Workshop Recap: Free Textbooks?!

Logos from different OER resources

Thank you to everyone who attended yesterday’s workshop, “Free Textbooks?! Using Open Educational Resources (OER).” A special thank you to Karen Gonzalez Rice and Joe Schroeder who shared their experiences replacing textbooks with OER. We learned a lot hearing about your experiences – positive and negative! I wrote about their presentations in a previous post – available here.

I heard from several faculty who are interested in the topic but were unable to attend. If this describes you, click on the image above to view our full presentation.

What the presentation doesn’t include, however, is our great discussion about creating courses that are accessible to all students. While many students here can afford course materials, we need to keep in mind that this is not every student’s experience. We should be mindful, when designing our courses, to consider questions of equity and access to course materials. Here are a few points from our discussion:

  • For faculty in the sciences and social sciences, we highly recommend reviewing the open textbooks created for OpenStax. These books are widely used across the world!
  • Finding open resources can be time consuming. If you wish to explore the possibilities of open resources – including textbooks, interactive online modules, quiz banks, syllabi, etc – set up a meeting with your liaison. There is an amazing amount of resources available, but sorting through and integrating them effectively into your course takes time. An instructional technologist can help. This is a great project for Tempel Summer Institute!
  • Some faculty have collected enough materials – articles, websites, etc – that they are able to forego the textbook. We discussed the difference between reading on a screen and in print. There are several ways to deal with this: teach students how to effectively read on a screen and employ tools that allow students to annotate and highlight texts and/or require students to print materials. If you choose the latter, explain to students that the cost of printing is much less than the cost of your previously required textbook.
  • One drawback to using a collection of different materials is that a textbook provides cohesion and important supplemental materials, such as a glossary. You can often find useful glossaries and timelines online and in reference books. In addition, there are tools (iBooks Author, for example) that allow you to create your own book that combines these resources and provide connections and context.
  • If you’re excited and ready to dive in to OER, take a look at the slideshow above. In addition to many linked repositories and organizations, the section on pedagogy and carefully selecting and integrating OER is important.

There is a lot of interest in this topic so I am hoping to offer this again next semester. If you would like to be involved, have questions, or want to meet with an instructional technologist or librarian, contact your liaison. If you find a great resource or try something new, share it with us!

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