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OER: OER at KU

Who is using OER at KU?

Please share a bit about yourself. What subjects and courses do you teach here at KU? What are your research interests? Where Dr. Eric Landquist, Mathematicsare you at in your career? Anything else you would like to share?

Like Dr. Ryan, I am also from a New England town called Rutland: Rutland, MA. Since I was a kid, I enjoyed math, especially cryptography – the study of securing information. I studied Mathematics at Virginia Tech and the University of Illinois, writing my dissertation on a generalization of so-called elliptic curves. I joined the Department of Mathematics here at Kutztown in 2009 and I’m an Associate Professor.  I teach a range of courses – Intro to Math, Business Calculus, Calculus, Mathematical Computing, Number Theory, Cryptography, and more.

My research interests include cryptography (of course), computational number theory, discrete optimization, and mathematical modeling.

How did you come to know of OERs?

In high school, I was introduced to the operating system Unix and many programs in the GNU Project, like the text editor “Emacs.” (Unix has much in common with Linux.) Linux or Unix was the operating system used in most computer labs I used in high school, college, and graduate school, so I was accustomed to the Linux environment early in my computing days. This also gave me a soft-spot for the free software movement in general. I can also be a bit of a tight-wad, so throughout college and graduate school, I sought out free and open alternatives to proprietary software and the occasional free online textbook. Since graduate school, I have used Linux on most of my home computers and laptops as well. I currently use the popular and user-friendly distribution Linux Mint. It wasn’t until I came to Kutztown that I realized that there was a specific open resource movement for education.

Do some courses lend themselves more readily to the adoption of OERs than others?

I’m sure that some courses are easier to adopt OER for. Mathematics courses in general are very well-suited for OER. There are plenty of resources out there for much of the undergraduate curriculum: books, software, and online course management.

What specific OERs are you currently using, and what have you used in the past?

Books:

  • Math in Society for MAT 17: Introduction to Mathematics
  • Business Calculus for MAT 122: Applied (Business) Calculus
  • Contemporary Calculus for MAT 181, 182, and 283: Calculus 1, 2, and 3
  • LaTeX Wikibook and Sage for Undergraduates for MAT 210: Mathematical Computing
  • Abstract Algebra: Theory and Applications for MAT 311 and 312: Abstract Algebra 1 and 2
  • Various course notes for MAT 330 and 337: Number Theory and Introduction to Cryptography

Software:

  • MyOpenMath for online homework for MAT 17, MAT 122, and MAT 181
  • Sage, a free alternative to Mathematica, for MAT 210, MAT 311, MAT 312, and other courses
  • CoCalc.Com, a cloud computing environment created by the makers of Sage.

How long have you been using OERs?

I used my first OER textbook for an independent study in Combinatorics in 2011, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I began using OER in my courses more regularly and began to gradually replace the proprietary textbooks with free and open alternatives.

How, in your opinion, do the costs of course materials affect student learning?

There are studies that have shown that most students have chosen to not purchase a textbook for at least one class because of cost, and the overwhelming majority of these students expect that their grades will suffer as a result. I have heard from a few sources that this is the case at Kutztown as well. If students cannot easily afford course materials, then student learning declines. OER is therefore an economic equalizer.

For example, in the past, I used Pearson’s MyMathLab for assignments in online winter and summer term courses. Students could get a temporary access pass for a few weeks, and many that did either forgot or didn’t have the money to purchase access before the temporary pass expired. This resulted in a couple 0’s on an exam every term. When I switched to the free MyOpenMath, this problem no longer existed.

Have you used strategies, other than using OERs in your teaching, to minimize the cost of course materials for your students? If so, please share them.

No. For a math course, you typically only need books and software.

How are you implementing OERs In your teaching?

I am moving toward using free textbooks and software in all my courses, gradually phasing out proprietary products in favor of free and open ones. I have also started writing free course notes for an Introduction to Cryptography course.

