5 Minutes With: Nicole Finkbeiner, Open Education on the College Campus

Open Education Week (March 27-31) is a celebration of the global Open Education Movement. Its goal is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. SMU Libraries are helping to celebrate this week with three brief interviews with as many Open Education experts. Today’s Expert is Nicole Finkbeiner.

Nicole is the Associate Director for Institutional Relations at Rice University’s OpenStax, an Open Educational Resource (OER) initiative. One of Nicole’s major roles at OpenStax is to provide advice and support in relation to the implementation of OER programs at colleges and universities.

1. What immediate benefits have you seen at colleges and universities that implement and actively use OER textual resources?

The biggest immediate benefit is that each student has immediate and unlimited access to the text! No waiting for aid funding to come in, no logging-in issues, no limited weeks of access to the text, the student can click and access and keep a copy of the book forever.

There’s also been studies  showing students taking more courses because of OER (since they can afford to take more courses) and withdraw less from courses who use OER.

Long-term, the biggest benefit we see is faculty starting to really change their course in ways they couldn’t with content that is limited by copyright restrictions. This is really exciting! For example, University of Connecticut took our General Chemistry text and modified it to be an Atom’s First Chemistry text.  Another group took our Concepts of Biology book and translated it to create a Spanish version of Concepts of Biology. We’ve also seen the rise of flipped classrooms and youtube videos  with copyrighted content (a traditional text), this would be illegal.

2. What challenges have you and your on-campus collaborators encountered the most when attempting to implement and sustain an OER program?

A large number of faculty are still unaware of OER and are especially unaware of high-quality OER.  We spend a great deal of time here at OpenStax talking about how all of our books are expert-written, peer-reviewed, aligned with standard scope and sequence, put through a rigorous editorial process, and regularly updated. We find that, once faculty look at the content, they comment on how high quality the materials are and then are very likely to adopt.

At the institutional level, the colleges and universities that have been most successful in their OER efforts are those where the OER initiative is seen as a institution-wide priority. If we walk into a school and they say “The library has an OER initiative” or “The Center for Teaching and Learning has an OER initiative,” those schools have a harder time gaining adoptions when compared to a school where the school representatives say “The [school name] has an OER initiative and it’s supported & run by a team including senior administration, faculty, faculty senate, the library, the teaching & learning center, disability services, the bookstore, etc.”

3. Ultimately, why OER and why now?

For most introductory courses, there are now high-quality OER options available. OpenStax alone has 28 books and is in 10% of introductory courses in the U.S.  serving 900,000 students per year at over 3,600 schools. Because these resources meet standard scope and sequence and match the quality of publisher texts, faculty can very quickly adopt them.

With so many resources available from OER providers and the removal of copyright restrictions (via Creative Commons licenses), faculty can finally teach the courses the way they think is best for them and their students. This greatly increases academic freedom for faculty! As Jim Luke at Lansing Community College says, this changes the conversation from “Here’s what you can do with the copyrighted content” to “What would you like to do? How would you like to teach your course?  We can make that happen.”

OER also removes so many barriers for students. Not only does it remove an important cost barrier, which often prevents students from taking courses or staying in courses, but it allows the students to have access to their materials on DAY ONE and FOREVER. Once a student downloads the .pdf of an OpenStax text or another OER text, they will always have that content since it never expires. This can be exceptionally helpful to students who need to refer back to the material for more advanced courses, take multiple semesters of a course, study for higher ed and industry entrance exams (GRE, GMAT, MCAT as examples), etc.


Thank you, Nicole!

5 Minutes With: Daniel Williamson and the Importance of Open Education Resources

Open Education Week (March 27-31) is a celebration of the global Open Education Movement. Its goal is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. SMU Libraries are helping to celebrate this week with three brief interviews with as many Open Education experts. Today’s expert is Daniel Williamson.

