will work with mentors to provide guidance throughout the project. Capstones should be designed to not only achieve a concrete outcome by the end of the semester, but also produce an output that can be of value to broader community, such as a set of sample materials or a guide.

What are some examples of capstone projects?

Capstone projects can be of many shapes and sizes, depending on each fellow’s context, leadership goals, and experience. Here are some examples:

  • Implement an OER grant program
  • Organize a campus-wide Open Education symposium
  • Run an awareness campaign
  • Develop and test a survey instrument
  • Create a policy implementation guide
  • …and more

To view examples of capstone projects, review the profiles of our 2017-2018 cohort.

Who are the program instructors?

The program is led by Tanya Spilovoy, Ed.D, an expert in Organizational Change Leadership, in conjunction with SPARC’s Director of Open Education Nicole Allen, a pioneer of the open education movement. For their full profiles, click here.

How does assessment and certification work?

Assessment is conducted on a pass or fail basis by the program instructor at the end of each semester based on each fellow’s portfolio of coursework. Those who are assessed to have completed the program will receive the SPARC Certificate in Open Education Leadership, a letter of recommendation from SPARC, and may list on their resume the title of SPARC Open Education Leadership Fellow. Fellows also complete a before and after assessment for the purposes of evaluation of the course, and will be asked to report back annually.

Is the program right for my level of experience?

The program is designed to benefit library professionals of any level of experience with open education. As long as you are working in a role with open education responsibilities, the flexible design of assignments and projects allows individuals to take on challenges that befit any level of experience. One of the major outcomes from our pilot was that the community of practice that develops among the cohort is part of the core value of the program. Each cohort is a spectrum between more experienced experts who engage in high level debates and deepen the understanding of their peers, and those newer to the issue who bring fresh perspectives and ask questions that drive discussions — and the spectrum shifts depending on the topic, since each fellow has different areas of expertise and curiosity.

What is the program timeline?

Below are our tentative dates, subject to minor adjustments.

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


Program Eligibility

I am not sure if I can attend the Open Education Conference. Can I still apply?

You are welcome to still apply, but not being able to attend the conference may reduce the chances of getting selected. Attending the conference is an important part of the program, since it’s a chance to immerse in the open education community and meet fellow cohort members in person. Be sure to note your reasons for not being able to attend in your application, and the decision will be up to the selection committee. In particular, be sure to note if your reasons for not being able to attend concern entering the United States.

My library is not a SPARC member. Can I still apply?

Yes. We anticipate that the majority of spots in the program will be filled by SPARC member libraries, but will welcome applicants from other institutions if there is space. We also welcome libraries to join SPARC in order to get access to member benefits. More information on membership is available here.

I am based outside the U.S. or Canada. Can I still apply?

Not at this time. The program is designed for the U.S. and Canadian open education contexts, and we are currently limiting enrollment to those based in the U.S. and Canada. We will however make our curriculum available under an open license, so our materials will be available to everyone.

If you are one of SPARC’s international members and would be interested in the program, please contact us.

I am a library professional but not based at an academic or research library. Can I still apply?

Possibly. We welcome applications from staff at academic library associations and consortia, and are open to considering applications from library professionals based at other types of institutions too. Please feel free to contact us before applying to confirm eligibility.

I work at an academic or research library, but am not sure if I count as a library professional. Can I still apply?

Library professional is a general term to describe anyone working at a library in a role that intersects with librarianship, even if one is not trained as a librarian. This includes librarians, but also technologists, legal experts, educators, and more. We leave the distinction of whether you are a library professional to the library you work for.

I am not a library professional. Can I still apply?

Unfortunately no. The program is designed specifically for library professionals, so we are not accepting applications from those working in other professions. We will however make our curriculum available under an open license, so the materials are available for everyone.

Can multiple candidates from the same institution apply?

Multiple candidates from the same institution are welcome to apply, but we will prioritize bringing in candidates from other institutions before selecting two from the same institution. If multiple candidates from the same institution apply, we will select up to one for priority notification, and place any others on a waiting list to add later if there is space.

Tuition & Discounts

How do tuition discounts work?

SPARC will offer a limited number of tuition discounts for institutions who would not be able to participate otherwise. Applicants can request the form to apply for a tuition discount in their application. The form collects basic information that will help us determine institutional need.

Since the availability of tuition discounts is limited, we will make selections in consultation with the SPARC Open Education Advisory Group to maximize diversity and potential impact on advancing open education. Tuition discounts will be considered especially for:

  • Community colleges
  • Minority serving institutions

The maximum tuition discount that can be requested is 50%, although we expect that most discounts will be below the maximum. We will consider requests for greater discount on a case by case basis.

How do I apply for a tuition discount?

The application form will include the option to request information on how to apply for a tuition discount. This information will be sent separately to the applicant.

My institution does not have any funding to support my participation. Can I still benefit from the program?

SPARC will be sharing the program curriculum openly, so you are welcome to read and use all of the materials we publish. While that is not the same as enrolling in the program, we hope these materials can be useful to open education leaders everywhere.

SPARC Member Benefits

Are there any benefits for SPARC member libraries who apply?

Yes! Applicants from SPARC member libraries receive priority consideration and a subsidized tuition rate. These benefits apply for all SPARC membership categories. Simply indicate your institution is a SPARC member on the application form.

My library is not a SPARC member but would like to join. Can we still get the SPARC member benefits?

We are thrilled to hear that! We welcome more libraries to join SPARC, and will extend the member tuition rate and priority over non-members to those who are in the process of joining. However, enrollment will still be conditional on completing the membership process. You can learn more about membership and start the process here

I represent one of SPARC’s affiliate members. Can we offer any benefits to our own membership?

Each affiliate member of SPARC may select one applicant from their network to receive the SPARC tuition rate and priority consideration, even if the applicant is not located at a SPARC member library. Affiliate members should contact Nicole Allen to specify which applicant will receive these benefits.

How do I know if my institution is a SPARC member?

You can find our list of members here.

More Information

Whom do I contact with additional questions?

Please contact Nicole Allen at


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