9. OER and TIME

Community Champion

You can see the embedded video here: Mollye Russell

And now at last I am getting around to the actual sessions that started on Wednesday (I clearly had too much fun on Tuesday, hence all the posts so far before the sessions even started). The first session I attended was at @geonz's request... and it really was a great session; you'll want to check out the recording when it becomes available. I hope we will also have access to the slide deck; I explained to the speaker, Mollye Russell from Baton Rouge Community College in Louisiana (but relocating to Colorado!), that it is possible to upload the slidedeck right here in Canvas Community, and to carry on the conversation here. (I'll send her an email after I post this to see if she might want to jump in.)

Here's a pic from the Twitter stream (thanks, @skyvking!)

screenshot of OER

The title of Mollye's talk was Dirty Little Secret About OERs, and as you can tell from the title of my blog post, the dirty little secret about Open Educational Resources is the TIME it takes (compared to an off-the-shelf textbook) -- which, in my opinion, is actually the dirty little secret of education in general: no one, not teachers, not students, no one has enough time for all the learning we could be doing!

You can see my rough notes here; some key takeaways for me were as follows: I really liked how much practical advice Mollye shared with us, especially for people who might just be getting started with OER.

Libraries: your librarian is your friend! Go to them for help with copyright and your questions about OER. Mollye emphasized again and again the usefulness of libraries, both your own school library and the libraries of other universities. 

(At my school, the Library is absolutely the go-to place for OER; that's where our OER initiative lives: OpenEd at OU -- check it out; you'll find lots of value there, and it might also give you some ideas for strategies to use at your school to promote OER awareness.)

First-day access: Mollye saw that her students were having to choose between money for textbooks and money for food or rent, and she also pointed out that some students are waiting on financial aid money that might not arrive until a few weeks into the semester; if you go with OER, all your students can have access to the content right from the first day of class, so they don't start out behind. You also get a lot of student trust and enthusiasm when you can tell them about OER right on the first day of class.

(That has been my experience also: students recognize the time and effort we put into developing our own content, and they are really grateful.)

Your OWN content. Mollye emphasized the power of making the content your own by choosing your own OER materials (or writing your own materials that you share with a CC license, contributing to the world of OER). By being more familiar with the material, you become a better teacher to your students.

(That's why I personally never felt comfortable with textbooks; I started curating my own  content back in 1999 even when I was teaching in the classroom. Curating your own content is a powerful aspect of pedagogy in my opinion... especially when student feedback can help you in that curation process; Mollye had lots to say about student feedback!)

Quiz banks. In particular, Mollye emphasized the power of creating your own quiz banks as opposed to using those supplied by the publisher. When you are the author of the questions to begin with, you are going to do a better job of helping students who have questions about your quizzes because they really are your quizzes (not the publisher's). She urged people to develop test items side by side with choosing the OER. Developing questions is hard work, but having your own questions can be more valuable for your students that prepackaged textbook contents.

(I don't use quizzes myself, but this all sounded like very good advice.)

Searching for OER. There was a great slide with suggestions about looking for OER materials; in particular, she had good things to say about George Mason's OER Metafinder.

(Every discipline has its own tools: for me, Hathi Trust's digital library of fully  books is my #1 resource.)

Course mapping. Instead of assembling your OER materials like you would a textbook (and thinking about it like a book), Mollye urged us to do course mapping, looking at our course objectives unit by unit, the unit learning activities, and the assessments, and then figuring out what OER would support those objectives, activities, and assessments. That's a powerful thing to do for course content in general, no matter what mix you are using of OER and copyrighted material! The idea is to take each learning outcome, and pull it apart as much as you can, finding the OER resources that will support what students need to learn (and that can be OER for reading, for watching in the form of videos, or OER-based activities and even OER assessments). She mentioned specifically getting familiar with Canvas module options and learning outcomes to help with the mapping process, especially if you do not already have a mapping process that you use.

(My course has a more student-driven approach so this kind of mapping does not exactly work for me, but it looks like an excellent approach, in addition to the way it helps with OER selection and development.)

