Announcing the 2019 OER Exploration Grant Recipients

OER Conn College Logo

Information Services is excited to announce the eleven faculty who have received the Open Educational Resources (OER) Exploration Grant for 2019. The grant includes a monetary award as well as staff assistance to explore and investigate open resources that can be used in courses in lieu of traditional textbooks.

The grant aims to reduce educational costs for students by providing free or low-cost learning materials that are available from day one of their classes. The cost of tuition is nearly $70,000 and financial aid spending has increased 3.4 percent at Connecticut College since 2017. In the 2018 New Camel Survey, almost two-thirds of the class expressed concern about their ability to finance their college education. This program will support Connecticut College’s strategic priority toward financial strength and explore new ways to make a Connecticut College education affordable.

The grant provides funding and support for pedagogical innovation. Open educational materials  can be tailored to fit the needs of Connecticut College students and allows students to be active participants in the process of course content creation. In addition, OER expand academic freedom, giving faculty copyright-free options to produce personalized learning materials to meet the specific needs of our students at our institution. Faculty are untethered from the rigid structures and content produced by textbook publishers.

Congratulations to the following faculty!

Rachel Black, Anthropology
Luis Gonzalez, Hispanic Studies
Jillian Marshall and Jennifer Gorman, Psychology
Emily Kuder, Hispanic Studies
Kathy McKeon and Warren Johnson, Mathematics and Statistics
Luz Nick, Hispanic Studies
Yongjin Park, Economics
Maria Rosa, Biology
Ari Rotramel, Gender, Sexuality and Intersectionality Studies

Advertisement

Open Educational Resources and the Open Pedagogy Connection

OER Conn College LogoWe are making great progress toward expanding the use of open educational resources at Connecticut College. After years of advocating for OER on campus, Information Services is currently offering an OER grant for faculty to fund the exploration, adoption, and creation of open access materials. Faculty may receive up to $1,500 to explore and implement OER, or a course remission to develop their own materials.

Creating OER is an exciting opportunity for faculty who wish to develop learning resources customized to their classroom and teaching needs. In addition to funding, the grant offers faculty help in finding non-restrictive licensing and alternative options to traditional copyright. Staff can help with Pressbooks and other platforms in order to adapt or create original OER. IS staff can assist in finding and evaluating existing OER that can be used as base or supplementary material for OER projects. We can also help integrate newly created material into Moodle and advise on strategies to engage students in the OER creation/annotation process.   

The use of OER in classes can provide an avenue to incorporate open pedagogy into the curriculum, a practice in which students are partners in the creation of course materials. The lessons lead to renewable assignments that can be built on throughout the term and into future semesters. As creators of information, students in these courses gain a greater understanding of the rights and responsibilities associated with information ownership. Practitioners of open pedagogy embrace collaboration, student agency, and authentic learning. This open educational practice leads to greater student engagement as well as reducing the cost of a college education.

Below are two interesting examples of faculty created OER:

  • Data Feminism (left) by Catherine D’Ignazio, Assistant Professor, Emerson College and Lauren Klein, Associate Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology is publicly available to read and comment on manuscript draft for open peer review.
  • Robin DeRosa’s Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature was  produced by students and faculty for an American literature survey course. Read about the process of creating an open textbook with students in this informative blog post.

Teaching faculty (full-time, part-time, lecturer, and visiting) at Connecticut College may apply for an OER grant. Individuals, teams, Pathways, and departments/programs are encouraged to work together for a unified adoption of OER. Faculty may only receive one grant per course. See the Call for Proposals for more details. Proposals are due Thursday, February 14, 2019.

Please direct questions to Ariela McCaffrey (x2103), research support and outreach librarian.

Open Access Week 2018

Every year in October we celebrate Open Access Week, an international celebration of everything open. If this doesn’t sound familiar, read up on the topic through the (brief!) blog posts we published in previous  years:

This year we are focused on advocating for the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) on our campus. Many staff and faculty colleagues have been thinking about ways to decrease the total cost of a Connecticut College education by replacing traditional textbooks with OER. During Open Access week this year, we will conduct a whiteboard survey in Shain Library asking students questions about how students use, acquire, and pay for textbooks. In following weeks we will collect and share the results of the survey.

