What if your students didn’t have to pay anything to acquire the materials for your course?
What if you had a textbook for your course that you could remix, rearrange, combine with other materials, or customize in some other way—and it was free to students?
What if you were able to collaborate with various colleagues in your field to produce a high-quality, peer-reviewed textbook, and then make this scholarship of yours open-access? What if your work could be read and used by far more people than would be able to buy an expensive hardcover book or access a paywalled article?
What would it mean for a school like ours—where access, affordability, and quality teaching are integral parts of our mission and what we tell students matters to us deeply—to make student learning an open, and open-access, proposition?
These are some of the questions whose answers can be at least partially found in OER—Open Educational Resources—and the Open Education movement in general. So what is “open education,” exactly? I like the definition proffered by Robin DeRosa, from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, and one of the leading voices in the open education movement. According to DeRosa, an open educational practice:
Improves access to education.
Treats education as a learner-driven process.
Stresses community and collaboration over content.
Connects the university to the wider public.
Key for DeRosa is the question of access. If there are barriers in our students’ way, learning cannot occur, and thus these larger goals remain unfulfilled. Often, these barriers are structural as well as pedagogical. If students cannot afford course materials, for example, what happens to their engagement with the course, as well as everyone else within it? As Rajiv Jhangiani frames the issue:
At a time when a growing number of students are attempting to hold down full-time jobs while pursuing their post-secondary educational ambitions, this is a tangible benefit with a human face. Every semester I notice students in my classes who elect not to purchase the course textbook (despite cautionary notes from me) due to financial constraints. My colleagues report the same. In the battle between groceries and a textbook, the textbook loses every time. This is especially true given the increase in the price of a traditional textbook over the past decade. We cannot fault our students for questioning the value of their (forced) purchase.
Open Education seeks to address this type of stuctural issue through a pedagogical framework which values access and equity alongside things like community, connection, agency, and ownership. It’s “working in the open,” with all of the possibilities (and responsibilities) that brings.
Foundational to the idea of open education, then is the use of OERs to not only facilitate access for our students, but to model the type of scholarly and pedagogical community we want to be. To again quote Jhangiani, “imagine a world in which open textbooks, open research, open pedagogy, and open educational resources are the norm.” What type of learning could occur? How would our students benefit? How would we benefit?
That all sounds fine and well, you may be thinking, but what does this look like in actual practice? How would OERs look in my classroom? The answers here are as varied as our discplines and approaches. Maybe it starts with an open-source textbook. Maybe it’s curated materials that are Creative Commons-licensed. Maybe it’s starting with using supplemental course materials that are OER. Or maybe it’s building an OER textbook or anthology with your students as a course project. There are boundless possibilites when we approach the question of access from an open education perspective.
In future installments on the CETL blog, we’ll dive a little deeper into Open Education and OER. These are areas that could potentially transform the ways in which Grand View educates its students and builds an academic community.
Have a question? Want to set up a consultation? Looking for ideas, strategies, or just another set of eyes on something? Make an appointment with CETL today! You can call 263-6102, contact us via this link, or directly book an appointment with Kevin that works with your schedule by clicking this Calendly link.
Finally, meet Willo, whose gentle “awoos” will melt your heart.
This is Willo. She likes to awoo while she eats. Tonight’s meal was worthy of a gentler, but perhaps more meaningful, second awoo. 13/10 pic.twitter.com/I6vWGvwEsd
— WeRateDogs® (@dog_rates) October 22, 2019