Over the break I participated in a roundtable, “Free for All: A Discussion of Open Educational Resources (OER) in U.S. and World History Survey Courses,” at the the American Historical Association conference in Denver, Colorado. Members of our roundtable included Sarah Randow from LeTourneau University (Chair), Christy Jo Snider from Berry College, Ann Marie Davis from Ohio State University (formerly Conn!), and me. If you are interested in the topic of open and affordable teaching materials and textbooks resources, read on for my takeaways!
- Two panelists, Sarah and Christy, adopted The American Yawp, a free online textbook collaboratively developed by historians (who very kindly attended the roundtable). This particular textbook is published under a Creative Commons license allowing others to adapt and share the material, so long as they allow others to do the same and attribute the original creators (Attribution-Share Alike). Both panelists not only adopted the book, but adapted it to suit their own specific needs. For example, Christy used a free online publishing tool, Blub, to create a new textbook to which she added images and selected primary source material.
- The best outcomes come from a focus on pedagogy. For example, Sarah found that the while rigorous, the readability/accessible and focus on the essentials of U.S. History allowed her students to make connections and draw their own conclusions from the material presented.
- Ann Marie conducted a survey among historians and found that many faculty use OER in their courses, but don’t often realize that these materials are considered OER. This finding resonates with me, as faculty I know have made the switch to OER for pedagogical reasons without realizing they were a part of a larger movement. One surprising finding was faculty who have been teaching longer were equally receptive and have adapted OERs at similar rates as more junior instructors.
- In our discussion, it was clear that there is a real need for a World History textbook, similar to American Yawp. However, such a project comes with additional challenges surrounding content selection. There seemed to be real excitement surrounding this project.
- Additional themes from the discussion included recognition (for tenure and promotion) for creating open resources. Institutions are uneven in their recognition of this work, and while students are grateful for free or low-cost course materials, they do not realize the effort required to create the resources. There was also a lively discussion of access to technology and the continued need for printed materials.
- My presentation focused on how to implement OER in courses, from the perspective of an instructional designer. I also included plenty of examples of OER initiatives, helpful repositories and interesting resources.
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