University strategic initiative is focused on enhancing learning, lowering costs for students
By: Lisa Baldi
Penn State Berks, a leader in developing open educational resources (OER) to enhance learning and lower the cost of education for students globally, will celebrate Open Education Week from March 27 to 31, an event promoted by the Open Education Consortium.
The highlight of the week will be an interactive open textbook display at the Boscov-Lakin Information Commons in the Thun Library on campus. Penn State University Libraries joined the Open Textbook Network in February 2017 to help further support the faculty’s use of, and students’ availability to, free, openly licensed academic course content.
The nonprofit Open Education Consortium, which Penn State will join this year, is a global network of educational institutions, individuals and organizations that support an approach to education based on openness, including collaboration, innovation, and collective development and use of open educational materials.
Daonian Liu, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CLT) at the Berks campus, said that all open education activities are part of a strategic initiative to reduce the cost of earning a degree at Penn State.
“During Open Education Week in 2016, the University established an Open Educational Resources Task Force, part of a multifaceted approach to supporting open and affordable course content. One of its recommendations was that we join the Open Textbook Network,” said Liu.
Several faculty members at Penn State Berks have been using open education material as textbooks for their courses.
However, while open education has expanded significantly in the last few years, Liu said it is not new at Penn State. “For over 10 years, the Center for Learning and Teaching has partnered with faculty to create and share educational resources which are often made available online and free worldwide," Liu said.
“Unlike a printed textbook which is static,” said Mary Ann Mengel, instructional multimedia designer, “these interactive learning resources might include multimedia components and opportunities for interaction. For example, a Spanish tutorial might include embedded questions, prompting students to answer questions and earn points, and then provide feedback on their answers.”
Mengel said that the CLT has partnered with Berks’ faculty to design educational resources in topics such as economics, accounting, international business, Spanish, mathematics, chemistry and biological science. She added that students in other countries have used the Penn State Berks learning modules. “The Spanish tutorials have generated much positive response and led to our recent expansion of that library,” Mengel said. “Our accounting modules received a 2014 Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) Award as an exemplary online learning resource.”
Another example of the depth and breadth of open education resources at Penn State Berks is the book "Interactive Open Education Resources (IOERs): A Guide to Finding and Using What’s Out There to Transform College Teaching," written and published in 2014 by John D. Shank, head of the Boscov-Lakin Information Commons and Thun Library.
“At Penn State Berks,” Shank stressed, “we are proud to be a leader in open education and sharing best practices. I have found that students who consistently struggle with a topic, skill or prerequisite knowledge in a course find OER extremely helpful in understanding and learning course content.
“Additionally, faculty who use interactive OER rather than just a textbook or lectures have observed that their students are more engaged with the material, and come to class better prepared to have meaningful conversations,” he said.