Turning Real-World Experiences into Classroom Resources

Communications 2321 instructor Jasmine Roberts wanted to take a more practical approach to her teaching than she could using traditional course materials. With the Affordable Learning Exchange (ALX) Exploration Grant, Roberts had the chance to create her own content based on real-world experiences and other open educational resources.

With this project, Roberts will save her students more than $16,000 during the 2016-17 school year. Learn more about Roberts’ experience developing openly licensed content for her classes with the help of ALX.

Q: Why did you decide to pursue this project?

I read through what the grant was about and the whole initiative and I thought to myself: Finally! There’s a grant that helps to support instructors who want to make education more affordable. I have a nice relationship with a lot of my students and they feel comfortable enough to come talk to me and say, “Hey, this textbook isn’t working at all. It’s dry and boring. We appreciate the class content more when you relate it back to your previous work experience and how it’s relevant to our future careers.”

I really wanted to create something I could customize to my classroom, and also something that other instructors could use it if they wanted to by adding or removing content. I think that’s the great thing about open educational resources, that you have that agency to do that if you want.

I also like the affordability focus of the project. I am a firm believer that the pursuit of higher education should not come at a steep financial cost. This furthers access inequalities.

Q: How did you find your materials? Were you happy with the quality of materials you were able to find?

I’m basically writing my own material, and drawing from my own previous work experience in the private sector. I’m drawing from some of my lecture notes and discussions I’ve had with my colleagues, and putting that into the textbook. It’s supposed to be as practical as possible. It’s career-orientated, preparing people who are interested in marketing or PR, even to a certain degree, journalism. I think it’s been a little easier to gather material because I’m not doing a literature review or incorporating countless academic theories. Although there is an academic foundation, much of the content is inspired by industry standards and sources.

Q: Is there anything about the process that is different than you thought?

I wasn’t anticipating to getting as much support from [ALX]. Having that support has made this whole process a lot easier, and having the project manager has been a blessing. I was anticipating some support, but not the accountability and step-by-step guidance.

One thing I’m concerned about, because this is openly licensed, is the future adoption of this material. I’m obviously going to use it in my classroom, but there is still a stigma with openly-licensed materials—that it’s poor quality and hasn’t been vetted. So my concern is that since this is going to be “marketed” as an openly-licensed educational resource, that other instructors from the Ohio State community or beyond are going to say, “this isn’t going to be as high quality as a standard textbook or materials.” I think the quality will speak for itself. I have so many people vetting this!

Also, I read this article about a month ago about the biggest challenge of adopting OER is just that a lot of instructors don’t know where to go. How do I find these materials? How do I know the quality of things I find, and what is the adoption process specific to my course? These are all questions I had to answer, too.

Q: What are you most excited about for fall implementation?

I want to do research to figure out whether or not there’s truly any difference in terms of learning retention or skill development between traditional educational resources and open education resources. I’m teaching two sections of this class and I’m thinking about only adopting one of the sections, and then using the standard textbook for the other section. Obviously I have to look at my overall teaching approach because I know it’s not just about the textbook. But I’m wondering whether or not this resource gets them to the goal that I ultimately want them to achieve, because it’s so different from the conventional textbook, in terms of the content and how it’s delivered as well.

Then I’m excited about other people hearing about this, hearing about ALX, and getting excited about it too!

This interview is the third within a series about our current cohort and their experiences implementing open and affordable course materials in their classes. You can read the first two articles in this series here and here

ALX RFP Now Open!

ALX grants are available to faculty wanting to create open and affordable course materials for courses. 

ALX is accepting proposals now through Friday, Sept. 30. Click here to submit your idea!