Thursday, November 10, 2011

Three things you should know about the Open Course Library

It's been 11 days since the launch of the Open Course Library and we had our 10,000th visitor today. The launch of these 42 courses was covered at least 67 times by reporters and bloggers, which will hopefully lead to increased faculty adoptions. The Student PIRGs has also written a cost analysis of the Open Course Library which shows that the textbook savings being realized this year alone is already more than the cost of the project itself. As of the first week the course materials we created have been adopted by faculty in New York, Oregon, Washington, and Romania.
After lots of practice talking with reporters last week, I've come up with a quick summary of the project and three things you should know about the Open Course Library:

What is the Open Course Library?
The Open Course Library is a collection of expertly developed educational materials designed by faculty and openly shared with the world. It includes textbooks, syllabi, course activities, readings, and assessments for 81 high-enrollment college courses. 42 courses have been completed so far, providing faculty with a high-quality, affordable option that will cost students no more than $30 for course materials.

The Open Course Library is:
1. High Quality – Course materials go through an extensive series of quality checks.
  • All course materials are pilot-tested in a college classroom and then further refined.
  • Quality checks include peer reviews, instructional designer reviews, and expert reviews by universal design, accessibility, and global education specialists.
2. Affordable – Students pay no more than $30 for Open Course Library materials, including textbooks. Most courses use 100% free materials.
  • Students spend $1000 or more on textbooks annually, in addition to tuition.
  • Some students even attempt courses without purchasing the textbooks, which affects completion rates.
  • Using Open Course Library materials allows students to spend less per course and afford more courses per term so they can graduate faster and get better paying jobs sooner.
3. Adaptable – Faculty can modify and build on some or all of the course materials.
  • Faculty adopters can use as much of the course materials as they choose.
  • There are no strings attached. We only ask that faculty cite the Open Course Library in their course and fill out our short adoption form.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Open Educational Resources Project at TCC

It is an interesting time to be working in Washington State Higher Education. The economic downturn is having a major impact on funding and many of us are trying to do more with less. Those of us working in Higher Education aren't the only ones impacted. Students are facing rising tuition, rising fees and rising textbook cost. This rising cost has become a barrier for many that are attempting to reach their educational goals.

Like many institutions that make up the Community and Technical College System in Washington State, Tacoma Community College is working hard to help students reach their goals. We are working on strategies to help students persist through completion and reduce barriers where we can.

One such strategy is our Open Educational Resources (OER) project that we are starting this year. Last Spring our Library and eLearning department decided to collaborate on a project proposal around OER. We were motivated by the following factors:
  • Texbook Affordability - During the 2009-2010 academic year the average textbook cost per full time student was $1,267. This represented 30% of total costs for tuition, basic fees and books.
  • Our students increasing need and expectation of mobility, flexibility and ease of access to course materials.
  • Our instructors desire for alternatives to the one-size-fits-all textbook
This proposal scoped out a two-year project. In the first year we will be convening a group of faculty and students to discuss and explore OER repositories, best practices around OER and a strategy for adopting Open Educational Resources. The second year we will be looking for faculty that are willing to pilot Open Educational Resources in their classes. Our goal is to have 5 classes per quarter adopt Open Educational Resources.

It is a pretty ambitious project but we think this approach and a project manager will help make it successful.

Friday, June 3, 2011

OER And Faculty Development

We are somewhat of a different breed of Carrier pigeon here at Clover Park Technical College where I work as Instructional Designer. One example might be my title in relation to the hats I actually wear. There's the Instructional Design hat, which I never have enough time for. The Angel Admin hat which is two sizes too large, but I hope to someday grow into. The Angel support hat which seems to be some sort of micro black hole that keeps sucking time from my other hats, and my faculty development hat which is a very challenging bit of avant garde noggin apparel. It is this last hat that I will talk about today.

At CPTC, professional development is a hard act to sell tickets for, and for a variety of reasons that are unimportant here. After a few quarters of offering f2f workshops at a variety of obsene times and unreachable locations with minimal attendance, we next experimented with facilitated elearning-based workshops. The results were also rather dismal. We then switched to creating a series of self-directed, self-paced online workshops primarily created using Softchalk and housing them in very stripped down Angel shells with but two tabs and a automated Certificate of Completion. In this form, the workshops are open to enrollment 24/7/365 and the faculty can complete them at their leisure (Later, Dude! Much later!). This approach appears to be very promising in its first quarter of availability.

