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Establish a team to encourage collaboration and provide support services for scaling OER adoption across multiple institutions or an entire system.

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As OER initiatives scale up across a system or state, it can be strategically valuable to establish a team that focuses on coordinating work between institutions and provide a range of common support services.  These teams often include instructional designers, librarians, educational technologists and project managers.

Teams do not need to be very large, particularly if you follow a train-the-trainer model and if you have flexibility in team organization. Centralized, de-centralized, and hybrid models can all work to provide efficient organizational structure for a multi-institution support team.  

  1. Identify signs that system-level support services are needed. Establishing such support services, given the cost involved, before they are needed can be counterproductive as it can drain limited resources and thus erode senior level support.  Some signs that it may be time to create such services include:
    1. Duplication of effort – If faculty or departments at different institutions are working on the same OER courses without knowing about each other’s work.
    2. Similar workshops are being run – if the same workshops are being developed and run without coordination between institutions or campuses.
    3. Institutions are engaging with the same vendors – if institutions are contracting with the same vendors independently without coordination.
    4. Limited awareness of initiatives at the system level – if system level administrators start to find that they were unaware of existing initiatives on individual campuses.
  2. Determine support and staffing needs.  Conduct a light-weight needs assessment by surveying OER champions and institutional leaders to identify common needs around support services, strategic planning and coordination.
  3. Determine the best organizational model.  The organizational culture of the system often factors into how to best organize the team.  In some cases it may make sense to have a very centralized team based out of a system office while in other cases a more distributive model with staff based at institutions working within a region is best.  Hybrid models in which a small team that is centrally based then coordinates with staff and liaisons on individual campuses can also be very effective.
  4. Determine how to best fund staffing. Finding funding for new staffing can often be a major challenge in creating a system-level support team.  While there is no one panacea solution, effective approaches include:
    1. Leverage new revenue from scaling OER adoptions – Evidence, such as studies at Tidewater Community College, suggests that institutions will realize a boost in revenue as they scale adoption of OER as a result of fewer students dropping courses.  This new revenue can be used to fund new staff lines.
    2. Seek grant or foundation funding – Given the impact that scaling OER adoption will have on student success there may be state, federal or private foundation grants and funding that can be sought to fund staffing.  Such funding is often temporary so its best to uses these to cover initial “start up” costs to get a team in place but to then have a longer-term funding model ready once grant funds run out.
    3. Establish a sustainable revenue stream – Implementing a small OER course fee, increasing an existing fee (such a tech fee) or even establishing an endowed fund can create a new revenue stream that can support staffing.
    4. Consider repurposing staff lines that are no longer needed – While changing staff lines can often be politically challenging, it is worth assessing existing positions to see if it makes sense to re-task them to focus on OER.  For example, a staff member who might have previously supported faculty on copyright clearance of instructional materials might get retrained on Creative Commons licenses.
  5. Consider a train-the-trainer model. Rather than creating a very large team is can be more effective to implement a train-the-trainer model in which system-level staff train those at the institution level and then provide them with the resources needed to support faculty more directly.  In addition to be cost-effective, this approach results in developing institutional knowledge over time and avoid long-term dependence on system resources.
  6. Recognize that staffing may not be needed forever.  Over time, especially if you use a train-the-trainer model, system-level staff may no longer be need or at least needed at the same levels as faculty become more knowledgeable.


Helpful Resources

Multi-institution Support Model: SUNY OER Services

Multi-institution Support Model: SUNY OER Services


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