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Open Educational Resources: Pioneering Low-Cost Course Materials and Peer-Reviewed Scholarship

Open Educational Resources: Pioneering Low-Cost Course Materials and Peer-Reviewed Scholarship

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melissa layne open educational resourcesGuest Post by Melissa Layne, Ed.D.
Associate Vice President, Research & Innovation

This past November, a new kid on the block joined the ranks of peer-reviewed scholarly journals with its inaugural issue, APUS’s The International Journal of Open Educational Resources (IJOER). This publication, however, is not the common journal that academic scholars have all come to know and love.

In March 2018, APUS Provost Dr. Vernon Smith approached me to see if I would be interested in developing and overseeing a journal focusing on open educational resources (OER). After consulting with several OER leaders, I was quite surprised to learn that IJOER was indeed the FIRST journal to focus solely on OER research — especially given that the OER movement began well before 1995.

In fact, it wasn’t until November 2018 that the first OER-focused journal was developed. Prior to IJOER, research studies around OER were published in content-specific journals. For example, if a researcher conducted a study titled “The Development of OERs in the Physics Classroom”, the article would likely be published in a physics-related journal. IJOER provides scholars with a new and more relevant venue to publish their work.

It was APUS’s own participation in OER initiatives upon which IJOER was developed. Dr. Conrad Lotze has been instrumental to the success of the OER Conversion Project whereby APUS faculty and staff have converted courses to OER. APUS has provided textbooks at no cost to undergraduate students through a textbook grant since 2001 and has focused on keeping its textbook costs low. As a result of these OER efforts, the university has saved close to $5 million in undergraduate Electronic Course Material (ECM) costs to date. These conversions have not only saved students and the university money, they have also generated infinite related research opportunities.

Having previously been editor-in-chief for another peer-reviewed APUS/Policy Studies Organization (PSO) journal, Internet Learning, I assumed I could rely on that expertise. However, starting a new journal from the ground up is accompanied by countless tasks such as developing editorial advisory and peer-review boards, submission guidelines, roles and responsibilities for board members, calls for papers and venues from which to distribute them, and promotional opportunities among many others.

Though familiar with OER, an expert in the field I am not. However, through this development process — from building editorial boards to “going live” with the website in the end — I have been welcomed into the OER family and look forward to showcasing cutting-edge OER research in the IJOER.  

Building the journal has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in my career. I was given a significant amount of latitude in developing this project, so I turned IJOER into a space not only to publish research, but to create a truly engaging experience for my like-minded peers. In addition to posting a digital version on the PSO’s website, I developed another website featuring:

  • 3 Questions for an OER Leader. For this section I invite (or another individual nominates) an industry leader to discuss his/her expertise. For our inaugural issue, I was honored to interview Sharon Leu, who leads the Office of Educational Technology for the Department of Education.
  • IJOER Peer Review. This section highlights various OERs (in progress or completed). It also provides valuable and constructive feedback from IJOER readers and a space to showcase work in progress. For those who are developing OERs of any kind, this is a wonderful way to receive honest and helpful feedback from the larger OER community.
  • IJOER Blog. Two lovely University of Wyoming librarians, Samantha Cook and Kristina Clement, offered to assist in developing a blog for the journal open to contributions from individuals in the OER community.
  • OER News, Events, Tools & Resources. These include tools and surveys to conduct OER research and websites with a wealth of OER courses and materials. 
  • Interactive Research Articles. IJOER articles leverage interactive features such as videos, audio, slideshows, definition rollovers, animations, interactive graphs, links to resources, images, social media, etc., to bring research to life. These features enable authors to present their work in a non-linear, innovative fashion, while more effectively engaging readers.
  • Blockchain. Currently, its purpose in IJOER allows authors to “time-stamp” their article, verifying that he/she was the first to write, publish, and own authorship rights over the content. Author Sherry Jones provides a wonderful article on Blockchain and how it can be applied to OER and scholarly publishing.

The short-term IJOER roadmap includes conducting research on our Blockchain integration and also extending its use to the peer-review process to make it more transparent, recognizable, and trustworthy. We would also like to attract those in commercial industries who use OERs, since OER is not an education-only concept.

In keeping with APUS’s core values, the IJOER favors an evolutive approach for long-term, future development. We will dutifully remain at the cusp of innovation in the OER and publishing industry by integrating new processes, procedures, enhancements, and emerging technologies. Better yet, we may even be the developers of some of these processes, procedures, enhancements, and technologies.

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Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In July 2016, he retired as APUS president and continued as CEO of APEI. In September 2017, he was reappointed APUS president after the resignation of Dr. Karan Powell. In September 2019, Angela Selden was named CEO of APEI, succeeding Dr. Boston who will remain APUS president until his planned retirement in June 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. During his tenure, APUS grew to over 100,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 90,000 alumni. In addition to his service as a board member of APUS and APEI, Dr. Boston is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a board member of the Presidents’ Forum, and a board member of Hondros College of Nursing and Fidelis, Inc. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. Dr. Boston lives in Owings Mills, MD with his wife Sharon and their two daughters.

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