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Use of Open Educational Resources (OERs) in an Introductory Psychology Class

Mon Feb 27, 2023 at 07:30 AM

Switching to free/low-cost classroom resources is one way to reduce barriers to access. Open Educational Resources (OER) are openly licensed materials that can be used in place of traditional publishers' course materials for teaching, learning and research, and are free to use. There are many open educational resources available, across disciplines, that are informative, interactive, inclusive, and accurate. 

As part of the Affordable Course Materials Initiative (ACMI), I piloted an OER and a low-cost learning tool in my Introduction to Psychology class. I was a bit worried that adopting new course materials would be a time consuming process, but there were many really great options to choose from (as this is a popular introductory course). Also, the OER chapter titles and content material were very similar to the previously used publisher’s textbook, so the process of integrating the free and low-cost materials was relatively seamless. 

At the end of the Fall 2022 semester, I evaluated student perceptions of the free/low-cost resources (via a Qualtrics survey) as well as their overall performance. The OER was evaluated positively by students and no difference in performance was found between my class using the free/low-cost materials and a class I taught using traditional, publishers’ course materials. Open-ended comments shared in the Qualtrics survey showed that students, many who pay their own college expenses, really appreciated the use of this more affordable option.

I was, overall, very pleased with the experience and will continue to use the OER and low-cost learning tool in my introductory psychology classes. I also plan to search for free/low-cost options to use in my other classes.  Several faculty in my department have also shown an interest, as a result of the positive findings. If we were to adopt these free/low-cost resources across all of our Introduction to Psychology classes, we could potentially save our students over $40,000!

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the full report, please contact the author.

How do I get started?

The following helpful resources were provided by Julia Rodriguez, Scholarly Communications Librarian and OER guru, and are a great place to start your search for affordable course materials.

I chose the OpenStax textbook, after reviewing a number of good options, as it was comprehensive (it covered the same topics, in a similar manner, as the previously used publisher’s textbook), accurate, and easily accessible (you create a login and have access!). I also chose to use Waymaker by Lumen Learning, which is a low-cost (less than $40) supplemental learning tool that is similar to the one I used in my prior introductory psychology classes. I found that it was easy to navigate, and this sentiment was echoed by my students. The Waymaker tool includes a study plan, pre-quizzes, embedded videos, end of chapter quizzes, and much more. It even provides feedback to the students via email after each end of chapter quiz (e.g., “good job” or study tips for future success). 

Students accessed the textbook via a link posted on Moodle. The learning tool by Lumen integrated well with our LMS and was easily accessible after purchasing an access code from the bookstore (there was some confusion surrounding access codes, but this was quickly resolved). In general, I found it quite easy to integrate the new material into my prior course structure. I highly recommend searching for open educational resources to use in your own classes.

As an added bonus: If your textbook costs are $40 or less, you can include a free or low-cost course designation on banner (Cost Designation in Banner), which will alert students to this affordable option when they register for classes.

References and Resources 

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About the Author

Rebecca Malatesta is a Special Instructor in the Department of Psychology. She is the Student Success Coordinator for the department and very interested in investigating inclusive practices.

Others may share and adapt under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC.

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