CUNY OER Update: LaGuardia Community College

Last Spring the LaGuardia Library launched a seminar, Designing Information Assignments for Literacy, which was funded with a 2014 Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries, from the United States Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The seminar, led by Professors Dianne Gordon Conyers and Alexandra Rojas, both of the Library, and Priscilla Stadler from the LaGuardia Center for Teaching and Learning, taught non-Library faculty how to integrate research into their assignments and the product was OER, so that others can share and modify their work.

The first cohort was 11 people and the current iteration of the seminar is underway. You can see the results of their work here: The work will also be added to CUNY Academic Works.


Browsing the assignments, you get a sense of the cross-discipline potential here. An American Music assignment can easily be reworked for other disciplines.

CUNY Advance Start-Up, Greenhouse, and Scale Up Grants

CUNY Advance Start-Up, Greenhouse, and Scale Up Grants Call for Proposals

Applications Due March 23, 2015 at 5:00 p.m.

Program Description
CUNY Advance supports campus-based innovations and projects that have transformative potential across the University. The campuses oversee the initiative through a subcommittee of the Council of Presidents, with guidance from leading thinkers on instructional technology at the University.

Our pilot projects so far have included supporting a high-enrollment undergraduate chemistry course to create a hybrid, flipped-classroom and the creation of Science Forward, a new undergraduate science course focused on scientific literacy that features an open educational resource (OER) video library.

In 2015-16 we seek to support new projects of varied scope, focus, and function through a competitive process open to CUNY faculty and staff.
Winning proposals will have a well-defined agenda for addressing a specific need within CUNY and supporting student success. Projects might include course creation or adaptation for hybrid, web-enhanced, or online delivery; new approaches to student services such as advisement; piloting and supporting new pedagogical methods; and more.

Projects supported by CUNY Advance will be developed under the leadership of the proposing party, but benefit from access to a project management and instructional design team.

Funding for awards may include release time (or equivalent, such as summer salary or non-teaching adjunct hours); consultation with an instructional technology fellow (ITF), specialized assessment and institutional researchers, technical and coding experts; and project management. Specific awards and award periods will vary with the scope and goals of individual projects. All grant recipients will participate in an annual symposium and are strongly encouraged to pursue publication opportunities. Please note that all local campus and department guidelines for reassigned time, along with PSC workload reporting rules, will be observed. Awardees will be responsible for obtaining necessary permissions.
CUNY Advance has three categories of awards.

  1. Startup Grants
    Startup Grants are for projects that are in a conceptual or exploratory stage. Awardees will collaborate with an ITF to help shape and implement a limited proof-of-concept pilot for the project. Startup grant recipients will also participate in faculty workshops and benefit from regular interactions with other startup grant recipients to brainstorm best practices, assessment, sustainability, and future plans.

  2. Greenhouse Grants
    Greenhouse Grants are for projects that are beyond the conceptual stage and are already established as pilot projects. Greenhouse Grant funding allows the project to grow beyond its home base, through strategic partnerships that might include other departments, campuses, cultural or community based organizations, the Department of Education or the private sector. Greenhouse Grant recipients will benefit from an ITF project coordinator and project management services from the CUNY Advance staff. At the Greenhouse stage, special attention will be paid to assessment, scale, and sustainability.

  3. Scale-up Grants
    Projects that have had successful proof-of-concept and show promise for more widespread adoption will receive support to grow across CUNY. The CUNY Advance project team will work with the project leads to coordinate logistics, digital infrastructure, professional development, and other needs of scale-up.
    About Instructional Technology Fellows
    Instructional Technology Fellows (ITFs) are CUNY doctoral candidates and/or post-docs from a wide range of disciplines who have expertise in pedagogical applications of technology. ITFs typically work one-on-one with faculty members to articulate goals and integrate digital projects, train faculty and students in using tools, and promote a culture of innovation on campuses. ITFs are selected by a competitive application process overseen by leading thinkers on academic technology at CUNY.

Application Procedures
All applications must be submitted electronically at Applications are due on March 23, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. Some finalists may be invited to give oral presentations at a later time. We expect to announce awards in late spring.
Each application must include:

  1. Name, campus, and contact information
  2. Project title
  3. Type of award requested
  4. A single PDF with the following:

    • Primary contact name, email and project title
    • Project narrative (max 500 words) that explains your goals and how support from CUNY Advance would benefit the project.
    • Anticipated needs, such as personnel with specific technical skills.
    • Proposed timeline and/or workflow, including your projected deliverables at 3 months, 6 months, 1 years, and 2 years (as applicable).
    • Simple budget
    • Statement of any prior and/or ongoing funding (if applicable)

For questions, please contact Lisa Brundage, Director, CUNY Advance via this form.

