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 online professional development program 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 space 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. The program was launched in 2017 and is now enrolling its sixth cohort.

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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.
  • 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.

Who should apply?

  • Eligible candidates must be employed at a higher education institution or consortium in the U.S. or Canada or by 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 this 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.
  • Candidates who are interested in the program but for whom tuition would be a barrier are encouraged to apply for a scholarship (tuition discount) at the time of application.

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 allocated 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.

2022-2023 Tuition Rates

Tuition is inclusive of both semesters, and covers all costs except virtual attendance at the Open Education Conference (we recommend budgeting $75 USD for this). 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
  • Non-Member Rate: $2,995 USD or $3,995 CAD

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.

SPARC will offer a limited number of tuition discounts by additional application. Candidates can request the form to apply for a tuition discount in their application. The form will be sent by email and collects information about eligibility, requested discount, and one additional short answer question.

* Candidates employed by a SPARC member institution but who do not work for the library are eligible for the SPARC member rate. If selected, these candidates will be asked to provide a short description of how they plan to collaborate with the library.

Is there anything people should consider before applying?

Based on feedback from previous 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 open education? The coursework is designed to complement ongoing responsibilities that relate to OER, and it may be more challenging to find time for this 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 2022-2023 program (dates may shift 1-2 weeks).

September 12, 2022 Fall semester starts (6-8 hours per week of coursework)
October 17-20, 2022 Open Education Conference
December 16, 2022 Fall semester ends
January 9, 2023 Spring semester starts (~5 hours per week independent capstone work)
May 19, 2023 Spring semester ends
July 1, 2023 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 attend the virtual Open Education Conference that provides an opportunity to immerse in the community and have a shared experience.
  • 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 online.

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 past cohorts: 

Who are the program instructors?

The program was developed and currently 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.

The program engages alumni of the program throughout the process. Each week during the fall alumni will participate as discussion leaders, and alumni also serve as mentors during the spring.

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 self-evaluation before beginning the program, halfway through the term, and at the end of the program. They will also be asked to report back annually on their progress.

Is the program right for my level of experience?

The program is designed to benefit 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?

In previous years, in-person attendance of  the annual Open Education Conference was a mandatory part of the program. This year, all participation in the conference on October 17-20, 2022 will be conducted online. Since the conference is virtual, we expect that everyone will be able to participate. However, if you have a pre-existing conflict that would prevent participation in the conference, you are welcome to still apply and explain the situation in your application.

My institution 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?

Candidates affiliated with one of SPARC’s international member institutions or consortia are welcome to apply. However, we would like to underscore that the program is designed for the U.S. and Canadian open education contexts. Those outside the U.S. and Canada who are not affiliated with a SPARC member institution or consortia are not eligible at this time.

We are pleased to share our full curriculum under an open license, so that everyone can benefit from these resources.

I am not based at an academic or research institution. Can I still apply?

Yes! We welcome applications from staff at academic associations and consortia and are open to considering applications from library or academic professionals based at other types of institutions too. We’re also open to considering applicants from other contexts as well. Feel free to contact us before applying to confirm eligibility.

I work at an academic institution, but am not sure if I count as an academic professional. Can I still apply?

Academic professional is a general term to describe anyone working at an academic institution. This includes librarians and library professionals, instructional designers, faculty, education technologists, graduate students, and more. If you have any questions about eligibility, please feel free to contact us in advance.

Can multiple candidates from the same institution apply?

Multiple candidates from the same institution are welcome to apply.  

Tuition & Discounts

How does the application process work?

The application process involves completing a form with short answer questions about the candidate. We encourage candidates to read the entire form and instructions before beginning your answers or contacting us with questions. 

Selections for the program are made by SPARC in consultation with the Open Education Advisory Group. The selection process gives special consideration to candidates who work at SPARC member institutions, and the process also places emphasis on diversity and inclusion.

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 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 by email to the applicant. Completion of the tuition discount form is required for a discount to be considered.

Can I still benefit from the program without enrolling?

Yes! 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 special 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. More information about membership and starting the process is available on our “Become A Member” page.

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 Hailey Babb at [email protected] 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 Hailey Babb at [email protected].

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