Madeline Ford, Executive Chief Librarian
Jacqueline DiSanto, Assistant Professor/Unit Coordinator, Early-Childhood Education
Open Educational Resources (OER) comes to Hostos thanks to a $300,000 Achieving the Dream grant, shared with two other CUNY community colleges and funded in late spring 2016. We had several questions as we worked together writing the proposal. How will OER benefit faculty and students? How do we find the right resources for our courses? How does this benefit the institution? Will faculty from liberal arts be interested in this project? The following is what we have learned so far.
For faculty, OER offer teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual-property license that permits their free use and/or adaptation by others. OERs include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming media, tests, software and other tools, and/or techniques used to support access to knowledge. Students benefit from having content available with zero costs and a wealth of resources available to them.
The Early-Childhood Education (ECE) degree program was selected to be part of this grant. The final result will be that ECE students will be able to complete all 60 credits required for their degree with zero textbook costs—an anticipated savings of approximately $2800 across 60 required credits. Faculty from English, education, mathematics, and behavioral and social sciences are currently working on adapting their existing course. The goal is to complete at least one section of each required course by 2019.
There are several ways to identify OER materials for each course. The starting point must be the exact student-learning objectives, program-learning outcomes, and GenEd competencies used in the sections that relied on traditional for-purchase textbooks. Faculty who are developing OER sections have three choices: adopt, adapt, or create. They begin by reviewing the objectives, outcomes, competencies, topics, and assignments. Through a contract between Achieving the Dream and Lumen, a company that will certify our courses as OER and hosts the platform through which OER sections are accessed, we can select material from an international library. Faculty developers can adopt a complete course and use it in its entirety; they can select components from more than one existing course and compile a new OER course; or they can create their own content units and resources. Regardless of which way our OER sections are developed, once completed, they will be available internationally through Lumen.
As we strive to reach a 50 percent graduation rate by 2021-2022, the proliferation of OER will help students reduce their costs, thereby reducing one of the factors that often delays graduations—lack of funds. It is also expected to level the academic playing field because all students will have content on the first day of class—no more waiting for the second-hand book to come from another state or students using earlier editions that may be dog-eared and incomplete. We expect that students will feel more competent, will be better able to pace the work because can access it from any computer or mobile devise, and, therefore, will be less likely to drop the class.
Before agreeing to join the grant proposal, we were charged with asking the chairs of each department whether or not they would encourage a faculty member to create the OER and whether they would schedule it every semester once it was certified. We had the support of all departments and had faculty members enthusiastically promise to develop courses. One of the key components to this work is the partnership between library faculty and teaching faculty from the different academic content areas. For each course, a specific library faculty member is assigned to serve as a co-researcher, sifting through available OER material and researching for resources when Lumen does not have what we need. This collegial approach serves top reduce any apprehension about delving into an unfamiliar means of delivering instructional information.
Two additional goals for this OER grant exist. Besides creating an entire degree program that can be offered free of any cost for textbooks, workbooks, or supplemental materials, we hope to expand the number of sections offered, and to consider using the existing OER sections in liberal arts courses as a springboard to the development of additional OER degrees.
Students will be taking the first OER sections in the spring 2017 semester. EDU 101, ENG 110, and MAT 100 will each have sections with the CUNYFirst attribute ZERO, signifying zero textbook cost. Additional courses will be added each semester. We are grateful to Professors Tanvir Prince and Christine Hutchins, who are the first faculty members to develop OER sections.
A second all-day introductory workshop will be hosted by Lumen here at Hostos sometime in January. We will share the date shortly; all interested in learning more about OER are welcome.