Interning with Open.Michigan at MSIS

Marissa Rivas-Taylor is a second-year MSI student at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. She began interning at Open.Michigan in January 2015 because of her interest in OER and publishing. Her personal research surrounds diversity within education and the social benefits of educating women, first-generation students, and multicultural students in America and in the Global South. 

A brighter world will surface once education is available to all who seek it. My undergraduate education embedded itself into this ideology, from our class discussions to influential conference speakers to global service projects. However, the how was often left to one’s own imagination, passions and determination. As I deciphered my next steps for after graduation, others around me joined organizations to move to North Korea, India, Cambodia and many other places to teach English, Music and other skills for a few years. Others joined organizations that advocate female rights to education, such as Girl Rising. As a Gates Millennium Scholar and a first-generation college graduate, I started working on various writing projects that advised first-generation students on getting into college. But getting published seemed like a daunting task, full of rejection letters and uninterested editors. Young and disoriented, I decided to go to graduate school to delay my venture into the professional world.

(2011_Education_for_All_Global_Monitoring_Report)_-Government_primary_school_in_Amman,_Jordan_-_Young_girls_readingThe University of Michigan’s School of Information Master of Information Science program interested me during my final year of college, mostly due to its reputation of producing highly trained professionals for varying successful jobs as well as its emphasis on practical and engaging internships. By my second month into the program, the power of education ideology introduced itself to me once again, but in the form of Open Access. The University of Michigan’s libraries partnered with the School of Information to host a week-long conference about open access and the effort to make globally available educational materials. By the end of the week, the concept of open access intrigued me, and I sought for ways to get involved.

Within a few months, Open.Michigan, who supported the Open Access Week, opened a few positions within their publishing office and soon I joined the Open.Michigan team. My position as an OER operations assistant is also my MSI internship for my Master’s Degree, which opened up a mentoring relationship with the Open.Michigan OER Publisher and UMSI alumnus Dave Malicke.

I remember during my interview with Dave struggling with two thoughts: Will I be able to do everything this role requires? & I REALLY want this job! I finally found a position where my personal interests, liberal arts educational background, and helping the global education mission all aligned beautifully.

By working with Open.Michigan, my knowledge in the areas of publishing platforms, digital formats, medical education, copyright laws, social media promotion, website management, and accessibility needs exponentially increases every week. Some of my past projects include:

  1. Creating iBook and EPUB versions of Open.Michigan books
  2. Working with Michigan Publishing to create effective tweets for their open access materials to be published with the Open Michigan Twitter
  3. Privacy rights & copyright clearance with the photo materials of the An Atlas of Orthopaedic Pathology
  4. Learning about the Creative Commons & Apache open licenses, and helping with different consultations appointments, copyright clearance for educational materials, and a permission form.
  5. Formatting and publishing these courses on the Open.Michigan website:
  6. Researching different publishing formats (.epub, .mobi, .iba, .azw3, .mobi, etc.) in an effort to expand the potential of Open.Michigan OERs through eBook reader devices.
  7. Researching different Subtitle/Caption processes & softwares and helping to subtitle all of video OER materials.
  8. General copy-editing support for our upcoming books as well as some biographical writing on our authors.

As I enter my final year at UMSI, I will continue my internship with Open.Michigan. I will graduate next May 2016 as a strong and confident woman, knowledgeable about various ways to promote global education as well as be equipped by UMSI and my Open.Michigan internship with the skills to effectively help this mission. Sometimes, I dream about bringing the Open.Michigan model to my undergraduate college as well as other educational institutions.

To sum up my internship experience with Open.Michigan in one idea: Colleges and Universities with the desire to promote global education and open access materials should adopt an Open.Michigan-like model to support their faculty, staff and students in publishing their educational resources for free of use.

Photo by Tanya Habjouqa (UNESCO) [CC BY-SA 3.0-igo (], via Wikimedia Commons.

It's not your mother's information literacy

Over the course of the last year I’ve had several stimulating and interesting conversations with School of Information Clinical Assistant Professor Kristin Fontichiaro. She’s into peer-based learning, badging, maker spaces and open education, fostering teachers prepared for education in the 21st century, etc. However, I was dubious when she asked me to mentor one of her students enrolled in SI 641 Information Literacy for Teaching and Learning.