OER Job Opportunity

The Brooklyn College Library is seeking 2 individuals to work on an open education resources pilot project during the spring semester, 2015. The position is part-time and the hours would be between 9am and 5pm, Monday-Friday. There is some flexibility in choosing the day.

Responsibilities include assisting faculty with using open educational resources software such as Open Author, Open-Stax-CNX, Scalar and WordPress.

Qualifications: Intermediate to advanced skills in using web and media based technologies for education such as but not limited to Adobe Creative Suite applications, HTML, WordPress, Google Docs, and Widget applications.

Intermediate to advanced skill in the use of Microsoft Office applications including Word, Excel, and Publisher.
Working with a wide range of multimedia software including audio, video hosting services such as Vimeo, or YouTube, web, animation, photographs and social media.

Also required are attention to detail, ability to communicate concepts accurately, work both independently and within a team, strong organizational skills, ability to prioritize and meet deadlines and apply critical thinking skills to various technologies.

To apply, send a resume and the names and contact information of 2 references to Prof. Miriam Deutch, Associate Librarian at miriamd@brooklyn.cuny.eud. Review of applications will begin on January 1, 2015 and continue until the positions are filled.

Brooklyn College, CUNY is an equal opportunity/affirmative action/IRCA/Americans with Disabilities Act employer.

CUNY OER Online Class

screenshot of OER course site
Want to know more about Open Education Resources? The CUNY Office of Library Services has just the opportunity for you:

CUNY’s Office of Library Services is sponsoring an online workshop designed to provide an overview of Open Education Resources (OER) for CUNY faculty looking to integrate OER into their classes.

This class is made up of four modules, plus a final project. Each module is made up of readings, videos and discussions. Each workshop section will be comprised of no more than 20 participants in order to foster in intimate forum to share OER work and get feedback from colleagues and the facilitator. The goal is to finish the workshop with a better understanding of OER and also to come away with some work that can be immediately integrated into classes.
The workshops will be entirely on line and last for a two week period requiring approximately 10 hours of work. The activities and assignments can be completed on a flexible schedule during the time period. To be eligible for this workshop, applicants must be teaching faculty scheduled to teach in the spring 2015 semester. Department chair and Chief Academic Officer sign-off will be required. Faculty successfully completing the workshop will receive compensation of 10 hours at the non-teaching adjunct rate for participation.

Click here to register.

Questions? Please contact: Ann Fiddler at or 646-664-8060

Creating an OER? How to Use Stuff that You Don’t Own

In May, Jill Cirasella, addressed the makers out there with her post, “Creating an OER? How Should You License It?” But before you license your OER, you have to build it. To do so, you will likely need to use another creator’s materials. Can you use extant materials, or does copyright always get in your way?

Consider this: if you plan to share your course widely as an OER, you can no longer count on a jointly-held library affiliation. Therefore, it is important to carefully vet the material you chose to include in your course for any potential copyright violations. It is also best to make sure that the materials you use are available publicly.

We have some tips that should protect you, while keeping your creative vision intact.

Creative Commons

We’ve posted several times about Creative Commons (CC) licenses for content creators (Jill’s post) and (Creative Commons 4.0 for Education).  These licenses help the content user/re-mixer as well. To use them, first consider how you plan to use the materials? Will you display an image, for example, or create derivatives of it? With use in mind, you can search for objects with the appropriate CC license. On Google Images, for example, you can search by license type (select appropriate Usage Rights from the Advanced Search page).  Even better, Creative Commons offers a consolidated search at; participating sites offer audio, video and image files.  When using others’ materials, attribution is always the name of the game, so be sure to give credit where credit is due.

Open Access

If you need readings for your OER, consider open access (OA) publications. You can find them at the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) or OpenDOAR, a directory of open access repositories. Because these materials are OA, they can be used by faculty or students regardless of library affiliation. What’s more, you needn’t post the objects themselves in your OER; it is often sufficient to link to them.