We also invite you to attend and participate in a hands-on workshop to explore and discover OER for your courses, learn about and help shape future grant opportunities for OER implementation. Details are below – feel free to register or stop by as  your schedule allows. As always, coffee and snacks will be provided!

OER and Your Course: Integrating Open Content into the Curriculum – Register
Monday, October 22 | 3:00-4:00pm | Advanced Technology Lab, Shain Library
Open educational resources (OER) are educational materials that are distributed at no cost and have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-­purposing by others. OER include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks,  streaming videos, tests, software, and other materials. Much work has been done at the College to integrate OER into classes. We will share what OER programming is developing and how to integrate these resources and practices into your own courses.

Open Educational Resources: OER Explorers and Informational Libguide

The headlines are frightening: “Student Debt Nears One Trillion Dollars,” “College Costs Out of Control,” and “Betrayed by the Dream Factory.” These are not Hollywood blockbusters, but articles written in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Slate.com about the skyrocketing cost of a college education.

A steep increase in textbook prices is a major factor in actual costs to students.  A 2015 analysis of Bureau of Labor Consumer Price Index (CPI) data found that textbook prices rose by 1041% from 1977 to 2015. The fears of increasing debt are shared by college students across the U.S. Connecticut College student, Jacee Cox in an article in The College Voice described the “dark and frightening online search” that revealed that in 5 years college tuition will increase to $86,787 per year.

Here at Conn, faculty and staff are working to address the issue of textbook costs by creating programming and material about open educational resources. Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or have been released with an open license. In June 2018, librarians at the College formed a group called “OER Explorers” in order to explore programs, funding sources, and support models for adopting Open Educational Resources at Connecticut College.  We also considered challenges and roadblocks for faculty and recommended a grant initiative and implementation plan. OER Explorers are advocates for open and accessible course materials at the College and work to share their knowledge of OER with colleagues across campus.

There is now a dedicated library staff member, Ariela McCaffrey, who will act as point person for faculty, offering consultations and workshops for faculty and staff, developing ways to promote OER, and getting support from stakeholders. A presentation entitled “OER and Your Course: Integrating open content into the curriculum” will be held in the Advanced Technology Lab, Lower Level, Shain Library from 3-4pm on October 22, 2018.

Find more information on the Open Educational Resources at Connecticut College libguide.

Please contact me if you have questions about OER!

Ariela McCaffrey
Research Support and Outreach Librarian
amccaffr@conncoll.edu | 860-439-2103
Shain 226

In Search of Video Content?

Are you looking for that perfect film that will inspire discussion? One that will serve as introduction or closure to a topic, or perfectly demonstrate a concept? Searching Google and YouTube may not be the most effective way to find great educational films. Here are some free, online video resources that you may not know about. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention Kanopy, a resource with thousands of full length films, funded by the library, available to Connecticut College students, staff and faculty. 

Warning: Exploring these resources may take you down long and winding rabbit holes!

The perfect textbook is possible! Tools for creating or customizing textbooks

American History textbook based on American Yawp and created using iBooks Author

We’ve written a lot about open educational resources (OER) on this blog, in addition to presenting at regional, consortial, and national  meetings. One area we could explore further is the ability to customize true OER. Don’t like a chapter? Edit it, or simply remove it. Don’t like the order material is presented? Reorganize it so that matches the way you teach. Like some parts of one text, and parts of another? Mash them up to create your own.

A quick Google search reveals that there are hundreds of platforms and software options that allow you to create your own textbook from existing OER. This post focuses on four inexpensive (or free) tools that we have experience using. We also want to point out that this is only one step in successfully implementing OER into a course, and that members of the instructional technology team are here to assist you through the entire process!