Here at Open.Michigan we do a lot of instruction: training, workshops, presentations, conversations, and resource development. But we do this based on demand. We don’t really plan ahead very much. So when she emailed me with this list of what her practicum students do:

  • Perform 20 hours of shadowing someone who does instructional work related to information literacy (and CC/open access certainly does)
  • Attend 2 face-to-face lessons
  • Create a 15-20 hour online learning module (designed collaboratively between student and mentor)

I thought, “Can we support this kind of structured work?”

I was totally wrong. Victoria Lungu has been able to build on our School of Open research and efforts and our ongoing collaborations with Peer to Peer University. She’s brought a lot to the table, challenging us to align our work with the pedagogy and perspective of information literacy in the 21st century. At the end of the day, our work at Open.Michigan (especially our research, training, and experimentation) are deeply aligned with info lit.

And, in keeping with our innovative but independent starter attitude, Victoria has been a real leader in shaping how she has collaborated with Open.Michigan this semester to explore and practice models of information literacy. Here’s what she’s accomplished with us this semester:

  • Keeping up with the WIDE-EMU folks.
  • Leading the first in-person School of Open course.
  • Giving feedback on School of Open courses including figuring out how to provide structure for in-person group learning and online independent learning in challenges.

She’s just getting started developing her online learning module but we think it will be good. Working with Victoria is an example of  one of the most rewarding parts about what I get to do at Open.Michigan. Challenging students to work with us as peers in understanding and practicing open, participatory education is always an exercise in trust. So far the amazing work by U-M students collaborating with Open.Michigan has always exceeded our expectations.

Michigan Student Leads School of Open Challenge

On a cold and dreary Friday afternoon in Ann Arbor Michigan, University of Michigan School of Information student Victoria Lungu led an engaged group of U-M students and staff through a School of Open challenge. The School of Open is a Peer 2 Peer University school focused on teaching the world about open licenses, open culture, and open teaching and learning practices, through the use of challenges.

The challenge that the group focused on, Get CC Savvy, walks participants through the ins and outs of Creative Commons licenses. The challenge inspired conversations about copyright, philosophies of sharing, and evolution. Together, the participants watched Creative Commons related videos and answered questions included within the challenge. It was obvious that the participants enjoyed the event and that they gained a better understanding of copyright and the use of Creative Commons licenses. Read more about the event on Victoria’s blog.

Victoria Lungu Leading a School of Open Challenge. CC BY Open.Michigan

The School of Open is being developed at a time when Universities are starting to think more about how they can leverage online platforms (Coursera, Udacity, edX, etc) to share teaching and learning experiences openly, with people from all over the world. For better or worse, copyright is a major component of sharing educational resources and experiences online. The School of Open may be just what the sharers at these Universities need to gain a better understanding of the open teaching and learning ecosystem. It’s still very new, but the more people that participate, the better — we encourage you to join and become a part of an engaged community of peers that can help with your copyright and sharing questions!

Also check out this School of Open challenge, still under development, that walks participants through peer-production of open educational resources.

Taubman Health Sciences Library and Open.Michigan team up

A little over a year ago, a self motivated, insightful School of Information master’s student, Katy Mahraj, came to Open.Michigan wanting to learn more about open education and how it might fit into her passion for connecting people with useful health sciences information and resources. She was also working with the Taubman Health Sciences Library (THL). Katy partnered with Kate Saylor, THL’s Outreach Librarian to come up with a plan to align MLibrary’s use of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license more directly with the resources THL creates to serve its various communities. Katy, THL, and Open.Michigan developed a strategy to support THL librarians as they create content (research guides, instructional materials, workshops, tutorials and course-related lectures) and to better enable them to share these resources with the global learning community.

THL is the first library at the University of Michigan to contribute staff-created content to Open.Michigan’s collection of resources.This partnership enables the material produced by THL to be used faster and better by its constituents and fosters the creation of stronger, more effective materials by encouraging collaboration and innovation around teaching materials on a global scale. By partnering with Open.Michigan, THL is able to share and promote its content to a wider audience of collaborators, educators, and self-learners for legal use and reuse worldwide; streamline submission of library-produced content into Deep Blue, the University’s institutional repository; and position themselves as an advocate at the University and in the broader library community for improved information sharing through better understanding and use of openly licensed content.

