OER beyond Lumen

As my time as guest editor in this space draws to a close, I’d wanted to write about an event, and particularly the events going on around the open educational resource initiative happening at CUNY. In fact, I attended such an event early this month with that very intention. However, this event, like many others, was run by Lumen Learning and served as an introduction, or less charitably, an advertisement, for one of their products. In fact, this has been broadly true of many of the training events around this initiative, and I find it a little troubling that CUNY is leaning on Lumen so heavily.

There are, of course, good reasons for this.  The OER initiative has run largely on short deadlines, and it is challenging to get an OER program up and running. Turning to a vendor is an expedient way to begin initiatives quickly.

However, we should be cautious about allowing our conversations to be moderated by vendors, particularly conversations about openness and service to our communities. Thus, I will avoid summarizing that webinar here and will instead use this space to point to some interesting conversations and tools around OER issues that I’ve come across recently.

OER Authoring Tools List

This list of OER Authoring Tools by Michele DeSilva (Central Oregon Community College) and Amy Hofer (Open Oregon Educational Resources) usefully compares several OER platforms. I like this list because it helps to make transparent the differences among these tools. It points out which tools are proprietary, which ones cost money to use, and which ones have formatting or licensing issues to keep in mind.

The list itself is also open to edit.

Thanks to Greg Gosselin for sharing this tool on the CUNY OER listserv.

Open Educational Resources and Digital Humanities

I attended another webinar, this time on engaging with digital humanities projects (“Reading and Engaging with Existing Digital Humanities Projects”). The presenter, Paige Morgan, discusses the role that projects like the Lost Friends Exhibition can play in providing new entry points into a field of study. Although Morgan does not specifically address openness in her talk, except to note that in some cases these projects are making materials available online for the first time, it strikes me that it may be useful to seek OER, not in OER platforms, but in disciplinary collections like NINES or 18thConnect. Is the William Blake Archive an OER? It does not advertise itself that way, but it could certainly be used as a teaching tool.

My intention is not to argue that all digital scholarship projects are OER in disguise.  Rather, I hope to suggest that the category of “things that could be useful as OER” is a more helpful one than “things that are explicitly labeled OER,” particularly as the latter tends to lead us back to digital textbooks and companies like Lumen.

Tying it all together

The two approaches I’ve mentioned in this post are very different from each other, and I am convinced there are many more ways to think about this.  Ultimately, I’m an OER neophyte and still wrapping my head around it.  My hope with this post, then, was mainly to remind myself (and maybe others) to think more broadly where open educational resources are concerned.

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 Ann.Fiddler@cuny.edu 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!