  • iBooks Author is a free app that allows you to create ebooks and either export them as epub files and share with students, or make them available through the iBooks store. This software makes it very easy to incorporate multimedia content – image galleries, movies, multiple-choice questions, and more. You can even add interactive widgets to your books such as maps, 360 degree panoramas, and timelines. Note that your students will need to have software that can read epub files, but there are free options we can recommend.
  • Scalar, a free online platform built by the University of Southern California, is a favorite authoring platform of digital humanists who wish to create long-form, born-digital content. Its structure is flexible, allowing for multimedia-rich, non-linear texts. Scalar does not require you to install or use any specialized software – all editing is done online. If you want students to access your course materials online and you have a lot of multimedia content, this is a good choice.
  • Pressbooks is book production software, but you don’t have to create a print book. If you have used WordPress, the learning curve will be small. I found the different templates to be attractive, and was pleased with the ease of reorganizing my book’s content and the ability to select page-level copyright licenses. Also exciting is the Hypothesis plugin so students can highlight, add comments, and take notes while reading! While it is free to use the platform and distribute your text online, it does cost money to publish your book in epub and pdf formats without watermarks (from $19-$99). There is also an option to order printed copies.
  • Blurb is an inexpensive option for creating professional-looking books that can be easily shared as pdfs. Blurb also has many print options if you wish to professionally print copies of your textbook. The free online editing tool, Bookify, is user friendly and offers many different page templates. The cost to create an ebook is free, but to export it as a pdf, you will pay a one-time fee of $4.99 per book. Note that every time you update the book, you’ll need to pay $4.99 for a new pdf version.

OER Roundtable Recap at #aha17

Picture of panelists
Panelists (right to left): Sarah Randow, Christy Jo Snider, Ann Marie Davis, Jessica McCullough

Over the break I participated in a roundtable, “Free for All: A Discussion of Open Educational Resources (OER) in U.S. and World History Survey Courses,” at the the American Historical Association conference in Denver, Colorado. Members of our roundtable included Sarah Randow from LeTourneau University (Chair), Christy Jo Snider from Berry College, Ann Marie Davis from Ohio State University (formerly Conn!), and me. If you are interested in the topic of open and affordable teaching materials and textbooks resources, read on for my takeaways!

  • Two panelists, Sarah and Christy, adopted The American Yawp, a free online textbook collaboratively developed by historians (who very kindly attended the roundtable). This particular textbook is published under a Creative Commons license allowing others to adapt and share the material, so long as they allow others to do the same and attribute the original creators (Attribution-Share Alike). Both panelists not only adopted the book, but adapted it to suit their own specific needs. For example, Christy used a free online publishing tool, Blub, to create a new textbook to which she added images and selected primary source material.
  • The best outcomes come from a focus on pedagogy. For example, Sarah found that the while rigorous, the readability/accessible and focus on the essentials of U.S. History allowed her students to make connections and draw their own conclusions from the material presented.
  • Ann Marie conducted a survey among historians and found that many faculty use OER in their courses, but don’t often realize that these materials are considered OER. This finding resonates with me, as faculty I know have made the switch to OER for pedagogical reasons without realizing they were a part of a larger movement. One surprising finding was faculty who have been teaching longer were equally receptive and have adapted OERs at similar rates as more junior instructors.
  • In our discussion, it was clear that there is a real need for a World History textbook, similar to American Yawp. However, such a project comes with additional challenges surrounding content selection. There seemed to be real excitement surrounding this project.
  • Additional themes from the discussion included recognition (for tenure and promotion) for creating open resources. Institutions are uneven in their recognition of this work, and while students are grateful for free or low-cost course materials, they do not realize the effort required to create the resources.  There was also a lively discussion of access to technology and the continued need for printed materials.
  • My presentation focused on how to implement OER in courses, from the perspective of an instructional designer. I also included plenty of examples of OER initiatives, helpful repositories and interesting resources.

Swivl toward Lecture Recording

This semester Joe Schroeder is using a Swivl, a robotic mount that holds an iPad or smartphone, to record lectures in Behavioral Neuroscience. With the use of a remote that the presenter wears, the Swivl tracks a moving person and uses the camera on the iPad or smartphone to record. Lectures or presentation are stored and saved in the cloud using Swivl’s cloud service, and shared with students through a link.