Daniel is the Managing Director of OpenStax, a non-profit organization located at Rice University that provides Open Educational Resources (OERs) to student throughout the world. Daniel has spent the bulk of his professional life developing and promoting the cause of OERs and open education, and he was kind enough to answer a couple of questions from us:

1.Why are Open Educational Resources important for the future of higher education?

Higher education has an exciting future ahead of it, but it also faces some challenges. Higher education is more critical than ever however, the high cost of secondary education deters many students from attending college. Additionally, only 60% of students who attend four-year colleges graduate within six years, and less than 33% of students who attend two-year colleges graduate within three years.

Open Educational Resources (OER) not only save students money on costly textbooks, they unlock innovation in the classroom. Rather than relying upon static, copyrighted, “look but don’t touch” restricted learning resources, OER provide explicit freedoms to use, adapt, redistribute, retain and build upon existing resources. OER encourage faculty to take ownership of the content and adapt it to make it perfect for their students’ needs. OER also provide students the opportunity to legally pull content into their favorite note-taking and quizzing apps, so that the content is where they need it to be for them to succeed. Furthermore, OER enable innovators to create the next great advances in learning science applications without having to reinvent the textbook wheel.

In other words, the freedoms afforded by OER provide an exciting opportunity to improve student learning and retention of knowledge, whether the end user is a student, a teacher, or an innovator. OER immediately reduce the financial pressure on students and institutions while simultaneously offering a pathway toward increased student success through innovation.

2.Ten years from now, what is an Open Educational Resource?

I believe that OER will become pervasive over the next ten years, and will likely cover much of the content spectrum. Hopefully, people will no longer be asking, “Why should I use OER?” but rather, “Why wouldn’t I use OER?” I believe there will also be a greater wealth of materials; right now, there are only a few vetted, turnkey OER available to meet instructors’ needs.

In some respects, OER will look much the same ten years from now as it does today. Open Educational Resources will continue to be teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. OER will continue to include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.

However, I do think the way that we use OER will change. In ten years, higher education will be less reliant upon using static textbooks as reference materials. Instead, faculty will select specific modules of content to address specific learning needs and desired outcomes. Faculty and students will also experience the open content in different adaptive learning platforms. These platforms will give OER users greater insight into a student’s current standing; it will the highlight areas in which a student is doing well, and pinpoint others where the student may want to spend extra time to improve their performance.


Thank you, Daniel! Check back Friday, March 31 when Nicole Finkbeiner of OpenStax discusses the benefits and challenges of an OER program on a college campus.

5 Minutes With: Jonathan McMichael on Open Education Week – “What is it!?”

Open Education Week (March 27-31) is a celebration of the global Open Education Movement. Its goal is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. SMU Libraries are helping to celebrate this week with three brief interviews with as many Open Education experts. Today’s questions are answered by SMU’s very own Jonathan McMichael, User Experience Librarian.


What is Open Education?

Open Education Resources (OER) are any instructional materials including full courses, textbooks, assignments, videos, tests, software, etc. that are intentionally kept in the public domain. The goal is that they are accessible to anyone interested in teaching and learning the content. Together, they create a “free” curriculum that allows for greater access to quality learning materials.

Why is Open Education important?

Open Education sees education as a public good. We must imagine that each time money is demanded for education there is a section of the population unable to pay that money. This means, each time a person charged for education, a barrier has been created keeping some from that education. Open Education looks to remove all of those barriers allowing for the free and open use and reuse of educational materials. The idea is for more people to have greater access to quality education, which is better for everyone.

What would Open Education mean for Higher Education?

Certainly OER would expand access to educational resources to more learners with far more consistency. While this could lead to better learning experience to non-traditional students, all student could stand to benefit. Lowering the transactional cost of education can benefit every learner because it makes teaching and educational design cheaper and easier.

OER also has the potential to address the rising costs of higher education. Giving instructors the ability to pick and choose from a suite of Open Education Resources, which could then be modified for their individual classes, could promote access to a greater diversity of learning environments.

For examples of OER, check out OpenStax Higher Education resources.


