Open Education Week 2021 Roundup

The first week of March saw the global open education community commence its annual awareness campaign, Open Education Week. The event drew institutions and organizations from around the world to share Open Educational Resources (OER) on their own websites, on social media [see #OEweek], and via the Open Education Week organizers, Open Education Consortium.

[Refresher: Open educational resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. –OERCommons.]

The Open Education Consortium made many of these open resources, shared by the community, available in one centralized location, their repository, the OE Week Library. This is a great place to browse all manner of open resources for learning and teaching, from course modules to textbooks and everything in between. And, of course, it is all openly licensed, and therefore freely available to be used, shared and reused!

Here are just a few of the OER shared with the community during this year’s Open Education Week:

  • Creative Commons has a very interesting history. If you’re looking to learn more about Creative Commons (CC) and the open licensing movement that makes open education possible, this CC Certificate Course content is a great place to start. Read the textbook offered here for all the background and history that made open education possible. https://certificates.creativecommons.org/cccertedu/




For more discussion of equity and Open Educational Resources see our previous blog post here.

And for an introduction to OER including a plethora of definitions, tips and resources, see our Open Touro OER Initiative libguide.

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

Open Education Week 2021

This post was originally published on March 2, 2020 and has been updated.

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) for more.

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.”

Image source: Manfred Steger from Pixabay

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.

(Source: “OER Mythbusting” from SPARC)

Image source: Annett Zobel from Pixabay

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 $100,000 collegewide.

You can help increase that number by adopting, adapting, or even authoring your own OER — and librarians are here to help!

If you are interested in reviewing open textbooks available in your field, contact Sara Tabaei (sara.tabaei@touro.edu).

Learn more about the Open Touro OER Initiative here: http://libguides.tourolib.org/OER

What do students have to say about OER?

Open educational resources (OER) are “teaching, learning, and research resources that 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 NYSCAS Business & Accounting department has long been a champion of OER (we highlighted Professor Angelo DeCandia as a Textbook Hero on this blog in July). At the end of the fall 2020 semester, the chair of the department, Dr. Sabra Brock’s students shared their feedback on their OER textbooks with us — and they had a lot to say.

After reading what students have to say, are you interested in using OER in your courses? Contact the Libraries to learn more about how you can save your students money, keep them enrolled, and help them succeed!

Open Education Conference 2020

This year, the Open Education Conference was entirely online – which made it possible for me and Sara to attend and present a lightning talk titled “OER is Served: Framing OER as a Service to Stakeholders”.

Like Juliana and Sara when they attended OpenEd in 2018, I was excited to hear how other colleges and universities around the world were starting and sustaining their open education initiatives and I learned many things to use in my own work.

CC-BY 4.0: Open Education Conference
“That’s Not an Issue Here”: Addressing Myths and Misconceptions about OER at Private Institutions

A lot of the writing and tips about working on OER programs come from and address publicly-funded colleges and universities; since Touro is one of a growing number of private institutions working on OER, this session was a relevant one. The presenters reiterated something we have already found to be true at Touro: private college students are just as concerned about textbooks costs as their public college peers, and private college faculty are just as interested in addressing those concerns.

How (and Why) to Create Your Own OER Podcast

This session from staff at MIT Open Learning detailed how they created a podcast called Chalk Beat Radio to promote open educational resources at MIT and beyond. The session began with the hosts playing a podcast they recorded explaining the steps they took to create the podcast series from start to finish and how they addressed some of the challenges they encountered. After they played the podcast, there was a live question and answer session, and there were many takeaways we can bring to our OER information sessions and webinars — maybe we’ll start a podcast, too!

Reimagining PreK-12 OER Development through Teacher Education Programs

Because Touro has such a strong School of Education, the discipline has been a focus as we try to grow the Open Touro initiative. Teacher training is also a natural fit for open pedagogy practices, and this session explored how that is being put into practice at Lehman College (CUNY) in the Bronx through a partnership between a faculty member and a librarian.

