Open Texas 2021 Reflections

by Ursula Pike, Associate Director, DigiTex

On March 11 and 12, DigiTex joined with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Digital Library to co-organize Open Texas 2021. The University of Houston-Downtown, Houston Community College, and the Houston Area OER Consortium hosted the event. The conference was free and open to anyone interested in learning about Open Education and Open Educational Resources. More than 1,100 people participated in the conference which featured over 40 presentations and workshops, networking opportunities, and a keynote delivered by Dr. DeRionne Pollard, President of Montgomery College.

Open Texas 2021 attendees were asked to show us where they were from. Every pink dot on the above map represents attendees. As you can see, Open Texas 2021 had participants from every corner of the state. Other participants from as far away as California participated in the conference.

After the conference, we asked participants and presenters to share their thoughts.

Several participants noted how important it was that Open Texas 2021 was free to all attendees. Ariana E. Santiago, Open Educational Resources Coordinator at the M.D. Anderson Library at the University of Houston, said, “I appreciated that registration was free, allowing anyone to attend the conference without a financial barrier.”

The Student Panel session gave students the opportunity to share their experiences with Open Educational Resources. Click on the image above to access the session.

Teresa Brooks, the Dean of Distance Learning at Panola College, also attended and was looking forward to seeing how other institutions had implemented their OER process. She was specifically interested in how other colleges developed their OER courses and how extensive the programs were. Dean Brooks was impressed with the focus on students in Dr. Pollard’s keynote address “Why Open Education Matters Even More and specifically appreciated Dr. Pollard’s comment, “We used to design our institutions around the students in our communities but we have moved away from that—we have been designing our programs to suit the employers.” Another of Dr. Pollard’s points that resonated with Dean Brooks was, “You want allies and not just partners. Allies will actually do something more than buy a table at an event.” 

Dean Brooks also pointed to a thought-provoking presentation by Houston Community College’s Dr. Nathan Smith on “Public Good or Common Pool Resource: What does it mean to share an OER commons?” which explored Open Education as a way to reform teaching and learning practices and the distribution of knowledge.

Kate Carter, Research and Instruction Librarian at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, enjoyed connecting with other attendees. She said, “The networking sessions were a great way to kick off each day of Open Texas 2021. These sessions set the tone for the conference and created a more collaborative, immersive experience. The format created a wonderful opportunity for participants to engage with and get to know each other, and made it feel like you were actually attending a real conference rather than a series of Zoom sessions, which is a huge accomplishment for a virtual conference.” 

Tonja R. Conerly, full-time Sociology Professor at San Jacinto College, member of the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education, and founder of the Houston Area OER Consortium (HAOER), presented as part of the workshop “Making Our Classrooms and Institutions More Open and Equitable.” Ms. Conerly had this to say about her experience: “As a presenter and attendee, I thought that the conference was organized, informative, and well attended. I can’t wait until next year.”

The Steering Committee is excited to see the enthusiasm for Open Texas 2022 and will begin planning the event before too long. If you missed the conference, you’ll be able to watch all of the presentations on the event playlist of the Texas Digital Library YouTube channel.