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Panel of Library Faculty Fellows Address the Importance of Adopting OERs

November 1, 2019

This year, as part of its 2019 Open Access activities, the Drexel Libraries hosted an Open Educational Resources (OER) panel discussion in the W. W. Hagerty Library.

Danuta A. Nitecki, Dean of Libraries, moderated the event, which featured three Drexel Library Faculty Fellows appointed to explore ways to promote and incorporate Open Educational Resources (OERs) in coursework at Drexel. The panelists—Doug Baird, College of Medicine; Vito Gulla, College of Arts & Sciences; and Antonios Kontsos, College of Engineering—discussed their work with OERs, and how OERs and low-cost and no-cost textbook alternatives can help Drexel students succeed.

With 30 researchers and librarians representing universities from Alabama to India connected online via Zoom and another 20 Drexel faculty, staff and students attending in person, the event clearly reflected the broad interest in open resources on campus and beyond. 

Professor Baird, for example, is serving as a campus OER advocate and educator and hopes others will do the same.  

“I think of myself as a cheerleader and a matchmaker for OERs at Drexel,” Baird said during the panel. As part of his fellowship, Baird reviewed an open source textbook in the Open Textbook Network (OTN) and gave numerous presentations on campus about the benefits and logistics of adopting OERs in the curriculum. “I share my knowledge and really root for OER and match people to resources that might work for them.”

Professors Gulla and Kontsos took a slightly different approach during their fellowships. They explored ways to incorporate Open Educational Resources into their own courses.

Professor Gulla created over 100 freely available writing exercises for use in his composition classes, and Professor Kontsos worked with two PhD students to redesign a first-year engineering course to utilize OERs. Kontsos, in fact, demonstrated another benefit of open resources: flexibility.

“Honestly, cost wasn’t my first thought,” Kontsos said during the session. “It’s certainly a bonus... I needed to develop [a syllabus for] a multidisciplinary course, and there are no textbooks out there that cover all the areas I need to cover. The only way I could envision meeting the needs of the course was by creating my own textbook. OERs let me do just that.”

Panelists also answered questions from the audience and spoke about the barriers that exist to Drexel’s broader adoption of OERs and ways in which faculty and staff can help further the adoption of open resources on campus.

“Going out and sharing case studies—what OERs are and how  teachers are using them—like we’re doing today—is a huge part of getting other faculty to adopt OERs,” Gulla explained when asked how he thinks the Libraries can spread the word about OERs. “I would also add that students need to know these exist. If students know [OERs] exist, they’ll make demands on us as faculty. And why wouldn’t we want to make our [teaching materials] free?”

One of the Libraries’ current strategic initiatives is to do just, Dean Nitecki noted during the discussion at the end of the event. “The Libraries is looking at ways to raise awareness of scholarly communications on campus, particularly Open Access. One vendor predicts the OA tipping point will happen in 2025/2026, at which point we will see more OA scholarly publications than not. This is an important movement, and our staff are ready to support OA at Drexel.”

Watch a recording of the OER panel online via the Drexel University Libraries YouTube page.