Thoughts on Pedagogy and OER Development: A Faculty-Driven Approach — A Lunchtime Seminar at Hunter College ACERT, March 20, 2018

I was invited to participate in a seminar on OER and Pedagogy at Hunter College ACERT (Academic Center for Excellence in Research and Teaching) along with faculty from Baruch, Lehman and Hunter Colleges involved in development of OER (Open Educational Resources). I would like to share the key topics that came up in a lively discussion with attendees after presentations from panelists. This lunchtime seminar was attended by about 30 faculty, mostly from Hunter.

Panelists from three CUNY schools gave presentations on OER development emphasizing the influence of OER on pedagogy.  Baruch, Lehman and Hunter colleges are participating, along with other CUNY 2-year and 4-year colleges, in the 2017-18 SUNY-CUNY Scale-Up Initiative funded by New York State.

Allison Lehr-Samuels, Director of Baruch’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), and Andrew McKinney, OER Fellow, spoke about the Baruch OER Course Development Initiative run by the CTL, in partnership with the Newman Library and Baruch Computing and Technology. Allison gave an overview of how faculty were recruited, incentivized, and supported. She emphasized the need to look at all costs involved in development of OER to plan for sustainability, including administrative, training, platform, incentives, ongoing support, printing, and more. Andrew spoke about the impact of OER on pedagogy, emphasizing that developing OER offered opportunities for faculty to change their courses to achieve refreshed learning outcomes. He underscored the point that OER accomplishes more than saving students money, which is the primary goal, but at the same time can improve pedagogy and learning outcomes.

As Co-Coordinator of the OER program managed by the Leonard Lief Library at Lehman College, I spoke about the benefits of OER-enabled pedagogy, a term I learned from hearing David Wiley, Chief Academic Officer of Lumen Learning, at OpenCon2017.   In particular, I listed these advantages: (1) Continually improved resources; (2) Drawing inspiration; (3) Collaboration with colleagues; (4) Incorporation of a wider range of content. To illustrate these and other pedagogical benefits, two Lehman faculty talked about their experience teaching with OER they developed. Sharon Jordan, professor of art history, spoke about her OER for her course, Introduction to Modern Art, and Anne Rice, professor of Africana and Women’s Studies, spoke about her OER for her course, African American Literature.

Sharon Jordan was able to tailor the slides and texts in her course materials posted on her WordPress site to focus on the artists she felt students needed to learn about. She wrote texts, curated slides and created weekly assignments for students to complete. She feels strongly that for introductory art history, her OER was more flexible and relevant than a static textbook for students. She was able to structure her hybrid online course in ways that emphasized independent, active learning instead of lecture supported by an expensive, static textbook that covered more material than was instructive for her course, and that students often did not purchase because of cost.

Anne Rice spoke about the enhanced experiences that her students had when using texts from digital archives on the web. Students could delve into a rich archive of personal slave narratives that were curated and posted along with audio, video and other supplementary materials. Instead of reading a selective anthology of texts in a published book, students could learn about a growing digitized archive of resources expanding the canon of African American literature. From a practical standpoint, having texts posted on a WordPress site enables students to read wherever they are, reduces time spent copying texts from books on Reserve in the library, and consequently improves student performance.

Hunter professor of political science, Charles Tien, spoke about teaching an introductory political science course with an open textbook plus readings that are free of cost to students (mostly library subscription resources). He described the selection process that he and his colleague engaged in to select an open textbook on American government that satisfied most of their learning objectives. Compared to previous semesters when students were required to purchase an expensive textbook (and many did not), students now reported having access to all of the readings on day one. This is crucial for their participation in discussions and completing assignments.

