Top 5 Articles about OER

by Erin Cassity and Rebecca Renirie

Happy New Year! As open educational resources (OERs) continue to gain traction in distance and online education, we chose to take a look at the top five recent articles covering these resources from a library perspective. This is an emerging topic, so we expect to see much more research exploring OERs in distance librarianship in 2018.

As a reminder, to view the entire bibliography the Research and Publications Committee has assembled so far (2014 to present), please visit our Zotero library.


Elliott, C., & Fabbro, E. (2015). The Open Library at AU (Athabasca University): Supporting open access and open educational resources. Open Praxis, 7(2), 133-140.

Librarians at Athabasca University (AU), an institution in Canada that focuses on online and distance education, describe how they developed a stand-alone open-content website called The Open Library. The article begins with an introduction on openness in higher education, including the use of open access materials, OERs, and the advent of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses). MOOC users in particular, who generally do not have a login to the institution hosting the course, would greatly benefit from a library website that is both easy to navigate and has resources accessible to them. The librarians would benefit from this arrangement as well, not only because of the cost savings of using open and free materials, but also in the opportunities to teach information literacy to users – to stress to both faculty and students the need to analyze and evaluate the resources they find.

To that end, librarians created a website distinct from the main library homepage featuring content that was exclusively open or free, and could be used by any user whether affiliated with AU or not. As the main library site was based on a modular display and tagging system, this Open Library site was able to exist as a sub-site of the main page that uses only that content tagged as “open” (the main website also contains the library’s licensed content). In addition, the website features not only open and free resources but tutorials instructing users in finding and using these materials. At the time this article was published the site was still being created, so it may look very different today; however, providing not only access to OERs but creating an entire website based around them shows the library’s dedication to helping its distance students succeed and reducing the cost of research materials.


  • The use of open and free resources helps not only students of an institution, but also anyone out there who would like to learn.
  • Use faculty suggestions for adding open and free content to a library’s suite of resources, to be sure it is aligned with course goals.
  • Beyond simply providing a list of resources for students to use, adequate description of those resources and other metadata is essential both for discoverability of the content and its evaluation by users.
  • Information literacy instruction matters with OERs, to help users find the resources they need and to understand what to look for in a quality source.

Miller, R., & Homol, L. (2016). Building an online curriculum based on OERs: The library’s role. Journal of Library and Information Services in Distance Learning, 10(3-4), 349-359.

This article discusses a project from University of Maryland University College (UMUC), in which librarians took part in a team process to embed OERs and library materials into the undergraduate curriculum. Continue reading

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Top 5 Articles About Creating Learning Objects

By Kim Wobick and Carrie Girton

With the start of a new school year, many of us are or will soon be creating and updating learning objects for our students. Whether you’re working on tutorials, infographics, or modules, these articles have great tips to get you started and help you create captivating and helpful learning objects.

To read more articles about learning objects, take a look at the citation list the Research and Publications committee has compiled.

To view the entire bibliography we have compiled, visit the DLS Zotero library.
Please note: this list contains items that have been published since the last DLS Bibliography. Our post from May 10, 2017 provides more detail and explanation of the new format.

Ferrance, C., & West, P. J. (2017). Standardizing and managing online tutorials for improved learning. In ACRL 2017 Proceedings (pp. 656–661). Baltimore, MD: ACRL. Retrieved from

This paper outlines the challenges faced by the George Mason University libraries to assess and organize the varied collection of library-created tutorials that had been produced over time, with the goal of unifying the look and feel of the tutorials as well as making them easier to locate by all users. This project was assisted by the creation of an Instructional Design Librarian position, as well as the Learning Technologies Lab, which provides the software and hardware needed to create tutorials in one central place.

A working group was formed to formally evaluate existing tutorials, organize the storage of these objects, and design a template that would be utilized for all future products. Tutorial content is also mapped to both the ACRL information literacy framework as well as the Mason instructional learning outcomes, assisting in forward planning for tutorial creation. It took three years for the goal of a unified bank of tutorials to be achieved, working through challenges such as web site redesign, negotiations for server space and equipment, and bureaucracy. The end result produced a bank of 120 uniformly branded tutorials which were more easily accessed by users.


