Chapter 4 – Internationalizing the Curriculum: Area Studies Collections and Affordable Content Programs
Pamela Espinosa de los Monteros
by Pamela Espinosa de los Monteros, Ohio State University (bio)
The World Geography LibGuide initiative at the Ohio State University Libraries has brought together three trends in higher education: the emergence of Open Educational Resources (OERs) and affordable content initiatives, the demand for greater internationalization of academic curriculums, and the changing instructional role of the academic librarian. Each of these areas supports 21st-century education and curriculum, and is addressed by a significant body of scholarship.
The World Geography LibGuide initiative at the Ohio State University Libraries has brought together three trends in higher education: the emergence of Open Educational Resources (OERs) and affordable content initiatives, the demand for greater internationalization of academic curriculums, and the changing instructional role of the academic librarian.
The World Geography LibGuide initiative demonstrates the intersection of these trends in a single project. And perhaps more importantly, it reveals the challenges and limits of affordable content initiatives affiliated with the greater global OER movement, library subscription-based resources, and faculty-librarian collaborations.
This chapter aims to explain how these trends met in one unlikely initiative, and to describe the initiative’s educational, logistical, and technological pitfalls and successes. It also briefly discusses the philosophical and conceptual dissonance between the original aims of the OER movement and projects such as the World Geography LibGuide.
The Open Education Resources Movement
From the beginning, OERs have aimed to address inclusive and equitable access to knowledge. In July, 2002, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) convened a forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries. In its final declaration, the forum expressed its desire “to develop together a universal educational resource available for the whole of humanity” (UNESCO, 2002, p.28). The concept of OERs was born, and with it a new platform to improve access to knowledge across existing “digital, societal, and cultural” divides (D’Antoni, 2009, p.19). In the same year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) initiated a global OER movement by announcing that it would place its course catalog online. UNESCO saw OpenCourseWare, OERs, and the OER movement as a mechanism to harness the power and potential of online education and to bring knowledge, online tools, education, and expertise to students in less prosperous and more geographically isolated societies (Siemens, 2015).
The international scope and accompanying global ideology of OERs are intentional, and speak to UNESCO’s broader goal of promoting a society which shares rather than partitions access to existing knowledge and information (UNESCO, 2007). OERs were therefore envisioned as the sharing of resources and pedagogy “in all directions, not just north to south” (Johnstone, 2005, p.18).
UNESCO’s definition of OERs is simple: “Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone anywhere can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them” (“What are Open Educational Resources (OERs)?”, n.d). The emphasis on open resources is deliberate. Only open and shareable educational resources can circumvent the unequal distribution of library resources (i.e. journals and databases), computer access, professional development training opportunities, and internet penetration (UNESCO, 2002) that limit the educational opportunities of students at the local level. The Second World Congress on OERs continued to advance the “transformative potential” of OERs to meet the objective of providing “equal access to knowledge and educational opportunities” to worldwide educational systems (CERLAC-UNESCO, 2016, p.12). This includes promoting multilingualism in cyberspace by encouraging the production of OERs in different languages and for distinct cultural contexts (CERLAC-UNESCO, 2016, COL, 2017, p.16). It thus seems clear that, from the inception of OERs, UNESCO’s intellectual focus has been on access to global educational resources, and not solely on textbook affordability.
Internationalization of the Curriculum in Higher Education
For the past 30 years, the internationalization of higher education (IoHE) has been an important concept which espouses the value of post-secondary education (Polak & Marmolejo, 2017; Hudson & Hinman, 2017). IoHE is largely seen as a response to globalization and its transformative effect on many sectors outside of education (Egron-Polak & Marmolejo, 2017, p.8). Like OERs, IoHE has also aimed to address education pedagogy that will prepare students to live, work, and thrive in an increasingly integrated world. Higher education has responded in myriad ways, with one strategy being the internationalization of the curriculum (Dash, 2017).
There is no consensus on how to define the internationalization of the curriculum (Bordonaro, 2013), nor is there a universal approach to its implementation in post-secondary education (American Council on Education, 2017). The most accepted definition is that of Jane Knight (2004): “the process of integrating an international, intercultural, or global dimension into the purpose, functions, or delivery of postsecondary education” (p.6). Adaptations of this definition emphasize the “purposeful integration of an international and/or intercultural dimension into the content and form of the curriculum” (as cited in Larsen, 2016, p.99).
Traditional efforts in the internationalization of the curriculum include, but are not limited to, education abroad and service learning programs, the recruitment of and service to international students and scholars, areas studies and foreign language programs, and multi-disciplinary “global citizenship” initiatives and learning objectives (Aktas, Pitts, Richards, & Silova, 2017). Efforts in the internationalization of the curriculum attempt to reframe and decentralize knowledge traditions among students and scholars (Turnball, 1997) by including “international and comparative content” (Larsen, 2016, p.102). This type of curriculum is intended to make students “aware of their own and others’ cultures” (Dash, 2017, p.195).