Thanks, Jonathan! Stay tuned for our second installment in this series on March 29th, when we chat with Daniel Williamson, Managing Director at OpenStax

Finding Places to Publish

One of the joys of being a researcher, is seeing the results of the research that one has spent a long time working on, published. However, the process of finding the ideal journal is not always that easy. Experienced researchers do not often think about this, because they’ve had lots of experiences writing and publishing, and oftentimes know what journals they need to submit their research output to. On the other hand, graduate students, inexperienced researchers, and new faculty, sometimes have a more difficult time with this process. There are a number of things to consider when looking for a journal that is the “right fit”, one to which you could submit your article, that might be more inclined to accept your article for publication. So, how can we evaluate such journals? Here are a few of the issues to consider:
• Who is the publisher?
• What is the readership?
• What is the scope of the journal?

Then, after you’ve found the right journal, and you’ve been told that your article has been accepted for publication, does it mean that you no longer have any right to the article once you submit it? Is it a done deal? Can you still retain your rights as an author?

If you are interested in getting more information about these issues, please sign up to attend our workshop below.
Title: Finding Places to Publish and Author’s Rights
Day: Thursday
Date: March 23, 2017
Time: 5:00-6:00p
Location: Fondren Library
Room: FLE 323

2017 CUL Staff Service Awards

Special Awards for CUL Staff!

Vote for the CUL Team Award and the Dean’s Eureka! Award

The 2017 CUL Team Award and the Dean’s EUREKA! Award are an exciting way to bring recognition to the staff members of the CUL who serve with their talent, time and goodwill and make the Central University Libraries great.

The CUL Team Award is given to a team that is cross-divisional rather than internal to a specific CUL department, has at least three team members, functions as an on-going permanent team, or just as an ad-hoc team for a specific task.

The Dean’s Eureka! Award will be given to the CUL staff member or staff members who have shown the most creativity, ingenuity and imagination, who took a risk, tried an idea, or bled on the cutting edge to make a difference for CUL and the SMU community.

Both awards will be presented at the SMU Libraries Staff Recognition event on Tuesday, April 11 at 3:00 pm in the Fondren Library, SIC 3rd Floor auditorium.

Nomination forms and information are available here.  

Deadline to submit nominations for Special Awards for CUL Staff is Friday, March 24 at noon.

Please note that SMU Libraries Staff awards nomination deadline is one week prior to Special Awards for CUL Staff. Find more information on SMU Libraries Staff Awards here.

A Librarian’s Top Tips for Better Internet Searches

We use the internet to find information every day and can often easily find what we are looking for, but there are times when more advanced techniques would yield better results. Here are some recommendations.

1. Consider the language that would be used in the piece of information that you are seeking. Oftentimes, we pose search terms as the question being asked. Instead, use keywords that would appear in the answer.

2. Use the advanced Google functions. My favorite Google trick is using Google to find more websites like one I have already found. To do this, type “related:” in the search box followed by the URL of a website homepage as all one word. Google will then find other websites like that one. For example, a search of “related:smu.edu” will find the websites for TCU, UTA, Rice, Dallas Baptist University, University of Dallas, etc.

3. Question your motives when choosing keywords. The internet is vast, and chances are you can find answers that support many sides to the story. Given the human tendency towards confirmation bias, it is very easy for keywords to slant the results that you are seeing from your searches. Keep your search terms neutral, or use both positive and negative terms. For example, you would get very different results from a search of “health benefits wheat” versus a search of “negative effects wheat.”

Learn more about tools and strategies to get the most from your web searches at this upcoming workshop with Megan Heuer, our Communication Arts Librarian.
Advanced Internet Search
Thursday, March 9, 2017
5:00pm – 6:00pm
Fondren Library Red 323
Register for the event

Learn about all of our workshops.

Meet Stace Maples from Stanford Geospatial Center

To prepare for this week’s GIS Bootcamp, we took some time to get to know Stace Maples. He is a graduate from SMU earning his bachelor’s degree in archaeology and will be returning to teach a series of workshops on GIS later this week. 

