March 15, 2018 | Academic Affairs

by Shawn Smith-Cruz, Polly Thistlethwaite, Stacy Katz, and Jennifer PoggialiLogo Open Education Resources

A Fall 2017 Discipline Council meeting generated mention of Open Educational Resources and prompted constructive feedback from the Library Discipline Council and the Library Information Literacy Advisory Council or LILAC. This conversation led to an invitation for librarians to join a Spring 2018 UFS Faculty Governance Leaders meeting to supply additional context for OER at CUNY. Presenters were Stacy Katz, Open Resources Librarian-STEM Liaison & Jennifer Poggiali, Instructional Technologies Librarian from Lehman College, alongside Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz, Head of Reference, and Polly Thistlethwaite, Chief Librarian, from the CUNY Graduate Center. The librarians discussed the nuances of Open Educational Resources and its support throughout CUNY. Presenters featured the CUNY Academic Commons as an OER platform. A slideshow of examples of OER courses on the Academic Commons preceded a detailed synopsis of the Lehman College experience working with faculty to generate OER courses. Below is an overview of the presentation.

1)      What are Open Educational Resources?
OERs are free and openly available online course materials designed to support student learning. OERs reduce the need to require student purchase of course textbooks or other commercial resources. OERs offset the cost of textbooks, for which CUNY students are advised to budget $1,364 per year. Zero Textbook Cost courses include both completely free and open OER materials, and library-licensed resources. Library-licensed resources are not publicly available, but they are freely available to CUNY students, without extra charge. Campus libraries pay significant sums to acquire electronic, print, and multimedia resources for CUNY student use. When CUNY faculty teach courses that do not require student textbook purchases, these courses can be designated “Zero Textbook Cost”. Students can search for courses with this zero cost attribute in CUNYfirst.

2)      How are OERs being promoted and utilized around CUNY?
CUNY has been awarded significant grants to lower student costs for textbooks and to support OER initiatives across CUNY. Two examples are the Achieving the Dream (ATD) OER Degree Initiative and the CUNY Scale-Up Initiative. Through the ATD grant, three of the university’s community colleges (Borough of Manhattan Community College, Bronx Community College, and Hostos Community College) developed zero textbook cost pathways, also called “Z-Degrees.” The CUNY Scale-Up Initiative is funded by New York State Governor’s office, with distribution administered by the CUNY Office of Library Services in conjunction with the Chancellor. This initiative funds individual campus projects to redesign courses and course materials. Most campus projects include compensation for instructors engaged with redesigning course materials to make them zero cost. Other professional reward for zero cost course construction may, but are not required, to be determined by faculty and professional review.

3)      How should faculty embark on providing a ZTC/OER course?
As faculty consider whether to embark on adopting, curating, or adapting Open Educational Resources for their students, we recommend the following:

1- Talk to your OER Representative on your campus. This is either a librarian, an OER coordinator employed via the various initiatives, or a staff person in your campus Teaching and Learning Center. This rep can help you get started and provide more information on funding possibilities. You may also reach out to Ann Fiddler, the Open Education Librarian at the Office of Library Services.

2- Choose your platform(s). A number of platforms are available and supported by CUNY for developing OER, including Libguides and the CUNY Academic Commons. These platforms are not necessarily a replacement for Blackboard. They are a webspace for Creative Commons licensed and public domain resources. These platforms have varied potential to enable new forms of open pedagogy to engage students. Whether you choose Libguides, the CUNY Academic Commons, a campus-based blog-space, or a freely available old-fashioned course packet, the goal is to create zero textbook cost courses. We encourage faculty to select and employ the most appropriate publicly available resources, and to move toward open resources as they are developed.

3- Gather resources. One of the myriad benefits of OER is the flexibility it provides faculty. Faculty may find one OER for a course that can be remixed or combined to create a customized, highly relevant resource supporting a course. Upload your OER to the CUNY Academic Works institutional repository to preserve it.

CUNY’s national leadership in public higher education is consistent with the goal to lead in the use and construction of Open Educational Resources.

Additional OER Resources: :

Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz is Head of Reference, LILAC Chair at The Graduate Center; Polly Thistlethwaite is Chief Librarian at The Graduate Center; Stacy Katz is the Substitute Open Resources Librarian-STEM Liaison at Lehman College; and Jennifer Poggiali is an Instructional Technologies Librarian also at Lehman College.

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Photo: Markus Büsges (leomaria design), Wikimedia Deutschland. CC BY-SA 4.0