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Research with OER: Erika Crispo

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Interested in learning more about Open Educational Resources? Dyson Professor Erika Crispo shares her experiences thus far.

Dyson Associate Professor of Biology Erika Crispo, PhD, has been implementing Open Educational Resources (OER) into her work with undergraduate researchers, while simultaneously thinking of the future of OER and how it can be used to streamline research processes and teaching. This month, Crispo chatted with Opportunitas to share her experiences with OER, as well as its potential for academic innovation and positive change.

How did you first come across OER, and how do you implement it into your teaching?

My OER is untraditional in that it is geared towards undergraduate research instead of coursework. It is a guide for undergraduate students to implement a tool called geometric morphometrics in their research to assess variation in animal body shapes.

The route towards my OER stemmed from the pandemic. I received a grant from the National Science Foundation to work with students over the summer. Our plan was to collect lizards from across the deserts of the southwestern United States, and to potentially identify new species or unique populations of conservation concern. Since our work was stymied by the pandemic, I needed to find a way that I could educate students after the pandemic has ended, thereby fulfilling my duties set forth by the grant. I decided that writing an OER would be an excellent opportunity.

In what ways has using Open Educational Resources improved the teaching experience for you?

Up to this point, I am unaware of any other OERs that are geared towards undergraduate research. While documentations on research tools do exist, they are typically written for specialists in the field and are not complete guides for conducting research projects from start to finish. I can envision myself writing more OERs in the future that are geared towards educating students in my research team, and that can also be adopted by other faculty at Pace and at other institutions. These OERs will improve my teaching experience by providing a reference for students to turn to, thus streamlining the process of teaching students how to do research.

What are some of the biggest challenges to successfully implementing OER?

At first, I was worried that I would not be able to successfully disseminate my OER to researchers from other institutions who might find the document useful. But I was very thankful for the wonderful team at Pace, including AVP for Undergraduate Education Sue Maxam, Greg Murphy who assisted with licensing, and Jennifer Rosenstein from Pace’s Library who was able to publish my OER on the web. Thanks to this wonderful team, my OER has already been downloaded 58 times between November 2020 and February 2021. 

Do you see Open Educational Resources becoming more widespread in the future?

Yes, definitely. I have developed many active learning activities for students. I would certainly like to share these activities with other instructors who might want to use them in their courses. Now that I have become more familiar with the process of licensing and publishing OERs, I hope to create more of them in the future and I hope that other instructors will do the same so that we can have a rich pool of educational materials to draw from.

What advice would you have to faculty who might be interested in OER?

My advice would be to find the time to do it. The activities I create for my students, both in a research setting and in a classroom setting, are often not formatted in a way that can be easily disseminated and adopted by other instructors. It takes time to write appropriately so that the OER is a coherent, stand-alone document that can be made available to anyone. I recommend setting aside time to devote to polishing pedagogical documents and then making them available.

Anything else you'd like to add?

If anyone would like to take a look at my OER, geared towards student research, they can access it by visiting this webpage.

Interested in exploring how to pilot components of OER into your course(s)? Email Sue Maxam to set up an individual session with someone from the OER team and/or check out our comprehensive OER website.