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.
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.
“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.
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.
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 contacting the Libraries.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?