Since you graduated from SMU in 1997, we just have to ask – What is your favorite memory of SMU?

There are many, but if I had to pick one, it would have to be the Ft. Burgwin Archaeological Field School experience (Pot Creek Pueblo, ’96!). We had a great class of students, and Dr. Mike Adler (aka ‘Madler’), was Director of the Field School, which obviously made the experience even better. We worked harder than anyone else at Ft. Burgwin, from sunup to sundown, excavating and processing artifacts, six days a week, and played harder than anyone else, too. We won the Ft. Burgwin Volleyball Championship, that year.

What is your spirit animal and why?

Hmm. Someone has been talking to my Ft. Burgwin colleagues!? The skunk. We went on a great road trip during the Field School, visiting Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde and other sites. At Mesa Verde, I woke to find a skunk taking refuge from the rain in the vestibule of my tiny solo tent, about 18 inches from my face. I lay there for about 2 hours, unable to sleep for fear of snoring or making a noise for fear of startling him, until someone else in the camp made enough noise to scare him away. There may be other, alleged, reasons that we can leave for tales around a campfire, someday.

If you could make a soundtrack of your life, what songs would you include?

That’s tough. I’m a DJ on Stanford’s radio station, KZSU, so my soundtrack is always evolving. But, in general: I’ve been in love for 23 years, so there would be a few love songs; My kids love 80’s Punk & New Wave, right now, so that’s a big chunk, too; There would be a lot of rebellious music, maybe Dead Kennedys would represent that side well, or Ween. And Willie Nelson, because Texas.

Tell us why GIS is important by using only the Ten Hundred Most Used Words as defined by the Up-Goer Five Text Editor.

Where Matters.

What has been one of the most interesting or most impactful projects where you have used GIS? 

I’ve been working with Dr. Eric Nelson, since I got to Stanford, building a platform to help health care workers respond to cholera outbreaks in under-resourced parts of the world. We’re piloting the platform in some really challenging locations, like Bangladesh and Haiti, to prove that we can use mobile technologies to improve outcomes for patients, responders and decision-makers. The Outbreak Responder is a decision-support and epidemiology platform for use during disease outbreaks which includes a rehydration calculator that automates WHO guidelines for assessing and rehydrating a patient with diarrheal disease and a series of map-based data dashboards that help administrators optimize resource allocation during rapidly evolving outbreaks. You can read about the mobile application and we just published an evaluation of our first trials.

What is the most surprising thing you have discovered using GIS?

That it can, literally, be applied to the study of anything. I see as many workshop attendees from Medicine as I do from Geology, as Environmental Sciences, as Archaeology, as School of Business, as Forestry, as History, as Political Science,… and I can do that all day. The ability to colocate data in geographic space opens up the possibility of fusing almost any datasets you can get your hands on into new types of scholarship. I think Nick Bauch’s “Enchanting the Desert,” published by The Stanford University Press, is a perfect example of this, and the type of real research that can be done, and published, through digital means, and no other. Nick leverages research methods of Geography, Environmental Science, History, Photography, Geodesy and more into an incredible examination of how technology formed our national perception of what is meant by “The Grand Canyon.” [http://www.enchantingthedesert.com/home/]

GIS is a tool that fosters numerous opportunities for more interdisciplinary inquiry which, I think, is probably the most productive approach to any question.

The title of the GIS Bootcamp workshop series is “Everything is Somewhere.” What does that mean?  

“Everything is somewhere, and that somewhere matters.” It’s my slightly cheeky paraphrase of Waldo Tobler’s First Law of Geography: “Everything is related, near things are more related.” That one sentence has such profound implications for the ways we should be examining our world and our relationship with it, and each other. Relationships of proximity, adjacency, containment, shape, central tendency, and so on, have profound influence on our lives and those relationships are accessible only through building spatial thinking skills and toolkits for using those skills. GIS and other geospatial technologies are the instruments that allow us to quantify and interrogate those relationships in more meaningful ways, and hopefully make more persuasive arguments, and more constructive decisions, about them.

