Textbook Heroes: Riratou Lamarre

Welcome to our new series recognizing champions of free and affordable course materials at Touro! These “Textbook Heroes” have made a difference in the lives of our students by lowering the cost of their degrees. Do you know someone who fits the bill? Nominate them (or yourself) by emailing georgia.westbrook@touro.edu.

portrait of professor
Professor Riratou Lamarre (provided)

Who are you? Tell us more about you and the course you teach.

I am Professor Lamarre. I’ve been teaching the general survey of psychology course, along with several other psychology courses, for more than 10 years.

Describe your previous textbooks and what your class was like.

Due to the cost of commercial psychology textbooks, the majority of students did not purchase them, and those who could afford them did not want to “schlep” heavy books around. Even when they carried them, they could not read during their subway ride to school because of crowded trains.

Why did you want to switch to an open textbook?

Although we had tried other innovative programs to promote student learning and engagement, they had not worked with our student population — again, because of their cost.

Research indicates that approximately two-thirds of students have not purchased or rented a required textbook at some point in their educational careers due to high costs. This is true even though 94% of these students reported believing that not purchasing the text would impact their grade in these courses.

Our department adopted the OpenStax Psychology textbook, because of the cost savings for students, flexibility, and increased access to course material.

How has your class changed since you switch to an open textbook?

With the adoption of the OpenStax book, students’ course performance has improved.

Describe your students’ reactions to the open textbook – content and/or cost.

“Free? That’s wonderful! We can read on our phones? That’s even better!”

What do you think of the quality of the new textbook?

I think it needs to be to updated and enhanced. [Editor’s note: Professor Lamarre and her colleague Dr. Bronstein were awarded a Faculty Innovation Grant from CETL to make those updates during the 2019-2020 academic year!]

What would you say to other faculty members who are considering switching to OER?

I strongly suggest that they give it a try. A pilot study by the Touro College Libraries found that students enrolled in OER courses performed better than those enrolled in the same courses using a commercial textbook (Magro & Tabaei, 2020).

Responses may be condensed and edited for clarity.

OER: Does the “E” stand for equitable?

With renewed calls for an examination into the diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts of educational institutions, it is critical to consider the role of libraries and their work in these efforts. Open educational resources (OER) and initiatives, often administered through libraries, can be tools to further equity and are worthwhile pursuits and points of consideration now, more than ever.

The rapidly rising cost of college is a both an economic enigma and an issue of equity. When a college degree is the ticket to higher wages for a whole lifetime’s worth of work, the price of admission should enable everyone who wants to take part to do so.

graffiti that says "for all"
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

There is a cost element of equity, and there is a representation element, too. While a free textbook may make it easier for everyone to acquire and access the resource (provided they have internet access), that textbook might still be out of reach to students who see examples and pictures about people and situations that are not at all familiar. OER can provide an opportunity to address this inequity.

Kharl Reynado, in a blog post for OpenStax, wrote about her experience attending the Open Ed 2018 Conference. She recounted hearing from Professor Jasmine Roberts, who teaches communications at Ohio State, discuss how OER has affected her relationships with students:

“While teaching, her student brought up a relevant example to their learning material. OER allowed her to quickly edit her textbook to incorporate the student’s idea. Though some people may see this as a very small gesture, I think that it can have a huge impact on how students see their place in education.”

This is an impact not only on how students see their place in education, but also whether they see it at all. Many traditional, commercial textbooks feature stock photos of white people with homogeneous origin stories and experiences. Students need to see people who look like them in the places they look every day; we can have a role in this through selecting images and anecdotes for OER that better match our students.

sam-balye-w1FwDvIreZU-unsplash
Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash

In a recent essay for the New England Board of Higher Education, Robin DeRosa, the director of the Open Learning & Teaching Collaborative at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, wondered:

“For some students (and even contingent faculty and staff in our universities) COVID has augmented inequities that were already baked into their lives. Our continuing institutional failures to ameliorate or address these inequities can no longer be tolerated, both because the vulnerable in our colleges are at a breaking point from a global pandemic and because we have been called out by a national social justice movement that is demanding that we make real change at last. Is open education a way to answer this call?”

