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.
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.
This summer David B. Levy, Chief Librarian LCW, published a 10 volume set which was featured at the UMCP alumni spotlight. Volume 7 of this set is in the area of Jewish genealogical research. In part, Volume 7 brings to centerstage a recuperation of Jewish Women’s Eastern European history which was the subject of a radio interview hosted by Heidi Rabininowitz at the Tree of Life podcast interview aired on April 27th and titled, “Strategies and Methods for Researching Jewish Genealogy.” David was scheduled to give a lecture on Volume 7 at Stern College on March 24th, which was postponed due to the pandemic, so The Tree of Life offered a special series on authors and researchers whose speaking gigs were disrupted. The interview testifies to a number of remarkable Jewish women who exemplified great sacrifice, courage, resilience, devotion in transmitting Jewish traditions, and beacons of inspiration to all Jews and all peoples for their remarkable accomplishments in the spiritual, ethical, intellectual, and cultural realms. Volume 7 describes some of the methods and strategies of uncovering the histories of members of David’s family in Eastern Europe, back about 18 generations, and place this account in its historical context. As well as revealing an elite rabbinic ancestry, the study as noted briefly in the interview brings to life matriarchal histories.
Volume 7 represents about 30 years of research by David, and some appeared in previous publications, such as an AJL Proceedings study on research scholar librarians featuring David’s relative Dr. Vilsker, Judaica librarian at the Saltykov library in St. Petersberg. The seven attachments of handouts on this AJL link document the reception history of Vilsker’s discoveries, including bringing to light unknown poems of Rabbi Yehudah HaLevy, in the Israeli scholarly press (Keriyat Sefer) and popular newspapers, discoveries that literally rocked all economic and social facets of Israeli culture and society. It is peppered with primary sources including interviews with family in Israel, unique photos, genealogical trees, letters (iggerot), Hespadim (eulogies), Haskamot (rabbinic endorsement of Hebrew texts published by rabbinic scholars in the family), pinkasim (synagogue records), maps, the historical Jewish press, current Israeli newspapers, technos prayers (original prayers in Yiddish), kvitlekh (prayers inserted in the Western wall), memoirs, diaries, public records, oral histories, original poems by family members, statistical and demographic studies, blog postings, Facebook and Twitter posts. Volume 7 draws on research in languages including Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, German, French, etc.
NYPL offers an array of rich resources for genealogical research. Anyone who “lives, works, attends school or pays property taxes in New York State” can get a free library card, and during the pandemic can do so completely online (click here for details).
It may feel like our current crisis is completely unprecedented, but the truth is that we can look to history for evidence of what has happened before and how people have survived pandemics. Jewish and biblical history hold valuable insights into our present situation.
Examples of Pandemics from the Bible
When King David conducted a census of the population, he ordered the counting of the people directly, instead of counting indirectly by means of half shekels (mahazit ha-shekel). As a result, the Rabbis tell us, a plague took place which killed 70,000 people, with 100 people dying each day.
It was decreed that the plague would be annulled if 100 brachot, or blessings, were recited each day. The Rabbis explain that since 100 people died each day from the plague, the recitation of 100 blessings a day would counteract midah kineged midah, or measure for measure (see Midash Rabba – Numbers 18:17; Tur 46, quoting Rav Netrunoi Gaon).
In another instance, we find the terror of plagues in Leviticus 26:25, which states, “And I will bring the sword upon you… and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you.” In yet another example, Ezekiel 7:15 states, “The sword is without and the pestilence and the famine within,” and, beyond that, the Philistines’ capture of the ark was said to cause a plague of hemorrhoids.
Examples of Rabbinic Responses
What remedies have Rabbis suggested over the ages to defend against epidemics?
The Talmud mentions the efficacy of offering prayers, particularly Tehillim (Psalms). If the situation does not allow large gatherings, then synchronized prayer, done at the same time in private domains, is effective.
This is also the theory behind dafyomi, developed by Rabbi Meir Shapiro. Jews around the world each study a page (daf) of the Talmud, the central text from which Jewish law is derived.
Being in quarantine or self-isolation at this time may give you more time to study, so you might like to keep in mind the elixir of old given by Rabbis for remedying not only physical illness, but also spiritual illness (refuat ha-nefeshverefuat ha-guf). The Chofetz Chaim urges the study of laws regarding slander and gossip that are believed also to curb the onset of plague and warns against causing harm psychologically of persons by “meanspeak“, embarassing person in public, and otherwise causing harm to individuals You might also like to learn about ethical principles which can be applied to the internet, as you interact with others in our digital world.
Wiping out this pandemic requires basic respect for life as the ultimate good, respect for human dignity, and great doses of humility, compassion, and above all, care for the sanctify of life.
Ultimately we must recognize that the ways of G-d are beyond human logic. We can look to history to understand how humans have reacted in the past, but only time will tell how we react to our current challenge. Keeping in mind these lessons, we can help others along the way.
