BMCC Open Knowledge Librarian, Professor Jean Amaral, who has been leading the ZTC effort at BMCC, commended participating faculty for their success in the OER initiative.

“Since 2015, when we launched our Open/Alternative Textbook Program, our faculty have been doing extraordinary work in redesigning their courses with OER and other no-cost materials,” said Amaral.

She said BMCC faculty commitment to equity and justice for the college’s students fuels the OER/ZTC efforts.

“Building on the efforts and success of our faculty, CUNY’s participation in the Achieving the Dream Grant contributed to New York Department of Education funding of OER/ZTC efforts over the past two years,” Amaral said. “We are grateful to our funders and our faculty for their contribution and commitment to our students’ success.”

BMCC Interim President Karrin E. Wilks says the OER/ZTC efforts are a critical component of the college’s Designing for Success work, and the college’s commitment to dramatically improve student success.

“We are greatly appreciative and very proud of all the faculty who have contributed to creating our first ZTC degree program,” said Wilks. “We know that for many students, the cost of textbooks is a barrier to their success. We also know from national studies that students find the pedagogy associated with OER highly engaging and relevant.”

While the main goal of OER effort is to lower costs for students ensuring equitable access to materials, there are other benefits as well, according to faculty who participated in the redesign process.

Faculty weigh in on OER redesign process
Criminal Justice Professor Michelle Ronda called the work an energizing process that freed her teaching from the confines of a textbook and reawakened the creativity in how she taught her course.

“The process of moving to open-and alternatively sourced educational materials also encouraged faculty to expand their thinking as scholars, teachers, and take full advantage of the plethora of information in the ever-changing, digitally-driven world we live in,” said Ronda.

Brenda Vollman, also a BMCC criminal justice professor, said by curating course material, she had the opportunity to choose resources that align with her teaching approach, while at the same time challenging her to consider, and adopt something new.

“Moving to low-cost and no-cost resources allows me, and my colleagues, to introduce and support the reality that knowledge should be, and is, free, open, available and creatable, not bound or owned by a publisher or expert knowledge icon or talking head standing at the front of the classroom,” said Vollman.

Vollman says she had to come out of her academic silo in order to bring OER course materials to fruition.

“Joining in the movement of open education has provided me with multiple opportunities to collaborate within and between disciplines,” Vollman says. “Not only do I use material licensed in the Creative Commons, but I also use alternative sources accessible in the public domain as well as through our information platforms and services at the college such as those available at the BMCC Library.”

BMCC Mathematics Professor Chris McCarthy says in the past, he loathed forcing students to buy expensive textbooks and that many students simply did not purchase them because they were so cost prohibitive.

From a faculty perspective, “OER’s most impressive benefit is that professors can customize their course,” McCarthy said. “Since the materials aren’t costing anything, you can assign the students materials from different sources. If you produce the material yourself you can customize it to be exactly as you want.”

Psychology Professor Monica Foust used OER materials in two courses—Child Psychology and Developmental Psychology—that are also writing intensive.

“I think the combination of OER and writing provides students with better ways of engaging with the text and materials,” Foust said. “For one, the readings are more engaging. I use readings from academic journals and popular news sources. I sense that the popular news sources are generally, more interesting the textbooks and are less overwhelming than textbooks can be.”

[Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on the BMCC News page.]

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This article was written by the BMCC Office of Public Affairs staff.

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