First meeting in November 2021, the Nourishing Inter-Consortial Collaborative Excellence (NICE) group is a best practices forum hosted by the Open Education Network (OEN). The new online community provides consortial members an opportunity to connect and share OER initiative strategies and ideas, successes and failures, as well as questions and answers. 

Taking off

“This is one of many creative, member-driven ideas and services we’re offering to connect members in a meaningful way that’s relevant to them,” said Barb Thees, OEN Community Manager and discussion co-facilitator. Thees added that the process for launching NICE has been exceptionally smooth. “I’m impressed by the energy right from the get-go,” she said. “It’s really taking off.”

One-hour meetings recur on the second Tuesday of each month at 2pm CT. NICE members choose the topic of each Zoom meeting and nominate fellow members as guest speakers.

November NICE: “Dealing with Misperceptions about OER among Faculty”

The November meeting addressed “Dealing with Misperceptions about OER among Faculty.” Guest speakers Bob Awkward of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, and Christina Trunnell of Treasure State Academic Information & Library Services, kicked off the discussion by briefly sharing their experiences and key takeaways on the issue.

Awkward emphasized the importance of motivating faculty to “dip their toes into the water,” noting that change, including the switch from traditional textbooks to OER, is quite often resisted. However, with training and the opportunity to peer review an open textbook, approximately 45 percent of faculty adopt OER, he pointed out. In addition, Awkward recommended faculty awards and incentives to promote participation.

Trunnell told the group that the key to gaining faculty buy-in lies, in large part, in the approach.  “It’s all about the tone with which you approach faculty,” she advised. “When you’re doing OER promotion, be sure to clearly convey the message, ‘This could really help your students and you!’” Trunnell added that faculty also appreciate reassurances that there will be ongoing support throughout the OER adoption process.

Small group discussions

Dana Mastroianni, Chatham University Reference and Electronic Resources Librarian, was one of approximately two dozen members listening to Trunnell and Awkward, and who participated in the small group discussions that followed.

“The meeting initially piqued my interest because I think it’s good to see what other libraries are doing,” said Mastroianni, who is also Chair of Affordable Learning PA’s (ALPA) Assessment and Data working group. “It could be helpful for me to see what other consortia are doing as far as collecting data and assessment. And it could help ALPA, as a project of the Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium, in quantifying the larger effort across Pennsylvania.”

Leveraging collective knowledge

According to Thees, inspiration for the NICE group originated at OEN’s 2021 Summit in the session, “Scaling OER Initiatives & Maximizing OEN Membership: Best Practices for Consortia,” with Anna Bendo, Emily Frank, and Bryan McGeary.

The session revealed that members were dealing with a wide range of challenges including fatigue/burnout, fiscal uncertainty, overburdened faculty, time constraints, the shift to virtual, re-ordering priorities due to Covid, hiring freezes, and more.

“The session identified a need,” Thees recalls. “The NICE group responds to that need, supporting consortia at the organizational level with an opportunity to leverage our collective knowledge.” Meetings support professional connections, and are guided by norms that include active listening, respectfulness, appreciation for diverse perspectives, clear and open communication, and openness to different modes of communication, among others.

A resource within reach

As Mastroianni works to make OER at her institution more formalized, she sees herself continuing to participate in NICE conversations. “It’s always interesting to see the challenges of institutions no matter what size they are,” she said. “I appreciate this group and the breadth and depth of experience in it. I’m looking forward to getting more information and contributing in any way I can.” 

If you’re an OEN consortial member interested in joining upcoming NICE discussions, reach out to Barb Thees to be added to meeting communications. The next NICE meeting is scheduled on December 14 at 2pm CT to discuss “Non-Monetary Incentives & Awards for Faculty.” All meetings are posted on the Community Hub events calendar.