Opening access to research

Writing a paper as a final assignment for a course takes on new meaning when the end goal is for it to be part of an open-access anthology.

Kateryna Barnes - 18 September 2019

becoming and being

Writing a paper as a final assignment for a course takes on new meaning when the end goal is for it to be part of an open-access anthology.

Released under a Creative Commons licence, the students in Jennifer Branch-Mueller's EDEL 549 - The Leadership Role of the Teacher-Librarian collaborate to write and edit chapters for Becoming and Being: Reflections on Teacher-Librarianship, a collection that explores teacher-librarianship and it's role in schools. Topics in the anthology range from intellectual freedom, supporting English language learners, fan-fiction, and tackling fake news.

Aleasha Kachel, a recent graduate of the Elementary Education Masters of Education - Curriculum and Pedagogy program, works in the Kamloops-Thompson school district in British Columbia. As a participant in the course and the publication process of the anthology, she found it to be a practical way to put what she learned into action.

"I appreciated having the opportunity to explore an area of interest and produce something that was personally valuable to my role in my school," explains Kachel.

"Aside from content, this project helped me really push my research skills to the next level. It was also valuable to 'walk the walk' of doing inquiry as it is something I am constantly asking my students to do. I learned a great deal about leadership in my role and how I can turn this into advocacy."

The project idea came to Branch-Mueller from a colleague in Michigan. She wanted students to "feel like an expert" on a topic that they chose, with the expressed goal that they could utilize this research in their working lives.

"The research skills, the leadership stance, their development as writers and thinkers, and their next steps after they graduate as they ponder new questions and move into new roles and take up new opportunities," explains Branch-Mueller.

Kachel's chapter on inquiry-based learning and collaboration was partly inspired by her experience in her master's degree, as well as her work at her school with a colleague.

"I was completely new to the role and, as it turned out, I had very little idea what the role of a 21st century teacher-librarian was," she says.

"As I learned and worked in the role, there were two areas that struck me as really important and those were collaboration and inquiry based learning. I saw this as a real area of leadership for teacher-librarians and wanted this to be my focus."

Not only was the experience something that Kachel could directly tie to her day-to-day work, but she could see her growth as an academic.

"I can now speak to its importance, not only from my own observations but also from my research. While undertaking these tasks can feel overwhelming at times, there was a great deal of support offered throughout the process. I don't think I've ever felt more proud of a piece of writing I've produced."

Aside from being a practical and fulfilling process for the students, the project also engages with some of the hot topics of education: open educational resources and open pedagogy (the use of open educational resources). With tightening-budgets in education, open educational resources are free-to-access, reuse, and remix; it also invited students to be a part of the teaching process and participate in the co-creation of knowledge. For Branch-Mueller, there was no question that the anthology would be available under a Creative Commons licence.

"The work is for the public good," explains Branch-Mueller.

"We are a public institution and the work that students create here should be freely available to other educators and other students in Canada and around the world. I also think it is super important to make it available to those in developing countries who are just beginning to build school libraries and think about the role of teacher-librarians in schools. I am all about open access."

Want to use or develop Open Education Resources?

Feeling inspired by professor Jennifer Branch-Mueller's project, and want to start developing Open Education Resources (OER) in your research and teaching? University of Alberta copyright librarian, and open-access advocate Amanda Wakaruk has some considerations for you to keep in mind:

  • Assigning a Creative Commons licence to your OER
    1. Choose a licence that is OER compatible.
    2. Mark the work with the CC icon.
    3. Best practice: include a statement and link back to the licence on the CC website.
  • Using your published works in an OER
    1. What are the existing terms of your publishing agreement?
    2. Do those terms prevent or allow you to use the work in an OER?
    3. Do you need to pursue rights reversion?
    4. Can you ask the publisher to assign a compatible CC licence or for permission to use the work in an OER?
  • Including works by other people in your OER
    1. Is the work in the public domain?
    2. Does the work have suitably flexible open terms? (e.g., CC BY)
    3. Do you need to request permission to use the work?
    4. Is it easier to create your own images, etc.

More on developing and using OER can be found through the UAlberta Copyright Office, UAlberta Libraries, the Centre for Teaching and Learning, and in Wakaruk's presentation to the Alberta OER Summit in 2017.