She goes on to explain why she thinks that yes, open education can be a solution. More than just alleviating the cost burden on students, DeRosa writes, OER “asks us to rethink the kind of architecture we want to shape our education system.” This is a time of great potential for positive change across all aspects of our lives, and OER can be a catalyst for such change in education broadly, because when we think more in the framework of open education, we think more about the benefits of opening other aspects of the physical and metaphorical campuses, too.

a man teaching a woman sitting at a table
Photo by Monica Melton on Unsplash

OER can also help faculty work with their students to learn about equity and issues of equity, as demonstrated by examples from all kind of educational institutions. The Community College Consortium for OER has collected case studies and examples of this work, and The OER Starter Kit includes a section on Diversity and Inclusion that makes the connection to open pedagogy and offers exemplar in-class activities. This work is being done—and you can do it, too.

This post was contributed by Georgia Westbrook, Open Educational Resources & Instruction Librarian

Textbook Heroes: Angelo DeCandia

Welcome to our new series recognizing champions of free and affordable course materials at Touro! These “Textbook Heroes” have made a difference in the lives of our students by lowering the cost of their degrees. Do you know someone who fits the bill? Nominate them (or yourself) by emailing georgia.westbrook@touro.edu.

professor angelo decandia
Professor Angelo DeCandia (provided)

 

During the spring 2020 semester, Professor DeCandia saved 26 students over $7,145 by switching to OER!

Who are you? Tell us more about you and the course you teach.

My name is Angelo DeCandia and I teach all Economics and Finance courses for the Business department.

Describe your previous textbooks and what your class was like.

Previously I had used the standard textbooks for each of the courses I taught. It was always difficult to get the students to buy the books and read them.

Why did you want to switch to an open textbook?

Under the new Zoom format, it became critical to have a “visual” to help focus the students’ attention. Yes it can be done with PowerPoint, but there was insufficient time to develop everything that was needed. Open textbooks provided that visual, and, even more, made a strong connection between the textbook and the classroom. This does not mean we “read” the textbook during the class, but by including it directly, students realized the importance of reading in order to deepen their understanding. And once I made the decision to make the textbook an integral part of the lecture, it became obvious that only in digital format could this method work.

How has your class changed since you switch to an open textbook?

It seems that students read more with open textbooks if the book is tied to the lecture. It is much easier to tie the textbook to the lecture with open textbooks because of the digital format.

Describe your students’ reactions to the open textbook.

Students seemed satisfied with the content as long as it is a supplement to class lectures. And of course, everyone loves the fact that the books are free.

What do you think of the quality of the new textbook?

The quality of the books I have used is acceptable. There are some typos and the graphics aren’t always correct, but given the advantages, it is acceptable. Hopefully the quality will improve. One other point is that there are many courses for which there is not a suitable open textbook. Hopefully that will change as well.

What would you say to other faculty members who are considering switching to OER?

I encourage all faculty members to explore open textbooks as an option. It may not work for all, but I think a significant number of faculty will find that open textbooks get the job done.

Responses may be condensed and edited for clarity.

Teaching Information Literacy Online

For all of the talk about the treachery of moving to online teaching, there are some surprising benefits to teaching information literacy sessions online, too. In this post, Touro librarians Edlira Agalliu and Natasha Hollander share their experiences and offer tips for other instructors working online.

Edawork
Edlira Agalliu (provided photo)

Edlira Agalliu, Chief Librarian, Avenue J

Are these sessions very different from what you offered in the classes face-to-face? What are the differences?

For me personally, the transition have been very smooth and I feel very comfortable with online teaching, since I have been involved in teaching online via Zoom for a few years now (mainly internationally). However, I still can point out some differences:

  • The interpersonal aspect of face-to-face teaching is very different and hard to replicate in online teaching
  • The social aspect of students gathering in library for orientations gives a sense of community and sense of place that an online platform attempts to replicate with a digital community. The geographical location now is replaced with a virtual one, and students are sometimes spread nationally and internationally and spread across different time zones
  • The psychological aspect of face-to-face teaching makes it easier for extroverted personalities (both students and instructors) to take center stage, but the online platform also gives introverts the opportunity to make their voices heard
  • Although in the literature there is a distinction between synchronous and asynchronous teaching, I always have included asynchronous elements in my face-to-face teaching, so there are no major changes pedagogically

Are there any advantages to the online classes?

