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/.

Canvas Facts

As San San José City College (SJCC) commits to a single learning management system (LMS) – Canvas – the Division of Library, Learning Resources & Distance Education will commit to regular updates and insights about Canvas, which should prove useful to instructors and students alike. For example, Canvas is

  • available in over 2,000 schools across the country and around the world
  • internationally recognized; it’s used across Europe and in countries, such as Australia, Brazil, and China
  • the LMS behind the Cisco Networking Academy, which Cisco calls “the world’s largest classroom.”

Why are these points important? They’re important because SJCC students may be transferring to some of these institutions, living in some of these countries, or working for corporations that train their staff online. Many of the universities in the Bay Area use Canvas, including San José State University, Santa Clara University, UC Berkeley, and  UC Santa Cruz. Thus, SJCC’s use of Canvas is just another way to smooth the transition for SJCC students!

Canvas LogoThe Transition to Canvas

So, why is SJCC and its sister college, Evergreen Valley College (EVC), making the move from Moodle to Canvas? It’s simple, really.

Canvas helps students

  • save time and energy in locating and using course materials
  • stay up to date with their grades and progress in courses
  • integrate coursework into their daily lives; the LMS is mobile-enabled, making it a snap for students to use their smartphones and tablets.

If that last bullet point sounds more problematic and useful, you may find the Mobile Fact Sheet (Pew Research Center, 12 January 2017) useful.

Canvas helps faculty

  • reuse course material from one course to the next
  • grade assignments and calculate final grade results
  • communicate with students, via email, chat, and discussion forums
  • utilize multimedia, making it easy to add audio and video posts in just a few clicks
  • provide ease of access that meets ADA compliance standards
  • utilize open-education resources (i.e., materials licensed for educational use).

Distance Education Support

As with anything new, it can take time to get used to using a new system. The Division of Library, Learning Resources & Distance Education is here to help you.

Support for Students

If you are a student and you need some help learning to use Canvas, stop by the Learning Resource Center (LRC). Staff in the LRC can help you get started. If you cannot get to the main campus, we recommend the following:

Canvas Student Guide

Canvas Video Guide

If you are having a technical problem with the LMS, you should contact the District Information Technology Services & Support (ITSS) Division Help Desk:

Phone: (408) 270-6411
Email: helpdesk@sjeccd.edu
Web Address: http://www.sjeccd.edu/district-services/ITSS

Support for Faculty

If you are a faculty member who needs some help learning to use Canvas, we recommend that you review the Canvas Instructor Guide, sign up for a weekly workshop, participate in a tutorial, and/or take an online course. For additional information, contact the Distance Education Coordinator or Division Dean.

Canvas Instructor Guide

Canvas Video Guide

Canvas Workshops at SJCC

Canvas Tutorials via CCC Professional Learning Network

Tutorial on Lynda.com (made available via CCC Professional Learning Network)

Canvas Information and Courses via CCC OEI

If you are a faculty member having a technical problem with the LMS, you should contact the District Information Technology Services & Support (ITSS) Division Help Desk:

Phone: (408) 270-6411
Email: helpdesk@sjeccd.edu
Web Address: http://www.sjeccd.edu/district-services/ITSS

The ITSS Help Desk has set up a special page for all Canvas users who need 24/7 support and login assistance.

Canvas Login & Support Information

Happy Canvas’ing!