The Fall 2021 honorees are Cameron Logsdon, Stephanie Larsen, and Abbie Syrek of the School of Communication. Logsdon is the coordinator of the Public Speaking course at UNO, of which Larsen and Syrek are instructors.
Their project, a Fall 2020 Affordable Content Grant, oversaw the transition of all sections of Public Speaking at UNO into a fully Open Educational Resources course. This means the courses have incorporated materials that are freely available and incur no additional cost to the students. The project marks the single largest adoption of open resources by a course in the history of the UNO Libraries ACG program.
“We wanted to use OER for Public Speaking classes because the course reaches so many students on campus,” Logsdon said. “We know that additional costs for classes can be a major hindrance to students’ participation in higher education, but we believe so strongly in our material that we want to make sure that no one has to miss out on the course and its lessons.”
UNO currently offers between 125-150 sections of Public Speaking, a required general education course. The transition into a fully OER course means that between 3,000 and 3,600 students will be impacted annually. Logsdon estimates that the transition will save each student at least $100, giving the transition annual savings to UNO students of as much as $360,000. Logsdon noted that the size of the project may help have an impact in raising the profile of Open Educational Resources at UNO.
“Fortunately, we were excited to bring OER to a course that is so widely offered on campus,” Logsdon said. “We think the more teachers choose to incorporate OER, the more students will experience its benefits, and the more people can be positively impacted.”
In place of the previously required textbook that students had to purchase, the trio selected an online, freely available text supplemented with other materials. According to Larsen, the trio was impressed by the quality of the freely available materials they ended up using.
“It’s a no-cost resource that rivals any textbook review we have ever conducted. We reviewed dozens of OER options to find just the right one,” Larsen said. “In addition to the no-cost text, we incorporated additional chapters, articles, readings, videos, TED talks, and more.”
The variety of materials is a benefit often noted by faculty working on such transitions. Using open resources enables instructors to fully customize learning materials for their courses instead of having to adhere to a more conventional one class, one textbook model. Larsen described the initial student reaction to the change as highly positive.
“A vast majority of our public speaking students are freshman and sophomores. That means that most of our students are now part of generation Z,” Larsen said. “This gen Z group has been showing up as a financially-savvy generation that plans to avoid student loan debt as much as possible!”
“With this in mind, I am not surprised by my students’ reaction this semester to a free textbook,” Larsen continued. “They are truly excited and thankful to hear the textbook is free. Several students stopped me after class to thank me for implementing the open source text into the class.”
The Affordable Content Grants program at UNO Libraries, launched in Spring 2019, has so far awarded 38 grants to projects involving 50 faculty members. As of the start of the Fall 2021 semester, these grants have saved students an estimated $461,000. Grants have been awarded to faculty from six different colleges at UNO.
Starting in Spring 2022, courses that have been recipients of Affordable Content Grants will be tagged in the online catalog as part of the Open Nebraska (ONE) initiative. This course tagging project will identify and tag classes that are either no-cost or low-cost (less than $40), enabling students to make more informed decisions about which classes they take.
Reflecting on their experience, Logsdon said he hopes the success of the ACG program will continue to raise the profile of affordable and Open Educational Resources at the university.
“I think it’s important for people to recognize what a wonderful opportunity this is for students and how meaningful it is that the University wants to support OER,” Logsdon said. “There is a lot of research suggesting that OER is a key to more equitable higher education. I think more people should pick up the key and unlock the future for themselves and for our students.”
Applications for the Fall 2021 Affordable Content Grants are now live. Interested faculty can learn more by visiting our website.
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