Anita Walz, open education, copyright, and scholarly communication librarian at the University Libraries, was recently awarded a 2018-19 Open Education Resource (OER) Research Fellowship.

The fellowship came from the Open Education Group, an interdisciplinary research group that “makes the world a better place by increasing the affordability and effectiveness of education.” The Open Education Group is supported by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, HASTAC, and The David O. McKay School of Education.

During her fellowship, Walz will research the impact of open educational resources on the cost of education, student success outcomes, patterns of usage of OER, and perceptions of OER.  

“My passion is empowering faculty to share their expertise with their students by creating freely and publicly shared learning materials as OER and adapting OER to fit their individual teaching needs at Virginia Tech and beyond,” Walz said. “OER is a valuable contribution to courses and helps all students, especially those who may not be able to afford traditional textbooks.”

Open Education Resources are freely accessible openly licensed textbooks, media, course materials, modules, software, and other digital assets that are used for teaching, learning, assessing, and research purposes. They are free to use online, customize, improve, re-mix, and re-purpose by others. These books can be downloaded for free or printed at low cost.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the fellowship sponsor, describes Open Education as “the simple and powerful idea that the world’s knowledge is a public good and that technology in general and the web in particular provide an extraordinary opportunity for everyone to share, use, and reuse knowledge.”    

Many students struggle to afford, ethically access, and retain required learning materials. Both students and faculty have asked for sustainable solutions for learning materials that allow free access, adaption, and broad sharing of original teaching and learning resources and scholarship within and beyond the university. Walz says that open education resources, which utilize Creative Commons license, may be one answer to these requests.

In her role at the University Libraries, Walz has worked with faculty to locate, use, adapt, and develop openly licensed or public domain educational resources, including images, print and digital textbooks, interactive digital technologies, video, virtual reality, and augmented reality. She works collaboratively with VT Publishing, the scholarly publishing hub of Virginia Tech, also based in the University Libraries.

Walz regularly teaches faculty, staff, graduate, and undergraduate students about copyright, scholarly ethics and impacts, conducting academic research, open access, and OER. She designs all of her own teaching material from openly licensed, public domain, or sources used under fair use. All of her teaching resources and scholarships have a Creative Commons license or are freely available online.

The OER Research Fellowship allows Walz to attend the Open Education Conference in 2018 and 2019 and work with a supportive peer group of researchers from around the U.S. “This is a relatively new research area with great opportunities,” Walz said.

Walz recently presented at the Open Textbook Network Summit in Chaska, Minnesota, about open textbook publishing processes. In the fall, Walz will teach several workshops to spread the word about OER.

For more information about open education resources, visit guides.lib.vt.edu/oer or contact Anita Walz at arwalz@vt.edu.

— Written by Elise Monsour Puckett