There are many advantages to teaching online, including the ability to access the course 24/7 and the flexibility that provides. Instructors can utilize innovative methods and be creative, while students benefit from a different kind of social presence and increased participation for introverts. Instructions for activities can be prepared and saved on the computer as video or Powerpoint presentation, and chat and discussion boards in Canvas can be used to engage students.

What are the disadvantages or challenges? 

There are some disadvantages and challenges as well, including self-discipline for students and teachers and the hurdle of using technology and learning new platforms for online teaching (Zoom, Canvas, WebEx, Google Classrooms etc.) It is hard to ensure that classes are accessible for students with disabilities (using closed captioning and adaptive technologies), although this is a problem in face-to-face teaching too.

Another challenge is taking into account the computer skills of different groups of students, especially the older students that are returning to classroom after years of being in workforce. We don’t have evidence to suggest that they are not involved at all in online learning, but it could be an argued that they might be underrepresented as a group of students and lead to a generation gap.

When teaching internationally or even with classes that have students outside of the eastern states, it is important to consider different time zones to accommodate students, so that might be another challenge. And, silence after asking a question is amplified in online teaching and creates an uncomfortable situation, but we can use it as a tool for critical thinking to reduce awkwardness.

What are some of the success stories you can share with us?

I would call it a success when students are engaged in the classroom and they ask questions — and when they interrupt you because they want to make sure they understand the steps. It also feels like a success when students share their appreciation for your efforts and are thankful for your work, and when they ask for a follow-up session with you to dig into the material more deeply.

How did you collaborate with faculty?

We had scheduled face-to-face orientation sessions before switching to online teaching because of the stay-at-home orders, so I had everything scheduled in my calendar and it was just a matter of reaching out to faculty to set up those instruction sessions online via Zoom. Some others were scheduled via email knowing their classes and interest from previous years.

How do you make it interactive/engage with students?

I try to ask questions during my teaching to make sure that students are following along and that they understand the process, and to make sure I am not going too fast. These might be questions about citations and citation styles, dealing with primary sources, or other research process questions. I also make sure that I reserve some quite time for critical thinking, so that students who need time can formulate their thoughts.

 

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Natasha Hollander (provided photo)

Natasha Hollander, Librarian, Lander College for Women; Adjunct Instructor, School for Lifelong Education

Are these sessions very different from what you offered in the classes face-to-face?

The sessions that I give during my Zoom are a bit different than what I give face-to-face because of the coronavirus. My students are in an area that is very affected by the pandemic, so the classes being offered reflect that.

What are the differences?

I changed the work expectations for my students to better reflect their situations. Now, they are only expected to complete their homework worksheets, a proposal for their final paper, their literature reviews, and a final paper. Normally, I would include a presentation as well, but that would just overwhelm them more. Also, it helped to focus my Zoom classes on a final goal, which I think made it easier for my students.

Are there any advantages to the online classes?

I think that teaching online during this time is nothing but an advantage to my students. My students seem to take more accountability for their own work and have more access to me as their professor online, in terms of asking questions or expressing confusion. I also found that, explaining concepts to the class using the shared screen feature felt more personal than being in our regular classroom, where it is sometimes hard for students to see the one screen. Additionally, the students seem to be a little bit more engaged in class discussions which makes the class feel more actively involved.

What are the disadvantages?

I do not really see disadvantages to teaching this class via Zoom. I am a big advocate of utilizing Zoom to teach classes and reach out to students during this time of social distancing.

What are some of the success stories you can share with us?

In one of my classes, my students opened up over Zoom and started asking me a lot of questions about graduate school and how their work can be improved to benefit them in their future education and careers.

How did you get the opportunity to teach a class?

I got the opportunity to teach this class when I was filling in last summer for the librarian at the Borough Park campus. After discussing my background, my experience, and responsibilities at LCW with the Director of SLE, she offered me the chance to teach this class — and I had to accept.

How do you make it interactive/engage with students?

I engage with my students every time we have class, and even more often now that we are not meeting physically, because when they have a question, they can also schedule a one-on-one meeting with me. This is beneficial to them and shows that the students are taking initiative and taking their learning into their own hands.

