Showing posts with label open educational resources. Show all posts
Showing posts with label open educational resources. Show all posts

Review: Interactive Open Educational Resources: A Guide to Finding, Choosing, and Using What's Out There to Transform College Teaching

Interactive Open Educational Resources: A Guide to Finding, Choosing, and Using What's Out There to Transform College Teaching Interactive Open Educational Resources: A Guide to Finding, Choosing, and Using What's Out There to Transform College Teaching by John D. Shank
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Overall, this book is a good introduction into the world of open educational resources and their implementation. it focuses on interactive open educational resources, which are free materials the require a bit more engagement from students. It's definitely a book geared towards instructors or instructional designers that have yet to really engage with OER as there are many sections that those familiar with OER will likely skim over. But where it's most useful is the guidelines, instructions, implementation and evaluation considerations it walks readers through to actually using iOER. It also has an abundance of resources that the readers will benefit from. It's definitely for the neophyte but even the seasoned OER person will find some good uses by looking through it.

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Textbooks and OER

For the last few weeks, almost on a daily-basis, there have been articles from USA Today to Huffington Post to NBC to ABC to the Christian Monitor, all taking about the cost of textbooks.  On one hand, I applaud reporters bring this to the attention of the average consumer and the public, but I'm also disappointed that the vast majority of articles fail to acknowledge the Open Educational Resources movement or when they do, it's usually to downplay or discredit it.  Below is an amalgamation of letters to editors that I sent out that never got published but I figured they still needed to be out there for people to read.

As we enter into the fall, students everywhere will be going to or going back to college.  Many of these news outlets have been remarking about the skyrocketing costs of textbooks—up over 1000% since the 1970s.  Because of the nature of textbooks and higher education, it has become an increasingly exploitative market with publishers undermining a second-hand market of reselling textbooks by publishing annual or biannual editions (Because history textbooks need a new edition every two years) or creating locked content online that requires potential further purchasing (and which the student loses access to within a year). 
On open educational resources -- Beyond definitions

For students, parents, faculty, and administrators lamenting these exorbitant costs (upwards of $1000+ a year), I encourage all to advocate for open educational resources (OER).  OER are free content available online that instructors can use, edit to their liking, and redistribute to their students.   In the last decade, the OER movement has worked hard to produce high quality content such as videos, lesson plans, learning objects, and even textbooks that instructors can integrate into the course for free.  A quick look at OER Commons, one of the most well-known OER repositories will reveal ample content for many faculty.  You can also get a nice tour of the OER landscape by visiting North Shore Community College's LibGuide on OER.  


The OER movement bypasses the traditional market entirely by freely producing and sharing content that will help their students learn without making them pay extra.  Students gain access to their learning materials on the first day and keep them for as long as they chose.  Colleges supporting faculty in creating or using OER find that both faculty and students are happier about the opportunities it affords them.  

There are also people like David Levin, CEO of McGraw Hill (the biggest of textbook publishers) who are trying to convince students and faculty to "go digital".  Of course, for his company, going digital means buying their digital products which will increase their profit margin significantly, while eliminating a secondary market for textbooks.  It's not just about going digital.

In his advocating for digital textbooks, he forgets to mention a few things that are worth noting and make his plea not just dubious but misleading.  His argument seems to say that he empathizes with students and faculty and that his plea is really on their behalf, but it's not.  The digital textbook racket is even more menacing for students and faculty than the physical textbook business model.  He's using the platform of expensive textbooks (something he contributes to as part of McGraw-Hill) to bait and switch faculty and students into etextbooks.  The problem is that McGraw-Hill tactics with etextbooks are even more exploitative than their tactics with physical textbooks. 

While with textbooks, students can hope to have a year or two before the publisher throws out a pointless new edition, etextbooks offer no secondary and cheaper market.  Instead, everyone must pay the same price for entrance and there is no opportunity for the market to level out the real cost of textbooks (usually pennies on the dollars of the original cost).  It seems clear that publishers are enacting the same mob-like extortion practices as they did with the physical textbook, but now, they really do control who goes and who sees what. 

But it gets further problematic from there.  Students don't even own their learning.  When students purchase physical textbooks, they own the physical copies.  With etextbooks, students only buy access to the content and typically, they lose access within 6 months to a year.  So even if students are paying less (for now), they are still subject to losing out on owning and reselling.  If they want to keep what they bought, they need to keep paying.  That would be like buying a book on Kindle and then being told by Amazon that you need to pay to read that book again in a year. 

Levin sidesteps the real game-changer for improving student costs of learning materials in higher education; the words he's afraid that students and faculty will hear and advocate for:  Open Educational Resources (OER).  There is a movement throughout the world for Open Educational Resources.  These are free and rich educational materials that includes lesson plans, learning guides, videos, audio content, and yes, even textbooks that faculty can incorporate into their classes.  Faculty are not only able to provide these for free to students, but they can also edit, remix, and take bits and pieces from different resources.  Rather than being stuck to one resource, faculty and plug and play a wide range of content to enrich student-learning.  OER provides faculty with not only more flexibility and range of materials, it means students have instant access to their learning materials on day one and can keep them for years after. 

And publishers like McGraw-Hill are overwhelmingly concerned about OER because it is a disruptive force for the textbook industry (a legal Napster, if you will).  After years of exploiting students and faculty, the textbook industry is on the brink of collapsing because OER provides the same quality educational resources as the traditional textbooks (in fact, it offers more quality since it uses media-rich content) at a fraction of the cost and unlike Naptster's original format, it's practices are entirely ethical and legal.  

To learn more about OER, check out OER Commons or the NSCC LibGuide on OER.  

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

My New Book: 10 Classic Tales of Horror

So I could mark this down as a goal achieved already for 2015, but I most likely won't.  I did want to share with people this book that I published.  It is an anthology of horror stories:  10 Classic Tales of Horror to be precise that I pulled together with introductions to make and publish.  My purpose in doing so wasn't to just put it out there and make a quick buck; my purpose was to see how easily and cheaply it can be done.  

One project that I am involved in at work is an Open Textbook Initiative as part of the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement.  To that end, we have been looking at ways of making learning materials available for students for free or a reasonable price.  Questions arise about OER with regards to how students can access them, particularly in print form.  Some OER resources provide physical copies for purchase that are significantly cheaper than their commercial counterparts.  However, I wanted to think about the idea of an instructor pulling together OER resources into book of sorts and what would that look like if the instructor wanted students to afford a cheap physical copy.  
Book Cover - 10 Classic Tales of Horror - Lance Eaton

This approach grabbed me because I teach literature and we are often using anthologies.  I wanted to think about how I might pull together works that are in the public domain for my students to access as a physical text.  Therefore, I make the 10 Classic Tales of Horror as an experiment.  I used Amazon's self-publishing platform, CreateSpace, which made it quite simple (once I actually read the instructions on formatting the Word Document, I had it all in). 

Right now, the physical book is around $10 on Amazon and is about 438 pages.  That's a reasonable price if this were a full collection of course materials that students could now have in hand.  The Kindle digital version of the book is currently listed for $ .99 but I am working on a means of getting the price lowered to $0.00 if possible.  The cost for the physical book is purely the cost of production and I make 0.00 on each unit sold. 

My goal in creating this is to not make a profit in any capacity and in doing so, provide a path for faculty to published their own content for their students in the forms that they are interested in pursuing.  Even if I can't get the Kindle verson to $0.00, I can always make the PDF available to students just as I have made it available below.  

For those interested, here are the links and let me know what you think--both about the book and the process.

Be sure to tell me what you think if you happen to purchase or download it for free!




Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.