Nothing brings home the power and impact of OER quite like hearing the voices of students talk about how open content makes a significant difference for them financially and academically. Student panels can help you win hearts and minds across the campus community. Hearing about the very real positive impacts of OER on students can help move faculty from “not interested” towards “I’m willing to try this out.”
Host the panel in a forum where your target audience(s) will see and hear the messages you want them to understand, such as a faculty senate meeting, professional development day, a teaching and learning conference, or even a virtual session via a webinar.
Here are tips for hosting a successful student panel about OER:
- Identify strong student spokespeople. Having authentic student voices advocating for scaling OER adoption can be a powerful motivator for faculty and senior administrators. While students do not need to extensive speaking experience or deep knowledge of OER, it does help to identify students who
- a) feel strongly about the impact OER has made in their educational experience, and
- b) feel comfortable speaking to groups and feel passionate about the values of OER.
Ask faculty using OER to recommend students with whom they’ve had conversations about the experience of using open content. Attending student meetings, informally chatting with students in the library or bookstore or meeting with student government groups are good ways to identify student spokespeople.
- Select a great moderator. Choose a moderator for your panel who is skilled at asking questions, listening, and eliciting thoughtful responses from the panelists. Generally this role is performed best by a faculty member or other OER champion who is familiar with the students and how OER is being used on campus.
- Develop and circulate great questions … in advance. A great panel boils down to asking great questions to thoughtful speakers. Questions that allow people to tell their personal stories help engage the audience emotionally and begin to truly care about this issue. Take the opportunity to go through the questions with panelists. Coach them around identifying personal stories and examples they are comfortable sharing. Discuss key ideas and themes you’d like to bring out during the discussion, and identify how their perspectives can reinforce these key themes.
- Consider these sample questions:
- Tell me about your experience in courses that use open educational resources and how it’s different from other courses.
- What difference have OER courses made in your life and your ability to juggle the demands of school with the rest of your life?
- What’s the biggest difference has OER made for you academically and how you learn?
- (For faculty) How has using OER impacted your course design, pedagogy, and how you teach?
- How are OER courses different from non-OER courses? Do you find these are positive or negative differences, and why?
- What do you tell other students about using OER course materials?
- What advice would you give a faculty member considering whether to shift to OER course materials?
- Provide student panelists with data points and reference materials. Panelists can be particularly convincing when they share a combination of personal experience and hard facts. While there is a significant amount of materials available for students to learn more about OER, the U.S. Student PIRGs (Public Interest Research Groups) provides a lot of background information as well as regular national reports that can be particularly useful.
- Mentor and coach student government representatives. It’s wise to build bridges with student government leaders and get them involved in the causes of textbook affordability and OER. Consider including them in organizing the OER student panel discussion where appropriate. Providing mentorship and coaching in these situations can be important. Student government representatives can often feel compelled to be strong advocates for their constituents, and they can benefit from a thoughtful approach to engaging with senior leaders, as well as what makes for solid institutional policy. For example, having a student representative demand that the institution mandate faculty use of OER could become counterproductive in efforts to gain faculty support.
- Record, record, record. If possible, record the panel discussion or arrange for a separate video recording session so you can use the panel opportunity to produce short (1-3 minute max) video testimonials that can be posted to web sites or shared on social media.
Capture Student Video Testimonials whenever possible. The Panel Discussion is a great focusing event, but you can also look for opportunities to interview and capture students’ experiences on video at other events. OER Summits, conferences and institutional events are good places to plan to interview students about their experience with OER.
Invest in professional video production. While face-to-face events are often best, having a few video clips of students talking about the value of OER to them is also very useful. While it can be OK to have students shoot videos on their phones or use other informal methods for producing videos, it can be worthwhile to invest in at least one professionally-produced video. The resource links below have several examples.