Textbook Heroes: Olalekan Ogunsakin

Welcome to our 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. 

image: Dr. Olalekan Ogunsakin (provided)

Dr. Olalekan Ogunsakin is Assistant Professor in the Department of Basic Biomedical Sciences, and Course Director for General Pathology at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harlem, NYC. Dr. Ogunsakin is also a Fellow in our Health Sciences and Allied Health Open Educational Resources (OER) Faculty Fellowship 2020-2021. 

[Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that are free to all users. They reside in the public domain, or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.] 

The Touro College OER Faculty Fellowship, sponsored by Touro College Libraries and funded by a grant from the Network of the National Library of Medicine Middle Atlantic Region, supports faculty in the health sciences and allied health fields in developing Open Educational Resources for their undergraduate and graduate students. The fellowship was awarded to five Touro Faculty members to support adopting, or creating OER for use in their courses. 


Hear more about Dr. Ogunsakin’s fellowship project in his own words: 

“The goals for this project were to evaluate and assess public health interventions to chronic diseases in East Harlem, a community where our campus is located. The project focuses on public health preparedness and intervention in conjunction with the activities of the student-run health clinic in the Harlem campus.  

“Open Educational Resources (OER) are a valuable tool that we believe will provide the requisite platform to share our project, thoughts, ideas, findings, and conclusions with the public, especially the target community of East Harlem. OER is expected to be our window-access to the outside world and the ideal platform to share our project findings with the public. 

“This project has greatly improved student participation in community outreach and intervention activities. It has also empowered the students to address health education and awareness among their potential patients and community residents. Through this project, my students and all the stakeholders have been able to assess and harness available resources for improving overall health outcomes in the community. Most importantly, every student, through this project, will come to understand the importance of health education and awareness to improving overall community health outcomes. 

“Our team has submitted three abstracts that have been accepted for presentation at different conferences, seminars, and academic meetings. We are currently working on two manuscript drafts from the analyzed data on the project. These drafts are being prepared for submission in reputable journals.  

“Participating in this fellowship has been one of the greatest highlights of my career in this institution, as my team have learned so much about different OER platforms out there that can be used and adapted to our project to help improve our project outcome. This was definitely a great opportunity.  

“We hope to continue to partner and work with the librarians towards presenting our findings from the project to the Touro community and the general public.”  

see our other Textbook Heroes posts  

-post contributed by Kirk Snyder, Open Educational Resources & Instruction Librarian 

Textbook Heroes: Tanupreet Suri

Welcome to our 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. 

image: Dr. Tanupreet Suri (provided)

Dr. Tanupreet Suri is Assistant Professor of Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Touro’s School of Health Sciences. Her research and practice interests include college-student mental health, experiences of minority students within higher education, social media, and new technology’s role in identity development, community-based participatory research, and social justice advocacy. She is also a Fellow in our Health Sciences and Allied Health Open Educational Resources (OER) Faculty Fellowship 2020-2021.

The Touro College OER Faculty Fellowship, sponsored by the Touro College Libraries and funded by a grant from the Network of the National Library of Medicine Middle Atlantic Region, supports faculty in the health sciences and allied health fields in developing Open Educational Resources for their undergraduate and graduate students. The fellowship was awarded to five Touro Faculty members to support adopting OER for use in their courses.   

Tanupreet is currently using OER in her course Case Conceptualization, Documentation, & Practicum, with plans to extend her OER use to other courses in the coming semesters. 


Hear from Dr. Suri herself, on the value of OER, how it benefits Touro students, and how it fits into her teaching practice:  

“Utilizing OERs not only provide access to content for course materials that are either free or very low cost both to the instructor and the student but also foster creativity, again, both for the instructor and the student. The positive impact I hope to make on my students is by having more of their involvement in creation of the learning materials. The involvement will hopefully empower students to take charge in their learning process. This student involvement will further enhance long-term retention of the content we are covering. Finally, having more transformational learning opportunities present for students will have a positive impact on the learning community that is created with the students.

“This process is very much aligned with my teaching style. In sum, my participation in this fellowship project has highlighted a need for more of these materials to exist, specifically within the Clinical Mental Health Counseling field. I plan to continue utilizing OERs in more courses both to save costs as well as to offer students an opportunity to get creative in their overall learning experience.” 


see our other Textbook Heroes posts

-contributed by Kirk Snyder, Open Educational Resources & Instruction Librarian, Touro College Libraries

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 the Libraries.

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.

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 contacting the Libraries.

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.