Beyond Funding: Strategies for Sustaining OER at a Community College

The OER Initiative at the Harrisburg Area Community College in Pennsylvania began during the 2019-2020 school year with the formation of a committee who got to work building a community that would adopt, adapt, and author OER and would keep the momentum going, even if funding ran out. The presenters pushed the importance of experienced faculty members who can support those just starting out, which is something we are working on developing through Touro’s OER Faculty Fellowship.

The Future of OpenEd

The Friday Plenary explored participants’ perceptions of this year’s conference and how this online format might be included in the future iterations of the conference, even if some aspects of it do return to in-person delivery. It was a productive way to wrap up the sessions and gave me a lot to think about as I finish my first year as an OER librarian.

All Open Education Conference sessions were recorded and will be made available for free on the conference website in the coming weeks.

If you are interested in learning more about open education at Touro, please check out our guides at the links below:

What’s new in instructional support for fall 2020?

Welcome to the fall 2020 semester! Although this semester might look different than other semesters in the past, the support that the Touro College Libraries can provide hasn’t wavered. We are excited to assist students and faculty with their learning, teaching, and research, and we invite you to contact a librarian to learn more about any of the resources listed below.

a sketch of a square figure drawing a lightbulb on an easel
Image by Manfred Steger from Pixabay

Do you have readings you’d like to make available to your students online?

Sharing in Canvas: If you are sharing a journal article or book chapter from outside of the Touro College Libraries databases with your class this semester, you may need to get copyright clearance to include the material in your Canvas course. This applies to electronic and scanned materials. The Libraries are available to assist you with determining whether you need to secure copyright clearance, and, if you do, with requesting permission to share. Please contact Marina Zilberman for more information.

eBooks and Databases: If you’re looking for easily accessible and low-cost materials for your classes, our eBook collections and electronic databases are a great resource. In Canvas, you can link directly to most books and articles.

Open Educational Resources: You can use many free resources in your class, including high-quality, peer-reviewed textbooks with instructor materials. Tell us which commercial textbook you would like to replace, and we will show you what’s available for your discipline.

Do you want to use documentaries and educational films to support your instruction?

Streaming videos: For increased convenience and access by students outside of class, the Libraries offer a growing collection of online streaming videos, including Education in Video, Films on Demand, Kanopy and more. Most titles are also discoverable by searching in the library catalog by “Location: TC E-Videos.”

Are you teaching an online course?

Ask a Librarian: Students have ready access to assistance with research and library resources via chat, email or phone with our Ask A Librarian service.

Embedded librarians: This program matches you with a dedicated librarian to provide customized library instruction for your students. Learn more by contacting Sara Tabaei, Library Information Literacy Director.

Remote orientations: All of our library instruction classes can be held via Zoom video conferences, accessible by students from home, or can be shared as a recorded video for students to watch outside of class time.

Do your students have trouble finding the kinds of information you want them to use in their papers and projects?

Instruction: We offer both general library orientations and specialized research classes, customized to prepare students for the particular assignments in your course. Contact your campus library for information or to schedule a session.

LibGuides: These research guides are organized by subject to bring together the best resources for each topic. Additional guides are available on research skills and library services and we are happy to create one for your course upon request.

Do your students have trouble with writing and/or citing sources correctly?

Citing Sources guide: This guide includes presentations, videos, and quizzes to help you discuss academic integrity with your students. Additionally, you’ll find tools to assist with creating citations and detailed information on a variety of citation styles.

RefWorks: Refworks is a citation and research manager available to students and faculty with their @touro.edu email address. Import, organize and cite your research with this online tool. Training is available upon request.

College Writing guide: Our College Writing guide compiles the most helpful resources for composition, revision, and editing in academic writing.


We’re here to help with all of these resources and beyond! Contact the Touro College Libraries to learn more.

