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.

What is the time commitment?

The program is designed to be intensive, so it requires a significant time commitment. The fall semester consists of an online course, which requires 6-8 hours per week between late September and mid-December, with one week of travel for the Open Education Conference. The spring semester consists of independent work on a capstone project, so the timing is more flexible and we recommend planning on an average of 5 hours per week.

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 Tuition Rates

  • SPARC Member Rate: $2,500 USD / $3,300 CAD (grant subsidized)
  • Non-Member Rate: $4,000 USD / $5,300 CAD
  • Conference Travel & Registration: estimate locally (conference details here)

Further information on applying for a tuition discount is provided in the section below.

Is there anything people should consider before applying?

Based on feedback from participants in our first two cohorts, there are a few questions we encourage eligible applicants to ask themselves before deciding if the program is right for them. When in doubt, feel free to reach out to us or previous participants to discuss whether the program may be right for you.

  • Are you able to make the time commitment? The program is intensive and lasts for eight months, so it is important to be prepared to make that level of commitment.
  • Does your job involve working on OER? The coursework is designed to complement ongoing responsibilities that relate to OER, and may be more challenging to find time for if your everyday responsibilities either do not intersect with OER or are managerial.
  • Will your institution support your participation? The program is designed to be sponsored by your institution having local support for your work is important to being successful.

What is the program timeline?

Below is the preliminary timeline of the 2019-2020 program (dates may shift 1-2 weeks).

September 23, 2019 Fall semester starts
October 30-November 1, 2019 Open Education Conference
December 13, 2019 Fall semester ends
January 6, 2020 Spring semester starts
May 22, 2020 Spring semester ends
June 30, 2020 Certificates of completion issued


Program Curriculum

How is the program structured?

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. The work of the spring is primarily independent, with one-on-one support from a mentor and periodic check-ins among the cohort. 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.

The openly licensed curriculum is available here.

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 the 2017-2018 cohort and 2018-2019 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 a certificate of completion, 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, midterm and after self-evaluation, 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. 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. Participants say that the community of practice that develops among the cohort is one of the most important things they get out of the program.

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.

As a reminder the Open Education Conference will be held October 30-November 1, 2019 in Phoenix, AZ, and participants will be asked to arrive by 1pm on October 29 for a half-day training.

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?

Unfortunately, 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. Our full curriculum is however available under an open license, so everyone is welcome to benefit from the resources we have developed.

If you are one of SPARC’s international members (outside the U.S. and Canada) and would be interested in the program, please contact us. We would be happy to discuss inclusion on the program.

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. However, applicants should be aware that diversity of the cohort is an important selection criteria, and therefore it is less likely that we will select more than one candidate per institution per year.

If your campus or system has a large number of interested candidates, please contact Nicole Allen to discuss the possibility of a dedicated cohort.

Tuition & Discounts

How does the application process work?

Applications will be reviewed by SPARC staff, and selections will be made in consultation with the SPARC Open Education Advisory Group to maximize diversity and potential impact on advancing open education. SPARC member libraries will receive priority.

I have not confirmed that my institution can sponsor me. Can I still apply?

You are welcome to apply even if you’re not yet sure your institution can sponsor you. Just indicate your status in your application so that we are aware of the situation, and we will follow up to discuss options if you are selected. Generally we do require that your institution sign an enrollment agreement and sponsor tuition, but exceptions can be discussed on a case by case basis.

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
  • HBCUs, HACUs, and other minority serving institutions
  • Canadian institutions on account of changes in the exchange rate

Tuition discounts are typically limited to 50%. 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.

Can I still benefit from the program even if I can’t apply?

SPARC has published the program’s curriculum under an open license, so you are welcome to read and use all of the materials on your own. While that is not the same as enrolling in the program, we hope these materials can be useful to open education leaders everywhere.

We also welcome more experienced open education leaders to sign up as candidates to be a mentor. Generally the call for mentors is made in early fall.

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 welcome your library to join SPARC, and will extend the member tuition rate and priority consideration to those who are in the process of joining. However, enrollment in the program would 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 [email protected].


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