Note: this information was originally presented in a staff development webinar to other Touro College librarians in May 2020. These responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Copyright Infringement vs. Plagiarism

Copyright is complicated — there is no doubt about it. It overlaps with a lot of other issues in academic integrity and scholarship, including plagiarism. While copyright infringement and plagiarism can and do sometimes occur at the same time, they are separate concerns.

Plagiarism is using someone’s ideas or words and passing them off as your own or not giving the original author credit. Copyright infringement is using someone’s copyright materials — visual works, literary works, or otherwise — without permission (and without a fair use or other legal exemption). This includes sharing works, making copies of the work, and editing or remixing the work, among other actions.

a lego pirate figurine
Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

Using Your Own Work

Whether you can use your own copyrighted works depends on what your publisher allows. For example, to make copies of an article you wrote to give to your friends, you might need to get permission from the publisher if you signed away your right to distribute your work in your author contract. This can be especially frustrating, so it is important to carefully review your publishing contracts and add an addendum when necessary.

Self-plagiarism is another mistake to watch out for. Self-plagiarism occurs when you use work that you have previously published in a new work, without referencing your previous publication. It is important to let readers know the scholarly history of your thought, especially in scientific research; for students, self-plagiarism can result in academic dishonesty sanctions.

letters flying out of an open book
Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

Examples

Q: Adam uses several sentences from his dissertation in a new research paper he is writing; since he is using his own work, he decides not to cite it. What’s wrong with this scenario?

A: This is self-plagiarism.

Q: Beatrice is part of a book group with other members of the physics department. She thinks they would really like copies of her dissertation, which was published as a book last year by a commercial publisher. She doesn’t want them to have to buy the book, so she makes copies of it for each of them. What’s wrong with this scenario?

A: This is copyright infringement.

Learn more in our LibGuides for Copyright and Fair UseCiting Sources, and College Writing, read up in the blog post “Using Images on Blogs and Social Media (or: Pictures on the Internet Aren’t Copyrighted, Right?),” or contact a librarian for help with your writing and research.

This post was contributed by Georgia Westbrook, Open Educational Resources & Instruction Librarian.

An Uninvited Guest: What is the “Murder Hornet”?

So far, the year 2020 has turned out to be a bust, between the coronavirus, lockdown and quarantine, and a looming recession. As if we did not have enough to be concerned about, we now have new reports of a “murder hornet” entering the United States and setting up home here.

close of up a murder hornet
Male murder hornet. Photo by Yasunori Koide. CC-BY-SA 4.0.

The description of the murder hornets is quite frightening. At one-and-a-half to two inches long, the murder hornet has huge jaws that decapitate honeybees and a nasty stinger that can sting a human repeatedly. The sting to a human has been compared to feeling like a hot nail is being driven into one’s skin. And protection from their stinger is useless since even the protective suits that beekeepers wear is no match for the murder hornet: their quarter-inch stingers can drill right through it.

If this is a vision that gives you nightmares, I am here to clarify some of the facts and cut through the drama around our new — and unwelcome — guests. It seems the murder hornet is not as much of a horror show as it seems.

The murder hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is a common insect in Asia, where it is called the “giant hornet.” It is thought that a single murder hornet queen entered Canada via a cargo container from Asia and started a colony that was discovered in 2019. After the colony was spotted, scientists and government officials made efforts to destroy the colony during the winter months when the hornet hibernates. No other colonies have been discovered in the U.S. or Canada so far. Two dead murder hornets were spotted and collected in the state of Washington in December 2019, which has raised the odds that another colony may exist, but so far, none have been discovered. However, even if another colony does exist, scientists are unsure if the murder hornet will spread beyond the Pacific Northwest. It seems that the murder hornet cannot take extreme heat or cold weather. It has adapted to live in a very temperate climate, one that is common in the Pacific Northwest, but it is unlikely to thrive in other climates in North America. Therefore, the murder hornet is not likely to become a full-scale invasion.

What about the dangers to humans? Although the murder hornet can pack a nasty sting, their sting poses no more of a danger to humans than a honeybee sting. More people in the U.S. die from honeybee stings than people in Japan die from the murder hornet’s sting. The sting is painful, but the pain tends to subside in a few days. People who are allergic to bee stings should seek medical treatment if they are stung. Most importantly, it should be noted that murder hornets tend to keep to themselves and do not bother humans unless provoked. They will defend their hives from an attack like any social insect, but they are no more prone to attacking humans than any other hive insect.

full body picture of muder hornet
Male murder hornet. Photo by Yasunori Koide. CC-BY-SA 4.0.

