FHSU’s Nickerson selected as SPARC Open Education Leadership fellow

FHSU Media Relations

Fort Hays State University’s Claire Nickerson has been selected as a fellow in the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) Open Education Leadership Program.

Nickerson, Learning Initiatives and Open Educational Resources Librarian at Forsyth Library, is one of only 21 fellows selected from a competitive applicant pool for the program’s 2020-2021 cohort. This intensive professional development program is designed to empower academic professionals with the knowledge, skills and community connections to lead successful open education initiatives that benefit students.

SPARC is an international organization of professionals around the globe who focus on policies and practices that support open education, open access to research, and open data sharing.

“The SPARC fellowship is a significant and well-deserved honor reflective of Ms. Nickerson’s professional knowledge and expertise,” said Deborah Ludwig, library dean.

The leadership program spans two semesters, beginning with an intensive online course in the fall to build open education subject matter mastery. In the spring, Nickerson will work with a mentor to implement a capstone project that will help advance open education at Fort Hays State and contribute to the broader open education field.

“I am very excited about the program,” Nickerson said. “It provides the opportunity to become a stronger advocate for open education both at Fort Hays State and in Kansas, and I am enjoying being immersed in a community of other professionals passionate about OER (Open Educational Resources).”

Nickerson is currently the chair of the FHSU OER Committee and is also serving on the statewide OER Steering Committee made up of representatives across Kansas public institutions. The group convenes once a month to discuss statewide initiatives, including collaborative events, grant applications, system participation in regional and national OER organizations, OER platforms and best practices.

Delivering an affordable and accessible education has long been a focus of FHSU. The campus OER committee, in conjunction with Forsyth Library, hosted a mini-conference in fall 2018 and in spring 2019 to support faculty interested in creating, adapting or adding supplementary materials to an open textbook. Another mini-conference is being planned for spring 2021.

In addition to supporting faculty with advanced professional development opportunities, the Open Textbook Grant Program provides funding opportunities for faculty to create openly licensed supplementary materials, revise existing open textbooks or write new open textbooks.

Additionally, the Z-Course program launched a grant this year, designed to support the conversion of courses that currently use paid course materials into Z-courses (courses that use zero-cost course materials). The program also provides an opportunity to recognize departments that have embraced zero-cost course materials in their curriculum.

“The COVID-19 crisis has brought deeper scrutiny to many of the inequities that already exist within higher education, and open education is a key enabling strategy to help level the playing field,” said Nicole Allen, director of Open Education for SPARC.