An Academic Staff’s Journey to Open Education Leadership

by Beatrice Canales, MLS, Academic Unit Assistant, MESSH-Early Childhood Studies, San Antonio College

“Show me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

–Confucian philosopher, Xun Kuang

Professional development in open education leadership can start from necessity and never ends since the field is always changing. The ability to appreciate the collaborative spirit of open education is infectious, and the COVID-19 pandemic moved many face-to-face trainings online. The online environment produced a great amount of knowledge across many open platforms.

Beatrice Canales, MLS

The beginning of my journey into open resources started quietly as a Teen Services Liaison at San Antonio Public Library. I was introduced in 2014 to open education through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) open source curriculum. This curriculum allowed me to create a whole summer program. The program was a hit for families and teens and it gave me an appreciation of MIT for providing quality material to the world.

Fast forward to 2017, when I was formally introduced to open education in my graduate library science studies. This universe included open education topics such as open access, open educational resources, and open practices but I did not know how I could apply that knowledge as an Academic Unit Assistant at San Antonio College (SAC). This knowledge showed me that I was still a novice in my journey.

My journey to Open Education leadership started to pick up speed when I viewed an advertisement for an OER librarian position in the spring of 2020. I found a certificate program online called Texas Learn OER (TLO) on the Digital Higher Education Consortium of Texas (DigiTex) website. The certificate encapsulated not only OER but the open education universe. Some of the learning outcomes of this certificate were:

  • Define Open Educational Resources
  • Explain the rationale for OER adoption and use
  • Explain the differences between the six currently available Creative Common licenses.

I heard about the Creative Common licenses prior to this, but the program gave me more than a working knowledge and helped me understand that I should be certified. I received the Creative Common licensing certification in the summer of 2020 through my alumni professional development grant.

The Texas Learn OER site led me to the 2020 Open Education Conference webpage. I arranged to participate in this online conference last November and then became part of their 2021 program committee. As part of their committee, I learned participatory leadership skills through our weekly meetings. Through the weekly conference meetings and the Creative Commons certification, I saw that I was building up my leadership skills. These skills led me to seek out more opportunities for implementation.

The opportunities to expand my journey into leadership began with my inclusion in San Antonio College’s OER Taskforce. This taskforce solidified my intention to find possibilities to utilize what I learned starting from the Texas Learn OER (TLO) certificate. Through this taskforce and my OER efforts at SAC, I learned this certificate was based on a capstone project for the SPARC Open Education Leadership Program. I was inspired to apply to the SPARC program and now I am a 2021-2022 fellow. I am honored to be part of SPARC and excited to continue this journey into open education leadership.

The second half of my journey to open education leadership started from TLO and my position as an academic unit assistant. I do not know of many classified employees who seek or are encouraged to attain this level of professional development. Professional development of this kind is challenging for many supervisors and even more for academic staff that may not have the same equitable support systems. As an academic staff member, I will continue to advocate for more monetary support for academic staff to be part of the open education universe.