APUS Honors Faculty for Their Advocacy of Open Educational Resources to Enhance Student Success
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By David Hubler
Contributor, Online Learning Tips
Innovative institutions of higher learning are increasingly incorporating Open Educational Resources (OER) in their curricula to improve instruction and lower students’ education costs.
OER brings together teaching, learning and resource materials in any medium that have been released under an open license. Open Educational Resources include textbooks, curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation products. In 2017, APUS converted 222 courses to OER.
APUS Provost Dr. Vernon C. Smith articulated to Educause Review that Open Educational Resources represents an important trend in higher education. “We are no longer confined to textbooks or a physical format,” he said. OER not only significantly reduces the cost of textbooks, printing and shipping, but also increases the speed of accessing these educational materials.
“We can do it at the speed of light, which is the speed of electricity and the Internet,” Smith says. “And we can provide those [materials] to students, which of course reduces that cost for them, and that’s really a student success issue.”
Students have no-cost access to these materials. As a result, some graduate programs have been transformed into low to no-cost or “Z (for zero textbook cost) degrees.” OER is a “strong trend” that will continue to open higher education to more and more students, Smith predicts. Of course, all undergraduate courses at APUS have low to no-textbook cost because of our textbook grant.
The university’s OER materials can come from a variety of sources, including the APUS library and open web resources. OER materials are curated by the faculty and included in the course just as textbooks would be. Having the materials on hand makes it more convenient for students than having to use the library for their research.
APUS Recognizes OER Faculty and Instructors
During the University’s Deans and Directors Week in early June, several faculty members received OER Recognition awards acknowledging their valuable work in furthering the OER initiative at the University.
The recipients were:
- OER Leadership: Conrad Lotze, Dean, Academic Services and School of Education
- Outstanding OER School 2017: Grace Glass and the School of Arts and Humanities
- Outstanding OER Program: Tom Kelly, Political Science, School of Arts and Humanities; Dr. Marie Gould-Harper, Management and HR Management, School of Business; Dr. Christi Bartman, Public Policy, School of Security and Global Studies; and Dr. Kate Brannum, International Relations, School of Security and Global Studies.
College Libraries Take the Lead in the OER Movement
College libraries are among the campus leaders driving the OER movement. For example, the University of Texas at Arlington employs a full-time Open Education Librarian. Similarly, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Open Education organized the Open Textbook Library, a network of University libraries to share information about OER.
“In the last year, our growth has skyrocketed,” Sarah Faye Cohen, managing director of the Open Textbook Network, told EdSurge, an online magazine that covers education and technology. Cohen says that during 2017, membership in the network has grown from 300 institutions to nearly 650.
In Ohio, a library consortium called OhioLink is part of a statewide effort to curate and enhance a set of OER course materials for 21 course subjects.
As the cost of textbooks and other educational materials continues to rise, educators fear that many students will opt out of higher education because of their inability to meet those costs. OER, however, represents a unique opportunity to reverse the high cost of education and open greater opportunities for a growing population eager to learn.
Harnessing the Power of the University’s Award-Winning Online Library & eBooks
American Public University System offers extraordinary learning and research benefits to students worldwide thanks in part to its award-winning library and staff. Together, they’re helping to define a new era in information services, academic research and student outcomes.
Designed with the online student in mind, the library system is easily searchable and provides degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate students with tremendous resources for research. The heart of the library is the University’s cadre of highly credentialed librarians who are always eager to help students locate the resources needed to effectively maximize their academic research.
While enrolled, students can utilize the library’s resources for every class or research project as well as to supplement their OER materials. These materials are curated by the faculty and are included in courses, just as a textbook would be. Each course is mapped to specific reading or viewing resources. This includes periodicals, videos, case studies and more. By providing learning that’s current with today’s field practices, the library integrates present-day application to research materials.
“Our library is dynamic in terms of being constantly assessed and updated,” said Andrea Dunn, AVP of Electronic Course Materials. “It draws from a wide variety of resources.” It’s an evolving mix of library articles, resources found on the open web and eBooks accessed through partner vendors. This gives students access to required resources from third-parties that offer diverse options for viewing, downloading or printing.
The University librarians make it their mission to provide the highest quality of research support at a distance. According to the Dean of Academic Outreach and Program Development, Dr. Chris Reynolds, “Our classroom instruction, student support and online library together form what I describe as our scaffold approach to helping students build a strong educational foundation. We provide successive layers of support so the student always has a safety net. It’s not all just about self-service — you’re never alone.”