I have found that my most rewarding practices in Open have involved creating OERs with students. This short post will gather together some of my writings and examples related to student-created OERs.
I started this work by building The Open Anthology of American Literature with a group of undergraduates and recent alums from Plymouth State University. The project started as a simple way to save about $90 for each student enrolled in my Early American Literature survey course, but it gradually morphed into an exciting experiment in Open Pedagogy. You can read a description of how the project blossomed from a simple exercise in cost-savings to a full-on vibrant endeavor based around student contributions in my blog post, “My Open Textbook: Pedagogy and Practice.” This project was featured in the Open Pedagogy showcase at OpenEd17 and in an article at Inside Higher Ed; most excitingly, it has been picked up by Rebus Community and is currently being greatly expanded. When the new Managing Editor, Tim Robbins, completes this work with his team, I expect that the anthology will be a stellar replacement for the Norton Anthology, the Bedford-St. Martin’s, the Heath, and all of the other commercial offerings in Early American Literature. And students really got it all in motion!
Once I saw such success and fun with that project, I realized that a course “textbook” could almost always be created with or by students, even when public domain literature was not at the core of my course. I taught a First-Year Seminar focused on Open Pedagogy (the course was actually called “Whose Course Is This, Anyway?”) and the students created a cool OER textbook focused on student success and retention…from a student’s perspective. You can read about the OpenPed approach to the course in my blog post called, “Extreme Makeover: Pedagogy Edition”, and you can check out the OER that the students made, “OpenSem: A Student-Generated Handbook for the First Year of College.”
Those two projects were me getting my feet wet. Lots went wrong with both of them, but they really helped me see the possibilities and value of creating OERs with students. The project I am working on now is a little more than halfway to its first finished version. Currently, I am the director of an Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) program at a regional, rural, public university in New Hampshire. The program has been refocused around Open Pedagogy in the last four years since I have been the director. You can read about the program and its connections to Open in my blog post, “Open Pedagogy at the Program Level: The #PlymouthIDS Case Study.” At the core of the courses in our IDS program is our collaborative OER, “Interdisciplinary Studies: A Connected Learning Approach.” It’s a patchbook of work by: leading thinkers in Interdisciplinary Studies and Connected Learning; me and other faculty and administrators in our IDS program; and introductory and capstone students in our IDS courses. It’s evolving every day, and in many ways, it’s as much a gathering and conversation space as it is a “textbook.”
I’m fond of saying that there is nobody better to write virtually any textbook for any course at any institution of higher education than the students currently enrolled in or just finishing the course. Most content in textbooks is not proprietary, and students keenly understand what is challenging about the material, how to explain it to their peers, and what explanations will resonate with new learners. The pedagogical benefits to the student authors is also hard to overestimate. Of course, there are always exceptions and this may not work for you or your discipline. But I’m so grateful for coming to this pedagogical redefinition of the “textbook.” It’s enlivened my courses, engaged my students, and made a difference to my academic fields. And it’s fun!