A lively and interesting discussion followed the presentations. The faculty asked questions related to the following topics:

  • What is OER exactly? True OER vs. Hybrid
  • Library subscriptions—will these disappear? Only available to registered students
  • How much work is involved for faculty? Commitment / Incentives
  • Do students/faculty want Print copies? How to cover costs
  • What about other costs to students? Publishers’ fees (if not funded)
  • How is BlackBoard (or other LMS) used with OER?
  • Could student work be incorporated into OER?
  • Revising OER: do additional authors get credit? Creative Commons licenses
  • Annotation tools for group work by students—what is available? Hypothesis WordPress plugin
  • How to sustain OER development beyond government funding? Need to keep track of all costs and services to develop strategic plan
  • Is there assessment of student learning (grades) with OER?

I was impressed with the interest of the attendees in issues related to OER that delved deeply into the ramifications and challenges of OER. This group discussion went beyond speaking about the agreed-upon need to save students money. The questions raised issues that everyone working on OER is wrestling with, and that will be solved as OER becomes more accepted into the curriculum. It was both inspiring and reassuring to hear such perceptive, insightful presentations and discussion that could serve as a beginning agenda for future conferences and professional reading.

–Madeline Cohen, Leonard Lief Library, Lehman College,


Attention, CUNY Faculty: Get Paid to Learn about Open Educational Resources (OER)!

"Global Open Educational Resources Logo" by Jonathasmello - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Global Open Educational Resources Logo” by JonathasmelloOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

CUNY’s Office of Library Services just announced an exciting (and paid!) opportunity for full-time and part-time faculty to learn about open educational resources (OER), which include open access textbooks and other freely available, online instructional materials:

CUNY’s Office of Library Services is sponsoring an online workshop designed to provide an overview of Open Education Resources (OER) for CUNY faculty looking to integrate OER into their classes.

Open content and open access textbooks are instructional resources that can be used, reused, often remixed and customized under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others while ensuring authors retain copyright to their work. (Read more here.)

OER present an alternative to the high cost of textbooks for students. OER are freely available and distributable course materials. For this workshop the focus will be on OER materials that are:

  • Available at no cost to faculty and to students
  • Can be modified by faculty
  • Can be redistributed by faculty with changes to the original OER work.

Faculty can choose pre-existing materials, just as they do with traditional textbooks, but they can reconfigure content as they see fit, pulling elements of one text into elements of a different one, even rewriting sections, if the faculty member wishes.

OER are not just textbook material. They can include anything from entire course shells, to syllabi, to assignments, to presentations.

For students, OER means less money spent on course materials and course materials that are specifically tailored to the work of their professor. Instead of forcing a textbook into a pedagogical structure, the textbook and course materials are driven by individual pedagogy.

This class is made up of four modules, plus a final project. Each module is made up of readings, videos and discussions. Each workshop section will be comprised of no more than 20 participants in order to foster in intimate forum to share OER work and get feedback from colleagues and the facilitator. The goal is to finish the workshop with a better understanding of OER and also to come away with some work that can be immediately integrated into classes.

The workshops will be entirely on line and last for a two week period requiring approximately 10 hours of work. The activities and assignments can be completed on a flexible schedule during the time period. To be eligible for this workshop, applicants must be teaching faculty scheduled to teach in the spring 2015 semester. Department chair and Chief Academic Officer sign-off will be required. Faculty successfully completing the workshop will receive compensation of 10 hours at the non-teaching adjunct rate for participation.

Click here for registration.

Questions? Please contact: Ann Fiddler at or 646-664-8060.

Slides from Open Educational Resources Panel

If you weren’t able to attend (or chose not to take notes frantically at) the recent panel event “Open Books, Not Open Wallets: How Open Educational Resources Help Students Spend Less and Learn More,” you might be interested in the three panelists’ materials:

If open educational resources is a topic of interest to you (and how could it not be, when our students are paying so dearly for traditional textbooks?!), consider joining the CUNY Open Education Resources group on the Academic Commons or subscribing to the Open Educational Resources @ CUNY blog.  (If you subscribe to the group, you’ll get notifications about new blogs posts.)

Also: Have 20 minutes to spare?  Learn much more by walking through this short OER about OERs.

More of a visual learner?  Take a gander at this alarming chart of the costs of educational materials vs. other items from 1967 to 2012:

From Steve Ovadia’s What is OER slideshow, which also includes other compelling charts!