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Focus On: Casarina Hocevar

Focus On: Casarina Hocevar

October 22, 2017

Highlighting research by members of the Canadian library and information management community.

Master of Museum Studies (MMSt) Student, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto

What is your research topic?

My research topic had a twofold interest. Firstly, looking at the broad practice of Open Educational Resources (OERs) globally and more specifically, in Canadian post-secondary institutions. Who is using them, to what degree, what are the most popular type of OERs (generally, open textbooks), how are they facilitated and what are students’ and educators’ responses to OERs? The second component was assessing how these practices might fit into McGill University’s own classrooms, libraries, and educational goals. What would be the benefits of using OERs at McGill? The limitations? Which courses or disciplines would OERs and open textbooks be most useful for? How do students and instructors utilize OERs? And how can the administration, instructors and students alike support OERs on campus?

What interested you in that topic?

When I first started the project in September 2016 I had limited knowledge on OERs. What really drew me in however, was the social justice and accessibility issues behind the costs of textbooks and how OERs can provide more accessible educational. Many students already struggle to balance their budgets during the school year, so adding on textbooks that may cost well over $50, sometimes up to $250, per class, can be daunting. Some students take legal or financial risks to skip out on buying their material, while others will go without it completely in order to still partake in a course…as a result students are suffering. OERs on the other hand, allows textbooks to be freely available in digital formats, and at a low cost when printed. So throughout the project, I was not only interested in how OERs are a new pedagogical tool on the rise, but also how they can serve to support diverse student needs like minimizing financial woes, or providing course material in a multimedia format which students can access easier while on the go (e.g. on their smart phones, laptops, etc.).

What impact would you like to see your research have on LIS practitioners?

This is a tougher question for me to answer. While my project was part of the McGill Libraries and Archives, I was working as an Arts student on behalf of our student union – therefore, I only had a small glimpse into the world of LIS! Yet, from what I learned throughout the course of my work was much of the Open Culture and OER movement was growing in libraries on university campuses before anywhere else. I would like to see McGill’s Library to partake in that lead of course, especially since I focused specifically on the McGill context. Moreover, though, I think my research attempts to illustrate how the transition to, and use of, OERs excels when practiced in a collaborative, holistic effort. When campus libraries are able to reach out to students, professors and administrators, there seems to be a greater interest in learning and utilizing OERs. Likewise, I hope some admins and instructors take a look at these type of resources and think, I wonder how my library can help facilitate in bringing these to the classroom. My report gives various examples of how different sectors of a university may reach out and expand its support for OER development.

What emerging topics do you foresee in the future of LIS research?

While the concept of OERs has been around since the late 90s/early 2000s, much of its research is still fairly new. I think the interest in OERs is truly just beginning and that the library and information community will have a great impact in pushing for its development on campuses. Libraries are central in helping students navigate resources for classes, and in turn have insight on how students do so. Therefore, perhaps (if not currently!) future LIS research will be interested in comparing students behaviour between conventional texts, online material and OERs, and how that information can be integrated into continuing successful librarian and educational practices on campus.

What advice would you give to LIS students or practitioners hoping to engage in research?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! As mentioned previously, LIS isn’t my discipline, and this was my first project within the community, so naturally, I had a lot of questions. But my supervisor provided me with an endless amount of support, feedback, and resources. She also encouraged me to talk to others in (and out of-) the field to get insight throughout each stage of my report. Having people to bounce ideas off of and talk through the material can help with keeping motivated in tough spots, organizing ideas, or pushing you into the right direction.

Select Bibliography

Hocevar, C. (April 28, 2017). Challenges and opportunities: Open educational resources (OERs) at McGill University.

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