Developing or adapting curriculum around internationalization is no easy task, and can present challenges parallel to those of creating interdisciplinary curriculum (Hudson & Hinman, 2017). Course content and learning objectives may require an update and/or a complete redesign in order to integrate relevant global and international perspectives (Hudson & Hinman, 2017). These pedagogical considerations parallel those of creating, remixing, or customizing an OER. Faculty seeking to internationalize their curriculum may therefore consider OERs or affordable content initiatives as complementary platforms for this end.
Faculty investing in the internationalization of the curriculum may simultaneously consider OERs and affordable content initiatives as a mechanism to capture their new curriculum. New curriculum that is inclusive of international scholarship and perspectives may also meet the broader goals of the global OER movement.
Librarian Engagement in Instruction
The changing education and information environment has brought with it an increased focus on teaching pedagogy, curriculum design, and the inclusion of new educational materials for online instruction (Cisse, 2016). These changes provide new opportunities for academic librarians to collaborate with teaching faculty to integrate information literacy curricula that address critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and effective use of information resources (Wickramanayake, 2014; Cisse, 2016).
Since its inception, the World Geography LibGuide project has provided an excellent testing ground for librarians, collaborating with highly motivated faculty members, to use their expertise and the potential of an affordable content initiative with OER ideology to effect real change in classroom instruction, information delivery, and curriculum alterations.
Today’s librarians are looking beyond their bibliographic duties, the physical limitation of the reference desk, and the time constraints of the “one-shot” instruction session to proactively embed their expertise in the classroom and reach students where they are (Kane & Summey, 2017). Librarians equipped with the Association of College and Research Libraries’ Framework for Information Literacy are redefining and stressing their teaching role (Cisse 2016; McAdoo, 2013). Information literacy instruction is focused on lifelong learning skills, workforce readiness, and global competitiveness in a knowledge economy (Cisse, 2016). These objectives closely align with the stated roles of the OER movement and the internationalization of the curriculum. OERs and affordable content initiatives thus provide an avenue for librarians to expand their foothold in course-integrated instruction by allowing them to work collaboratively with faculty in the design and creation of international curricula.
Since its inception, the World Geography LibGuide project has provided an excellent testing ground for librarians, collaborating with highly motivated faculty members, to use their expertise and the potential of an affordable content initiative with OER ideology to effect real change in classroom instruction, information delivery, and curriculum alterations. The project’s genesis and challenges, successes and failures provide an interesting and cautionary tale about the potential and constraints of affordable content initiatives.
The World Geography LibGuide Project
In 2016, the University Libraries at The Ohio State University partnered with the Office of Distance Education and eLearning (ODEE) and the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) to sponsor a textbook affordability grant of $1,000 for faculty interested in exploring the adoption of low- or no-cost course materials. Focused on affordability, the grant allowed professors to replace a textbook without creating original content, as similar grants often require. Faculty members could choose to create, adopt, or remix an existing OER, and/or use licensed and purchased content to replace a traditional textbook. That same year, a geography professor approached the area studies library department with the idea of creating a replacement textbook for an online undergraduate world geography course.
Inspired by his work directing the University’s Service-Learning Initiative, our geographer was looking to restructure his course curriculum in order to engage students with contemporary global issues. The course he conceived would cover thematic topics on globalization that demonstrated an interdependence on world communities through the lens of geography: geography and natural environment, people (demographics), economic development, culture and geopolitics. Each theme would be explored through multinational perspectives, and the professor was seeking to find regional experts at the university who could recommend and aggregate informational resources from distinct international vantage points. To accommodate his request, area studies librarians began work on the World Geography LibGuide.
Our aim for the guide was to include quality global information sources (free and licensed) suitable for an undergraduate world geography course, and to do so on a free and accessible online platform. Unlike other library guides, this interdisciplinary guide would be used as a textbook, and would unify the expertise of multiple librarians from different institutions for the purpose of introducing distinct world regions through an “egalitarian perspective on internationalization” (Starr-Glass, 2017, p.307). The guide would aggregate a variety of existing multimedia sources (video, maps, audio, text, and other digital content) on distinct world regions, sources available freely online or through the library’s collections. Critically, it would also aim to promote the global citizenship dispositions and competencies that were objectives of the course. The identification of global information became the responsibility of the area studies library department and its librarians.
LibGuide Team and Assigned Roles
Lacking in-house expertise for all of the geographical regions required for the project, we decided to seek talent beyond our institution, and extended invitations to area studies librarians from Ohio University and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to collaborate and complement the regional expertise available at The Ohio State University. Invitations were sent to area studies library department heads and individual librarians, requesting their participation in the project.