The bigger concern is how the murder hornet will affect honeybee colonies if they take hold in the Pacific Northwest. The European honeybee, which is known for its very docile and defenseless nature, is the main bee used to pollinate crops in North America. Whereas other species of bees, particularly those in Asia that live among the murder hornet, will often kill a hornet if it enters their hive, the European Honeybee has no inclination. They are therefore vulnerable to having their hives overtaken by murder hornets that will decapitate them and keep them as a food source, so it is imperative that beekeepers use traps to protect their honeybee colonies from the hornets. Beekeepers are also taking steps to keep more defensive species of honeybees among their colonies who will defend their hives against murder hornets if they do invade the colony.

The saga of the murder hornet will continue . . .

This post was contributed by Annette Carr, Librarian at the School of Health Sciences at Bay Shore

References

Bernstein, J. (2020). Murder hornets invade headlines, not the U.S. Retrieved from https://news.ucr.edu/articles/2020/05/06/murder-hornets-invade-headlines-not-us

Embry, P. (2020). Just how dangerous is the ‘murder hornet’? Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/just-how-dangerous-is-the-murder-hornet/

Fox, A. (2020). No, Americans do not need to panic about ‘murder hornets’. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/invasion-murder-hornets-180974809/

Kawahara, A. Y. (2020). What are Asian giant hornets, and are they really dangerous? 5 questions answered. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/what-are-asian-giant-hornets-and-are-they-really-dangerous-5-questions-answered-137954

eBooks for Online Instruction

Online instruction is not new. However, as “the new normal” sets in, professors at Touro and beyond have quickly switched to providing online instruction. Teaching effectively with Zoom and Canvas is becoming even more integral to successful online learning.

graphics related to online education
Image by Mudassar Iqbal from Pixabay
The Field of Online Instruction

Online instruction can be done in a few ways. Online learning can include asynchronous instruction, in which students work on their own schedule completing assignments uploaded to an online learning management system, like Canvas, by a professor. In contrast, synchronous learning is learning which occurs in “real time,” like with live classes delivered through Zoom. And, of course, online learning can occur in a “blended” manner, using a combination of the two.

Being a successful online instructor goes beyond being proficient with these technologies. There are unique theories that support effective online instruction. For those new to teaching online, it can feel like there is so much to learn. While the internet is awash with information, including freely available eBooks, they are not always written by authors qualified to write on the topic.
 
eBooks Available Through the Touro College Libraries

The good news is that the Libraries continue to provide access to quality eBooks that cover the topic of online college instruction and are written by leaders in the field. These eBooks can be accessed through the Touro College Libraries catalog by using your TouroOne username and password, allowing you to read them on your electronic devices from the comfort of your home!

A Look at Three eBooks About Online Instruction

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2016). The online teaching survival guide : Simple and practical pedagogical tips. [eBook edition]. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

Both Boettcher and Conrad have extensive experience setting up online programs at prestigious universities. As the title indicates, this book provides practical tips and best practices that can be used when designing course content for online courses and teaching online throughout the semester in both synchronous and asynchronous formats.

Moore, M. G. (Ed.). (2012). Handbook of distance education. [eBook edition]. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

With a focus on theory, this award-winning book covers a broad range of topics, including the history of, and pedagogical theories supporting, distance learning; how to design and deliver online instruction; and issues facing academic administrators such as legal and copyright issues.

Riggs, S. (2020). Thrive online : A new approach for college educators. [eBook edition]. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

As Executive Director of Oregon State University’s eCampus, Shannon Riggs is well-qualified to write a book which describes the critical qualities online educators should possess. Questions for the reader to reflect on are interspersed throughout the book to encourage more effective teaching practices.

a baby typing on a computer
Image by Luidmila Kot from Pixabay
The Touro College Libraries have many more eBooks about online education. Simply search with keywords such as “online instruction” or “online education.”

For a visual demonstration of how to search the catalog for eBooks, watch our video tutorial.

