When Risks Pay Off in the Classroom

As we think about our courses, curriculum, and institution as a whole through the lens of full participation, we should not overlook the additional costs we ask (require) our students to bear in order to successfully complete their education. Textbooks are one such cost that I’ve written about recently.  

Last Wednesday, Joe Schroeder, Karen Gonzalez Rice, Lyndsay Bratton and I traveled to Fairfield University for a very well attended “Workshop on the Open Education Resources (OER) Movement.” The keynote speaker, Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), presented information about the economics of textbooks and the financial and academic impact on students. She shared alternative solutions, such as OpenStax, free, open-source, high-quality textbooks available online and in print sponsored by Rice University. She ended with a call to participate in the OER movement. You can review Nicole’s presentation here.

I would like to thank Karen and Joe, who presented their experiences making the leap from textbook to free online materials. We all benefited from hearing faculty perspectives from diverse fields, especially since faculty are on the front lines of the OER movement.

SmartHistory VideoKaren was able to replace her textbook by using a combination of SmartHistory and ARTstor. These online materials – videos and still images – better support her course goals by modeling how to talk about art, demonstrating that there is disagreement and ambiguity in art history, and showing how scholars engage each other in debate. One important result of Karen’s shift was better, more informed class discussion.  

Joe explained that he has had mixed success and continues to experiment with how best to Image from online textbookprovide required content in an introductory neuroscience course. In his field, the problem with a print textbook is that it does not clearly communicate the complex relationships, sequences and processes that occur in the brain. Recently he found an exceptional online textbook, Neuroscience Online, created at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, that, through  the use of animated images, does this very well. The online textbook also provides the content that students need and that would be found in a traditional print textbook.

One speaker referred to faculty experimenting with OER as brave, and Karen and Joe modeled what it means take risks with their courses. Thank you for your contributions!

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4 thoughts on “When Risks Pay Off in the Classroom

  1. Sufia Uddin October 13, 2015 / 10:21 am

    It’s great to hear about your work, Karen and Joe. In my new CONNCOURSE the students had nothing to purchase. I also do not give handouts. Everything we read and view is online. Students are using WordPress for classnotes and posts too. So far they love not having to purchase books, I love saving a tree, and they are doing the readings.

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