An openness to openness – morning keynote

Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani, an Open Textbook Faculty Fellow, “took the red pill” and join date open education movement as a result of David Wiley’s talk (along with Kim Thanos) at the first Open Textbook Summit two years ago. (Here’s a video of his talk to the OER forum 2012.)

In acknowledging people like Jesse Key, Christine Hendricks (both faculty fellows), and numerous other colleagues – John Belshaw, Beck Pitt, Caroline Daniels, Brenda Smith, and others from KPU and TRU, it was obvious you can’t “do Open” alone – there are always others involved. It’s a community.

“This is my Open family”says Jhangiani. Moreover, good pedagogy plus social justice results in meaningful contributions to OER.

Open Textbooks are a social justice issue for many reasons. For example: students today are working 180% more hours today to be able to finish their degrees. That does impact student outcomes – absolutely, says Dr. Jhangiani. With an 812% increase in textbook costs in the last 35 years, 82% in the last 10 years, textbooks are costs we as faculty can control, by using OER.

Pressures on faculty are many: research, teaching loads, administrative duties. Jhangiani understands this. “It’s easy and attractive when a traditional textbook salesperson walks into your office. I get that, it’s tempting.” Traditional “ebooks” from big textbook publishers are wolves in sheep clothing: they’re still locked in a proprietary platform. This is not innovation.

The assumption for faculty is “which textbook do I assign for this course?” Not “should I assign a textbook for this course?” —now that leads to innovation, and to asking questions of quality and student outcomes.

Following are some quick notes on the rest of Dr. Jhangiani’s talk:

The question of quality:

Rarely do we ask that question of traditional resources: “What about quality?” For instance, typical textbook selection at Jhangiani’s institution is chosen by committee, resulting in compromised and a watering down of textbook quality.

Most faculty just don’t know about the quality of OER, but the ones that do rate OER as about the same as traditional resources.

I would challenge any traditional textbook to match the numbers we are getting when we survey students after they have used open textbooks. When you post the textbook along with the other course materials, and they say “This is the textbook already, right here?” – you have them at hello. You have a rapport with the student right from the start and it stays with them:

I would not have bought the textbook for this course because it’s an elective. I would have possibly walked away with a C, now I might actually get an A-. – Psychology student

We need to conduct more high quality research on the quality and effectiveness of OT. We are starting to do this in B.C. Other studies have indicated an increase in marks, increase in final exam performance, and a lower withdrawal rate. In other studies, there is some variation, but generally performance of OER indicates at least the same, or better, outcomes for students who use OER.

Too often when these efficacy studies are done, they compare e-textbooks with printed traditional textbooks. They don’t take account things like study habits. Are students interacting with OT differently? Is that what’s driving the difference? We are doing a study now on this, and presenting his findings at the international OT Summit in November 2015 in Vancouver.

There is great reason for OT to be win-win-win.

For students: access, cost savings, portability, course performance For faculty: academic freedom. The ability to adapt, update, and remix is a new layer of academic freedom for faculty.

Some people are more open to open. They are more disposed to innovate, mix it up. How you actually use the textbook in the course makes a difference. The textbooks should serve the course, not the other way around.

Will bookstores lose money? Sure, maybe, but that’s not our mission. We’re going to gain so much more by using open textbooks that serve the mission of education and student outcomes.

Early adopters are like ice climbers. They risk life and limb to innovate and experiment and maybe even fail by using OER and OT. Administrators can help a great deal by supporting faculty who wish to innovate. Allow those early adopters can lower the ropes to allow others to climb up safely.

KPU and TRU are members of OERu and have administrative support for innovation. They’re not doing all they could, but they’re doing much more than any other institution in B.C. right now. They pay attention to the data such as BCCAT’s “A Survey of Movers: students who move between BC Public Post-Secondary institutions.” Students are moving from research institutions to teaching/trades institutions. They want flexibility and OER can provide those flexible learning pathways.

The most natural ally in Open Education are our librarians. They are the ones who can problem-solve and connect students, faculty and OER.

Many people would go along with OER if it is already set up and ready for them to use. Traditional publishers do this already, and these people are very attracted to traditional textbooks for this reason. We need to make it easy for them as well.

The Great Psychology Testbank Sprint addressed the need to create ancillary resources as well. And it doesn’t have to be a chore. Seven institutions contributed members to do the sprint, and most of those people have now adopted OT. Get people involved, incentivize the creation of OER, and make it fun. We have to look beyond textbooks with multiple formats, included tools – and think about the student experience

As a result, 280 student collectively saved $46,000.

Ultimately, the question is sustainability.

Open Textbooks must be continually updated, improved and revised. We talk about adopting a textbook; we adopt children. We bring the child into our home, but we don’t stick them in a corner and forget. We nurture them and raise them. We need people to commit to take custodianship of a textbook, to foster them. To give them large, mixed families to look after them.

Disrupting higher education is terrifying and liberating. Most faculty are more familiar with open scholarship. There is a push for more transparency in research, to prohibit unethical practices and data-mining and misuse and misrepresentation of research.

Access, transparency and collaboration are the hallmarks of open research, and can be embraced by OT authors and adopters as well.

Sustainability of OT can be fostered many ways. One is by assigning real-world tasks to students; draw them into the production and fostering of OER. Thousands of psychology students are now revising and updating Wikipedia entries as part of their education, for example. That is something of value. Students care more about their work when they care about how it turns out, when it has real-world impact.

I truly believe we are talking not about OT per se, but open practices. OT are an entry point for many people, but ancillary resources, and open practices, are the next phase in creating and OER community that creates sustainable resources.

Open scholarship = better scholarship

Open pedagogy = better pedagogy

Imagine a world where Open is the default. You’re a faculty member and a textbook sales rep knocks on your door and introduces you to a textbook that costs your students $200 each. What could they possibly say that would get you to use that textbook? We should be setting the bar much higher for a resource that’s proprietary and costly.

“Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!” – Back to the Future.

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