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From pilot to launch: A step-by-step approach to developing an OER program and OA journals

By Michele Gibney, University of the Pacific | Oct 23, 2018

OER Display at University of the Pacific

OER Display at the University of the Pacific



Open educational resources (OERs) are free and openly licensed educational materials that can be used for teaching, learning, research and other purposes. In 2017, University of the Pacific began an OER pilot program that offered faculty members an opportunity to review, adopt and create open materials during the summer.


Initially, the Technology in Education Committee (TEC) budgeted $25,000 for faculty grants. Ten faculty members were awarded grants in 2017, including one from humanities, one from social sciences, and eight from STEM fields. Over the summer, they attended a workshop led by staff from the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and University Libraries, participated in a Canvas course, and worked on their open education materials.


OER instructor feedback


The type of OER that each faculty member produced varied, but the projects included:


  • Authoring a brand-new textbook
  • Modifying a pre-existing open textbook to work within their pedagogical teaching style and course syllabus
  • Creating modular video lectures
  • Locating open versions of primary sources and creating open syllabi with embedded course assignments


To view short videos featuring a few of the faculty members who were involved in the pilot program talking about their experiences, please visit ot click on the image below. 


OER video


After the success of the pilot program, the experiment was repeated in summer 2018. During Open Education Week in March 2018, the library entrance hosted a display with a white board asking for student feedback on textbook costs, a “petting zoo” of open-education textbooks (with their first chapters lying open for display), and pop-up lectures by CTL andUniversity Libraries staff members. For more details about the display, visit University of the Pacific Open Education Week.


During the week, CTL/University Libraries staff passed out flyers to all faculty members that advertised the second round of grant funding. For the summer of 2018, TEC budgeted $35,000 for OER grants. The OER committee received 21 applications, and 15 faculty members were awarded grants, including one in education, four in social sciences and 10 in STEM fields.


There have been numerous studies on the value and benefits of OERs. The most recent came from a 2010–2016 large-scale study at the University of Georgia, which found that OERs led to significantly better grades. (Read more about the study, or if you’re interested in faculty adoption rates, check out the 2017 report from the Babson Survey Research Group.)


OER savings


In the 2017-2018 academic year, the savings in students’ textbook costs for the 10 pilot faculty members’ courses amounted to over $110,000. Considering the investment was only $25,000, this is a great return in only two semesters. These faculty members will continue using the OERs in subsequent iterations of the courses, and two of them have already converted additional courses to use OERs. As we continue to track the return on investment, we hope to see solid data beyond monetary savings on student academics, as the University of Georgia did in their recent study.


In addition to OER, Pacific has also started two brand-new open-access journals since launching an institutional repository in 2016. We use the bepress Digital Commons platform, which has built-in management tools for editors, peer reviewers and authors.


The first journal to launch was Backstage Pass, written and edited by students from the university’s Conservatory of Music.


Backstage Pass OA journal


Backstage Pass comes out of the Music Management Program, and one of the originating principles was to give students experience in writing about their chosen industry for a peer-reviewed journal. The first issue was published in spring 2018 with 20 articles that have since been globally downloaded 500 times (as of October 18, 2018).


OER map


The editorial staff has many wonderful ideas for the 2019 issue and plans to advance the journal with innovative submission formats, social media presence, and marketing tactics. The faculty advisor and I will also report out to the university community on this project in spring 2019 at an internal conference.


One of the best things about working with the students on this journal has been watching them blossom and take ownership of their work and the work of their authors. They are endlessly ready to discuss the journal, on top of their regular academic schedules and personal lives, and it has been a pleasure to work with them all the way from the design stage to publishing the first full issue.


The second open-access journal at Pacific is Pacific Journal of Health.


Pacific Journal of Health OA journal


This journal originated from faculty in the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Together, these two schools have programs and faculty at all three Pacific campuses: Stockton, San Francisco and Sacramento. While the journal is operated by University of the Pacific and hosted on its institutional repository, the editorial board is international, with members from the US, Brazil, France and Taiwan. Submissions are open worldwide and not restricted to Pacific faculty and students. Two articles were published at the end of summer 2018 and have been globally downloaded a total of 50 times (as of October 18, 2018).


Pacific Journal of Health is working to establish its name and promote submissions. Hosting a peer-reviewed international journal is a step toward showcasing Pacific’s research to the world.


Both of these journals have customized designs that were created by bepress designers with the editors’ input to demonstrate their unique branding and individual feel. They also have customized submission forms and back-end workflows for their peer review and editorial processes. Journal management was very easy to set up and organize with the bepress Digital Commons platform and dedicated support from bepress. And, of course, as open-access journals, they do not charge a fee to submit, publish, read or download articles.


Being involved with open access initiatives at University of the Pacific is very rewarding, and it is great to see the concrete effects of the scholarly work saving our students money and being accessed around the world. In the future, we hope not only to continue these efforts but to add more OER programming and open access journals.



Michele Gibney was a presenter at the Library Connect Webinar “Open science: from empowering people to employing platforms” where she spoke about the open education program and open access journals at the University of the Pacific. You can view the recorded webinar here.