“Opening” Education at DePaul

Following the 2014 Teaching and Learning Conference, the DePaul University Library made a strategic commitment to engaging with colleagues across the university to promote greater use of open education resources, including open access journal and books, freely-available media and learning objects, and open textbooks. What began as a commitment years earlier to increasing access to digital content as part of our library collections grew into a broader vision of the library’s contribution to innovation in teaching and learning at DePaul and to our historic commitment to educational affordability.

In the years since, DePaul librarians, faculty, and staff in partner programs including FITS, have promoted greater awareness of the OER movement by participating in programs like Open Education Week, developing resources like the OER research guide, and joining national efforts like the Open Textbook Network. Building on last Spring’s Open Textbook Workshop for faculty, we will be working with faculty and students during the remainder of this academic year to learn more about the ways in which OERs are already being used across the curriculum and how we might support even greater adoption of OERs by our faculty.

During this year’s Open Education Week (March 5-9), we will host a panel including librarians, faculty, and students who have used open textbooks (or other OERs) in their teaching. Later this Spring, we will conduct campus-wide surveys of students and faculty to gain local information on topics such as: awareness of OERs and their use in undergraduate education; cost of educational materials currently adopted in undergraduate courses and the impact of those costs on student success; use of “bundled” textbook offerings from commercial publishers that limit traditional approaches to affordable options for students; and, ways in which librarians and library resources can help faculty to identify freely-available resources through projects like the Open Textbook Library.

Research by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) has shown that the price of textbooks has risen for undergraduate students at 4 times the rate of inflation over the past decade, and that this has added significantly to the barriers to access to higher education for many students, and to the debt that students take on throughout their academic careers. The DePaul University Library has taken on a leadership role in state and national efforts to address this situation by promoting the use of open educational resources, and we look forward to continued engagement with our faculty colleagues to help lower this barrier to access for our students. We encourage faculty to participate in the DePaul OER survey when it is launched later this year, and to encourage their students to participate in the parallel survey that will be sent to them.

If you would like to know more about Open Education Week programming at DePaul or about how to plan to use OERs in your upcoming classes, please contact Sue Shultz, Business and Social Sciences Librarian (and DePaul representative to the state-wide task force on open educational resources).

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