History professor adopts no-cost material with open educational resources

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Professor says students shouldn’t be burdened with buying textbooks.

By Janie Medelez


Alamo Colleges District is looking for ways to encourage faculty to adopt no-cost materials either through conferences or training on operational educational resources.

OERs are free educational materials in the public domain and copyright-free.

The materials range from textbooks to full course modules, syllabi, lectures and classroom activities designed for teaching and learning.

OERs are created and then housed in their own repositories in which materials can be accessed; Corsera, Khan Academy, Merlot, Wikibooks, and OpenStax, are some examples of unlimited resources available.

Phillip Anaya, digital and open educational resources coordinator of the Alamo Colleges, said the Achieving the Dream grant provided incentives, but they were not enough for the amount of work involved.

Incentives given as part of the grant to faculty were better access, support and made available fee based resources as non fee based.

“What I’ve discovered in some cases it doesn’t really matter if a student pays for a textbook or not, especially on some disciplines, you don’t read the textbook,” Duffy said.

Duffy said 90 to 95 percent of core classes are usually classes students aren’t going to major in.

“I didn’t need my old philosophy, my old sociology book and that’s one of the reasons I was into OER,” Duffy said.

History being his major, he used it as an example.

“There shouldn’t be a reason to buy the book unless the class is part of a student’s major. Then a student might need to for reference.”

“I really don’t think students need to be burdened with a textbook when a lot of the materials that textbook publishers provide, we have access to as well,” Duffy said.

“I’m thinking of a textbook as a narrative for history. It’s not how I’m driving my class each day,” Duffy said.

“It’s meant as a resource for the students, but it’s my job as a subject matter expert to fill in any gaps that a free textbook would not have,” he said.

“From Day 1, I told them no student can tell me they couldn’t do the assignment ’cause I’m still waiting to get the textbook.

That’s a benefit for the professor. There it is. Day 1, you can’t use that excuse,” Duffy said.

Duffy adopted OpenStax three years ago, a nonprofit educational initiative that publishes openly license, peer-reviewed textbooks for free.

“The feedback I got from students is they really appreciate it,” Duffy said.

Computer science freshman Leo Martinez liked not having to purchase a textbook for his HIST 1301, United States History 1, class.

“It’s a unique class. All the materials are in Canvas,” he said. “And made learning a lot easier.”

Laurie Lopez Coleman, English professor and OER coordinator, said, “Professor Duffy, he decided on his own and after doing his research looking at the options, to adopt OpenStax textbook for his course.”

“We do push awareness. We want them to know, so that they have the most information on choices regarding their instructional materials, but it’s just information,” Coleman said.

Awareness is promoted through promotional events like the one in the month of March with Open Education Week.

“Faculty get involved by self-selecting to get involved. We don’t require them to use OER or to be interested in it — it’s really if a faculty member wants to pursue, kind of learn more or adopt OER,” Colemen said. “Faculty have the right to adopt or decline the OERs out of their academic freedom.”

“We’re just sharing the information,” Coleman said.

For a list of courses using no-cost instructional materials, visit https://www.alamo.edu/sac/experience-sac/current-students/student-resources/online-resources/courses-using-oer-at-sac or call Coleman at 210-486-0063.


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