Timelines. Since the subject was how much time it does take to do this, Mollye had some great advice for different kinds of timelines, including what would be realistic for Fall 2018 if you want to get started now.
One step at a time: Focus on replacing a single chapter of your textbook with OER, or zoom in on a single learning outcome to support with OER. Do that step by step, semester by semester, and eventually you will have a fully OER course.
Departmental collaboration: In some departments, you might be able to divide up a course and work on it together, where each person in the department does the OER research and development for a single unit (or learning outcome) and then you pool your work together, building as a team. That has the benefit of everyone being able to teach one another what you are learning about OER resources as you do the work.
Total OER overhaul. Although there is not time to go all-out and replace a course textbook completely with OER in time for Fall 2018, she does recommend this all-out approach when the calendar will support it. If you are developing an  class, that is a good opportunity to think about OER right from the start. Mollye did this: she piloted a class using OER, and then took it to other faculty in her department, persuading them to adopt the class based on the positive results of the pilot (she gathers data from students about how well the OER is working for them).

(What I like about using OER is that you can keep making advances every single semester; I use Diigo to bookmark materials I think I want to use, and one of the most fun parts of every semester is going through my heap of Diigo stuff to see what I actually want to bring directly into my courses.)

Video. Mollye uses her face-to-face class as a kind of lecture warm-up. After doing any required lecturing in class, she goes right back to her office immediately after class and records the lecture, using feedback from classroom students to help her adjust the lecture that she videotapes in her office, usually being able to shorten it after the experience of doing the lecture in class. This allowed her to spread out the effort of creating video while also having a strong, fresh focus each time she recorded herself, resulting in shorter videos.

(I don't do video and I don't teach in a classroom, but for people who teach in a classroom and want to develop their own videos, this sounds like such a great strategy!)

Lessons learned. Mollye urged everybody to keep an OER journal so they could keep track of their progress and lessons learned day by day. You can use a Google Doc as your journal, noting after each work session what went well, what didn't go well, and also using that journal to record what goes well (or not) as your students then use the materials you have developed. That way, you will know how to make the best use of your time and set your priorities for the next semester!

(This was my favorite part of the whole talk: keeping a reflective/planning journal like this will improve teaching in all kinds of ways, not just for content development.)

Be patient. This is a process, and it might be messy at first. This can be confusing for the students, but you can get feedback from them so that you know when they are confused and use that to improve your approach. Canvas tools (like modules, the link checker, having a sandbox course to do your initial development) can actually help you stay organized and reduce the confusion, plus you can have good links in Canvas, connecting things in ways that will make things more clear to the students than in a paper textbook without links. In some cases, your Canvas organization is going to be more organized than a publisher's textbook and ancillaries, especially if there has not been a good fit between the textbook and your course to begin with.

(I always emphasize to students that learning itself is messy: they will fix mistakes and problems with my course content, and I am grateful for their feedback, and that is also a way to model the whole feedback process; they need my feedback for their learning, and I need their feedback too. We are making messes and mistakes together, and learning as we go.)

Q & A. There was a lively question and answer session afterwards.

The audience was definitely interested in getting access to the slides, so I chimed in about sharing slides at the Canvas Community.

I also chimed in about the power of organizing videos in playlists to give students more context and better flow from one video to the next, and Mollye is also a fan of playlists.

There was a lot of audience interest in the best ways to build question banks; Mollye said that there are OER question banks and a great thing about them compared to publisher materials is that the revise/remix options with many forms of OER allow you to customize the questions to your own class.

In the discussion Mollye also emphasized how working with OER allows you to update what urgently needs updating for your class, as opposed to a textbook which the publisher might or might not keep up to date, and probably not in as timely a fashion as you can do with your own OER.

Someone in the audience pointed out that Canvas Commons is not always reliable; a lot of people share materials there, putting a CC license on items that are actually copyrighted, so caution is required.

Mollye returned again in the discussion to the topic of gathering student feedback in all kinds of ways, directly (like in surveys) and indirectly (you can learn a lot from watching the discussion boards to get a sense of what materials students cite, how well the materials are helping them learn, etc.).

I enjoyed this session so much... and then WHOOSH... time to rush off to the next session!