As the Geospatial Manager at The Stanford Geospatial Center Stace Maples provides support and collaboration to the Stanford research community in capturing and making sense of the “where” of their work.  His work mapping the research interests of scholars has taken him from the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard, to Kurdish Northeastern Syria, to the most remote areas of the Mongolian/Chinese border.  An archaeologist by training (SMU, ’97) and a technologist by temperament, he is interested in all aspects of mapping, from the aerial imaging of archaeological sites using kites and balloons, to the development of platforms for the gathering of volunteer geographic information. He has over 20 years of experience using Geographic Information Systems and geotechnology for research and teaching, with expertise in a broad range of geospatial and supporting software and hardware.    

Help Us Build a Better Website

We are updating the library search experience this summer and need your feedback before it goes live.

We are requesting faculty, student, or staff volunteers from all majors and departments to join us in conversations to tell us how they do research and help us design the most effective search tool for SMU. Time commitments will vary based on availability and interest. Activities will include surveys, interviews, focus groups, and more.

If you are interested, please fill out this form and we will contact you soon.

Copyright Basics: Nothing to Fear

Heard of copyright? Afraid of copyright? Well, copyright is not something to be feared. It is a system that seeks to protect the rights of work creators, while also allowing the public access and use of those works to foster new creativity, learning, and innovation.

We may not think about it much, but copyright and licensing are everywhere in our daily life. Whether it is creating scans and copies for schoolwork or setting our latest cat video to music and uploading to YouTube, copyright law plays a role in facilitating how creative works are protected and how those works can be used by others.

Come to our workshop to learn the basics of copyright law—what is covered by copyright, exclusive rights of holders, and the Fair Use provisions. The session will include Q&A time as well as where to find reliable resources on copyright law.

Workshop date/times:
Date: Thursday, March 2, 2017
Time: 12:00pm – 12:30pm
Location: Hamon Arts Library Hawn Conference Room (1st floor)

Date: Friday, March 3, 2017
Time: 12:30pm – 1:00pm
Location: Hamon Arts Library Hawn Conference Room (1st floor)

5 Minutes with Fair Use

Today marks the beginning of ARL’s Fair Use Week. According to the Fair Use Week website, the purpose of this week is to “celebrate the important doctrines of fair use in the United States” and “promote and discuss the opportunities presented, celebrate successful stories and explain the doctrine.”  Dillon Wackerman, SMU’s Digital Repository Librarian, has answered a few of our questions about Fair Use in honor of the week.

Q: What does “Fair Use” mean and why is it important?

Dillon: “Fair Use” allows for the use of copyrighted material in accordance with certain guidelines. Fair use is one the most important doctrines within copyright law, or of the Copyright Clause of the U.S. Constitution, ensuring the viability of its main goal: “[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts . . ..” Fair Use was initially an English common law doctrine informally created in the 18th century via court opinion(s) that was first codified in the 1976 US Copyright Act.

Q: Why is Fair Use important for higher education?

Dillon: Each and every day a student, professor or researcher will need, not just want, to use copyrighted material in order to complete an assignment, create course material or, more broadly, bring about advancements in their profession, discipline and academic community. With a codified Fair Use, and an adequate understanding of its scope and limitations, there are precedents in place that can aid these groups to more substantially, more efficiently and more effectively perform and succeed within higher education and academia.

Q: Where can I learn more information?

Dillon: There are numerous Fair Use introductions and overviews but a great start can begin with those provided by Stanford University and Justia. Fair Use Week, held annually during the last week of February, also presents relevant information and resources. Specific Fair Use court opinions can be found on the U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index. Additionally, Cornell University’s Law School provides the exact formal text of the Fair Use doctrine, 17 U.S. Code § 107, alongside an extensive set of notes and citations.


Fair Use Week logo and ‘Fair Use Fundamentals’ infographic image from FairUseWeek.Org