University Libraries Host Open Education Week 2015

Open Education Week is an annual event to raise awareness of free and open educational resources, and 2015 marked the second celebration of Open Education Week at Virginia Tech’s University Libraries. How are open educational resources (OER) defined?

OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.

Open Education Week at VT

Virginia Tech students, staff, faculty, and visitors from other institutions gathered for six events the week of February 23-27 to explore, discuss, and learn about open education. Our events focused on raising awareness of Open Educational Resources as:

  • one way to address student debt and educational affordability issues.
  • a way to address copyright limitations in education.
  • a set of tools to enhance faculty creativity, flexibility, and innovation in teaching.

The Student Government Association Academic Affairs Committee hosted two events, one to informally explore student textbook buying experiences and a second event to discuss their own experiences and reflect on their findings.

Students articulated a variety of observations about their own and others’ experiences:

[Students] are not buying books anymore. Books are important for our education. If you’re not buying books, you’re not learning very well.

I took a class where I had to buy eight books. [I] found the cheapest books [I] could find and the total was still $250. . . I don’t think professors know that $250 is a lot of money for [students].

I don’t want to have to work twenty hours a week to afford my textbook.

I had to spend $90 to rent an eBook in order to get a required software code to submit homework. I did not even get to keep the book.

People are going to spend the money on the textbook the professor selected.

I feel helpless. For four classes you have access codes. This leaves students without an option. You need to buy an access code. I don’t know how to get around this. It’s $300, buying access to weekly homework assignments.

Open Education Week Student Panel
Open Education Week Student Panel

Student panelists reflected on their and others’ understanding and responses to textbook buying problems:

I just want faculty to be aware that there is a problem. I have professors who put everything online. Then, I have professors who require purchase of a textbook and homework software.

I’m not privy to faculty pressures; is the content in new editions of textbooks substantially different? [Students] need to ask faculty in a way that is respectful to consider that in their decision-making.

Students mentioned a variety of faculty practices that have been helpful:

  • Recommending, but not requiring a book
  • Putting textbooks and readings on Reserve in the library (“I wish I would have known that these were available as a Freshman.”)
  • Linking content via Scholar (our LMS)
  • One professor mapped changes between different editions so that students could save money

(Slide from David Ernst CC BY; data from Florida Student Textbook Survey)

Students had various reflections on open textbooks/open educational resources:

I would encourage professors to give open educational resources a try, especially if they are teaching the same class year in and out. If they just tried it for a semester especially with these basic classes…the fundamentals don’t change.

Open textbooks mitigate cost. They also change the way we look at textbooks. How have consumers driven product development? Students need to understand their agency as consumers.

I want to tell professors that they would get more recognition if they reduce cost and increase access to [their authored] resources.

As Open Education Librarian, I led the workshop “Get Creative (and stay legal)” introducing educators and authors to OER and open licensing using Creative Commons (presentation slides; see the presentation video below).

Panelists from Virginia Tech and Virginia Military Institute shared their experiences and reflections on open educational resources as students, educators, researchers, authors, and adopters of open educational resources. Mohammed Seyam, doctoral student in Computer Science, discussed the value of openly licensed material as a student, research, and graduate assistant. Heath Hart, Advanced Instructor of Mathematics, reflected on his adoption of an open educational resource and a (subscribed) online textbook in “A Rousing Success and an Unmitigated Disaster.” Greg Hartman, Associate Professor of Mathematics at Virginia Military Institute, discussed his experiences authoring the openly-licensed (CC BY-NC) textbook, APEX Calculus. Peter Doolittle, Executive Director of the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research, discussed the open education movement from a teaching and learning perspective, moving beyond just content into process.

(Mohammed Seyam 7:45-17:12, Heath Hart 18:06-32:47, Greg Hartman 33:04-50:34, and Peter Doolittle 51:25-1:03:11)

University of Minnesota Open Textbook Library founders David Ernst and Kristi Jensen presented workshops for instructional designers and librarians, highlighting the increased student cost of higher education as state funding decreases, the 800+% rise in the cost of textbooks (4 times the rate of inflation) since 1978, and how open textbooks and openly licensed resources can help alleviate the burden of textbook costs for students and provide faculty with customizable content. Faculty members from a wide variety of disciplines participated in an Open Textbook Adoption Workshop led by Dave Ernst. Faculty were introduced to open textbooks and their potential impact on access, academic success, and affordability, which is especially relevant in the context of rising student debt. Faculty were also invited to review an open textbook from the Open Textbook Library.For more from David Ernst on open knowledge and open textbooks, see his 2013 University of Minnesota TEDx talk and his 2012 Kyoto TEDx talk.

For more information on open educational resources and open licensing, see our OER Guide or contact Anita Walz at arwalz@vt.edu. The University Libraries are exploring additional ways to support faculty interested in open educational resources. We’d love to hear from you!

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About Anita Walz

I am the Open Education, Copyright, and Scholarly Communication Librarian at Virginia Tech. I work with students, staff, faculty, and administrators and on a national level to inspire faculty to choose, adapt, and create learning resources which are more accessible to students. I am also the library's liaison for Economics, Mathematics, and Legal Studies. My work experience includes over 15 years in international, government, and academic libraries. My research interests include: economics of higher education, library involvement in open educational resource initiatives, library publishing, and effective teaching practices for college-age and adult learners.
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