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Open Educational Resources (OER): Faculty Experiences

This guide provides information on what OERs are and where you can find them.

York
ENGL 101: English Composition I
ENGL 102: English Composition II


What specific OER are you currently using?

I use contemporary articles (long-form journalism) and academic literature.

Why did you decide to make the switch to OER?

I tell students that I can teach good writing using materials that are freely available or created by me. Improving writing is not about the materials with which students engage; rather, their improvement as writers is rooted in their relationship with their fellow writers and with me. The magic isn’t in a book; it’s in our work together.

Describe other strategies you have used to minimize the cost of materials for students?

When I do teach with texts, I select work that is available in a variety of formats (digital, audio, soft cover) to ensure students have flexible options. I work with the bookstore to check materials costs; sometimes some books are more expensive because of publisher issues or – more recently – paper shortages. I have options when choosing materials, so one main driver of the decision is student cost.

Are you using OER as your primary text or as supplemental materials?

I use only freely-available materials in ENGL 101 and 102.

Where do you find quality OER?

My situation is a bit unique because I can teach writing in a variety of ways; no one owns the market on our pedagogical materials.

How did you evaluate the OER you selected?

I evaluate materials in the context of the course and lesson objectives. What pieces best demonstrate the concept I want students to learn?

Were there any challenges to using OER, as compared to traditionally published materials?

It takes much more time, in my situation, given that I curate my own materials. But it’s worth it to me to save students money and to tailor my approach.

What is your students’ feedback on the OER you have used?

Students are grateful to avoid book costs, and I provide explanation and context for my decision, so I have heard no complaints.

What differences have you noticed in student learning, grades, or engagement when you used OER?

I make a deal with students: I don’t require a book, so please commit to doing the reading that I provide. Students come in having read nearly everything, which is much different from when I used a text. My materials are much more relevant to students’ lives than what often appears in a textbook. For example, just today my students engaged in spirited discussion about research related to the impact of a specific technology (cell phones) on young people. The material is directly relevant to their own lives and provides insights into matters related to our work in ENGL 102.

What advice do you have for colleagues who are interested in implementing OER in their teaching?

I suggest first thinking about the role of the textbook in your class. Why do you assign reading? What purpose does it serve, specifically? From there, decide what you mean by “OER.” Do you want a textbook curated by someone else, or would you rather pull materials from a variety of sources on your own?

My best advice is to think critically about realistically about what you want students to gain from the textbook, and let that drive the process. Further, assess whether or not students are actually reading: Poll your strongest students and ask how they’re engaging with the text. If our best students aren’t reading, no one is.

York
BIOL 121: Anatomy and Physiology I

(blended with iOS and Face to Face Sections)


What specific OER are you currently using?

Two multi-touch digital textbooks (iBooks) that I wrote and illustrated – A-Plus Anatomy: The Life of a Cell ($3.99) and Mobile Learning Projects in the iOS Classroom (Free). Both books are available for purchase/download on Apple Books. The Life of a Cell, the first book in my A-Plus Anatomy series, covers the first unit of the BIOL 121 course.

Why did you decide to make the switch to OER?

Students have become increasingly unsatisfied with the required textbooks. The texts are over-priced and more challenging than necessary for a beginning pre-clinical student. The publisher’s digital resources usually require another purchase and additional log-in to another LMS, and they are often not well-matched to the text. I’ve always wanted to write and illustrate my own textbooks, and Apple’s book creation tools (iBooks Author, Pages, Keynote) make it easier than ever to write and publish interactive multi-touch textbooks (iBooks). I teach a section of A&P I that is 1:1 Blended with iPads/iPhones and writing a multi-touch textbook specific to the needs of my students was the next logical step.

Describe other strategies you have used to minimize the cost of materials for students?

I allow students to use older editions of the required textbooks and post a variety of free, interactive digital resources that I have created on my website at http://robswatski.virb.com/.

Are you using OER as your primary text or as supplemental materials?

Currently as optional supplements to the required textbook.

