Rebecca Morris, ICDS Faculty, Earns Nancy Tannery Grant for Open Educational Resources 2024

July 2, 2024

At Pitt, helping students achieve academic success in an accessible and cost-effective way is a priority. The Nancy Tannery Grant for Open Educational Resources does just that by funding faculty projects that adopt open educational resources (OER) in their curriculum. Rebecca Morris, a teaching associate professor in the Department of Information Culture and Data Stewardship, has received the Nancy Tannery Grant for OER 2024 for her project “Connect and Reflect: Contextualizing Experiential Learning in Libraries and Information Environments.” Morris’s project will develop and incorporate course materials to help students in the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program build their expertise, enhance their skills, and develop career readiness. 

Q: Tell me about “Connect and Reflect: Contextualizing Experiential Learning in Libraries and Information Environments” and its goals for both teaching and learning. 

A: Thank you for the opportunity to talk about this project! OER are materials like learning modules, slides, exercises, videos, or other content created for sharing and usually for adapting, depending on the creator’s preference for a license for use.  

Although I’m in the early phases of this project, I’m working to build some student engagement activities like problem- and case-based learning; role-play and storytelling exercises; discussion based on protocols for equitable dialog and oriented toward types of talk; and professional reflections. 

The goals that I wrote for the project aim to align experiential learning opportunities and student outcomes more deeply and with more criticality with Pitt Goals for MLIS Graduates, for instance, “select, plan, implement, and apply information technologies, tools, and methods using creative, people-centered, and ethical practices” and accrediting body American Library Association’s (ALA) Core Competences of Librarianship, for example, “practice cultural humility while planning, offering, and evaluating library reference and user services.” 

Q: How will “Connect and Reflect” impact MLIS students’ learning in experiential courses such as the field experience? 
I have observed students’ excitement about stepping into real spaces that reflect their chosen career paths, surprises in their observations of theory into practice, and more than a few realizations about realities about the information professions. 

I have also noticed a need for resources and learning activities that situate the students’ learning in professional competencies and expectations, help them to interpret tasks and interactions on the job, and engage in intentional self-reflection. This OER aims to provide a supportive scaffold for guiding students through their field experiences, documenting their growth, and synthesizing their learning in preparation for job seeking and interviewing. 

In my faculty role, I also support the development of curriculum for the School Library Certification Program (SLCP), an elective specialization for students seeking teaching certification as school librarians. Recent mandates from the Pennsylvania Department of Education require school librarian candidates (as participants in an educator preparation program) to fulfill competencies in the area of Culturally-Relevant and Sustaining Education. So, in accordance with these guidelines, one of the modules will incorporate competencies in Culturally-Relevant and Sustaining Education not addressed in existing courses. The availability of this module for students in the practicum and the field experience reflects the “mix and match” nature of these OER resources. Although these resources are designed for library and information science applications, they may also be useful for experiential learning settings in other service professions. 

Q: What does the Nancy Tannery Grant for OER mean to you and your work as an educator? 

A: I was curious to apply for this grant because I use OER in my courses and because I also noticed a need for materials to support instruction in the MLIS field experience course. I’m really energized by the chance to build cohesive learning opportunities and curate materials for students participating in different field experiences. The project resources will help situate observations, provide context for tasks and projects, and introduce or refresh theory into observations and skill development in professional settings. The students will still leverage the rich observations and practice they’re getting in their field placements in areas like principles of management, information organization, information services and access, and information technologies, but with some additional opportunities to ground their learning and connect to one another. 

Q: What are you most looking forward to in implementing “Connect and Reflect?” 
I really like preparing and developing teaching materials as a regular part of my job, and the best part is always getting it out there for the first time for students to engage with and offer feedback.  

One anticipated outcome is that students will continue to use course materials that don’t require a textbook– as they do now in the field experience– but they’ll also have an opportunity to contribute course materials that they develop, such as reflections, mini-cases, and perhaps guidebooks and other resources for future students. This process will make the learning more student-centered, dynamic, and responsive to the evolving fields of librarianship, archives, and the information professions. 

Join us in congratulating Dr. Morris! 

Learn more about the Nancy Tannery Grant for OER

--Alyssa Morales