Swivl robot
Swivl robot

Why Lecture Record

Last year Joe had a problem: several students were going to miss class but he needed to cover important material. He asked about ways to record his lecture, and we suggested he try the Swivl. He gave it a try, and found the technology easy and convenient to use. This year, due to scheduling difficulties in Behavioral Neuroscience (PSY/BIO 314), he has one student who needs the class but is unable to attend one day a week. Recording the class on this day was the only way that this student could enroll. Remembering the Swivl, he decided to record the Friday lectures.

How it Works – Technology

Joe assigned one student as the class videographer, and this student is responsible for ensuring that the device it turned on, recording, and working throughout the class period. After class, Joe initially downloaded the video, saved it as an .mp4 file, then uploaded that to Moodle (through Kaltura). This process, while simple, was time consuming. More recently, with the introduction of Swivl’s cloud service, which automatically processes the video after recording and provides a link to the video, he simply copies that link and shares it with all students through Moodle. While Swivl provides tools for editing, the integration of slides and video, and other features, Joe does not spend time editing.

Excerpt of Joe's Moodle site, showing links to outside resources, lecture slides, and class recordings.
Excerpt of Joe’s Moodle site, showing links to outside resources, lecture slides, and class recordings.

How it Works – Pedagogy

After a few weeks of recording one day a week, Joe decided to record every class. Initially he had concerns about attendance – would students attend a class they knew would be recorded and could be watched later? He found that this practice did not affect attendance. Students value class time for the interaction with Joe and fellow students, as well as the ability to ask questions and check for understanding – this is a challenging class and expectations are high. In addition, the course does not use a textbook (see When Risks Pay Off in the Classroom), but a collection of resources – an online animated textbook from University of Toronto, simulation software, videos, articles, and more. Students use the recordings as another resource to understand course material.

Final Thoughts and Next Steps

While the full impact of providing class recordings is not yet known, mid-semester feedback from students is positive. Using Swivl is low-effort, but may potentially have a high impact for all students in Behavioral Neuroscience.

Beyond lecture capture, I can imagine additional uses for the Swivl. Students or faculty could use it to practice presentations and review the recording, students could rehearse a performance, then send the video to faculty or peers for feedback.

If you have questions or are interested in exploring ways to record your classes, contact your Instructional Technology liaison.

Friday Fun with the Smithsonian Learning Lab

nmah-2008-18687-000002
Greensboro Lunch Counter, National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center.

Earlier this week I visited the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington DC. I often forget about the amazing treasures that the 19 Smithsonian museums, the National Zoo, and 9 research centers hold.  Fortunately, now we can explore these diverse collections virtually through the Smithsonian Learning Lab. The Learning Lab includes images, video, audio, text, and learning resources. The Learning Lab is a space for anyone to curate and create collections; you can even annotate or upload your own resources to a collection and share those collections with students or colleagues.

While the Learning Lab’s primary audience is K-12 teachers and students, the content available makes the site worth exploring for your own courses. Many images are scanned at a high resolution, allowing you to zoom in to see details. Creating an account is easy and allows you (or your students) to create your own collections and share them easily.

What can you find in the Learning Lab? Collections from some of the following institutions are represented:

  • Archives of American Art
  • Astrophysical Observatory
  • Conservation Biology Institute
  • Environmental Research Center
  • Marine Station at Fort Pierce
  • Museum Conservation Institute
  • Smithsonian Institute Archives
  • Smithsonian Libraries
  • Tropical Research Institute
  • African American History and Culture Museum
  • African Art Museum
  • Air and Space Museum
  • American Art Museum
  • American History Museum
  • American Indian Museum
  • National Zoo
  • Natural History Museum
  • Postal Museum
  • American Indian Museum Heye Center
  • Cooper Hewitt

Let us know if you find anything interesting in the comments below. Enjoy!