Now most of you may be wondering just what the heck this has to do with OER? I was myself wondering the same thing somewhere in the middle of that very long-winded preamble.

What this has to do with OER is that the content for these workshops are open-access, the Softchalk lessons are licensed with CC BY and so are the Angel workshops. These offerings, of undoubtedly questionable value, are available for anyone to use in any way they want (if any use could ever be found for such tripe), any time they like. The catalog currently includes:

  • Curriculum Theory, Development & Evaluation

  • Lesson Planning

  • Understanding and Creating Learning Objectives

  • Classroom Assessment

  • Online Accessibility

  • Rubrics

  • Student Veterans Adjustment to College

By Summer Quarter we will also be offering an Advanced Angel Assessments workshop.

Some of these are now available in a sharable DropBox folder, the rest to be added soon. I will also be dumping them into Connexions when I somehow find the time. So if anyone is interested, feel free to contact me at your convenience.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

OER is About Students and Sharing

I like this idea of rotating the baby-sitting of this blog, because it has encouraged me to post here. I am not much of a blogger, and that is hard to admit in this trendy techno group. Let's see where I can take this.

During Summer Quarter, our eLearning department was contacted by Dr. Kim Washington, WorkFirst Coordinator on our campus. She had this intriguing idea to create a virtual resource/community center for our WorkFirst students, and one that would be available to them regardless of which courses or programs they were enrolled in. She wondered if Angel could perhaps be utilized in this manner. After talking with her for a few minutes and clarifying what she intended to accomplish, we told her that while perhaps not the typical use of an LMS, it could most certainly be done. Now, Dr. Washington has never taken any training in Angel (but had worked with Blackboard), but she was enthusiastically willing to try. Not really understanding how far this great woman wanted to go with this we created an account for her, a master shell, and provided her with the bare minimum of training - and I do mean "bare minimum". We showed her how to log in, and some basics on adding content. About a week later, she came back to us with another intriguing challenge - she wanted to include a screening survey in this classroom that could automatically redirect students to varied content based on their answers to single items in the survey. That caught my attention, because I knew that I could set up an agent to redirect the students based on the results of an entire graded content item, but not for a single survey survey question. I eventually solved this challenge, but this story isn't about me.

While I was working on the survey problem, Dr. Washington continued to enthusiastically build her resource center with only the occasional consultation with our department, and she continued to master Angel through primarily her own self-directed learning. And as she grew more familiar with Angel, her vision for this project also grew. She would excitedly talk with us about the possibility of making this resource available to the other community and technical colleges in Pierce County, then expanded this to include the entire state. She consulted with Cable Green and Scott Dennis on the State Board; she networked with the local. regional and state WorkFirst, WorkSource, and DSHS offices.

And in Angel, she built something wonderful!

By the time I had built the module that would include her screening survey (I also created the content that the students would be redirected to) and loaded it into her master classroom, I noted that she had created this wonderful resource for the WorkFirst students. Housed in its Angel shell are informational resources, self-assessment tools, links to community services, entertainment resources, calendar of events both on and off campus, community building forums, assignments to teach technology, attendance tracking forms, various forms of other kinds necessary or useful for WorkFirst students, and much much more - including my insignificant module on expunging a criminal record and the screening survey to self-assess whether the student qualifies for expungement and the resources to get them started.

And this incredible tool for connecting students to students, and students to resources, and students to their community and beyond is available with a CC BY license for anyone who cares as much about their WorkFirst enrollments as Kim does. As I said, Kim is not faculty and she has most likely never thought about creating OER - she just cared and shared and that is a big part of what OER is about.

I am currently storing a zipped copy on a sharable DropBox account while we work out the details for a wider and more effective distribution that will eventually include several state agencies. If you are interested, please contact me.