Katy received training in the dScribe process and through the last year, she acted as a bridge between Open.Michigan and THL librarians. She created an intake process tailored to THL workflows for candidates to publish as OER, answered basic questions about using Creative Commons licenses and sharing strategies, and set up meetings and feedback sessions with the Open.Michigan team. These are exactly the types of partnerships we aim to build across campus, enabling University of Michigan departments to meet their goals through the development and publication of accessible, adaptable content. As we strive to support a culture of sharing, we try to connect with local champions embedded in departments, libraries, and initiatives across campus. These folks are able to connect the processes and perspectives of open educational practices with the on-the-ground needs and goals of our diverse University of Michigan community.

In the first year of this partnership, we laid a strong foundation for continuing to work with the THL team to build open content together. You can see the resources we published last year online at

Interview with Alissa Talley-Pixley, University Library Associate, Graduate Student, and Open Advocate

Alissa Talley-Pixley is a current University Library Associate, working in the Knowledge Navigation Center and the Tech Deck (both awesome services from our Library!) and a graduate student at the School of Information and in the School of Education. She’s worked across the Libraries at U-M and is an open advocate across the university. As an information professional, she teaches folks how to use tools and incorporates perspectives of openness into her training. She’s also a dScribe for the Fall 2011 session of SI-575, volunteering her time and expertise to support the growth of the Open.Michigan collection.

She recently spent some time to tell us a little bit about her and why she supports openness.

What’s your background?

As a student currently obtaining Master’s degrees in Information and Higher Education, my life is surrounded by ideas of information sharing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Prior to beginning graduate school at the University of Michigan (U of M), I started my professional journey after obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from U of M in 2002.  I worked at the U of M Library and then left Ann Arbor (for a few years) to explore careers outside of academia.  I was employed by the Innocence Project (a non-profit, pro-bono law firm in New York City) and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (on an education portfolio), before making my way back to the Library where I worked as an administrative assistant to the Director of the Art, Architecture, Engineering and Science Libraries.  I applied to the School of Information, and by extension the School of Education, so that I could work to share information with those who need it – academics (including students) who create knowledge for the betterment of our communities and society, as well as non-profit organizations and community members who can use information to strengthen their missions and empower those with whom they work.  When I learned about Open.Michigan, it seemed their goals aligned very closely with mine.

Why did you decided to become a dScribe?

Open.Michigan’s values and mission strongly resemble the goals I envision for education in the future.  While having the opportunity to attend college or university provides education to those who are there, much of the content that is produced stays within the classroom.  Open.Michigan encourages education and knowledge to be shared with anyone who is interested.  This idea seems more and more important as the cost of higher education rises and the chance to attend college decreases for those who have fewer resources.  The information shared during classes at U of M, by experts in their fields, should not always be shielded from the community because much of the work is relevant to those outside of the academy.  Open.Michigan provides an outlet and way for people to obtain information that could better their own knowledge-base and improve their work.  dScribing SI 575 – the Community Informatics Seminar was a great way for me to participate in this knowledge-sharing.  The topics in this course (including Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICTD), social media activism, the Digital Public Library of America) are issues which are applicable outside of the institution and could be useful for groups working towards using or improving work in these areas.  It felt important to participate in this movement.

How did you get involved with Open.Michigan?

I first learned about Open.Michigan at an Enriching Scholarship workshop in the spring of 2011.  Enriching Scholarship is an annual week-long event that provides technology training and learning opportunities to the U of M campus.  After learning about Open.Michigan’s work, I thought, “why doesn’t everyone know about this?!”  The topic and goals seem relevant for everyone in the higher educational setting (students, staff, faculty) who produce information as well as those outside of the academy who can benefit from the information that is being shared.  I remember thinking that open educational resources (OER) seemed even more relevant as copyright laws blur and evolve with the creation of so much digital work.  I continued my education of OER by meeting with Emily Puckett Rodgers, Open.Michigan’s Open Education Coordinator, about how as a student I could license by blog or other online work, and then by attending a conference (e-Cornucopia) at Oakland University on the issues of copyright and OER.  Open.Michigan also held a training on copyright at North Quad, in which I participated.  I’ve found that there is always more to learn on this topic and that the variety of events that Open.Michigan hosts is extremely useful in expanding my education on the topic so that I can share this information with others.

