OER Adoption: Instructor Experiences

College SuccessThis semester two San José City College instructors, Veronica Harris and Lorraine Levy, ventured into some new territory. Instead of using traditional, printed, for-purchase textbooks in their classrooms, they opted for electronic open-education resources (OER). Harris, who teaches guidance courses and is a counselor for Puente and Athletics, is using an Open UMN textbook called College Success, and Levy, who teaches psychology courses, is using an OpenStax textbook called Psychology. Neither faculty member had used an OER textbook in her teaching before nor any textbook in an electronic format. Thus far, both instructors are well satisfied and find the students’ impressions to be favorable.

Textbook Value

According to Harris, the discovery of College Success was a twofer: “I teach a College Study Techniques guidance class in the fall semester and a Career and Life Planning guidance class in the spring. The main reason I am using the OER textbook is because my students had to purchase two textbooks for each of these courses. [The textbook] covers entering college and study techniques that I teach in the fall guidance course.  It also covers career and life planning, so I can use this same textbook in the spring.  This means my students do not have to purchase a book for either semester.” In each of Harris’s courses, the approximate cost of the textbook was $100.

OpenStax PsychologyCosts were a bit steeper for students in Levy’s section of Introduction to Psychology. The textbook she used prior to adopting an OER was $290. When asked about the quality of the OER textbook, Levy responded “I’m happy with the quality. It’s succinct. It has all the main points I cover in my normal lectures. It’s compact enough that I am free to elaborate with my own materials, including extension or enrichment activities.” She is also happy with the textbook’s CC BY licensing, which means that she’s free to add to and edit textbook chapters and sections. “I’m getting my PhD in Jungian psychology, and he’s not fully represented. [This] gives me the opportunity to add my own content.”

Student Response

Resoundingly, students are in favor of OER textbooks because they are free, but there are other benefits, as well. For example, OER puts an end to availability gaps, so a late book order or bookstore hiccup doesn’t derail any ambitious plans for the first few weeks of class. OER textbooks are helpful to students and instructors alike who take and teach newly added course sections or “late start” courses. “As I was a last-minute hire,” says Levy, who works as an adjunct, “I was relieved the [text]book was already chosen since I was jumping into the class the weekend before the class started.” Harris notes that students don’t miss hauling physical textbooks to class. They like that their books are always already online or readily available on their smartphones or tablets or laptops. Well aware that some students are apprehensive about computers, Harris schedules her classes in a lab, so she can assist with the technologies and be certain that students have access to the OER textbook during class.

When asked if students had any technical problems with their OER textbook, both instructors responded in the “so far, so good” vein. “I’m not aware of any technical problems. Everyone,” Levy observed, “was able to download the textbook, and everyone has a way to read the electronic text. Students bring their electronic devices each week to class.” Levy, who teaches at the Milpitas Extension, makes use of overhead projection devices when she wants to focus on or discuss a passage or section of text. “Instead of referring to page numbers, I refer to chapter titles and section numbers.” Levy also finds that an electronic textbook supports her teaching style. Interspersed with lectures, her students work on “assignments in Canvas,” making it possible for them to “work between their online textbooks and their online assignments.”

Technological Advantages

The active learning taking place in Harris and Levy’s classrooms isn’t unique, but it does demonstrate ways in which textbooks in electronic formats might be better integrated into instruction, whether or not students are huddled together in real-time, working collaboratively in a classroom or lab or working independently and asynchronously on a computer at home or in an office break-room. Harris is an admitted fan of electronic search, which makes it possible to leverage texts in a variety of ways. “I like using the search feature to look up a passage in the book,” Harris explains. “With a printed book you have to flip through pages to find what you are look for.”

Kindle on AndroidTo be sure, electronic texts make research faster. Key words or phrases can be located in seconds, then cut and pasted into student notes, study guides, or assignments. Electronic texts can foster readings that are both broad and in-depth. Because most online texts are by their very nature intratextual, students who read on a Kindle or iPad can look up the definitions of words or access endnotes on the fly. These platforms also allow for hypertextual connections with other online texts as well as networked note-taking, so students can share the equivalent of their highlighted passages and margin notes with other readers.

Voice activation inquiry systems are growing increasingly more common, as well, making reading and note-taking even more interactive. Siri, Cortana, and Alexa are embedded into a wide range of devices these days and can bring information forward as quickly as a student might say, “Alexa, Wikipedia, Collective Unconscious.” These same systems provide text-reading capabilities as well, so learners have another way to access information – through the ears instead of the eyes.