Fair Use

You can also make use of the doctrine of Fair Use. Fair Use is an exception to copyright law that protects the rights of content consumers within certain parameters. As the consumer/re-user, it is up to you to carefully analyze your use of the material, in order to determine if it is Fair Use. While there is no magic formula for this analysis, we recommend this step-by-step worksheet from the University of Minnesota. Here too, attribution is a must.

Are you are planning to create your own OER? Consider this opportunity.

For more copyright resources, see the (C)opyright at CUNY page.


Helping educators determine the quality of open educational resources

Open vs. traditional textbooks

Open educational resources (OER) can save students hundreds of dollars, but are they equal in quality to high priced textbooks from traditional publishers? If a book is free, will it have undergone to the same academic or editorial review as a high priced textbook? Increasingly, the answer is yes. There are many new resources and tools designed to help faculty find high quality, peer reviewed OER.

Do you get what you pay for?

One question to consider: Do traditional textbook publishers truly produce a superior product? Publishers argue that high textbook prices are necessary to cover their costs for peer review, editorial development, and top quality production values.  However, new editions frequently come out with even higher prices but with very little new content to justify the higher cost.  Traditional publishers are driven by the bottom line and many new editions are produced simply in order to generate sales.  Instead of buying a used copy at a substantial discount, a student buys the “new” edition at full price and the publisher reaps the profit.

OER alternatives

Open Educational Resources can be a great alternative to high priced textbooks.  Read this CNN article for a great overview of new developments and how free resources really can work in the classroom.  But do free resources really meet the same quality standards as traditional textbooks? Yes! Many of them are peer reviewed and carefully developed by educators. The OER Commons includes a new tool which allows educators to rate the quality of OER with seven rubrics.  Check out this video  for a tour of the tool and the rubrics.

MERLOT II includes over 4,000 in-depth peer reviews and allows users to search for materials with peer reviews, editor reviews, and user ratings.  Other sites such as College Open Textbooks include lists of peer reviews divided by subject area.

Where to find peer reviewed OERs

June 2014 OER Round-Up

Our round-up posts will feature a smattering of recent items that relate to Open Educational Resources. Please tell us if you’ve come across other items worth sharing in the comments!

New OER Projects:

Open-Policy-Network-600 (1)

  • Open Policy NetworkThe mission of the Open Policy Network is to foster the creation, adoption and implementation of open policies and practices that advance the public good by supporting open policy advocates, organizations and policy makers, connecting open policy opportunities with assistance, and sharing open policy information. Check out their upcoming Institute for Open Leadership (applications for Cohort 1 are due June 30!).

Recent Publications on OER Topics:

Upcoming Conferences:

  • June 9-10, 2014: OER Annotation Summit / #oerannoThis meeting is one of a series planned to explore opportunities and barriers to fostering greater collaboration in solving shared technology challenges for open education (OER) projects. This particular meeting will focus on annotation and metadata challenges and solutions for OER, especially with an eye toward integrating tools that allow for more distributed and participatory mark-up. 
  • July 25-27, 2014: OpenEdJam / @openedjam / #OEJ14a 3-day international event that brings together activists, developers, educators, engineers, librarians, and makers from all fields.
  • November 15-17, 2014: OPENCON / @open_conStudent and Early Career Researcher Conference on Open Access, Open Education and Open Data.

Upcoming Classes:

  • Fall 2014: Open Knowledge: Changing the Global Course of Learning Open source, open science, open data, open access, open education, open learning — this course provides an introduction to the important concept of openness from a variety of perspectives, including education, publishing, librarianship, economics, politics, and more, and asks you to discover what it means to you.

Creating an OER? How Should You License It?

When educators write a traditional textbook, they generally have to sign their copyright over to the publisher. When they write an open access textbook or produce some other kind of open educational resource, there’s no need to sign away their copyright — the creators retain the right to copy, distribute, and re-use their works. (Unimpressed by those seemingly basic rights? Remember that when authors transfer their copyright to publishers, they often lose all rights to their work — after the transfer, they sometimes has no more rights to their work than you or I do.)

Of course, if all rights to a work were held only by the creator, others could not copy, share, or reuse the work. In other words, by definition, it couldn’t be an open educational resource. So, we want creators to retain their rights, but we also need them to grant some rights to others. And not just specific other people or companies — to everyone, to all potential users.

