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.