In the end, ten area studies librarians generously donated their time and expertise and worked together to aggregate informational resources from distinct regional perspectives to cover the course’s thematic areas. The librarians each brought expertise in the foreign languages, history, and literatures of large geographic areas. Their genuine interest in supporting accurate representation of world regions in undergraduate curriculum helped Ohio State overcome its uneven coverage of area studies.
The project provided a unique opportunity for these librarians to collaborate on the design of an educational resource for a general undergraduate audience that could bypass the linguistic and cultural contexts often required to engage with their international collections.
The project provided a unique opportunity for these librarians to collaborate on the design of an educational resource for a general undergraduate audience that could bypass the linguistic and cultural contexts often required to engage with their international collections. Traditionally, the primary users of area studies collections have been scholars, regional experts, and graduate students proficient in the language(s) of the region. Without mediation, engagement with these collections can be hindered by cross-cultural and linguistic barriers, similar to those confronted in other international educational programs, such as foreign language courses and study abroad. To mitigate these challenges, librarians would select introductory resources that would demonstrate the distinctiveness of place and region while also being accessible to English speakers. Additionally, the geography librarian and GIS specialist would select other relevant and discipline-specific resources.
The project’s geography professor envisioned using a geobased platform that would connect text and multimedia content with its associated geobased region. Unfortunately, a GIS platform capable of integrating multimedia content was not available. The team instead proposed a multi-page LibGuide to serve as the resource’s platform. A LibGuide content management system offered several advantages: our librarians knew the tool; it provides custom templates that librarians can design, duplicate, and edit; it supports multimedia and allows librarians to integrate library and non-library content in one platform; and, significantly, it was already integrated with the University’s course management system.
Coordinating the variety of potential sources for the LibGuide was a challenge. Two librarians served as co-leaders in the effort, working in tandem with the instructor to design a template to reflect the course’s thematic structure. These consultations helped define the guide’s geographical and topical coverage, and covered both the required and supplementary sections of the regional page template. Librarians were initially supplied with a general overview of course goals, a framework for the course structure, and access to previous World Geography textbooks; the LibGuide and course syllabus were then developed simultaneously. Based on feedback from the instructor, the librarian team concentrated on designing a regional page template that provided uniformity among the pages.
Upon the completion of the regional pages, the project co-leaders spent significant time editing each page for consistency, checking links, and adding additional content when needed. Additional support on licensing, access, and overall design issues came from the Libraries’ Teaching & Learning Department, the Copyright Resources Center, and the electronic resource officer. The project took a year from start to finish, and the guide continues to be maintained and updated by the project managers.
Challenges Confronted by Librarians
Work on the LibGuide presented many challenges, parallel to those encountered by Miller and Homol (2017) at the University of Maryland University College. These centered on issues of access, limit to digital/online resources, cross-institutional collaboration, resource selection, and the relationship between librarians and the course instructor. The need to provide multiple students with simultaneous access to library-licensed content, for instance, required additional resources unanticipated by the project team. The majority of electronic resources in the Ohio State library collection had been purchased with a non-concurrent single user license, anticipating use by individual researchers rather than students in a course. Licensing agreements for existing electronic resources were not accessible to area studies librarians through the library catalog or the libraries’ content management system. To review and alter existing license agreements, the team relied on an electronic resources librarian to check user limits for selected resources and upgrade licenses when required. Librarians also found limits on the type of international sources students could access online. Format restriction tended to limit the availability of quality resources in specific regions where e-formats are not common.
Non-Ohio State area studies librarians faced their own challenges. A logistical glitch left them without online access to Ohio State library collections, preventing them from reviewing all available content. To overcome this, they suggested resources available through their own institutional collections and/or international resources for which reviews were available online.
This project greatly extended the librarians’ professional reach, allowing them to move away from their traditional role of suggesting sources to actually selecting sources and directing users to them.
Issues of scope and coverage also plagued the project. Librarians struggled with selecting resources that comprehensively addressed the global topics proposed by the professor. Area studies collections mirror the subjects most commonly taught at a university. To overcome these challenges, the librarians relinquished comprehensive coverage and settled for regional boundaries centered on available collections and professional expertise.
This project greatly extended the librarians’ professional reach, allowing them to move away from their traditional role of suggesting sources to actually selecting sources and directing users to them. In the end, many librarians embraced the opportunity to embed a regional perspective into a project and to play a greater role in the learning process. Others, however, felt uncomfortable with the responsibility of selecting specific sources.
The push for OERs and affordable content initiatives in higher education continues unabated. In the spring of 2018, the federal government approved a $5 million pilot program to support OERs through the U.S. Department of Education (Liberman, 2018). This new program, like other OER and affordable content initiatives, provides an opportunity to meet the broader goals of the global OER movement, addressing affordability and knowledge equity disparities in existing education resources. New curricula that are inclusive of international scholarship and perspectives meet the broader goals of the global OER movement.