And that’s why the open access community loves Creative Commons (CC) licenses: They leave copyright with the creator but also grant some rights to others. Creative Commons licenses are not the only way to grant rights to a work, but they make it easy for creators to communicate which rights they do and don’t give to others, and they’ve emerged as the standard licensing tool for open access materials.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 12.27.31 AMThere are six Creative Commons licenses on the spectrum between traditional copyright and the public domain. They differ in their requirements regarding commercial uses and derivative works, and there are fascinating things to say about all of them. But I’m going to limit this post to two of the most commonly used licenses for OERs: CC BY (Attribution) and CC BY-SA (Attribution-ShareAlike):

  • The CC BY license says that people can do whatever they want with the work — copy it, print it, distribute it, expand it, remix it, even sell it — provided that the creator is properly attributed.
  • The CC BY-SA license is very similar but differs in one key way: It says that people can do whatever they want with the work provided that (1) the creator is properly attributed and (2) any resulting works are released with the same license. Because CC BY-SA requires that derivative works are also CC BY-SA, it is a “viral” license.

Which is better, CC BY or CC BY-SA? Major players in the open access arena have strong and different opinions.

Wikipedia uses CC BY-SA, explaining that [bold is mine]:

To grow the commons of free knowledge and free culture, all users contributing to the Projects are required to grant broad permissions to the general public to re-distribute and re-use their contributions freely, so long as that use is properly attributed and the same freedom to re-use and re-distribute is granted to any derivative works. In keeping with our goal of providing free information to the widest possible audience, we require that when necessary all submitted content be licensed so that it is freely reusable by anyone who cares to access it.

The Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), on the other hand, endorses CC BY, going so far as to disallow CC BY-SA among its members [bold mine]:

To fully realise that potential of open access to research literature, barriers to reuse need to be removed. . . .

The most liberal Creative Commons license is CC-BY, which allows for unrestricted reuse of content, subject only to the requirement that the source work is appropriately attributed. Other Creative Commons licenses allow for three possible restrictions to be imposed. . . . But the emerging consensus on the adoption of CC-BY reflects the fact that any of these restrictions needlessly limits the possible reuse of published research.

. . . while [Share-Alike] licenses can be extremely helpful in building up a collection of content, they also have downsides in terms of the limitations they place on reuse. For example, material distributed within a Share-Alike article could only be combined and redistributed with other share-alike content. In contrast, CC-BY content can be combined with any content, and redistributed according to the terms of that other content, as long as CC-BY’s own attribution requirement is respected. This makes CC-BY something like a Universal Donor blood-type in that it has maximal compatibility.

. . . OASPA includes, and will currently still admit, members who use the NC restriction (but not the SA or ND restrictions).

Let’s take a closer look at the question of which license is better:

  • Which is better for readers? For those who just read/consume a work (and those who download, print, and share it), there’s no difference between the two licenses.
  • Which is better for those who want to reuse/remix a work? It depends. CC BY is less restrictive, making reuse easier. But CC BY-SA ensures the openness and reusability of derivative works, and that stipulation arguably leads to reuses/remixes that are inherently better than if they weren’t open.
  • Which is better for authors? It depends on the author’s priorities. CC BY facilitates reuse and broad impact, but some creators of open works want works derived from their works to be open as well.
  • Which is better for openness? As we saw in the arguments from Wikipedia and OASPA, It depends on how you look at it. CC BY makes a given work more open, more reusable. But CC BY-SA fosters openness and builds the universe of open access materials. However, the share-alike stipulation might deter some potential reusers and prevent some reuses from ever happening. How should we think about a license that promotes openness in derivative works but likely prevents some derivative works from ever being made? It’s hard to say!
  • Which do I personally think is better? Philosophically, I’m with Wikipedia and CC BY-SA. I love the idea of a snowball effect of openness. But in practice, I think OASPA has it right: For open access works to have the most impact and do the most good, we need to minimize barriers to reuse. And, when it comes down to it, I’m a practical person. So I (with somewhat conflicted feelings) side with CC BY.
  • But you certainly don’t have to take my word for it! My smart and thoughtful colleague Alycia Sellie is more drawn to CC BY-SA. See her grapple with CC BY vs. CC BY-SA in an Open Access @ CUNY blog post from last summer.

One last note: Yes, I prefer some CC licenses to others. But I embrace all of them as improvements on traditional copyright for scholarly communication and educational publishing!

(This post was derived from a presentation I gave at WikiConference USA on May 31: Whose to Use? And Use As They Choose? Creative Commons Licenses in Wikipedia and Scholarly Publishing.)