Open Educational Resources in ND: A Teacher’s Perspective

In a continuation of our look into the Open Educational Resources Initiative in North Dakota, today we are excited to share Teresa Tande’s, Associate Professor of English/Humanities at Lake Region State College, story of incorporating OER into her classroom.

When my university life students didn’t see a textbook to buy for the class, they were ecstatic!  Obviously, that meant no homework.  But they soon found out they were receiving a free digital book: they still had to read and they still had to do work.  So how was an open source book different from having a text or having an online text?

The Student Perspective

Lake Region State CollegeFrom the student perspective, not having to lug a book around was definitely a bonus. But not having a book to lug around also meant that sometimes, without a book staring at them from a pile, they forgot to read an assigned chapter. No doubt that is due more to student trait, not open source textbook.

The actual reading itself didn’t seem to cause any real problem for students. The book that we used was set up very nicely, with specific objectives listed before each section.  Likewise, the end of each section contained the key points and pertinent exercises with direct application to the chapter’s concepts.

Checklists before sections allowed the students to interact with the material before they even read.  Because I converted all the pdf chapters to word documents, students were able to actually type their marks or responses within the book itself, so their answers would always be there.  Sending the work in was as easy as “Copy + Paste.”

The Teacher Perspective

From the teacher perspective, not having to lug a book back and forth between school and work was definitely a bonus.  But that also meant I always needed to have access to a computer since my phone screen is still a bit too small for reading. Even though I was able to interact with the text through highlighting or making notes, reviewing those notes again meant needing a computer for retrieval, which sometimes proves to be awkward.

When I committed to my particular online book, the extent of my resources was a digital version of the text with limited pictures.  That is such a contrast from what teachers receive with  new proprietary texts.  Instructor manuals, pre-made powerpoints, text banks, and even suggested course outlines are the expected minimum resources with traditional textbooks.   No longer does a teacher have to spend hours creating visuals, typing up tests, or designing the sequence of units.  A teacher doesn’t even have to think about what to teach, but rather, what material to use.

As nice as it is to have so many readily accessible resources, lessons take on a canned quality as convenience dominates over creativity.  But in using a text stripped of all the extra packaging, I have returned to what my early years of teaching (almost 40 years ago!) were like, where I need to rely on my creativity to conjure up lessons to help my students understand.  And even though the actual process of lesson planning takes longer, I feel a deeper connection to my lesson and a greater satisfaction knowing I crafted it.  In that sense, the OER has benefitted not only the student, but also the teacher.

My students this semester know they are part of the exploration in using OERs.  In fact, the first writing students had to do in Comp II was a response to an article on OERs. Contrary to what many might believe, our digital-savvy students don’t all prefer a digital version over the physical version of a book. It will be an interesting journey this semester discovering their positions on OERs after 17 weeks.

As for me, I will continue to do what is best for the students.  Who knows?  If textbooks are too heavy and too expensive, and if OERs are too awkward and not tactile enough, maybe I will choose not to use texts at all and have students learn by doing.  Now there’s a concept!

Teresa TandeTeresa Tande
Associate Professor, English/Humanities
Lake Region State College

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