Some Math Department colleagues and I applied and were accepted to be part of the UTMOST (Undergraduate Teaching in Mathematics with Open Software and Textbooks) Project as well. If the UTMOST Project secures NSF funding, we will get help implementing open software and textbooks in Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Abstract Algebra and will participate in assessment studies of their effectiveness. The software includes WebWork, an open alternative to MyMathLab sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America, and Sage.

Where do you look to find quality OERs?

  • AIM’s Open Textbook initiative
  • OpenStax
  • Open Textbook Store
  • Journal of Inquiry-Based Learning in Mathematics
  • Sage and CoCalc.Com
  • Python

There are a number of other resources: OER Commons, MERLOT, etc.

Were there any barriers to using OERs, as compared to traditionally published materials, which you had to overcome?

The biggest barrier to using OERs is the overhead required to change homework sets and other course materials to a new textbook. But this is no different than any other time you need to change a book or design a course. Another issue was that Sage was designed to be used with Linux or MacOS (since most mathematicians use Linux) and needed a virtual machine to run in Windows. Newer versions of Sage are more Windows friendly, but compatibility is a potential issue with some software.

What are your students’ opinions of the OERs you have used?

Students really appreciate not having to spend money on a book.

Have you noticed a difference in student learning, grades, or engagement when you have used OERs?

I haven’t looked at any data, but I can say that there are fewer 0’s on exams in my online classes now that I use a free online homework system.

What do you think the future holds for OERs?

I think the textbook market is in a bubble. Textbook prices have soared in recent years, over four times the rate of inflation. OERs are already getting a lot of attention among community colleges and there is growing attention among public schools. I think that more colleges and universities will make system-wide pushes for OERs in order to make higher education more affordable and also to recruit and retain more students. There is also a growing sentiment that information is free – just a Google search away – so why should textbooks charge for information? I think the major publishers are going to have to revise their business models in the coming years.

One big question is: who will develop the OERs that are needed and how will it be funded? I have a couple OER projects in mind to fill open needs in the mathematics curriculum, and with some funding, I’ll have some good motivation to work on them. I expect there to be a growing number of grant opportunities to develop OER from individual universities, state systems, federal agencies, and private foundations. Perhaps some OER projects will have corporate sponsorships in which the sponsor asks that their products and services are advertised on websites or in the OER books via ads, homework problems, or class projects.

I also expect there to be OER developed in connection with paid services that support the development of OER. For example, Sage is a free computer algebra system and CoCalc.Com is a cloud computing platform designed to use Sage (and Python) in the cloud. Basic usage is free, but if you want more power, you need to pay a little money. Also, many open textbooks are free, but if you want a print copy, you’ll have to pay a little bit to cover costs at least.

Over time, I think that the quality and quantity of OERs will increase. Most OER I have seen have excellent content, on par with proprietary resources, but free alternatives are generally less “flashy” since there is less money behind the design aspects of things. But the advantage of OERs is that there is a larger community behind the development and support of a given resource. I expect these communities to expand. Python is a great example. There are a lot of people developing the language and various libraries and a lot of people in the community offering support.

Do you have any advice for colleagues are interested in implementing OERs in their teaching?

My advice is that yes, there is work involved in migrating to OER, but it’s worth it. The students will appreciate it. I also say to keep your eyes and ears open for OER funding opportunities since there are bound to be many popping up in the near future.

Is there anything else you would like to add about OERs?

I am happy to talk with anyone interested in discussing OERs and free and open source software in general. My contact information is:

Eric Landquist

Lytle 268

elandqui@kutztown.edu

Dr. Hank Alviani

Dr Alviani is using Top Hat software to provide students in his Introduction to Music classes with a low cost, customized and interactive textbook alternative. Here are questions and answers from an interview with Dr. Alviani regarding his implementation of Top Hat:

What subjects and courses do you teach here at KU?

Introduction to Music, various choral ensemble, Applied Voice.

How did you come to know of OERs?