Where do you find quality OER?

Apple Books

How did you evaluate the OER you selected?

The two books that I use in my courses are ones that I wrote and illustrated specifically to the needs of my students based on my experiences teaching anatomy and physiology for over 20 years.

Were there any challenges to using OER, as compared to traditionally published materials?

No, I’ve had no trouble incorporating my books into my online course on iTunes U (Apple’s learning management system for higher ed), where I can easily link the course sections to the book’s chapters. The only issue is for students who like print textbooks. When you print a multitouch textbook, you lose all of the interactive features.

What is your students’ feedback on the OER you have used?

Their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Besides the inexpensive $3.99 price, they like the interactive diagrams, simpler illustrations, end-of-chapter review quizzes, and glossary. I am currently collecting their feedback in a formal evaluation since I have only used my text for one full semester so far (Spring 2019).

What differences have you noticed in student learning, grades, or engagement when you used OER?

I am still in the early phases of using my OER texts, but have observed an improvement in grades and engagement in the first unit of the Blended with iOS course. Students have told me how much the book has helped them understand the concepts and they really enjoyed the interactive study features.

What advice do you have for colleagues who are interested in implementing OER in their teaching?

I would recommend that they start small and explore the available free/low-cost OER texts published on sites such as Apple Books, OpenStax, etc. and offer one of them to their students as an optional supplement. They can then collect student feedback on their students’ experiences with the book and see for themselves whether OER has a place in their course.

 

Virtual Learning
ASTR 103: Introduction to Planetary Astronomy
ASTR 104: Introduction to Stellar Astronomy
PHSC 113: Introduction to Physical Science

 

What specific OER are you currently using?

For ASTR 103 & ASTR 104, I am using the OpenStax Astronomy textbook. This started with the ASTR 103 class in the Fall of 2018 and I will make the official switch to OpenStax for ASTR 104 in the summer of 2019. In addition, for many of the labs, I use the Nebraska Astronomy Applet Project simulations which are OER. These allow the students to learn astronomy through simulations using their own computers. I have also used the PhET simulations from the University of Colorado at Boulder which are licensed under the CC-BY license. To supplement the OpenStax textbook, I have created over 100 videos to supplement the class. All of these are available on YouTube under the CC-BY license so that other instructors can use and modify them as they see fit for their classes.

Why did you decide to make the switch to OER?

One thing that was an important reason was the extremely high cost of the textbooks used for the class. Most of the students taking my classes are getting their science credit out of the way and are not intending to study astronomy or science. Now, my astronomy classes have no-cost options for their classes and can, if they like, complete either ASTR 103 or ASTR 104 with no textbook costs. Since the quality of the materials is as good or better than publisher resources, I had no difficulty switching to the OER resources.

Describe other strategies you have used to minimize the cost of materials for students?

I have worked to keep all material costs to a minimum. Being able to find quality, OER materials for my lab simulations for Virtual classes has been a big help. Previously, we used a simulator which was $30 for a one-year license. Many of the OER resources can provide as good as an experience for the students at no cost.

Are you using OER as your primary text or as supplemental materials?

The OER materials that I use are the primary materials that I use for my astronomy classes.

Where do you find quality OER?

I have found these through a number of different places. Some I have created myself and released under a CC-BY license. Others, I have found through the OER Commons where such resources are shared between other faculty and OER users. I have also found others through various internet searches and by word of mouth from fellow faculty already using those resources.

How did you evaluate the OER you selected?

I reviewed the textbook carefully. In building my own lecture slides for it, I had to look through it in detail and in reviewing the test bank created by another faculty member, I had to look through the textbook again. I found it to be comparable in quality to publisher textbooks and, while it has some shortcomings, so does every textbook I have ever used! The OER used for lab exercise are evaluated by my working through the exercises myself to see how applicable they are to the learning outcomes for my class and how I want to teach the material. Some of the simulations work well for this as is, so need some modification to questions and example and others simply do not work for what I want. Like any other materials, it does require my going through them carefully to make sure that they are quality materials I want to use in my classes.

