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Q/A with Douglas Baird, PhD, Drexel University College of Medicine

July 3, 2019

In winter 2019, the Drexel Libraries appointed three Library Faculty Fellows to support its initiative to lower students’ expenditures for required course readings by adopting, advocating, or guiding Drexel faculty to adopt open textbooks and utilize information resources licensed by the Libraries in lieu of traditional textbooks.

This month, the Libraries sat down with Library Faculty Fellow Douglas Baird, PhD, Associate Professor and Director of Curricular Innovation and Student Success, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies of the College of Medicine, to learn more about his work to raise awareness of Open Educational Resources (OERs) at Drexel. 

Describe the project you’re working on for your Library Fellowship.

As a Library Fellow, I promote faculty use of Open Educational Resources (OERs) and other materials with no-cost-to-students, like open textbooks. I began by encouraging faculty in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies (GSBSPS for short) to work with Drexel Libraries staff to identify curricular materials available to students at no cost. I have cohosted a few OER workshops on campus with Larry Milliken, the Libraries’ Manager for Learning Partnerships, and we also presented a session on our work with OERs during the USciences & Northeast E-Learning Consortium 3.0 Conference in May.

For the next phase of the project, I plan to expand my work outside of the College of Medicine by speaking with faculty in other schools and colleges on campus, because it’s important that faculty and staff across the University are aware of OERs and how they benefit students.

Your project focuses on raising awareness of OERs among members of the campus community – tell me about any feedback you’ve received from your colleagues here.

Faculty absolutely have responded. Drexel students spend significantly more on educational materials compared with other students in the region—a situation many faculty members wish to change. I am using this fellowship as a platform to encourage faculty to partner with Drexel librarians to identify open and licensed resources they can use in their courses. Adopting OERs means lower net student expenses, and faculty get that. I have purposefully included Liaison Librarian Abby Adamczyk, for example, in these conversations with CoMed faculty to really show them that they don’t have to do this alone—faculty have the support of the Libraries. By getting faculty to talk to a subject expert librarian and to ask questions about the resources the Libraries is already licensing is a big victory in my eyes and will lead to enhanced educational experiences for Drexel students. This is part of an overall goal: encouraging and promoting librarian-faculty collaborations as much as possible—good things will come out of that.

I understand you recently reviewed an open textbook. Tell me about that process.

First, I’ll say it was a lot easier than I expected! I never reviewed a textbook before, and I really wasn’t sure what that process was going to look like. To get started, I looked through the Open Textbook Library (OTL) and found a textbook in my field that I wanted to review. The OTL is an amazing resource that provides a rubric to guide reviewers, so writing a review is straightforward. You write your review, upload it, and that's it—you're done.

It took me about 10 hours from start to finish, which sounds like a lot, but it’s not that much time when you consider that includes time spent carefully reading sections of the book. I also took a bit longer than you might normally need for a review because I made some really detailed suggestions for the authors. My goal was to provide the authors with detailed edits that might spur them to develop a new and improved edition in the future.

Would you recommend reviewing an open textbook? Is it a good segue into writing or adopting an OER?  

Reviewing an open textbook made me think deeply about what constitutes an effective textbook, and it helped me understand what I want out of my course materials, which was really rewarding. I would definitely review another one, and I highly recommend others do so as well, especially if they’re thinking about adopting a particular open textbook for a course. If you’re already reading the textbook to determine if it’s a good fit for your course, why not review it while the information and impressions are fresh in your mind?

Do you plan to implement an open textbook in your own courses? How are you putting your research and the work you’ve done as a Library Fellow into practice?

Absolutely. I’m currently teaching a histology lab as part of Dr. Judy Churchill's “Medical Microanatomy” course at Drexel, as well as a service-learning course called "Community Dimensions of Medicine." In both courses, Judy and I assigned open resources, as well as readings that are licensed by Drexel, which are also free to students.

Right now, I’m also developing a new cell biology course for spring 2020, and I plan to assign chapters from open sources whenever possible. One thing I love about open textbooks: if I’m not happy with some of the chapters in the book I select, I can write one of my own or pull one from another open resource. Or I could even write my own textbook eventually. Using OERs provides some interesting and creative opportunities for faculty to write and edit some of the content, which is really exciting too. In this way, faculty can customize and enhance the educational experiences of our students.

Do you have any tips for others who are interested in exploring OERs or adopting them in their courses?

If you are just beginning to consider materials available to students at no cost, talk to your librarian! Chances are, you will come away with a list of educational materials that will enhance your course without costing your students another dime.

My other word of advice: once you find a textbook in the Open Textbook Library you want to review, contact me or your liaison librarian—we offer workshops on open textbooks. The workshops provide so much valuable information about the OTL and OERs in general. We also get into details about open textbooks, so it’s helpful to attend the workshop before you write a review. Afterwards, you will be invited to review an open textbook of your choice.

For more information about the Library Faculty Fellows Program, visit the Libraries' website.