No textbooks required.
That’s how Denise Frusciante likes to offer her online courses. And when she joined St. Joseph’s College in fall 2020, she developed a new English course, ENG 253: Modern Poetry, for SJC Online using only open educational resources (OER), meaning there’s no need to purchase a textbook.
“I think that if you’re going to have an online experience, it should be fully immersive, meaning that everything should be online, including the materials that you’re using,” said Dr. Frusciante, who is set to teach the course in 2021, and who created the course with the help of Instructional Designer Monica Yatsyla.
SJC’s Associate Dean and Director of Online Learning Amy Poland, Ph.D., feels it’s better not to burden the students with the cost of an unnecessary textbook.
“With the rising costs of textbooks, designing courses using open educational resources increases access to students for whom textbook costs can be prohibitive,” Dr. Poland, an associate professor of criminal justice, said. “Several colleges and universities locally, such as the CUNY and SUNY systems, as well as nationally, have moved toward ‘zero textbook cost’ or ZTC courses and/or degree programs to help these students who struggle to pay for college.
“For SJC, an added benefit of using open educational resources in designing a course is the ability of students to engage with course material from the first day of the course,” Dr. Poland continued. “There is no need to order a textbook and wait for it to be delivered; this is especially helpful in our shortened courses that run 4-8 weeks over the summer or for half the regular semester.”
Creating a Course While Considering Accessibility
While Dr. Frusciante creates courses using free online resources, she understands the importance of accessibility for her students.
“I do think that we have to respect different learning styles, and of course students with disabilities,” said Dr. Frusciante, who has taught online courses for over a decade.
For students who need something that mimics a textbook, Dr. Frusciante explained that they would be able to save all the online materials as PDFs and print them.
“They can create their own handbook, in essence, for the course,” said Dr. Frusciante, who is currently teaching two SJC Online courses that don’t require the purchase of a textbook.
Yatsyla, an instructional designer in higher education for over 10 years, shared various ways to check if OERs meet accessibility needs.
“When curating OERs, you want to ensure the content is accessible the most common browsers (Chrome, FireFox and Safari), that all videos include closed captions, and that audios are accompanied with transcripts,” she said. “If possible, make sure any and all required content is compatible with screen reader softwares.”
Tips for Faculty Looking to Use OERs
There are a number of different OER formats available, making them versatile enough to work for a range of subjects. Common OERs include audio and video formats, while other options are software, simulations, online experiments, free textbooks and other materials.
“When selecting an OER you want to make sure the content you are reusing fits your desired learning goal in the format that helps students learn,” Yatsyla suggested.
She recommends considering the following:
- Does the knowledge gained from the content meet the course learning objectives?
- Does the content meet your formative assessment needs?
- What is the student learning experience like?
“When working with a faculty member, the first topic we discuss is the needs they have in their course,” said Yatsyla, who started at St. Joseph’s in September 2019. “We examine their previous experiences with teaching the material online, and together identify any learning gaps that may exist.
“Once we determine the particular needs of the course and the support needed for the faculty, we curate content that satisfies the learning objectives of their course while ensuring the best possible student learning outcomes,” she added.
Faculty interested in learning more about OERs and possibly using them in their own courses can contact the Technology Education department as well as search for OERs pertaining to their disciplines at the websites listed below. Please be aware that some of the resources may come with a cost.