It all started with a tweet....
My employment history is somewhat interesting. As I have shared before - I am a recovering textbook sales rep. I worked for a large higher ed textbook publisher for almost 7 years, in between having babies, and because I had been recently laid off and needed a job as I had just purchased my very own "Money Pit". I am now an Instructional Technologist working with a team of Educational Developers on a campus in Ontario. I am also an #openadvocate (circa 2015), an #OEORanger (Open Ranger with eCampus Ontario) and a member of the #OpenRebelAlliance (#OpenCon).
I won't rehash the reasons I loved/hated by job in publishing, only to say that there were reasons that I loved *and* struggled in my job (see previous posts). A colleague (bless) recently said to me, "don't worry, you are on the good side now", and I had to sit with this for a second, If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that *many* folks working in higher education publishing are extraordinary, caring and smart people. We all have to pay the bills you know? I also ran into a friend (faculty, textbook author) last weekend. She is writing a new edition. She loves her subject matter. She cares about her students. She is a fantastic teacher. She writes for a major higher ed publisher - a textbook for a large first year class offered at pretty much all 4-year schools. She got into it for her care of the aforementioned. And because until recently we didn't have a widely-known, supported alternative model in Canada. And because "open" does not equal "free" when it comes to labour. We all have to pay the bills you know?
But the system is broken, even if the people are great.
Just to say this...that today, after many years of NOT repping for a publisher, I had my first formal-ish conversation with faculty about #OER (as opposed to off-the-side-of-my-desk, informal, pipe-dream conversation). It was exhausting. I learned a lot. And despite the tweet that I referenced above, it all felt a little too much like "sales".
And perhaps that is because our institutionalized systems are outdated. The "reward" system (T&P) hasn't changed much (at least at my institution) and so as much as we revere open, it doesn't change the practicalities on the ground overnight. Nothing revelatory here. But our faculty need it to be (somewhat) easy. Perhaps this is why so many open advocates focus on textbooks. It is the gateway drug. The entry point. But if we focus there, then aren't we actually perpetuating existing systems? And while our instructors want to "do the right thing" for their students, and "adopt the new campus priorities", they also want to know who to call when they need help and support (in this case, the question was easily answered). They want to know if this will this be more than a passing phase, one that will actually be recognized and rewarded in a way that matters (not so easily answered).
There were a few other smaller questions -who else has adopted this resource? who has reviewed this resource? when is the next edition due? what do we do about these spelling mistakes? this figure is terrible, how can we change it? (and more practically) how big is the test bank? are there media assets? - some easily answered (adapt/remix of course!), others not. These are questions that have become enculturated in the process, in this focus on content, not practice or pedagogy.
Many other questions were not as easy to answer, no matter my role. How can we ensure that the adoption of OER is less work (or at least the same work) and not more? How can we reward the labour that (might) go into such a change?
And these were instructors who DO philosophically believe in the advantages that OER provide in terms of access and equity. But they still only have "60 hours in a week". They still need to understand how this will be valued by the institution.
And so while this is a fairly simple reflection on the challenges that are ahead...and while some of these questions have been asked (and answered) in other provinces...I am feeling a little bit "new" today. How do we a/effect real change that is recognized and rewarded for the betterment of our students AND our instructors?