This chapter explains one initiative in which faculty, librarians, and area studies experts collaborated to replace a textbook, building a LibGuide that included curricula addressing global topics and perspectives. The road to creation of this resource, like the road to the development of international curricula, was fraught with challenges. The lessons learned are valuable, and should assist those embarking on similar projects.
The first iteration of the World Geography LibGuide received 2,069 views in its first semester of use. It was used by 115 students, resulting in an average cost savings of $140 per student. Together, 10 area studies librarians and three subject librarians aggregated 398 information sources for the LibGuide, including licensed and free ebooks, journal articles, videos, websites, and maps. The geographer was able to use the libraries’ rich international studies collection to meet the objectives of the textbook affordability grant and the goal of internationalizing the curriculum. The success of the librarian-faculty partnership has also led to new opportunities for participating librarians to collaborate in the classroom. The Ohio State World Geography LibGuide project provides a replicable model for faculty and librarians seeking to support OER and affordable content initiatives as well as the internationalization of the curriculum.
The emergence of an OER and/or affordable content effort in higher education institutions challenges faculty to navigate issues that may fall outside their discipline expertise or typical academic publication workflows, including publication conventions for educational materials, program management, copyright law (beyond fair use), and instructional design, among others. These issues may quickly overwhelm faculty, making them less likely to explore OERs and affordable content initiatives.
Faculty seeking to internationalize their curricula may look to identify regional experts who can help find appropriate global information sources. To overcome existing knowledge gaps, faculty may seek partners to help create, publicize, and disseminate a self-developed educational resource. In doing so, they may find strong allies and partners in area studies librarians and collections.
With their early promise to increase inter-global collaboration, OERs offer faculty an opportunity to design and customize curriculum that can equitably represent the world’s knowledge. Quality international information resources available online or through a library’s existing area studies collections offer faculty tools to internationalize their curricula.
Higher education’s concern with educational cost—in particular, with the rising cost of textbooks—often drives the support and implementation of OER and affordable content initiatives, where the aim is in “reducing costs and ensuring access to required course content” (Salem Jr., 2017, pp. 34-35) for existing and future matriculated students. As a result, these efforts have expanded to include affordable content efforts that utilize copyrighted content, instead of openly licensed materials. Resources created as part of an affordable content program may limit use of these materials beyond the university, but expand affordable options to subject areas where quality OERs are not available. These programs, while promoting the affordability of higher education, omit the global objectives of the greater OER movement in terms of knowledge equity, and may deny professors the opportunity to enhance their curricula with twenty-first century learning goals like global citizenship. The World Geography LibGuide, although not an OER resource, is a successful affordable content project that attempts to align with the broader objectives of the global OER movement, and provides another model for people working on these efforts to consider.
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Pamela Espinosa de los Monteros is Assistant Professor and Latin American Studies Librarian at The Ohio State University. Pamela’s duties include advancing understanding of the global information environment, and exploring strategies for supporting co-curricular centers and initiatives on campus. She was the recipient of a Fulbright Garcia Robles Binational Business Fellowship to Mexico City, Mexico (2010-2011), a program initiated after the signing of NAFTA to promote binational business relations between Mexico and the United States. She holds an M.S. in Library and Information Science from Syracuse University and a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Humanities from the University of San Diego.
- See UNESCO (2009) Open Educational Resources: Conversations in Cyberspace; Hans de Wit, Jocelyne Gacel-Ávila, Elspeth Jones and Nico Jooste (Eds.), The Globalization of Internationalization: Emerging Voices and Perspectives; Monty L. McAddo (2012) Fundamentals of library instruction ↵
- The World Regional Geography can be found here: http://guides.osu.edu/c.php?g=463881. ↵
- For more information on the criteria for the Textbook Affordability Grant, refer to https://library.osu.edu/projects-initiatives/affordability/textbook-affordability-grant-2/ ↵
- The author would like to thank Araba Dawson-Andoh, Jeffrey Ferrier, Mara L. Thacker, José O. Díaz, Guoqing Li, Ann Marie Davis, Joseph Galron, Johanna Sellman, Miroljub Ruzic, Amy Hwang, David Lincove, Danny Dotson, Joshua Sadvari, Robyn Ness, and Anita Foster for their assistance developing the World Geography LibGuide. ↵
- Each course in the institution’s learning management system has a “library link” which connects students to a LibGuide specified by the designated liaison librarian. ↵
- The template included five main boxes of content including: introduction to the page and representing collection; resource arranged by topical subject; English news resource; regional map; international events available in the local area; and two cultural multimedia resources on language and music. ↵
- For many area studies collections, print continues to be an important publication format. As an example, in 2016 only 23% of new Iberoamerica publications are available as an ebook (CERLAC, 2016, p.8). ↵