Kelley L. Meeusen,
Instructional Designer, Clover Park Technical College

Webinar: Leading Community College OER group joins OCW Consortium

Please join us for a joint webinar between the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) and the Open CourseWare Consortium (OCWC) on Tuesday, May 24th, 11:00 am PDT, 2:00 pm EDT.
A new partnership between CCCOER and OCWC will be announced and the benefits for both organizations of this new alliance will be discussed online.  Featured speakers include the following:
• Judy Baker, founding director of CCCOER
• Mary Lou Forward, executive director of OCWC
• CCCOER Advisory board
Time will be available for interactive question and answers and the webinar will be archived for those who are unable to attend live. Dial-in available at 1-888-886-3951 (pin:649206)
Please register for this free and open webinar by going to this event link and clicking on the RSVP button.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Open Source as Experiential Learning

As a librarian I’m increasingly aware that free information isn’t always quality information. This isn’t to say that our colleagues who have crafted quality open education resources (OER) aren’t doing work that enriches academia. It’s that word “quality” that always brings me back to the main controversy that members of the WWCC faculty face when it comes to adapting open resources for education. The amount of time it takes to find and adapt sources largely rests on the problem of quality.

A recent article by Mary Grush in Campus Technology inspired me to see the resources that our library purchases on behalf of our students as a type of OER. While the content in the library isn’t free, resources are already paid for and thus aren’t associated with the costs of textbooks. From that perspective they are OER as far as students are concerned. Grush’s article focuses on the idea that OER can be student generated content. Instead of passively engaging textbook information by reading it, students are required to actively experiment with course topics by finding library materials that explain major themes and then work together to examine the resources found.

Libraries are a vast collection of experiential learning tools which include books, databases, audio-visual materials, and people who connect students to active learning through interaction with their own curiosity. Grush quotes Trent Batson of the Association for Authentic , Experiential, and Evidenced Based Learning (AAEEBL,) “Textbooks, in whatever form, are almost always assigned by the teacher, thereby robbing the student of an important learning exercise” (Campus Technology, March 2011, p. 50). We know that students connect more with information and lessons that arouse their innate curiosity; using your library as a jumping off point for your student to build their own open education resources can be one layer in building their abilities to answer their own questions and to be the kind of learner that won’t settle for secondary information.

For more information on using your library to create learning resources that are free to your students please check out the Affordable Learning Solutions Website. Also, check with your local librarian who can help you to decide whether this kind of learning might work for you.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


What OER means to Technical Workforce Programs at Bellingham Technical College
by Lesley Ann Wallace

We have a tight community of technical instructors whose heads are spinning just watching the amount of jargon building up in the open educational movement that has little or no value to their workforce initiatives. With academia touts like, “ try this tool… or this eBook…or our website…or…,” ahhhhhhhhhh, these technical instructors shrugg their shoulders and suggest that any movement regular academia is making into FREE, looks too time consuming and too irrelevant for them to even get involved.

Why should they when our technical instructors already have curriculum that works and much of it created on their own anyway. Most instructors in the technical fields rarely, if ever, rely on textbook knowledge for content delivery. Basically, their declarative information is around new field standards and regulations that arise, therefore, a great deal of technical program teaching is procedural information and for the most part instructors create their own materials through project based learning. As a group BTC technical program instructors took a frustrated, roll your eyes, look at all of the OER “stuff” coming in from academia, so useful and so free, then decided enough of this malarkey!

Through professional community conversations at BTC we came up with our own definition of OER-we figure that if the movement’s mission is to share with little or no cost and technical instructors throughout the state have self created learning objects/modules they are willing to share, then why don’t we just start there? Using Washington State's adopted LMS (ANGEL) to open up a few system wide repositories in automotive, diesel technologies, and welding, BTC instructors starting putting content up this Winter quarter so that this Spring we can share it out and ask other instructors in the state to join in.

What makes this such a simple idea is our shared state wide LMS. Technical instructors all over Washington are already using it to enhance program delivery, meaning this makes it simple for instructors in other colleges to see what we have shared, know how we have shared it becasue of ANGEL and then can jump on board if they like. Once BTC instructors jumped, it was easy to keep going, now they look forward to opening up the effort system wide. Instructor Russ Jones, in welding said, “Sure, I want to see other ideas. Why should I invent the wheel if it is already out there? This let's me improve it or adapt it or even share back my own design.”

Washington State Community and Technical Colleges are known front runners in the OER movement. BTC technical program instructors just figured out how to redefine OER in terms of their own teaching and learning efforts. So do you want to come with us?

For more information contact:
Lesley Ann Wallace, elearning,
Russell Jones, Welding Technology Instructor,
Dan Beeson, Automotive Technology Instructor,
Jeff Curtis, Diesel Technology Instructor,