Mark Gucinski is a biology faculty member at St. Cloud Technical and Community College.
What was your first experience with OER?
My first exposure to OER was at a conference in 2014. I was there presenting on one of the programs that we offer at SCTCC geared at engaging high school students in STEM and noticed a session on the program about free textbooks. At this session I learned of the OpenStax offerings and I quickly started digging into what they offered.
What helped you the most in achieving your OER goals? What are you most proud of?
My colleagues, both at my institution and in the OER Learning Circles, were the most helpful to me in this project. Being able to talk through any issues that popped up or asking for input on the design of test questions, PowerPoints, or study guides made it a lot easier for me to start moving forward with my project.
Joining OER Learning Circles is a great way to do something that you may have been interested in while receiving support from individuals that are like minded.
What were some challenges you faced?
I may have jumped to quickly into my first use of OER material. I wasn’t prepared to work as much as I needed to produce the supplementary materials that went with the OpenStax textbook I chose. Although OpenStax provided some, it was barebones material that I needed to supplement greatly.
Another challenge I faced with my project was related to the development of a test bank. At first, it was difficult determining the format and program that I wanted to use to develop these. Once I settled on Respondus, question creation became the next difficult aspect of my project. I found it difficult to write good questions that are not tailored to how I teach my course. We all have preferences in our teaching styles and in the questions that we ask, but I did my best to set these aside and write questions that will serve as starting points for creation of assessments by other faculty.
Do you have any advice for faculty new to OER?
- I would suggest that individuals take a good amount of time to thoroughly evaluate the material that is out there. The jump to the use of OERs is more of a leap off a cliff. The transition can be made much smoother for both the faculty member and the students if sufficient prep work is done ahead of time.
- Be ready to modify the existing materials to suit your teaching style. As OERs gain popularity, ancillary materials continue to be developed. There are plenty of resources out there but you may find that it is necessary to alter them slightly to work for you in your courses.
- There is a lot of support available for individuals looking to adopt or create OERs. This support exists at the local, state, and national levels. Finding support circles is a critical component to the process of adopting or creating this material and it will make life a lot easier for the faculty member looking to do so.
- If you are interested in reducing cost to your student but you don’t like any of the OER material out there, create your own! You can mix and match from existing sources or create from scratch. We are all content experts and we all have the ability to create resources that not only help reduce the costs for students, but also help students learn.
This was a great experience and I hope that I can participate again in the future.
What do you wish you had known before joining OER Learning Circles?
Incorporating OERs into the classroom doesn’t mean that everything being used in the course must be free. One of the major goals associated with the use of OERs is reducing the cost of course materials for students. This does not mean that the course must be cost free. For example, there is a nice fitness tracking solution from McGraw hill that they offer as a standalone product for $20.00. This, paired with an OER textbook reduces the cost of the course from the current (at my institution) $150.00 to $20.00.
Interested in joining an OER Learning Circle to help your students save money on the cost of textbooks?
Applications are now being accepted for the Fall 2020 semester, and are due August 26, 2020. Learn more and apply today.
Questions? Contact Karen Pikula.
Faculty and staff interested in OER can also join the OER Community Site.