Reflections on the Launch of an Open Educational Resource

by Ursula Pike, Associate Director, DigiTex

On International Women’s Day (March 8, 2022), I launched my first Open Educational Resource OERigin Stories: Pathways to the Open Movement. OERigin Stories is a collection of interviews I conducted with six women of color who are leaders in the Open Education Movement. The women interviewed are librarians, faculty members, policy makers, and nonprofit leaders. (If this is your first introduction to Open Education, I recommend you read Heather Walker’s blog post “Texas Learn OER: A Newbie’s Introduction to Open Educational Resources” for a good overview of Open Education.) 

The book began as a capstone project for the SPARC Open Education Leadership Program in early 2021. After a year of conferences and meetings where participants were discussing the need to increase diversity and representation in higher education, I wanted to understand how and why women of color enter the Open Education Movement. With the help of my mentors, Dr. Tanya Spilovoy and Dr. Regina Gong, I developed the following six questions:

  1. Please tell me about yourself and how you came to be involved with the Open Education Movement.
  2. How do you see your unique identities intersecting with Open? If at all.
  3. Please tell me about an Open Education project/textbook/group that you have been part of?
  4. How do you see your role in the future of open education?
  5. What do you think is the biggest benefit of Open Education and what do you think is missing?
  6. These are my questions but what questions are you grappling with?

I answered the questions first and shared my answers with the women I was interviewing. I wanted them to know that I would not be asking them to reveal more about themselves than I had about myself. Their responses to these questions were enlightening and sometimes surprising. 

A launch for a traditionally published book marks the beginning of a mad dash to sell as many copies of the book as possible. Authors are then expected to host live and virtual events to promote the book. But with OERigin Stories, the launch was a celebration and culmination of a year of work. All of the women interviewed for the book were able to attend the launch. It was wonderful to see them and hear their thoughts on the project now that a year has passed since they were originally interviewed. 

The virtual book launch also provided an opportunity for people who weren’t involved with the project to share their OERigin Stories. In the book, Ariana Santiago, an Open Educational Resources Coordinator at the University of Houston, said, “Sometimes I think that how I came to be involved with Open is different from a lot of other people’s experience – but maybe that’s normal, and everyone really comes to it in their own unique way.” More than one person at the launch event said “Me, too” when I shared Ariana’s quote. To see a person have their own experience reflected in the stories in OERigin Stories was one of the goals for the project, and I was thrilled to see it happen in front of me.

As the author of OERigin Stories, I want the book to be used. The resource isn’t a traditional textbook in the same way as a Psychology textbook with chapters, readings and quizzes. When I uploaded OERigin Stories to the various online OER repositories like OER Commons and OERTX, I was not always certain how to tag and categorize the book. Helping people find and use the book is my focus now.

My biggest hope is that others will remake their own version of OERigin Stories. I want the personal histories and thoughts of the women in the book to inspire others to create similar or completely different projects telling stories. Open Education practitioners from marginalized communities can share their own experiences and histories. Jessie Loyer, one of the women interviewed, stated that OERigin Stories intentionally created space for individuals who are sometimes left out of discussions about Open Education. We need to make space for ourselves and create the content we want to see. Open Education provides opportunities and platforms to do just that. I hope you will read and be inspired by OERigin Stories: Pathways to the Open Movement.