This is not exactly an OER in that it is not free and truly open. I think I simply responded to an email from Top Hat when I was considering textbooks for Introduction to Music three years ago.

Do some courses lend themselves more readily to the adoption of OERs than others?

I think anything that requires a textbook, especially with a workbook. I think it would be especially suitable for online courses.

What specific OERs are you currently using, and what have you used in the past?

Again, not truly an OER. Top Hat app.

How long have you been using OERs?

Two years.

How, in your opinion, do the costs of course materials affect student learning?

Some much more than others.

Have you used strategies, other than using OERs in your teaching, to minimize the cost of course materials for your students? If so, please share them.

I use public domain music whenever possible.

How are you implementing OERs In your teaching?

The Top Hat app IS the textbook. It also allows me to import and embed YouTube videos and recordings.

Were there any barriers to using OERs, as compared to traditionally published materials, which you had to overcome?

Just getting familiar with how to operate and manage the program.

What are your students’ opinions of the OERs you have used?

Mixed. I think mostly favorable. I’m talking to a student right now who says if more professors used Top Hat he would definitely use it. He says it’s so much better than a textbook.

Have you noticed a difference in student learning, grades, or engagement when you have used OERs?

Not really.

Do you have any advice for colleagues are interested in implementing OERs in their teaching?

What have you got to lose? Try it.

Please contact Dr. Alviani if you have further questions about how he is using Top Hat.

Dr. Henry Alviani
alviani@kutztown.edu
610-683-4553
Old Main 115-B

 

 

Please share a bit about yourself. What subjects and courses do you teach here at KU? What are your research interests? Where are you at in your career? Anything else you would like to share?

I was hired by the Psychology Department here at Kutztown University in 2000. They were looking for a person who could teach cognitive psychology and was interested in building up the research credentials of the department, both in terms of faculty research and in involving the undergrads more in research.

I have taught Cognitive Psychology, General Psychology, and several courses in learning at the undergrad and graduate levels here at Kutztown. Most recently I have mostly been teaching Introductory Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences and Experimental Psychology.

My early research was on face recognition, but my more recent research interests are in the learning and especially the longer term retention of material taught in college level courses. I have published two peer reviewed journal articles on using analogical reasoning to enhance algebra learning. Those articles presented my dissertation research. I have published a peer reviewed journal article on using a hands-on exercise for teaching statistics, and one on using the internet to conduct experimental research. Since 2013, two of the articles mentioned above have had undergraduate volunteer research assistants as co-authors. Most recently, I was one of 270 collaborators who published “Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science,” in the journal Science.

Currently I am finishing up an experiment on the effects of studying methods on the retention from semester to semester of basic knowledge from introductory statistics. I took a one year sabbatical to conduct the research because of its high labor intensity. It required running over 300 subjects in a training session that took an hour to run each subject individually. Then it required recruiting 200 of them to return to take a retention test a semester later. It is high powered, and it is pre-registered on the Open Science Framework (OSF) to prevent any post hoc theorizing, or other means of capitalizing on chance.

As a child and a teenager I attended Catholic schools in my home town of Rutland, Vermont. In high school I learned Latin and played clarinet in the band. From my sophomore year on, I worked as a clarinetist in the Rutland, Vermont City Band, and in several jobs at the local Howard Johnson’s Restaurant. I earned my undergraduate degree in music education from Duquesne University in 1970.

For the first two years after graduating, I taught music at the elementary and secondary level in Tionesta and Marienville, Pennsylvania. Having been unsuccessful as a secondary school teacher, I began working in the food-service industry. Over the next 16 years, I worked as a cook, a chef, and a food-service manager at several restaurants and hotels in the western PA area. During that time, I married, had two daughters, divorced, and co-parented to raise our daughters, the younger of whom has a mobility disability, spina bifida. Then I spent 5 years taking undergraduate courses, one at a time, at night, to prepare to apply to a Ph.D. program in psychology.