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.

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.

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.

11 Reasons to Consider OER for Your Fall Courses

Open educational resources, or OER, are excellent materials to use for in-person, online, and hybrid classes. As you plan your courses for the fall semester, here are 11 reasons to consider OER.

neon sign that says open
CC-BY: Bill Smith

#1: OER are available on day one 

OER can be ready for students on the first day of a course, or even before. You no longer need to wait for students to acquire a textbook to get started with the material.

#2: OER are free forever 

Rather than renting a print copy of a book that needs to be returned or paying for an access code that will expire at the end of the semester, students can use an OER material for free forever. This is particularly helpful for academic programs that build on standard foundational courses; as students move to more advanced levels, they can continue to use their earlier texts for reference.

calculator with college spelled out
CC-BY: GotCredit

#3: OER can be accessed anywhere, anytime 

All students need to read an OER is a device that can connect to the internet. They can access OER materials on their phone, a tablet, or a computer, or they can print out sections or the whole text. Most OER can also be downloaded for offline access.

#4: OER can be adapted to fit your course 

If you are asking students to purchase an expensive textbook, you might be tempted to “teach to the textbook” so that students get their money’s worth. With an OER, you can teach what you want and craft your textbook to match your needs.

#5: OER can be adjusted to match a changing semester  

Whether the semester goes as planned or becomes shorter than you had planned for, OER can fit your timeline. You can adjust a textbook in the middle of the semester to remove units you will not be able to cover or to add in extra material if your class needs additional support on a topic.

smiling square with icons representing documents
Image by Manfred Steger from Pixabay

#6: OER go beyond textbooks 

Textbooks might be the most common form of OER, but they are not the only OER. There are free, open versions of test banks, lecture slides, and even whole Canvas course templates you can import. If you can imagine a course material, it is likely that there is an OER version of it.

#7: OER support student success and retention 

Colvard, Watson, and Park (2018) found that “students tend to perform better in course settings when OER textbooks were used in place of expensive, commercial textbooks.” And librarians at Montgomery College, a community college in Maryland, found that when they made the switch to online emergency teaching this semester, the retention rate for OER courses was 85%, higher than the retention rate for the college as a whole. This is consistent with retention rates for OER across the semesters there. Not only are OER contributing to keeping students in class, they are contributing to higher grades, too.

#8: OER can be made accessible for all learners

Accessible design is a central tenet of the open community, so finding or creating materials that can be used by students with different learning needs is easily done. Some OER platforms offer audio versions of the text, accessible formats that can be read by screen-readers, and fonts that can be changed to be easier to read. These aspects of good OER design benefit all users, not just those with disabilities.

#9: OER are an opportunity to publish 

Publishing an OER material can be a great way to add to your CV. For many departments, an OER project can count towards promotion, based on research, writing, or service done to contribute to your professional community.

lego figurines
CC-BY: Giulia Forsythe

#10: OER can lead to deeper learning 

Students and faculty can collaborate to publish OER, deepening the opportunity to learn. This is part of the idea behind open pedagogy, which “is the use of open educational resources (OER) to support learning, or the open sharing of teaching practices with a goal of improving education and training at the institutional, professional, and individual level” (BCCampus OpenEd). Students can engage in meaningful creation of educational matters by using OER as a jumping off point.

#11: OER connect us 

OER start a conversation between authors, faculty, students, and community users from around the world. You can use resources from South Africa and contribute materials that might be used in a classroom in Germany. The “open” community is a welcoming space for connection and collaboration.

Open Education Week 2020

Logo2020
Image source: openeducationweek.org

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.”

break-3947908_1280
Image source: Manfred Steger from Pixabay

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.

(Source: “OER Mythbusting” from SPARC)

robot-3263267_1280
Image source: Annett Zobel from Pixabay

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!

Learn more about the Open Touro OER Initiative here: http://libguides.tourolib.org/OER