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OER at Work: A positive impact that spans the globe

A pair of hands rest on a laptop. OER

Part 2 of political science professor’s story discusses the strengths of OER

By Tyler Hansen
Dec. 23, 2020

Perth, Australia

Memphis, Tennessee

Hanoi, Vietnam

Lagos, Nigeria

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Helsinki, Finland

That’s a small sampling of locations in which people have accessed and used Rorie Solberg’s edited volume of original political science research, Open Judicial Politics. It’s an open educational resource that is freely available to learners around the world.

Solberg, a Ph.D. associate professor in Oregon State University’s School of Public Policy, edited the volume with colleagues Jennifer Segal Diascro and Eric Waltenburg and support from the OSU Open Educational Resources Unit.

Nearly 3,000 users spread across every continent except Antarctica have perused the textbook in its first year of existence. That single data point illustrates the broad impact of OER, which have endless benefits for students and faculty alike.

Solberg shared her thoughts on some of those benefits and other topics in this the second part of her OER at Work story. (You can read part one about the open textbook’s development process and more.)

What do you think are the greatest strengths of OER?

“From my perspective, I can use a chapter or two or only spend a day teaching something from the book without feeling guilty that I had students buy an entire textbook that we don’t devote much time to. Students would sometimes say, ‘We had this book and we only spent a week on it, and it cost me $50.’

“Now, if there’s a book out there and I want to use only a small portion of it, using OER allows me to choose it without worrying about the cost-benefit analysis. The students also don’t need to be concerned about finishing a book in time to return it or sell it back.

“Another strength is in the way we put this volume together. Because we have different people authoring different sections, it’s a broad representation of the work in political science. It features a lot of different voices, a lot of different styles — women, scholars of color, junior and senior scholars are all represented. It gives the students a much better sense of who’s in the field and what the field is about rather than a textbook that cites some research but doesn’t show how or why that research was done.”

Did you find anything surprising as you developed the volume?

“I learned a lot about the copyright law and how it all works. Those sorts of details were a little surprising. It was also surprising that we had more than 15 different scholars, and none of them balked about this being an OER. They understood that someone else could take it and adapt it further and do what they wanted to with it. They were fine with that.

“We’re also putting out a second version of the volume now, adding chapters to it. We wanted to bulk it up a bit more. We have 10 or 11 articles that are being prepared to add to the volume. Several folks who contributed the first time wanted to contribute again. It was awfully nice that they thought it was a good experience and a good way to have their work be seen by a different audience.”

What challenges did you face in bringing OER into your course?

“There really weren’t any challenges in incorporating the volume. I get to choose what learning resources to use in my course. So… I used this one (laughs). There’s no one in my program or the School of Public Policy that has any concerns about using OER at this point. We’re committed in the political science program to making an effort to reduce ancillary costs for students, and this is one way to do it.”

What’s your advice for faculty who want to use OER in their courses?

“If there’s an appropriate OER that does the job as well as another textbook you’ve used before, or if you can use part of an OER, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t add it to the syllabi. It’s not our job as faculty to determine the direction of textbook publishing or how textbook companies should operate. I think this is the way things are going and there will be more and more resources available in this format. If it benefits the students and you feel an OER is as good as anything else out there, I don’t see a reason not to use one.”

Learn more about the OSU Open Educational Resources Unit and the support resources available to faculty.

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