This post was contributed by Michael Kahn, Librarian, Touro College School for Lifelong Education

Write On: Journaling During a Pandemic

What were you doing the summer you turned 13?

I was on an American President Lines cruiseship, on a 26-day trip from Manila, Philippines (where I lived from 1966-1969) back to the United States, with stopovers in Japan and Hong Kong. I remember the ship had a swimming pool, and more than one restaurant, and a lot of kids around my age. I remember that I foolishly hung my three-quarters size guitar on the wall of my stateroom, where it got cracked on the voyage.

And I remember buying my first journal at an immense toy store in Hong Kong, beginning a lifelong habit of recording my thoughts and feelings and saving my memories of people I’d met, places I’d visited, events I’d witnessed, and experiences I’d had on my travels. My mom, a’h, suggested I buy the journal, as I was already a seasoned, intercontinental traveler, experiencing different cultures all over the world. Keeping a journal has become a cherished practice.

a person journaling
Image by free stock photos from www.picjumbo.com from Pixabay

Since we’re all living through a unique period in time, during this coronavirus pandemic, I thought I’d encourage each of you to take up journaling. Think of the stories you will have to tell your children and grandchildren! There are many ways to keep a journal, and I’ll share some ideas with you here.

Selecting a Journal

Yes, in my opinion, journaling involves writing with a pen—or sketching with a pen or pencil—on paper. What you write online requires electricity to access, and it may not be available to share the way your analog journal entries will be (although I do admit I sometimes print out letters I’ve typed and insert those loose pages into my handwritten journal). I promise you the experience will be well worth it! So, the first thing you’ll need to do is choose a journal.

fountain pen on paper
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

That first journal I bought in 1969 had a soft fabric cover in pastel plaid. The fabric cover stained easily, and I outgrew my fondness for plaids and pastels. My next journal had a plastic cover. That was even worse: it got hot and sticky. Now, I use a journal with a cover that has a pleasant feel and moves smoothly over a desk, table, or lap. My journals are always easy to carry with me, with a flexible binding, good quality paper that takes fountain-pen ink, and built-in pockets for ticket stubs or other small mementos. Some people use plain school notebooks, but I like the Moleskin Classic, lined, soft cover journals (they make unlined versions for those inclined to augment their words with pictures).

This year, I tried using an environmentally-friendly, stone paper journal. I love the idea of it, and the paper takes fountain pen ink beautifully, but it’s too heavy to lug around and has a fabric cover.

Once you’ve gone through the process of choosing a journal type, start writing!

Tips for Novice Journal Writers:

  • Keep your journal with you, so you’re ready to write or sketch at any time
  • Keep the first page blank; start writing on the second page (trust me on this)
  • Date every entry (day, month, year): you think you’ll remember later, but you won’t
  • Don’t edit your writing or feel you have to write beautifully, just jot down your thoughts
  • Write a little or a lot—it’s up to you
  • Write when you want to and don’t feel obligated to write every day (it’s not a chore)
  • If you have a hard time starting to write, just make a bullet list of the day’s events
  • Write lists of your favorite things, like books, quotes, films, or recipes
  • Although you don’t have to write everyday, try to make writing part of your routine as your get ready in the morning or wind down at night

You’re living through extraordinary times, on a personal and communal level. Consider sharing with your journal what you share in conversation with your friends and families—or the thoughts you’re thinking but not expressing.

Your journals are just for you. Don’t feel you have to make a compete record of your experiences, with photos, or pressed flowers, or theater tickets. Some days you might feel like scrapbooking; other days, you may want to use the bullet-point method of jotting down your day’s activities to use to jog your memory later. Your journal writing doesn’t have to be perfect, grammatically correct, or demonstrate your calligraphic handwriting skills.

Keeping a journal helps you articulate your thoughts and feelings and can be a therapeutic “safe space” to record your emotions, preserve your memories, and reflect honestly on how your life experiences are aligning with your life goals. The act of writing is a useful technique for self-awareness and personal growth. It’s true: sometimes you discover what you’re thinking or feeling as you write!

blank journal with flowers
Image by Monfocus from Pixabay

For inspiration, explore these diaries from famous authors and regular people, which can be found in the TCL catalog or for free online:

Happy reading—and journaling!

