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Teaching with OER: Tanya Wiggins

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Interested in learning more about Open Educational Resources? School of Education professor Tanya Wiggins shares her experiences thus far.

School of Education professor Tanya Wiggins, EdD, has been implementing Open Educational Resources (OER) into her coursework. This month, Wiggins chatted with Opportunitas to share her experiences with OER, the ways OER can enhance the classroom learning experience while making learning more accessible, as well as its potential for academic innovation and positive change.

How did you first come across open educational resources?

I’m bit of a technology geek—I first encountered OER when Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) became available, I began to learn a little bit more about it then. But I wasn’t completely familiar with OER until my colleague in the School of Education Christine Clayton spoke to me about the provost grant that was being offered with the faculty development center around creating courses that made use of OER.

Since we had a course that was in development in SOE for our undergraduate population, Dr. Clayton approached me about working together to try to build this content for the new course because we are both focused on adolescent education. It was then that I began to do more research to understand what OER is, and what it might look like. Together we also talked to Jim Stenerson about what the University was thinking about in terms of policies and possibilities. We started doing more digging and researching from there, in terms of planning the course.

What has it been like implementing OER into the classroom?

My first foray into OER was in this course in development, and we implemented it in this past spring—TEACH 203. The course was meant to be a study on child and adolescent development, life development overall, and its relationship to education. We looked for a lot of resources that spoke specifically to child and adolescent development. The students did not have to buy any materials for the course outside of what they would normally bring to class. All of their readings were incorporated into our Blackboard shell, and/or links to their syllabus. So all they had to really do was go onto Blackboard, or use the syllabus to go directly to the material.

The material was comprised of not only reading, but videos, learning modules, and other traditional forms of OER sources that we found as well.

What are some advantages of OER that you have noticed thus far?

I think it first of all, gives students another modality to think about the work. If you have a student who does reasonably well with understanding material in the written form, providing the information in another medium allows them to consider it in a different way. There were definitely occasions where I gave students something in written text, but then I also had a video that went along with it that might help them understand how what they read might apply to the real world, or the class.

I also think it speaks to the different learning modalities of students. You have some students who do really well with written text, and can understand and apply what they’ve learned through written text. But then you have other students who actually need to hear it, or need to have some sort of visual, and it supports their learning modalities in that way also.

How Do You See OER Evolving, and How Do You Personally Plan on Using Open Educational Resources Going Forward?

I still consider myself very much a novice in how to use OER. One of the challenges I had in implementing it the first time was really vetting the material, because there is a lot of material that you can find in the beginning, and you have to figure out what’s really going to suit your purposes best. But in doing that, with time, and with the opportunity to develop my own capacity, I think there’s a possibility of creating our own learning modules or OER resources around specific classes as well.

Hopefully that could mean supporting different online learning opportunities within SOE, it could mean enhancing some of the work that we do with our face to face classes. Being able to better vet the material that already exists, to better identify what’s needed to fill in the gaps, and then creating the material that fills in the gaps. I would say that’s more of a five-year goal, but I think that’s the trick—identifying what’s missing, understanding what’s out there, and then developing material that fits our students’ needs the most.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

There is a lot of potential in making use of OER in our classrooms. It’s certainly something we should consider in terms of students' expenses, but we also want to make sure that we’re identifying and using quality OER materials as well. Not all of these resources have been created with these objectives and goals in mind, so we have to really be clear about what our objectives are for our courses in order to better identify materials that make sense.

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.