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This week at FRCC, we’re celebrating Open Education Week, a global initiative that raises awareness and highlights innovative open education successes worldwide. Educators, students and practitioners from around the world are coming together (virtually) to inspire one another with their open education resources, open courses, open textbooks, open tools research and other open projects and initiatives.

Here at FRCC, professors have been working on open education projects in a wide variety of courses and subjects for several years—and we’ll highlight a few of their recent efforts below. But first…

What Exactly Is Open Education?

Open education “encompasses resources, tools and practices that employ a framework of open sharing to improve educational access and effectiveness worldwide,” according to the Open Education Global Consortium.

Open educational resources (OER) are educational materials that include permission for anyone to use, modify and share at no cost. The adoption and adaptation of OER provide students with access to free instructional materials, supporting them in reaching their educational and career goals.

As a state, Colorado has taken a lead role in advocating for open education, providing funding to support a variety of projects—like the adoption of OER for all of Early Childhood Education courses. In recent years, FRCC has received funding from the Colorado Department of Higher Education’s OER Grant Program to launch several OER projects. In addition, institutional funding from the college has been made available to support this important work.

Savings for Students—and Other Benefits

Open education has done more than make education more affordable (though that is a big benefit for students). OER materials are easily accessible and can enhance other course content (such as videos that accompany e-books or articles).

They’re also customizable. OER can be specifically tailored to an individual class—focusing on the particular concepts that a professor feels are the most critical for students to master.

In addition, professors can update OER fairly quickly as changes occur in their field of study. That means that high-quality OER can end up being more current than traditional textbooks.

According the The OER Starter Kit from Iowa State University, “because OER are always free to access online, students who are interested in taking a course… can read up on the course ahead of time and ensure that they are ready and interested in the material. Moreover, students who have already taken [a] course can be safe in the knowledge that their course materials will not evaporate at the end of the semester and that they can continue to review the materials… for years to come.”

Open Education at FRCC

At FRCC, we support this work as part of our goal to enrich lives and reduce barriers to a quality education. College leaders have allocated funds to support developing new OER for a number of our courses.

With 2020-2021 grant funds from the college, 21 unique FRCC courses utilized OER—resulting in an estimated savings to students in textbook costs of $776,000 for the year. FRCC leadership allocated an additional $30,000 for 2021-2022 OER projects, which are now in development.

Many of the college’s faculty members are reaping the benefits of OER in their classrooms—as are their students. And these resources can be designed for many different types of classes, regardless of the subject matter.

Using OER in Interior Design

Nowell Vincent
Faculty member Nowell Vincent

FRCC interior design faculty member Nowell Vincent recently created OER for three of her classes:

  • Introduction to interior design
  • Kitchen and bath design
  • Professional practice for interior designers

“For my interior design class, we were previously using an excellent book, but it was more than students needed for this introductory course,” she says.

Experiential Learning

Vincent used her own personal projects to collect photos from remodeling projects and included online resources that explain design and construction methodologies. For her kitchen and bath design class, she created experiential learning opportunities—visits to lighting, plumbing, tile and other showrooms—and developed worksheets to reinforce the learnings students gain on such field trips. And for her professional practice class, Vincent assembled videos of her past lectures and combined them with design surveys she’s developed through the years (as well as other materials).

While OERs are not ideal for every class or scenario, Vincent says they’ve been a good fit for her three classes. “In interior design, things change all the time, which is why OER works,” she says.

“The cost savings for students is great, but this is also aligned with experiential learning. Interior designers have to research products and source materials. I’ve developed materials now that students can take into the industry as a template for starting on their own.”

Using OER in Math

Several FRCC faculty members across all three of the school’s campuses—and online learning—came together to create OER materials for the popular math for liberal arts class, which many FRCC students take. The materials included an online text and online homework problems. The per-student cost of course materials dropped significantly at each campus.

Before creating the OEM material, the faculty had been using two different books between the three campuses and online. Three of the instructors were collaborating online, making it easy to come together to create shared OER for their class sections.

Customized to Fit the Class

“One of the big reasons we focused on this was because neither of the books we used covered algebraic modeling very well, so all of us were already heavily supplementing the books for that unit,” says math faculty member Andrew Hudson.

“Working together to adapt the OER material allowed us to build this unit to match what we wanted the students to get.”

Using OER in Geography

Geography faculty member Kristie Raymond created OER for her world regional geography class.

“This is an online class, and a year and a half ago, I really wanted to restructure the whole thing to make it much more active and accessible on students’ own time,” she says.

Active—and Interactive—Learning

“I created ‘quests’ in the class quiz tool that are the main means of learning and assessment for students. Each quest has students analyze different OER material, such as maps and charts, and includes links to text and videos from many different sources.”

Raymond’s students have shared positive feedback about this new way of learning—and the materials that make it possible. “Students really enjoy this interactive way of learning,” she says.

“I honestly think that many students today prefer this type of format. Educators can share information too, like the way that I’m linking to OER texts that already exist. OER has made my class a lot better.”

Using OER in History

For history faculty member Bruce Nye, the push toward OER materials for his history of modern china class was driven by a “desire to present non-biased materials for the students to come to their own conclusions about modern China and its history.”

“The topic lends itself to several biases—political, cultural, racial, religious—to just name a few,” Nye says. “Often times, these show up in standard textbooks and readings associated with Chinese history.”

Varied, Unbiased Sources

He used materials from Columbia University’s website dedicated to the use of online and OER sources (Asia for Educators) and then customized them to the weekly units and topics covered in his own course.

“I was also able to use snips from video-recorded lectures provided on the website from academics covering various aspects of modern Chinese history,” he says.

“This allowed the students to hear voices other than my own as we covered topics and issues within the class. When used appropriately and for a specific purpose like I had, OER materials can be really useful.”

High Quality, Low Cost

“Our faculty and instructors are committed to providing our students with rich instructional content aligned with course learning outcomes,” says Jean Runyon, vice president of the Larimer Campus.

“The important pedagogical benefits of open educational resources, combined with the cost savings to students, greatly contribute to students’ success and completion.”

Learn more about Open Education Week at https://www.oeglobal.org/.

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