Why do you think it is important for libraries to be involved in sharing adaptable resources?

Libraries are in a unique position where it is their goal and mission to share information with anyone who walks in the door (though licensing for borrowing and access to online databases is limited).  Libraries not only house information but produce it.  Librarians conduct workshops on plagiarism, database and catalog searching, technology use and many other topics which could be useful to others at colleges and universities, as well as community members and citizens around the world.  As libraries work to adapt to the changing digital environment, it seems even more important that their work is accessible to those within the academy and outside of it.  Libraries can lead the movement in OER and U of M’s library is doing just this by advocating for open access to materials such as the orphan works and pushing copyright boundaries that are increasingly complicated.  Libraries are extremely important as the field of OER progresses.

What is your favorite part about contributing to the creation of open content?

My favorite part of contributing to the creation of open content is just that – producing material that is available to everyone with an Internet connection.  It’s very humbling to be a part of a movement that is so inclusive and that has been created from the ground up.  Working with Open.Michigan is something about which I’m passionate and I feel grateful to have knowledge of OER so that I can use it to “spread the word” and increase the amount of open content that is available.  Additionally, it’s wonderful to collaborate with such amazing people on these projects, including the Open.Michigan staff and the faculty who are excited to be involved in this work.

What do you hope to see Open.Michigan doing in five years?

It will be amazing to see how the Open.Michigan movement both broadens and narrows its work in the future.  In five years, it would be great to see Open.Michigan as a part of every classroom and department at U of M so that our institution becomes a leader in producing and sharing open content.  Internally, it would be wonderful if Open.Michigan created a system by which dScribing was a part of every course, and externally it would be fantastic to see an outreach plan for various community organizations who could directly benefit from the sharing of specific information.  Because of the great people involved, it seems possible that Open.Michigan can push the boundaries of OER and continue to be a leader in the field.  Kudos to all involved – now and in the future!

Discussions on Innovation, Risk and Opportunity in Open Learning

Recently a New York Times article, “In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores,” was circulated and discussed on the School of Information’s open listserv. The email list is a conversation space for current faculty, staff and students as well as alumni (like me! and most of the other Open.Michigan team) and community members. It’s a space for smart and thoughtful folks to discuss and debate the trends, perspectives, opportunities and challenges we face as thoughtful information professionals.

In the course of the conversations about the article (that explores issues of technology use in the classroom and its potential impact, or not, on learning outcomes) some great questions were posed that brought up learning issues and opportunities we consider every day at Open.Michigan. The conversations in this thread represent the “fundamental tension between [the School of Information’s] love of new innovation and its parallel, long-standing belief that patrons deserve diverse perspectives” (Kristen Fontichiaro) and this thread specifically touched on issues of open learning and OER.

What follows are the highlights of the conversation (with permission from the authors) that provide some insight into the culture of openness at the University of Michigan and the perspectives and challenges of Open.Michigan.  I received a few requests to capture this conversation because of its salient points and what follows are full transcripts from some of the major contributors. I think this conversation is particularly significant considering recent conversations about the disruptive opportunity open learning can leverage in today’s networked and resource-constrained education system. Dr. Cable Green recently discussed some of these same issues in an ELI webinar.

Clinical Assistant Professor Kristen Fontichiaro initiated the larger open learning-themed conversation with some provoking questions specifically addressing the recent press and mainstream support Khan Academy has received:

  1. Can one person teach anything to everybody? Do we want a single instructional voice in public education? Is that the intent of public education in a democracy? And does it matter if that voice is for good or ill (I am thinking, on the extreme, of “single voice” curricula during Soviet times or in dictatorships)
  2. Should one foundation have the power to leverage national curriculum?My hunch is that both Gates and Khan are acting in goodwill with this funding.
  3. Do we feel differently if someone were crafting national curriculum materials who, perhaps, has a subjective political or social bias? or is just plain weak at fact-finding (Obama’s birth certificate)?
  4. How do we determine authority beyond popularity?

Dr. Charles Severance (Dr. Chuck) followed up with a great response and the rest of this post is the full transcript of the conversation Dr. Chuck and I shared on the SI open listserv.

