2019 OER Faculty Panel Roundup

On October 1, 2019, UBC hosted an Open Education Resources (OER) Faculty Panel where faculty talking about past and current OER projects, the difficulties and challenges they faced, and the success and impact they achieved.

Previous discussions and advocacy around Open Educational Resources (OERs) (such as the AMS Textbook Broke Campaign) have highlighted the cost-savings such resources present for students. But as faculty who have adopted, adapted or created OERs in their courses shared, OERs can be valuable resources for faculty as well, supporting innovative teaching practices and contributing to student engagement, success, and satisfaction.

Four CLP Calculus Textbooks

Elyse Yeager, Andrew Rechnitzer, and Joel Feldman

The initial motivation for the creation and adoption of open textbooks was the increased cost of standard textbooks. However, Yeager, Rechnitzer, and Feldman quickly discovered that OERs provide opportunities to create resources that are more responsive and inclusive to student and faculty needs due to the ability to personalize the textbook to course content and goals, and to incorporate accessibility standards in the book’s design. The process of creating an OER also resulted in the creation of active learning assignments that included students in the editing process. These “bug bounty” assignments give students extra credit for finding errors in the textbook.

Implementing WeBWork

Jonathan Verrett, Agnes d’Entremont and Negar Harandi

This project was spurred by a similar desire to save students money. Verrett, d’Entremont and Harandi collaborated to use the open-source online homework system WeBWork across their second year engineering courses. Adopting WeBWork and its Open Problem Library gives instructors the ability to give students problems from more than one subject area and department, a crucial difference from the siloed questions typically designed in publisher homework systems. d’Entremont shared that the breadth of questions provided richer learning experience for her students by requiring them to holistically integrate skills from across the engineering disciplines.

Primary Source Reader

Siobhàn McElduff

Unable to find textbooks that sensitively dealt with topics of race, gender, and sexuality for her courses on outsiders in the Roman Empire, Siobhan McElduff decided to collaborate with her students to create a primary source reader. Each student worked on a section of the reader to produce a collective publication that McElduff said gave students a sense of their own expertise in the subjects of race, class, gender, and difference, as well as a valuable opportunity to develop a piece of public scholarship. Although students loved the experience, McElduff said that the project was not without its difficulties, including the immense amount of instructor and student time required to create and edit the material, as well as ethical issues that arise when asking students to create a piece of public-facing work.

Common Challenges

McElduff echoed the statements of many presenters who stated that the key challenges they faced in creating, adapting and adopting OERs were the significant amounts of time and resources needed to plan, create, develop, and implement them. As Yeager stated, adopting or creating OERs may seem like a “free as in beer” situation, but it quickly becomes clear that different motivations (apart from financial) are needed to sustain the work that goes into moving such projects forward.  

Available Support

Recognizing the labour and resources needed to implement OERs, the UBC Library Scholarly Communications Office received a TLEF grant to implement a pilot sub-granting program in order to support the creation of OERs on campus and to assess the role that the library might play in assisting with their creation. During this panel, Erin Fields (presenting on behalf of Leonora Crema) shared how the library funded 10 projects which either improved or created OERs, providing both funding as well as copyright, publishing, technical, and preservation support. The takeaways from this and the subsequent panel interviews were that the library can play a key role in the process of creating and adapting OERS. As a result of this pilot and the recent OER Fund announcement, the library has boosted its direct support for OERs by expanding digital publishing and consultation services for faculty hoping to create, adapt, or find OERs to use in their courses.

If you are interested in learning more about the OER Fund, please visit the fund’s website, or come to one of the OER Fund Proposal Consultation Sessions.

You can also access a recording and slides from this panel on cIRcle.

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