Were there any challenges to using OER, as compared to traditionally published materials?

Probably the biggest challenge is that resources that we traditionally expect from the publisher are not always present. This can include things like testbanks and lecture slides. I find that having to make my own lecture slide, while time consuming, make the class more personal because they come directly from me. If I create the exam questions myself, they better fit with what I expect from the students than a publisher supplied testbank.

What is your students’ feedback on the OER you have used?

I have had no negative feedback from students. A number have appreciated the availability to access the textbook online at no cost.

What differences have you noticed in student learning, grades, or engagement when you used OER?

Overall, I have not really seen a significant difference in the classes. The student grades are roughly the same as with previous classes that did not use OER or did so to a much lesser extent. I do know that I have not received the emails from students about not having the textbook or not being able to purchase it until several weeks into the class. This has allowed all students to be able to start the class on a level playing field since they have access to all resources needed for the class from day 1!

What advice do you have for colleagues who are interested in implementing OER in their teaching?

I would recommend starting out small – you can implement an OER textbook as an additional resource instead of the main textbook at first. I added it as an option before I switched to the textbook formally. The difficulty was that the course and the textbook were not completely aligned in terms of content and students had to jump around the various chapters (I provided a map to connect the content in the OER book to what would be covered in the publisher’s textbook.) However, it did give me a look at the OER textbook and how it could be implemented in my class. I took about 2 years to complete all of the materials that I wanted for my classes, but I feel it was well worth it! The best thing is that you do not have to do it all at once. OER can be implemented a bit at a time and slowly replace publisher resources. There are a great number of OER resources out there that can be used as a supplement even if you are still using a traditional textbook. I have found that using the OER resources gives me more freedom in my classes since I am not tied to resources from a particular publisher and do not feel the need to use publisher resources that the students have paid for.

Any additional comments:

I think that the adoption of OER resources is something that should be considered strongly. There are a number of ways to implement these a bit at a time, so it does not have to be a major change that occurs all at once. There are many high quality OER resources available and they are independent of the publisher so they can still be used even if you are using different publisher textbooks or if you change a textbook. Most of the OER resources are created by fellow faculty members so they are as good as any publisher resources. Plus, as OER resources, they can generally be modified as you see fit to work in your class. 

Virtual Learning
ENGL102: English Composition II
ENGL 207: Introduction to Literature

 

 

What specific OER are you currently using?

I use scholastic online content, creative commons content, and Films on Demand.

Why did you decide to make the switch to OER?

I wanted my online classes to run without a textbook.  This would save students textbook costs and ensure all students had access to the material I was assigning in class.  So far, I have accomplished that in two of my four online classes.

Are you using OER as your primary text or as supplemental materials?

Primary text and supplemental materials.

Where do you find quality OER?

Other educational institution content (like the Purdue Writing Lab), HACC library databases, Films on Demand, Google Books, Creative Commons, and appropriate YouTube Videos

How did you evaluate the OER you selected?

I had used textbooks previously, so I evaluated all content to ensure scholastic accuracy and appropriateness for the weekly learning objectives.

Were there any challenges to using OER, as compared to traditionally published materials?

The biggest challenge was the time it took to find the content, evaluate the content, and then revise the content modules within my online classes.  The initial work for these revisions was substantial.  Updating the course each semester is still time consuming, but it is not nearly as challenging as the initial revision.

What is your students’ feedback on the OER you have used?

I have had various students thank me for not using a textbook.  High textbook costs truly are a barrier to success for some of our students.

What differences have you noticed in student learning, grades, or engagement when you used OER?

I am still monitoring this.  However, at this point, I have noticed no change, positive or negative, in student performance so far. 

What advice do you have for colleagues who are interested in implementing OER in their teaching?

I encourage faculty to do what they deem best for their classes. OER implementation is likely “easier” for some classes vs. others.   However, I would encourage faculty to consider the opportunity since high textbook costs can be a barrier to student success.

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