The following blog post was written by Madeline Cohen, Assistant Professor and Head of Reference at Leonard Lief Library, at Lehman College. You can find the original post on OPEN@CUNY here.
I was invited to participate in a seminar on OER and Pedagogy at Hunter College ACERT (Academic Center for Excellence in Research and Teaching) along with faculty from Baruch, Lehman and Hunter Colleges involved in development of OER (Open Educational Resources). I would like to share the key topics that came up in a lively discussion with attendees after presentations from panelists. This lunchtime seminar was attended by about 30 faculty, mostly from Hunter.
Panelists from three CUNY schools gave presentations on OER development emphasizing the influence of OER on pedagogy. Baruch, Lehman and Hunter colleges are participating, along with other CUNY 2-year and 4-year colleges, in the 2017-18 SUNY-CUNY Scale-Up Initiative funded by New York State.
Allison Lehr-Samuels, Director of Baruch’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), and Andrew McKinney, OER Fellow, spoke about the Baruch OER Course Development Initiative run by the CTL, in partnership with the Newman Library and Baruch Computing and Technology. Allison gave an overview of how faculty were recruited, incentivized, and supported. She emphasized the need to look at all costs involved in development of OER to plan for sustainability, including administrative, training, platform, incentives, ongoing support, printing, and more. Andrew spoke about the impact of OER on pedagogy, emphasizing that developing OER offered opportunities for faculty to change their courses to achieve refreshed learning outcomes. He underscored the point that OER accomplishes more than saving students money, which is the primary goal, but at the same time can improve pedagogy and learning outcomes.
As Co-Coordinator of the OER program managed by the Leonard Lief Library at Lehman College, I spoke about the benefits of OER-enabled pedagogy, a term I learned from hearing David Wiley, Chief Academic Officer of Lumen Learning, at OpenCon2017. In particular, I listed these advantages: (1) Continually improved resources; (2) Drawing inspiration; (3) Collaboration with colleagues; (4) Incorporation of a wider range of content. To illustrate these and other pedagogical benefits, two Lehman faculty talked about their experience teaching with OER they developed. Sharon Jordan, professor of art history, spoke about her OER for her course, Introduction to Modern Art, and Anne Rice, professor of Africana and Women’s Studies, spoke about her OER for her course, African American Literature.
Sharon Jordan was able to tailor the slides and texts in her course materials posted on her WordPress site to focus on the artists she felt students needed to learn about. She wrote texts, curated slides and created weekly assignments for students to complete. She feels strongly that for introductory art history, her OER was more flexible and relevant than a static textbook for students. She was able to structure her hybrid online course in ways that emphasized independent, active learning instead of lecture supported by an expensive, static textbook that covered more material than was instructive for her course, and that students often did not purchase because of cost.
Anne Rice spoke about the enhanced experiences that her students had when using texts from digital archives on the web. Students could delve into a rich archive of personal slave narratives that were curated and posted along with audio, video and other supplementary materials. Instead of reading a selective anthology of texts in a published book, students could learn about a growing digitized archive of resources expanding the canon of African American literature. From a practical standpoint, having texts posted on a WordPress site enables students to read wherever they are, reduces time spent copying texts from books on Reserve in the library, and consequently improves student performance.
Hunter professor of political science, Charles Tien, spoke about teaching an introductory political science course with an open textbook plus readings that are free of cost to students (mostly library subscription resources). He described the selection process that he and his colleague engaged in to select an open textbook on American government that satisfied most of their learning objectives. Compared to previous semesters when students were required to purchase an expensive textbook (and many did not), students now reported having access to all of the readings on day one. This is crucial for their participation in discussions and completing assignments.
A lively and interesting discussion followed the presentations. The faculty asked questions related to the following topics:
- What is OER exactly? True OER vs. Hybrid
- Library subscriptions—will these disappear? Only available to registered students
- How much work is involved for faculty? Commitment / Incentives
- Do students/faculty want Print copies? How to cover costs
- What about other costs to students? Publishers’ fees (if not funded)
- How is BlackBoard (or other LMS) used with OER?
- Could student work be incorporated into OER?
- Revising OER: do additional authors get credit? Creative Commons licenses
- Annotation tools for group work by students—what is available? Hypothesis WordPress plugin
- How to sustain OER development beyond government funding? Need to keep track of all costs and services to develop strategic plan
- Is there assessment of student learning (grades) with OER?
I was impressed with the interest of the attendees in issues related to OER that delved deeply into the ramifications and challenges of OER. This group discussion went beyond speaking about the agreed-upon need to save students money. The questions raised issues that everyone working on OER is wrestling with, and that will be solved as OER becomes more accepted into the curriculum. It was both inspiring and reassuring to hear such perceptive, insightful presentations and discussion that could serve as a beginning agenda for future conferences and professional reading.