The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) recently announced that Wittenberg has been accepted into the organization’s Institute on Open Educational Resources (OER) for 2023-2024.
The kickoff for the institute will take place in a remote learning environment, July 24-25. In addition to the kick-off and monthly meetings, a day-long event will be held on Monday, December 4, 2023, in preparation for the spring semester. The institute will conclude with a capstone closing event on June 10-11, 2024.
Wittenberg applied to the institute because OER’s mission aligns well with the University’s goal of educating students to become responsible global citizens, and to fostering personal growth and intellectual inquiry.
“Wittenberg participated in the AAC&U Curriculum to Career institute during the Fall 2023 semester and was able to develop an assessment system for our general education experiential learning components,” said Amanda McLellan, director of the Thomas Library. “By working with other similar institutions and with our team mentor, we were able to integrate best experiential learning assessment practices into our University assessment system. Similarly, we hope that the network developed among other AAC&U institutions and AAC&U staff for the OER institute will allow Wittenberg to help our campus launch OER initiatives that will positively impact student learning and development.”
According to AAC&U, open educational resources are educational materials, from single lessons to entire textbooks, that are free for faculty and students to use, customize, and share. They have proved to be a viable affordability strategy for higher education, saving students—and often institutions—money. Providing all students with free materials on the first day of class also tends to level the academic playing field. Research on OER has demonstrated that performance gaps have been narrowed and failure and withdrawal rates have been reduced in some contexts. As a result, OER are emerging as both a quality and an equity strategy for higher education that should be considered by all colleges and universities as they develop and revise their student success initiatives.
Wittenberg’s team is comprised of a combination of staff and faculty from across campus with interest in OER. Representing student success initiatives is Grace Whiteley Sever, senior director for Student Success & Academic Services. Representing faculty development is Kelly Dillon, associate professor of communication & digital media, and director of faculty development, and Billy Davis, associate professor and of psychology, and chair and member of the Faculty Development Board. Representing the library are McLellan and Katie Maxfield, digital initiatives librarian.
“This group was assembled based on interest and role, with an emphasis on both student and faculty development,” McLellan said. “Because these two are closely linked, OER initiatives on campus are strengthened by a diverse planning group.”
Utilizing a new institute model, AAC&U is launching the next cohort of the OER in July, providing a year-long, online engagement opportunity for teams from campuses or state systems seeking to actualize an ambitious strategy to broaden campus engagement with and adoption of OER. This new model directly engages the OER Institute teams for a year via virtual events, consultations, mentorship, and cross-institutional interactions as participants’ OER implementation and acceleration plans are put into practice.
Designed for educators seeking to launch, expand, or hasten campus adoption of free and affordable instructional materials, the institute on OER will help teams of faculty, staff, and administrators design and implement a campus transformation strategy to accelerate campus OER plans for large-scale engagement and adoption.
Campus teams can expect consultative opportunities to interact with the Institute’s faculty throughout the fall and spring terms as their plan is implemented and evolves. Monthly webinars and cross-institutional planning meetings will be hallmarks of the year-long Institute as well.