The high cost of textbooks presents a serious financial challenge for many CUNY and SUNY students, a barrier that can prohibit students from taking – or succeeding in – certain classes. As the cost of publishers’ materials continues to rise, many faculty members try to provide students with alternatives. However, these are often individual efforts by faculty. At the day-long “OER is Happening at CUNY and SUNY” event on April 25, 2016, organized by the CUNY and SUNY Library Systems Offices and the Open SUNY Affordable Learning Solutions, the emphasis was on lessons learned and best practices for making and sharing educational resources so they are available for anyone who needs them.
Doing things that textbooks cannot
Throughout the day faculty and librarians shared their experience with developing, organizing, and distributing OER resources. Here are a few of the highlights.
Faculty/librarians learned that OER can “do things textbooks cannot” (Miriam Deutch, Library Faculty, Brooklyn College) such as:
- foster engagement for both faculty *and* students – according to 3 professors who developed OER courses and said it completely changed their teaching practice and deepened level of engagement with their students
- offer a variety of materials: from those that are textbook-like to a collaborative vetted website developed with students on “The Classical Roots of the Medical Humanities” to a comprehensive handbook of practical info for the First Year Orientation course
- increase enrollment in classes (students tell their friends – take this cool class and it’s only $10 for course materials!)
- improve passrates – yes, data shows this!
- help students save money – an estimated $300,000 or more already saved by SUNY students in just a few years
Suggested best practices
Keynote speaker Mark McBride, Director of Libraries, Monroe Community College/SUNY and other speakers noted that:
- OER is free, not as in “free beer” but as in “free puppies” – they still need feeding, walking, and care
- Teaming faculty up with librarians and instructional designers works well
- Finding ways to truly support faculty who are willing to develop materials is essential
- Getting librarians involved with compiling resources is important – so resources are well-organized and user-friendly
- Being broad-based and effective requires time, thought, planning, and SUPPORT