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OER at Work: Business instructor enhances course’s real-world experience with open textbook

An image of Austin Hall on Oregon State University's Corvallis campus. OER open educational resources

Nov. 4, 2020

Faculty at Oregon State University are leading the efforts to improve access to higher education and make college more affordable by reducing the costs of textbooks and required course materials.

Guided by the expertise and support of the OSU Open Educational Resources Unit, an increasing number of faculty members are adopting, adapting and authoring OER.

One such faculty member is John Morris in the College of Business. He recently shared his insights about the decision to incorporate OER in his course, the development process and more. 

What kind of OER are you using?

“An open textbook titled ‘Strategic Management.’ ”

Tell us a little about the course you teach that uses OER.

“I’m using the open textbook in BA 466 – Integrative Strategic Experience. It is the capstone course for the College of Business. The course teaches business students about strategic management while helping to create connections between the major discipline areas of marketing, operations, finance and organization behavior.

“We use an online computer simulation to help apply these concepts in a realistic environment. That’s the ‘experience’ portion of the course title.”

John Morris, a senior instructor in OSU's College of Business

John Morris, a senior instructor in Oregon State’s College of Business and proponent of OER.

Why did you choose to use this open textbook?

“I was shocked when I started paying for my child’s textbooks when she entered college. This led me to ask my publisher’s representative how much they were charging for my course. She responded with mild surprise at the questions and then said, ‘I don’t know. I’ll have to find out and get back to you.’ She never did.

“When I inquired at the bookstore, I learned a new copy of my textbook cost almost $200 at the time. Around the same time, I heard about Oregon State’s open textbooks initiative. I received a grant and began work using another OER resource as my foundation.

“Curiously, once I got started on the OER textbook, another publisher got in touch to offer an alternative to a traditional textbook; the customized textbook was cheaper (about $40), but it was cheap in quality. They got it to this price by removing content and printing on regular printer paper with crude bindings. Students couldn’t get a digital form, and they couldn’t sell back their used book. The scaled down book was cheaper but it still felt overpriced.”

What was your process for adapting this OER for your course?

“For the original textbook effort, I found a textbook in the Creative Commons that had about half the content that I wanted. I found pieces of other content from other CC sources to fill in. In the end, I had to create only one chapter (of eight) from scratch.

“But, I made significant edits to the source content that I imported; mostly these were flow and style modifications, but I also had to modify vocabulary and delete the materials that weren’t relevant to how I planned to use the textbook.

“In my second edition, I probably only have about a quarter to a third of the original CC content. I implemented two specific assignments in the BA 466 course to help increase the integration between the textbook and course material.

“Later, I wanted to introduce more updated examples of the course’s business concepts in the real world, so I added an assignment for current events. An embedded Google Form in Canvas collects publicly available periodical stories from the business press (they have to be current since the start of the quarter). The student writes a two- to three-sentence summary paragraph and second context paragraph. My teaching assistant and I review these submissions for relevance and if the story fits, we add the summary as an example in the textbook. If the student consents, we even include their name.

What do students think about the open textbook?

“At first, I made a big deal out of the OER textbook and why I chose it and how important it was that I save them money. But students didn’t really seem to care. So, I toned back on the free nature of materials.

“But since I’ve been using the OER, I know that more students are using it. If actions speak louder than words (and I believe they do), then students really like it.”

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

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1 Comment

  • Casey Fast says:

    Nice to see a professional who cares about the quality and cost of education. Some universities are spiraling towards redundancy and oblivion.

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