This post was contributed by Aviva Adler, Librarian, Touro College Israel

11 Reasons to Consider OER for Your Fall Courses

Open educational resources, or OER, are excellent materials to use for in-person, online, and hybrid classes. As you plan your courses for the fall semester, here are 11 reasons to consider OER.

neon sign that says open
CC-BY: Bill Smith

#1: OER are available on day one 

OER can be ready for students on the first day of a course, or even before. You no longer need to wait for students to acquire a textbook to get started with the material.

#2: OER are free forever 

Rather than renting a print copy of a book that needs to be returned or paying for an access code that will expire at the end of the semester, students can use an OER material for free forever. This is particularly helpful for academic programs that build on standard foundational courses; as students move to more advanced levels, they can continue to use their earlier texts for reference.

calculator with college spelled out
CC-BY: GotCredit

#3: OER can be accessed anywhere, anytime 

All students need to read an OER is a device that can connect to the internet. They can access OER materials on their phone, a tablet, or a computer, or they can print out sections or the whole text. Most OER can also be downloaded for offline access.

#4: OER can be adapted to fit your course 

If you are asking students to purchase an expensive textbook, you might be tempted to “teach to the textbook” so that students get their money’s worth. With an OER, you can teach what you want and craft your textbook to match your needs.

#5: OER can be adjusted to match a changing semester  

Whether the semester goes as planned or becomes shorter than you had planned for, OER can fit your timeline. You can adjust a textbook in the middle of the semester to remove units you will not be able to cover or to add in extra material if your class needs additional support on a topic.

smiling square with icons representing documents
Image by Manfred Steger from Pixabay

#6: OER go beyond textbooks 

Textbooks might be the most common form of OER, but they are not the only OER. There are free, open versions of test banks, lecture slides, and even whole Canvas course templates you can import. If you can imagine a course material, it is likely that there is an OER version of it.

#7: OER support student success and retention 

Colvard, Watson, and Park (2018) found that “students tend to perform better in course settings when OER textbooks were used in place of expensive, commercial textbooks.” And librarians at Montgomery College, a community college in Maryland, found that when they made the switch to online emergency teaching this semester, the retention rate for OER courses was 85%, higher than the retention rate for the college as a whole. This is consistent with retention rates for OER across the semesters there. Not only are OER contributing to keeping students in class, they are contributing to higher grades, too.

#8: OER can be made accessible for all learners

Accessible design is a central tenet of the open community, so finding or creating materials that can be used by students with different learning needs is easily done. Some OER platforms offer audio versions of the text, accessible formats that can be read by screen-readers, and fonts that can be changed to be easier to read. These aspects of good OER design benefit all users, not just those with disabilities.

#9: OER are an opportunity to publish 

Publishing an OER material can be a great way to add to your CV. For many departments, an OER project can count towards promotion, based on research, writing, or service done to contribute to your professional community.

lego figurines
CC-BY: Giulia Forsythe

#10: OER can lead to deeper learning 

Students and faculty can collaborate to publish OER, deepening the opportunity to learn. This is part of the idea behind open pedagogy, which “is the use of open educational resources (OER) to support learning, or the open sharing of teaching practices with a goal of improving education and training at the institutional, professional, and individual level” (BCCampus OpenEd). Students can engage in meaningful creation of educational matters by using OER as a jumping off point.

#11: OER connect us 

OER start a conversation between authors, faculty, students, and community users from around the world. You can use resources from South Africa and contribute materials that might be used in a classroom in Germany. The “open” community is a welcoming space for connection and collaboration.

This post was contributed by Georgia Westbrook, Open Educational Resources & Instruction Librarian

Finding Solace at an Animal Sanctuary

For as long as I can remember, I have always been drawn to animals, from gushing over the stray cats that my father used to bring home like some sort of Pied Piper, to having the distinct memory of rushing across the road as a teen to assist a jaywalking turtle. When, in 2014, I was presented with the opportunity to work directly with animals (many of which most people never get the chance to work with), I immediately accepted.

On my very first day volunteering, I was tasked with mucking up after a pair of alpacas, feeding over a dozen chickens, and brushing a big bovine beauty named Annabelle. While it was hard, physical work, it was also heavenly. I was completely in my element, surrounded by over fifty animals of all different shapes, sizes, and species, and learning as much as I could about them. Continue reading