  • Partnerships within both the library and the institution are important. Having buy-in and assistance from librarians, faculty, as well as the IT department is critical to achieving project goals.
  • Maintenance of storage and backup processes and spaces ensure that tutorials don’t get lost in the shuffle and are easily retrieved by creators for editing and revision when needed.
  • As with any major project, the ability to be flexible and patient with every aspect of the work is critical.

Continue reading

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Call For Nominations: Routledge Distance Learning Librarianship Conference Sponsorship Award!

Do you know or could you be the next recipient of the Routledge Distance Learning Librarianship Conference Sponsorship Award? If so, the ACRL DLS Awards Committee wants to hear from you!

This prestigious award, sponsored by the Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, honors an ACRL member who has made valuable contributions to the field of distance librarianship. The winner receives:

  • $1,200 to attend the 2018 ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, LA (June 21-26, 2018)
  • A commemorative plaque presented at an awards luncheon during ALA Annual.

The applicant should demonstrate achievement in one or more of the following areas:

  • Support for distance learning librarianship and library services, e.g., service to students and faculty, innovation, and/or leadership
  • Participation in the creation and/or implementation of distance library programs or services of exemplary quality
  • Successful collaboration with faculty in support of information literacy and/or other aspects of library instruction or services for distance students
  • Significant research, publication, and/or presentations in areas related to distance learning librarianship

Submissions are due by December 1, 2017. Self-nominations are welcome.

For more information about this award (including a list of previous winners) and the application form, please visit

Questions? Contact DLS Awards Committee Co-Chairs:
Rebecca Nowicki:
Cynthia Thomes:

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DLS Bibliography Top 5 Articles (2Q)

Betsy Williams and Andrea Hebert, DLS Bibliography Committee

Summer is here, and dreams of exotic destinations abound. Just in time for summer vacation, the DLS Research and Publications Committee offers you a sampling of articles focused on library services for those lucky students and faculty in far flung destinations.

Chan, K. P., Colvin, J. B., Vinyard, M., Leach, C., Naumann, M. A., & Stenis, P. (2015). Libraries across the sea: Using a virtual presence and skilled student assistants to serve students abroad. Journal of Library Administration, 55(4), 278–301.

The authors, all from Pepperdine University, describe their challenges and successes in supporting students studying at international campuses in Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Florence, Heidelberg, and Lausanne. Pepperdine’s international campuses each include a small library; however, the limited number of students (40-75 per semester) do not make it practical to staff the libraries with a full-time librarian. Instead, one study abroad student is hired at each campus to staff the library for five hours per week. The librarians developed a two-pronged approach to support their study abroad students: creating LibGuides specifically designed for the international programs and beefing up the training provided to the student workers.

The new LibGuides include only information that is relevant to the international programs and courses. Students can easily find cultural and academic information, and custom-built search boxes ensure students retrieve only what they can access, such as e-books. Partnering with Pepperdine’s International Programs office was key in creating accurate and tailored course guides.

The new training program for the student workers includes time devoted to customer service. Ongoing training and feedback from the student workers has helped them feel they are valued members of the library community and motivated them to exceed expectations. Continue reading

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Become the next DLS Leader. Get on the Ballot!

The Distance Learning Section (DLS) of ACRL is seeking:

  • Two candidates to run for Vice-Chair on the 2018 ballot, a three-year total commitment.
  • Two candidates to run for Secretary/Archivist Elect on the 2018 ballot, a two-year total commitment.
  • Two candidates to run for Member-at-Large on the 2018 ballot, a two-year total commitment.

See explanation of the responsibilities for each position.

This is a great opportunity to get more involved in DLS and make your mark as a leader in ACRL! (It also look really good on your resume or CV. Just sayin’)

All nominees must be current DLS members and have consented to their candidacy. Only two candidates may run for each office so if more than two candidates are nominated, the DLS Nominating Committee will select the two candidates to run on the Spring 2018 ballot. Elections will be conducted by ballot. All candidates will be notified of the election results via email by April 2018.

If you are interested in nominating yourself or someone else (with their permission, of course) please send a brief biography and statement of interest to the DLS Nominating Committee Chair, Stefanie Buck ( by August 1, 2017.

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