While taking those courses I also worked as a research assistant for two graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh to build up my research credentials. During the second research assistantship I had to quit my food-service job and go on welfare for nine months in order to free up the time I needed to work on the research project. After that, I got one more food-service job running the food-service operation at a local adult day care facility for the mentally disabled.

While working at that last food-service job, I applied to and was accepted into the University of Pittsburgh’s cognitive psychology Ph.D. program in September 1989. While in the program I taught Latin and pre-algebra at a local Montessori school.  I successfully defended my dissertation on December 13, 1996 and graduated with my Ph.D. on April 26, 1997. Thus, I came to academic cognitive psychology after having had previous careers as a music teacher, a chef, and a Latin and math teacher.

Having spent a total of twelve and a half years from deciding to pursue psychology to obtaining my degree, my first professional position was as a temporary faculty member at Slippery Rock University. While there, I continued my job search. My first tenure track position was at Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky. I taught a variety of psychology courses in their social sciences department for two years, but continued job searching. While there I continued to work on research and publishing, and found the opening here at Kutztown in 2000.

How did you come to know of OERs?

My first encounter with anything in the non-commercial world was when I learned of the Linux family of PC. operating systems. I’ve been happily using some version of Linux for many years now.

I became aware of the OpenStax textbook initiative several years ago. I don’t recall how I first heard of them. It may have been as the result of an internet search for open source textbooks.

Do some courses lend themselves more readily to the adoption of OERs than others?

Certainly some courses lend themselves to various different approaches to using teaching resources. But for any course for which a textbook or other form of educational resource were appropriate, I can’t imagine why the source of the materials would matter.

What specific OERs are you currently using, and what have you used in the past?

Currently, I’m using the OpenStax Psychology textbook for my 100% online General Psychology class.

In the past I’ve used OpenSesame, an open source software package for building experiments to be presented via a computer interface. I’ve also used the R statistical analysis software, and Rstudio, the graphical interface for R, for my Introductory Statistics and for my Experimental Psychology classes.

How long have you been using OERs?

I began using OpenSesame in my Experimental Psychology classes in Fall 2013. I began using R and Rstudio in my Statistics classes in Fall 2015.

How, in your opinion, do the costs of course materials affect student learning?

The high costs of course materials create a disparity in that more affluent students are not adversely affected nearly as much as students with fewer financial resources. Less affluent students often have to work many hours a week at a paying job in order to afford their education. This cuts into the many hours they need to put in on educational activities. Some such students simply forgo buying such essentials as a class textbook because they can’t afford them.

Thus the education of students of modest financial means can be adversely impacted in several ways. First, they may not have access, or at least not full access (in the case of students using a textbook on reserve) to a textbook or other resources they need. Second, they may not be able to put in the time they need to on their studies. Third, those situations may cause anxiety which can interfere with learning.

Have you used strategies, other than using OERs in your teaching, to minimize the cost of course materials for your students? If so, please share them.

The only way, other than using OERs, that I have considered for minimizing costs to students that I can think of has to do with travel to a conference to present research. I make students aware of any possible sources of funding that they might be able to use to fund such travel.

How are you implementing OERs In your teaching?

The OER that I’m currently using is the OpenStax textbook for my General Psychology class. Students are given weekly assigned chapters to read. They are encouraged to use the free resources within the text, such as the “links to learning” or “review questions.” The textbook comes with a test bank. I managed (with the help of our distance ed. people) to import the test bank into D2L. On D2L, I created weekly quizzes. The quizzes pull a random sample of questions from the bank for the current chapter. They also pull a smaller random sample of questions from a previous chapter or two to provide a check for retention from chapter to chapter.

In previous semesters I have used the OpenSesame software to have my Experimental Psychology students do their research projects. Also, I have used R and Rstudio in my Statistics course to provide students with exposure to professional grade statistical analysis software. In some cases, I provided them with the opportunity to use Rstudio to do extra credit assignments.

I should point out that it has been challenging to continue to use OpenSesame and Rstudio for reasons having to do with our IT policies, as I’ll explain below under barriers to using OERs.