This article was contributed by David B. Levy, Chief Librarian at the Lander College for Women
While it feels like the whole world has been turned upside down due to the coronavirus, you can still do your best to better yourself and help others during these turbulent times. Through social distancing, diligent hand washing, and adhering to direction given by the CDC and WHO, we can all help to stop the spread of the virus. In addition to distance, hygiene and listening to public health agencies, there are a multitude of things that you can do to positively affect yourself and others during COVID-19.
Happy Open Education Week! At Touro College Libraries, we are celebrating all things open education this week (and the rest of the year too). Follow this blog, and our social media accounts (@tourolibraries), and check out our bulletin board outside of the Midtown Library.
What would you do if you had an extra $175 to spend?
One Touro student saved that much in one semester when her professors used OER, or open educational resources, instead of traditional textbooks. OER, as defined by the Hewlett Foundation, “are high-quality teaching, learning, and research materials that are free for people everywhere to use and repurpose.” These materials can include test banks, lesson plans, and assignment templates, but most commonly, the term OER is associated with textbooks.
In the definition of OER, free means both free of costs and free when it comes to the application of copyrights. OER are licensed under Creative Commons, or are simply in the public domain, which means they can be distributed, adapted, copied, edited —basically you name it — without legal repercussions.
And, as that student who saved $175 put it, “Open textbooks are helping me drastically cut costs associated with pursuing my undergraduate degree and I am now able to apply these funds towards other things including tuition payments. It makes my life easier since typically at the end of each semester I am left with these books that I will likely never use again that just take up space as they sometimes can’t be resold.”
Despite such positive student experiences, myths about OER abound:
Myth #1: Open simply means free. Fact: Open means the permission to freely download, edit, and share materials to better serve all students.
Myth #2: All OER are digital. Fact: OER take many formats, including print, digital, audio, and more.
Myth #3: “You get what you pay for.” Fact: OER can be produced to the same quality standards as traditional textbooks.
Myth #4: Copyright for OER is complicated Fact: Open licensing makes OER easy to freely and legally use.
Myth #5: OER are not sustainable. Fact: Models are evolving to support the sustainability and continuous improvement of OER.
Myth #6: Open textbooks lack ancillaries. Fact: Open textbooks often come with ancillaries, and when they do not, existing OER can provide additional support.
Myth #7: My institution is not ready for OER. Fact: Any institution can start with small steps toward OER that make an impact for students.
Faculty across Touro are already adopting and adapting OER textbooks for their courses.
For example, the psychology department faculty at NYSCAS have adopted OER for their GPSN 110 course, and because of this, over 290 students across more than 12 sections have benefited from free, open textbooks.
Since the Open Touro initiative was established in Fall 2018, the use of OER has saved Touro students over $54,000 collegewide.
You can help increase that number by adopting, adapting, or even authoring your own OER — and librarians are here to help!
This fall will be a fresh start for many of our students at the Touro School of Health Sciences in Bay Shore. But whether you are a returning student or just starting out, please keep in mind that the library has many resources for you. We can assist you in learning how to locate books, find full-text articles, and conduct research. While on campus, you may benefit from our quiet study spaces, research computer center, and of course, your friendly librarians. Continue reading →
Everyone has heard of fake news by now. It’s seemingly everywhere, and in all types of media. How do we wade through all this incorrect information and find out what the real story is?
Last week, Library Information Literacy Director Sara Tabaei and I attended a METRO symposium entitled “(Mis)informed: Propaganda, Disinformation, Misinformation, and Our Culture.” The aim of this one-day meeting was to discuss the underlying issues and ways to teach about all of this incorrect information. It was also an opportunity to see METRO’s new location (which happens to be right by the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum!).
On Tuesday, May 1, 2018, Touro College held its seventh annual Research Day at the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine/Touro College of Pharmacy campus in Harlem. Not only was this day a great opportunity for faculty and students to showcase their recent research in the form of poster presentations, it was also an opportunity to hear some renowned keynote speakers sharing their most recent research with our students, faculty, deans, and senior administration.
In his welcoming note, Touro President Dr. Alan Kadish shared a story of a very young patient who had a rare disease called Batten disease. He went on to explain that though there is no cure for the disease yet, the doctors of this patient used translational research to stabilize the patient. Translational research is, according to Wikipedia, a rapidly growing discipline in biomedical research that applies findings from basic science to enhance human health and well-being. It aims to “translate” findings in fundamental research into medical practice and meaningful health outcomes to expedite the discovery of new diagnostic tools and treatments. With this story, Dr. Kadish conveyed how quickly science can progress when motivation and creativity exist. Continue reading →
I am a self-admitted nerd, and during the early January blizzard and sub-zero temperatures, I ventured out through wind and snow to join many fellow nerds at the MLA’s annual convention. Now, to most people, “MLA” is synonymous with burdensome citation rules, but the organization, whose full name is the Modern Language Association, actually encompasses academic research from all sorts of topics in literature and the humanities. The convention in January had panels by scholars on Shakespeare, fantasy literature, Renaissance epics, Leonard Cohen’s poetry, and many other topics near and dear to my heart. Continue reading →