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Interview with Paul Conway, Assoc. Professor of Information, School of Information

Opening up course content does not undermine the essence of teaching, which for me is the dynamic environment of the classroom. By releasing a syllabus and PowerPoint presentations, I still retain the creativity that comes from the engagement with the students in the classroom.

Over the past two years, we’ve had the pleasure of working with an outstanding faculty member from the School of Information. Dr. Paul Conway is an Associate Professor of Information who specializes in digitization of cultural heritage resources and digital libraries. Dr. Conway recently won the Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize for his undergraduate course, SI 410: Ethics and Information Technology. He is the first faculty member from the University of Michigan to publish all of his courses with Open.Michigan. His courses can be found (and adapted!) on his course page.

Dr. Conway recently sat down to chat with us about why he thinks publishing OER is important and how other faculty can do it.

Could you briefly describe your academic research and teaching responsibilities?

My research centers on quality in digitization processes and the role that quality plays in the use of digitized cultural heritage resources, particularly visual resources. I focus on the transformation of photographic images into digital formats. I am interested in how technical processes and representational processes influence the ways that end users find meaning in digital surrogates. One research focus is on the connection between building and using collections of digital photographs.  My other focus is on the implications of large-scale digitization of books and serials. My current research is exploring how to measure and validate the quality of digitization and HathiTrust digitized books.

I teach courses in the Archives and Records Management and the Preservation of Information specializations. My two courses in Open.Michigan on Digitization for Preservation and Preserving Sound and Motion focus on preservation. I teach a course on digital libraries and a course for undergraduates, Ethics and Information Technology, which is part of the new Informatics concentration. I’m very excited about teaching undergraduate students.

Why did you decide to make your courses available for sharing through Open Michigan?

I really respect the fundamental concept of Open.Michigan. Opening up the educational enterprise at a great university like the University of Michigan demonstrates to the world that we are proud of our teaching, that we know who we are and what we do. Making course content widely available also helps demystify learning in a university for those who may be confused about what we teach.

Opening up course content does not undermine the essence of teaching, which for me is the dynamic environment of the classroom. By releasing a syllabus and PowerPoint presentations, I still retain the creativity that comes from the engagement with the students in the classroom.

My other motivation stems from my experience over a decade ago on a research project that involved soliciting syllabi from faculty at six research universities so that we could assess the use of new and emerging digital resources in humanities courses. It turned out to be a very challenging research problem because of how protective many faculty are of their syllabi.  I thought if I had a chance to teach, I was not going to be as proprietary about my syllabi as many of the faculty I encountered when I was doing that research project in 1998. Open.Michigan provides an easy way to follow through on that commitment.

Why do you think it’s important to share your education resources, or for faculty to share their resources on something like Open Michigan?

Making course content available online helps students who are looking for classes decide whether the course is right for them.  And it makes my job easier in explaining the focus of a course to prospective students. There are fewer surprises on the first day of class. Releasing course content in the systematic way that Open.Michigan supports is a form of publication amenable to review and commentary. The license that goes with the content encourages reuse and adaptation, along with sharing the results of that adaptation openly.  If enough faculty release a critical mass of course content, then it becomes possible to learn from each other about how to structure a course on a given topic. I have had enough positive feedback from opening my courses that I am convinced about this potential benefit. I think the courses that I teach are, if not unique, at least uniquely crafted. I’d like to let others know.

What tips could you provide for faculty members interested in working with Open Michigan?

My first suggestion is that if you anticipate that you will be putting your course in Open.Michigan, factor the editorial process required to open your course into the design and construction of your presentations. I find I now do a better job of documenting the quotations and images I use in my presentations. I also think more about how my presentations will be read by people who are not in the classroom.

In terms of the use of images, specifically, I recommend using image content either that you own or that already carries a Creative Commons license.  The most time consuming part of opening my courses in Open.Michigan is swapping copyrighted images for similar content that is already open for re-use.

My final piece of advice is to do it; it won’t hurt you. Especially given the support that Open.Michigan provides through its dScribes, the process is painless. I found it very enjoyable to work with Open.Michigan staff and to see the final results, which are far more professionally presented than anything I would be able to do myself.

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