Where do you look to find quality OERs?

Until recently, I have just done internet searches and tried them out myself. However, I have learned more about OER’s that I didn’t even know existed from this library OER project.

Were there any barriers to using OERs, as compared to traditionally published materials, which you had to overcome?

I’ll mention possible problems with both open source software and with open source textbooks.

First, for software: On the positive side, although you may hear that a down side to using open source materials is that they lack tech support, I have found that by being open, there is a tremendous amount of support available online, and I have found it to be as helpful as, or more helpful than, proprietary tech support.

One difficulty that I have encountered, as mentioned above, is with using open source software such as OpenSesame and Rstudio on campus computers. The main difficulty arises because faculty do not have permission to install software. To their credit, our IT people have been very good at installing it for me when I’ve asked. But if the OS’s used on the campus computers are upgraded, that sometimes requires that you repeat the process of requesting and waiting for upgrades to the open source software.

A special case of that happened with the OpenSesame software. OpenSesame ran on the hard drives of our lab computers, but it interacted with a website for storing data. In the last semester that I tried to use OpenSesame, that website was also used to “push” an upgrade of the OpenSesame package during the semester. Because the lab computers were configured to not accept such upgrades, the version that was on the computers encountered problems.

Regarding textbooks: My experience has been that OpenStax textbooks are even better than any proprietary textbooks I’ve seen. On the other hand, developing tests is very labor intensive. If one has a testbank as at least a starting point, that is tremendously helpful. It still requires examining the test items and sometimes editing them somewhat. But that is not nearly as demanding as building a test bank from scratch. Therefore, I have used the OpenStax Psychology text because it already has a testbank. I am anxious to use the OpenStax Statistics textbook as well. However, the testbank for that textbook has not been provided yet. Therefore, I’ll either have to continue to wait, or see if the test questions that I currently have available are suitable, or with a reasonable amount of work can be made suitable, to that I can use the Statistics text.

What are your students’ opinions of the OERs you have used?

I have explicitly solicited students’ impressions of the OpenStax Psychology text. It has been virtually universally positive. Students are especially grateful to avoid the expense of buying a textbook.

Have you noticed a difference in student learning, grades, or engagement when you have used OERs?

I haven’t done any systematic examination of that issue. However, I haven’t been able to notice any negative effects. And the positive responses of students to the OpenStax Psychology text are encouraging.

What do you think the future holds for OERs?

OER’s may suffer a fate similar to open source operating systems. Consider this: There are three main families of PC operating systems - the Microsoft Windows family, the Apple OS’s, and the many open source Unix variants, such as Linux. My impression is that an impartial quality comparison of them would result in the Unix variants coming out on top, the Apple OS’s second, and the Microsoft Windows family a distant third (However, it should be noted that the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation are big financial supporters of OpenStax and other worthy causes).. But what about penetration of the market? By far most PC users use Windows, and the Unix variants are used the least. In my opinion, it has nothing to do with their quality and everything to do with aggressive marketing.

The lesson for OERs is that those of us who believe in their value will have to be as involved as we can be in promoting them.

Do you have any advice for colleagues are interested in implementing OERs in their teaching?

Be prepared to be open to learning new things and to be a little patient. You might be, as I was, taught by the marketers of proprietary products to be reliant on the product to lull you into complacency. With open source software and other OERs you are more in control. But that means you have to take more control. Some benefits might not have been enough for me to put in the extra effort to learn what I needed to in order to provide my students with OERs. But the outrageous cost, and the even more outrageous far-above-inflation-increase in the costs of textbooks motivates me to go to OERs as much as possible.

Is there anything else you would like to add about OERs?

I encourage you to try OERs, to support them, and to work towards making them the wave of the future, for the benefit of our students.

Please contact Dr. Ryan if you have questions about his use of OERs:

Dr. Robert Ryan

Old Main 385
484-646-4325
rryan@kutztown.edu   

 

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