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Open Educational Resources Information: Faculty OER Cohort

OER cohort overview

This is a collection of materials from the Spring 2021 Library OER grant. In the cohort, we set out to answer five big questions:

  1. Why do we need OER?
  2. What are we allowed to do?
  3. Where can we find OER?
  4. How do we teach with OER?
  5. How do we turn our best lessons into OER?

These questions roughly follow the order of sections in the OER starter kit that we used as our "textbook". In our workshops, we did not follow the sections in a strict order but tried to provide the information that folks needed to get started as early as possible.


Date Topic
1/5/2021 Grant-writing workshop
1/29/2021 1: Finding OER
2/12/2021 2: Licenses
2/26/2021 3: Teaching with OER
3/12/2021 4: Writing
3/26/2021 5: Accessibility
4/9/2021 6: Publishing
4/23/2021 7: Presentations


Grant-writing workshop

The purpose of this workshop was to make faculty aware of the OER grant and help them apply for it. We had two activities, one revolving around how switching to OER would imrpove the student experience in a given course, and another about finding existing OER for a given course. Essentially, these two activities resulted in a draft response to the two main questions asked in the call for proposals.

Workshop 1: Finding OER, making a plan

To prepare for this workshop, participants were asked to spend another 30 minutes looking for suitable OER for their course (see attached file). During the session, we introduced ourselves to the cohort, shared experiences looking for existing OER, and worked on a prompt to make individual plans for the semester (see attached slides).

Workshop 2: Licenses

To prepare for this workshop, participants were asked to list some of the OER they planned on incorporating into their course, along with the licenses they come with (see attached homework). During the workshop, we did an activity from the OER starter kit (Chapter 1 worksheet 4, see attached document) to identify the license on given resources, and answered questions about licensing your own work.

Workshop 3: Teaching with OER

To prepare for this workshop, participants were asked to read a paper on the impact of OER (see attached instructions). During the workshop, we did a writing activity (see attached prompt) about how OER can change the student experience, and we met with students in small groups to discuss specific ideas how to incorporate OER into our classroom.

Workshop 4: Writing

To prepare for the workshop, participants were asked to think about questions they would like to ask fellow faculty who have written textbooks. During the workshop, four faculty authors were invited to answer questions (one participant also had authored a textbook in the past). In a lively discussion, we touched on topics such as about motivation to write a textbook, the modest financial rewards, editorial support, peer review, revisions and second editions, time management, and many other topics.

Workshop 5: Accessibility

To prepare for this workshop, participants were asked to read the chapter on accessibility and usability in the OER starter kit. Our guest of the day was Lynn Zayak from Westfield's Center for Instructional Technology (CIT). To start the workshop, participants gave a quick introduction of their project to our guest. Then, Lynn gave an overview of what we need to do in terms of accessibility, and how CIT can help. We closed with a quick demonstration on how to use markdown to write text and an image (with alt-text) so that it is ready for automatic assistive tools such as screen readers.

Workshop 6: Publishing OER

To prepare for this workshop, participants were asked to consider sharing a educational resource they developed as OER. This could be an image, diagram, exercise - anything that is ready for reuse. During the workshop, we discussed the ideas participants had and how to implement them. Among the items already available as OER was an activity to analyze grain size distribution in sand and a remixed image of the blues chord progression. We talked about how to package and where to upload OER snippets in theatre (an exercise to talk about subtext), writing (a reverse outline technique to discover the structure of a text), planning (an exercise to understand the attitudes and moves of individuals in a focus group), biostatistics (solutions to a low-stakes coding exercise where answers appear only after pressing a button), and economics (how to quickly create a graph showing price-dependent purchase decisions based on a google form). We also talked about how publishing OER should be valued by the university, but is not on everyone's radar as a form of faculty scholarship yet.

Workshop 7: Presentations

In this final workshop of the semester, participants gave 10-minute presentations about their project. Using specific examples they showed a sample of the OER and discussed how they intend to use it in the classroom. In closing, they shared one of the lessons they learned while working on their OER project this semester.

Lessons learned

Previous grants focused on adoption of existing OER to lower student costs. For this year’s grant, we decided to create a local cohort to increase support of grantees. The application process focused on the desire to change rather than knowing a specific solution. A pre-grant workshop served to increase the number of applications. Nine faculty from seven departments spanning the disciplines were invited into the cohort. We offer biweekly skill-building, project-planning and community-building workshops. Faculty are encouraged to set realistic goals and are asked to present results at the end of the semester. Members of the cohort expressed appreciation for support with time management and project scope, for the opportunity to share ideas, and for the exercises that we facilitated. We learned that aiming to make course resources more inclusive and more up to date is appealing to faculty across campus. Having grantees work in a cohort rather than as individuals has multiple benefits, including supporting each other and learning from another. We shared our insights at the 2021 Northeast OER summit in a panel discussion.

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