Notes on developing course content and locating Open Educational Resources

Last academic year (2014-2015), I was part of a  Professional Learning Community at The University of Texas at Arlington, where I am an Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction. One of four such PLC’s, the focus of our group was on “Open Educational Resources”. Faculty focused on locating and implementing free resources that would enhance or replace “paid” content in our courses. The goal is to lower cost for students. These initiatives have typically focused on creating textbook for core courses. I haven’t seen too many “textbooks” that are open education specifically for Teacher Education, however, there are many content-focused materials, for instance.

This blog post focuses on the process I use to locate and use (and sometimes create) open educational resources for my teacher education courses. I teach 100% online, both graduate courses and undergraduate courses. I am a big believer that reading should be supplemented by multi-media (podcasts, video) that is used strategically so that students can see and hear information about teaching.

If you have any comments on the process of locating and using resources for teacher education courses, please feel free to  leave a comment!

Process I use for developing course content and locating Open Educational Resources

Link to this document: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ijR3Ya7PCYUcl7vAP7rwVjAvv9sCEnV4GMf5ZhWCwp4/edit

Context: I teach Literacy Studies courses to undergraduate and graduate students in a 100% online environment. I need to find materials that cover both theory and practice/applications for students who are current and future practicing teachers.

  1. Start with course description from syllabus/course catalog.
  2. Identify key learning outcomes of course. Tweak and update these as needed. (Example: as writing has moved from print and pencil/pen to digital and paperless writing, I have needed to make adjustments to my curricular materials and assignments).
  3. Alignment: Include national and state standards that I must use to guide my readings and assignments. Map readings and assignments onto these standards.
  4. Locate items from the library including:
    1. E-reserve readings (e.g., a scanned chapter, less than 10% of a book)
    2. Links to journal articles that are accessed through the UTA library databases and/or e-journals.
    3. Locate free and accessible readings, e.g., white papers, freely available articles via professional organizations, government websites and other places where readings are in the public domain.
    4. Professor-authored content, e.g., PDF documents you write that contain summaries and commentary on the key ideas, additional examples and applications from the “real world”, or points to ponder for students related to required readings. I also do these as podcasts (1-5 minutes in length) which are accompanied by transcripts. I do one professor-authored item for each module (a module is two weeks in length) and several micropodcasts per module, as well. These can be found, as well.
    5. Putting print copies of texts on regular course reserve.
  5. Things to keep in mind: Students like texts that include applications and practical ideas. These are often found in journal articles and multi-media such as videos. They like to be able to visualize what it is they will be putting into practice in their current and future classrooms. I avoid readings that are a “wall of text”.
  6. Tips: Include the permalink for journal articles; be sure to check links every semester in case they need updating; seek feedback from students on level of engagement with provided open educational resources. Are they useful to students while meeting your needs for your learning outcomes/objectives? Be sure to stay within the scope of copyright!

What would be most appealing to faculty about OERs?

  1. Students can benefit from FREE or greatly reduced resources.
  2. The resources can be found (mostly) via the UTA library.
  3. You can venture into creating and authoring your own content if you are so inclined. This might also be done collaboratively with other instructors.
  4. Consider recording your own content (e.g., podcasts, short video clips, etc.)

What would be useful for faculty from academic university-based librarians

  1. Knowing what resources are available in the library and what the parameters are (e.g., copyright law basics for E-reserves).
  2. Knowing “who” can help faculty and how to set up communication with a librarian.
  3. What are some basic tips for using OERs effectively?
  4. Who else is using OER that can possibly provide insight/informal mentoring (e.g., via email or coffee meet-up) about using OER’s?
  5. Can faculty who use them successfully be highlighted somewhere on the library website?

UTA Resource: http://libguides.uta.edu/oerbycollege

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