Jared Erlien has been working as a Student Admin for the Open Textbook Library (OTL) since summer 2018. To celebrate Jared’s graduation from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, we asked him about his experiences working for the OTL and the insights his work in open education has brought him.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself (background, major etc.), including how and when you started working on the OTL?

I majored in Computer Science at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and what led to my interest in that field was exposure to computer security and programming in high school. I got started at the OTL over the summer of 2018. I was looking for a job and I saw there was a posting of a library position that required basic programming experience and was remote. So I applied and heard back in the following week and here I am!

What drew you to work in the Open Educational Resources (OER) space?

To be honest, my primary exposure to the OER space was mostly during my work in the OTL because I didn’t really know much about OER aside from “free textbooks”. As I started work in the OTL it provided me with a new-found appreciation for “Open Education” which to me, means opening up doors to knowledge regardless of any possible division to any demographic.

What has been something you found surprising about working in OER?

I was really surprised at the amount of colleges that were adopting open textbooks! Before I thought there weren’t a lot of higher education institutions that were trying to ease the burden of cost from their students, but I was proven wrong and there are a lot of them out there making a difference to students.

What recommendations would you give to other students about making higher ed more accessible/affordable?

I highly recommend students bringing up possible OER books to their professors (probably during office hours). Of course I would recommend doing research on the book whether it covered all subjects of the course and relay that info to the professor as it increases the chance of the professor taking an interest into looking at the textbook.

I also would recommend sharing the resources that open up these OER possibilities to others!

The Open Textbook Library is one of many hubs where you can find open education resources and as we broaden the communities’ knowledge of OER resources we could possibly see it being adopted into higher education more often!

What recommendations would you give to faculty?

Please adopt OER textbooks! I understand you need them to fit your curriculum and there are a lot out there that may fit your needs!

What has been your favorite thing about working on the OTL?

I really enjoyed adding textbooks since it provided a feeling of adding knowledge to the pool.

Adding humanities or engineering textbooks that make the topic understandable especially makes me happy, as it allows people who don’t understand technical jargon to ease themselves into a subject.

In addition to adding textbooks, I really enjoy looking through some of them. Part of my job is looking through textbooks and seeing if they fit our criteria. Doing so allows me also to parse through what the textbook offers and this more than often sparks my interest in certain textbooks and later on adding them to my collection of future reads!

How will lessons you’ve learned working on the OTL help carry you through what you do next?

An important lesson that I learned is communication. Everyone I’ve talked to in the OTL showed great communication skills such as navigating through possible textbooks to add with authors or fixing bugs in beta for the library. In computer security this will be extremely helpful as relaying information and coordinating with different teams will be required almost all the time.