Meet the Open Texas Committee Members: Justin White (Program)
Name: Justin White
Preferred pronouns: he/his
Where do you work?
What do you do there?
Scholarly Communications Librarian
Where did you go to school?
University of South Florida, University of Nebraska Kearney, Saint Leo University.
Where is your hometown?
How did you get involved with the Open Texas Conference?
I have been active with TDL since moving into my current position and was in attendance at the first TDL OER Summit.
What was your first impression of Open Texas?
I attended some of the conference last year, but this will be my first time taking part.
What has surprised you most about working with Open Texas?
I’ve been surprised how wide reaching our volunteers are, including OER advocates outside of Texas and the US.
What do you find most challenging about coordinating the Open Texas Conference?
There are lots of OER regional conferences and events these days, especially in Spring. We really needed not only a way to stand out, but a way to push the conversation forward by selecting a theme that got at the root of issues around doing the day to day work of OER.
What do you wish other people knew about the Open Texas Conference?
Texas has a thriving OER community, being the home of Rice University’s OpenStax, and a growing cohort of Open Education Librarians and faculty advocates. There have been grant programs supporting OER in Texas for several years now, and they’re becoming more accessible to faculty members as the requirements are refined and expanded over time.
Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working on Open Texas?
My co-chair, Jim Ross-Nazzal, who is a faculty member at Houston Community College. I’ve greatly enjoyed getting to know him and his perspective on Open Education issues.
What would you say are some of your strongest beliefs about open education practices?
It’s extremely important to focus on the process of production and hosting of OER. The authoring process requires an incentive structure, proper compensation, and equitable practices to embody the values of opening up these resources in the first place. We also have to focus on the market forces driving the commercialization of educational resources and actively avoid this cooption. OER needs to be academically owned, operated, and hosted. Relying on commercial publishers will only reify the commercial issues that necessitated the creation of OER in the first place.
The interest in open education seems to be growing. Why do you think that is?
Primarily, the main focus of open education has always been cost of attendance to students. But I think the growth now is fueled by publishers engaging with OER, giving it “legitimacy” in the eyes of faculty. I’m not happy to come to that conclusion, but I think it explains the rise in interest at the rate it’s happening currently. COVID also forced many larger institutions into really engaging with online learning, something that only smaller institutions really had to grapple with doing at scale before. Universities are inherently conservative institutions and have interests in real estate that require a large on-campus presence. Really going all in on online learning has forced faculty to engage with virtual meetings, Learning Management Systems (LMS), and electronic resources in a way they just hadn’t had to do before. Much like accessibility, it was something they were able to avoid because “access” was there, somewhere. They might not know where, but it was up to the student to figure out. Now it was up to the faculty to be a part of providing that access.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about presenting or attending Open Texas?
Go for it.
What do you think will change about open education in five years?
More support staff will emerge, especially in libraries. Open Education has much more broad appeal than scholarly communications and its research focus. Every institution has to do instruction, and the libraries will see that as a way to demonstrate value, especially as the trend towards electronic resources continues.
What are your professional goals for the next five years?
To move into a department head position, focusing on institution-wide initiatives in open education and scholarly communications. Policies, grants, publishing infrastructure, and fun stuff like that.
What is your personal philosophy on open education?
Open Education is just a tool. The Creative Commons license, the material itself, the platforms it lives on, are all just tools to an end. We have to focus on the actual goals if we want to avoid cooption by commercial interests. Those should be academic control of the publishing process and a social justice focus based on the three areas of social justice: redistributive justice, recognitive justice, and representational justice (Lambert, 2018).