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.
Neil Normand is Lecturer and Lab Director at Touro’s Lander College for Women. He is also a Fellow in our Health Sciences and Allied Health Open Educational Resources (OER) Faculty Fellowship 2020-2021.
[refresher: 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.
Neil’s fellowship project, the Lander College for Women Microbiome Project, takes the form of a collection of OER modules (textbook chapters, articles, videos, etc.), adopted from several sources, and hosted in Canvas. It was created for his Principles of Biology I course and lab. With this course taken by roughly 600 students a year, Neil’s fellowship project has the potential to save Touro students around $70,000 a year in textbook costs!
Here, Neil answers a few questions about his OER fellowship project:
Why were you interested in OER in the first place?
There is a wealth of helpful information in the form of Open Educational Resources. In the recent shift to remote-based learning, I feel that is important to take advantage of the online resources that are available.
How was your experience finding tools and resources for OER?
It was pleasantly surprising finding many online resources with OER. Through TouroOne, the online Library resources were very helpful. Several different OER Biology textbooks were available as well as OER course material. The OER library staff was extremely helpful in helping myself and the other fellows. We met regularly and we were made aware of different resources.
What were your goals? Did you achieve the goals you had set out for your project?
My goal was to create an online resource for students to access information on the Human Microbiome project. Thanks in large part to the Touro Libraries OER resources I was able to achieve that.
Can you give us a description of your OER fellowship project?
My project was to develop an online resource to learn about the Microbiome, loosely defined as microorganisms, such as bacteria, that are found throughout the human body. It plays an important role in our understanding of our interactions with microorganisms and can help better understand which microorganisms are associated with clinical conditions and can help to improve the overall state of human health. I have used OER to first provide some background information on microorganisms in general. Also, the term Biome is an Ecology term that describes the interactions with organisms on a particular habitat, so I have provided some background information on that as well.
The idea of the microbiome is the microorganisms that inhabit our bodies, which is the habitat so to speak, in an ecological sense. There is a lot of Microbiome information provided. Some in the form of informative video content, some in the form of an open online course at MIT and links to papers and online books and other important websites that inform a lot about the microbiome. Finally, since this is intended to be a resource for Lander College for Women, a Womens Jewish College, there is also information about the impact of the human microbiome on women’s health, as well as information regarding a parallel concept in Jewish Philosophy, that a human being is a microcosm of a world.
see our other Textbook Heroes posts
-post contributed by Kirk Snyder, Open Educational Resources & Instruction Librarian