Improving Resources

OER textbooks have come a long way in just a few short years, and seem poised to follow in the footsteps of the open-source software movement – a movement in which free applications are improved upon through common user contributions then re-released to the public. While most OER textbooks are fairly basic, some feature useful ancillary materials. According to Levy, Psychology includes “video links embedded in the chapters…and useful review sheets after each section.” Psychology, like so many OpenStax textbooks, also features instructor and student resources, including syllabi, test banks and “getting started” guides.

The OER Initiative at San José City College is also keen to enhance the OER experience. Located in the Division of Library, Learning Resources & Distance Education, the Initiative provides a variety of resources to help faculty locate, adopt, and utilize quality resources. Librarians are available to assist with OER textbook alternative searches and to explain copyright and licensing. The Initiative also provides students support by through OER handouts and tutorials and by making print copies of OER textbooks available for in-house use in the Library, the Learning Resource Center, and at the Milpitas Extension. For more information, visit: http://www.sjcc.edu/library/Pages/oer.aspx.

Open Education Week

March 27-31, 2017 is Open Education Week, a celebration of the global Open Education Movement. To find out more about what’s happening, visit: https://www.openeducationweek.org/.

Free Access to Textbooks for Milpitas Students

Milpitas CollectionThis spring the Milpitas Extension opened officially for business. While the Extension does not (yet) have a Library, it is supported by the San José City College Library through a textbook lending program. One of the biggest hurdles for students to attend college is the high cost of textbooks, and one of the goals for the Milpitas Extension is to provide textbook use free of charge.

To date, the Library has obtained and processed 338 textbooks, which are checked out to Milpitas students for the entire semester. Currently, the Library works with the SJCC Bookstore to acquire the texts. Milpitas course instructors are asked in advance for titles of the textbooks they plan to use. Once the book orders are delivered to the Bookstore, the Library insures that the textbooks are delivered to students.

At the end of the semester, students return their textbooks on the last day of class. The Library then inventories the textbooks and returns them to special collection shelving until the courses in which they are assigned are taught once again.

At the Movies with the Library

The Chávez Library wants to be your go-to place for movies!  Whether for research or for rest and relaxation, thousands of films are waiting for you to check out or view online.

The DVD Collection Finds a New Home

Photo of DVDAfter ten years behind the circulation counter, the Library’s DVD collection comes out of the shadows.  Thanks to improvements in theft-detection technology, the Library’s 1,400 DVDs will soon be available for browsing on open-access shelving.  Discover documentaries, classic cinema, and other award-winning motion pictures that you never knew the Library owned.  Not only will you find films to help you with your studies and research assignments, but there are plenty of options that will make for an entertaining night of popcorn and nail-biting.  Listed below are a few of the “top picks” by SJCC’s movie-loving librarians.

Bob Wing
12 Angry Men
One man challenges eleven other jurors to reconsider trial evidence to prevent an injustice. The film received a 100% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and is listed on several American Film Institute lists of best movies.

Jeanie Schwab
All the President’s Men
This is an Oscar-winning 1976 film about Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the two Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974. It reminds me of the importance of good investigative reporting to the survival of our democracy in light of the current rise of fake news, “alternative facts,” and the conflict between the media and the Trump administration.

Linda Meyer
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
When plagued by insomnia, this is the best DVD to lull me to sleep.  No loud music, no gunshots, no canned laughter – just lilting English accents and Hugh Grant’s irresistible charm!

Mary Nino
To Kill a Mockingbird
Widely considered a classic, the film was based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. One of the best adaptions of a book to movie, it is still as powerful today as it was when came out in 1962.

A New Collection Comes Online

Films on Demand LogoIn addition to making its DVDs more accessible, the Library now subscribes to Films on Demand. So, if you prefer to stream your videos, you have options beyond Netflix and Amazon.

This year the Library brings you thousands of new videos. Films on Demand provides anthropology-to-zoology coverage relevant to all SJCC courses, including career- and technical-education courses.

Online searching is user friendly.  Patrons can select from lists of the most popular or newest videos or by browsing by subjects of interest. Advance searching is available to find videos according to keywords, producers, dates, languages, and other parameters.

Films on Demand makes it easy to incorporate entire videos or just specific segments into class presentations and online course materials. Users can search for videos on specific topics and organize them into folders.  After opening a personal account, users can create and post personal playlists accessible by a selected group of viewers.

Over 600 new videos are added to Films on Demand every year from some of the world’s finest producers, including BBC, CNBC, PBS, and many more.  Closed captioning is available for many videos, and all have pre-formatted bibliographic citations. Videos are iPad, Android, PC, and Mac friendly

Students, faculty, and staff have unrestricted, 24/7 access to the database, either on or off-campus (off-campus requires login with name and SJCC ID number). Librarians are available for group or individual training in the use of this exciting new database.