3 Roles of the Open Education Advocate

Open Education and Leadership

Open education (OE) advocates are often the first people to discuss OE at an institution. They set the tone for how OE will be explored at the institution, and they begin to gather followers who will continue to spread the message. OE advocates are leaders, project managers, organizers, colleagues, and supporters of one another. Before delving too far into this chapter, take a moment to watch this TED Talk by Derek Sivers called “How to Start a Movement.”

Video Credit: “How to Start a Movement” by Derek Sivers, TED is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

As you participate in the reading, ask yourself: “Am I being a good follower, or a lone nut?” “How can I make the message simple, to gather more followers?” “How does my leadership style encourage others to join my movement?”

The Complicated Role of the OE Advocate

The role of the OE Advocate is complicated, in that often the advocate is the first person to talk about OE at her institution. The advocate plays the role of teaching about OE and often intellectual property rights as well as advocating for the adaption and use of openly licensed materials. The advocate speaks to many stakeholders, and must incorporate OE into institutional goals as quickly as possible. It helps to tie OE to other projects and initiatives, so that OE isn’t “just another thing” that faculty, administrators, and students are bombarded with on a regular basis. Instead, integrate OE into other activities at the institution, and tie OE benchmarks into other activities in which constituents are engaging. Can OE be tied to development of online courses, regular assessment of textbooks, curriculum review, or perhaps accreditation work? Are there grant projects at the institution that might benefit from the inclusion of OE? The OE advocate, who can hopefully count on a team of fellows, should always be asking, “How can OE improve our success in this initiative? How does OE apply in this situation?”

Why Librarians Make Good OE Advocates

Librarians are helpful people, and most academics recognize the general goodness and support that librarians offer their students. Librarians are also a vital part of most institutional development, because they agree to serve in multiple capacities and interact with people across disciplines and professional roles. At most educational institutions, librarians are aware of major changes happening in most departments, and are working to support colleagues and students in the achievement of overall goals. For these reasons, librarians make excellent OE advocates. To be an academic librarian is to be a leader in instruction, a student advocate, a faculty advocate, and a generalist with the ability to specialize enough to serve the needs of the student or faculty member when needed. Librarians can help to locate and organize OER, but they can also navigate copyright concerns, advise on open licensing, and support instructional design around the use of open materials. Librarians are natural OE advocates, because they are most often trusted by the majority of people. When operating as the OE advocate, it is important that a librarian honor her role as trusted advisor and seek to maintain a a balance between OE zealot and educational enabler. The role of the advocate is to support the overall goals of exemplary learning experiences, and equity of access to education. As a librarian, you are particularly suited to this work because you have probably been doing it for your entire career.

Hopefully as you engage with this work, you will find the lessons and experiences related more of a reminder of the work that you have always done, more than a description of new skills. Another piece of advice, that is necessary for all OE advocates, is that no one else can tell you how to best address your constituents. We can, and will, provide some best practices in OE advocacy and leadership. However, every institution is different, so please continually ask yourself, “How will this work at my institution? What will my constituents think of this message?”



This page was written by Quill West for Library as Open Education Leader, it is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license and contains content from a variety of sources published under a variety of open licenses, including:


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Librarians as Open Education Advocates by Library As Open Education Leader Grant is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


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