Innovative Practices Spotlight

CAE Innovative Practices Spotlight

The Center for Academic Excellence is recognizing a faculty member every month in the CAE Innovative Practices Spotlight to highlight his or her innovative classroom practices and outstanding contribution to Millersville University. 

Dr. Daniel Albert is being recognized in January for his exceptional use of Open Textbooks in his Chemistry courses! 

Please continue reading to learn more about his exciting experience and to learn ways to incorporate innovative practices into your classroom. 

1. What innovative practice did you incorporate into your classroom?

Using Open Educational Resources, specifically a free and open textbook from OpenStax, for Introductory Chemistry Courses (CHEM 110, CHEM 111, and CHEM 112). 

2. When did you implement the new practice into your classroom?

I first used the free and open OpenStax textbook for my CHEM 110 course (Fundamentals of Chemistry) during the Fall 2016 semester. After a positive experience using the OpenStax textbook for CHEM 110, I adopted the OpenStax Chemistry textbook for my CHEM 111 course (Introductory Chemistry I) for the Fall 2018 semester and am continuing to use it for CHEM 112 (Introductory Chemistry II) in the Spring 2019 semester. 

3. Did the students willingly accept the use of the new practice? What were the reactions of the students?

Yes. The first thing that jumps out for students is that their textbook for the course is going to be provided for free. This has a huge positive impact as many college-level science textbooks cost upwards of $200. 

In addition to the benefit of low/no-cost, students find the OpenStax textbook to be of high quality and easy to use/access. The textbook is available as a physical textbook ($55), as an e-book on Kindle (FREE), as a PDF for download (FREE), or through a web browser (FREE). Only 6% of my students bought the physical textbook, the remainder access the textbook for free using an electronic device. My students appreciate the interactivity of the electronic textbook which utilizes another Open Educational Resource (PhET) to provide interactive visualization and simulations. 

One way students tend to save money on expensive textbooks is through rental programs. A significant drawback to rental programs is the loss of access at the end of the semester. Students recognize the value of having a textbook that will be available to them to reference in the future. 

4. How has the use of the new practice positively affected the classroom learning environment?

All students, regardless of financial situation, have easy access to high-quality learning materials both inside and outside of the classroom. The seamless access to learning materials allows students to build consistent study habits starting on the first day of class that benefit their learning. 

5. How has the use of the new practice affected student engagement in the classroom and the level of participation?

Students on average report using the OpenStax textbook about the same amount as other science textbooks. I am anecdotally more likely to see students engaging with the textbook during recitation sections and in my office hours than I was when using a traditional textbook.

When I taught CHEM 111 in the Fall of 2016 with a traditional textbook, 2 of 22 students (9%) withdrew from the course. When teaching CHEM 111 in the Fall of 2018 using the free and open OpenStax textbook, 3 of 55 students (5%) withdrew from the course. The sample sizes for these statistics are small and should be treated with caution, but the trend is consistent with findings from studies that looked at the impact of adopting Open Educational Resources. At the University of Georgia the use of open educational resources for courses has been shown to both increase course grades (+8.6%) and decrease DFW rates (-2.7%). This impact of open educational resources on student successes was found to be even higher for students who are Pell grant eligible: course grades increased by 11.0% and DFW rates decreased by 4.4% (Colvard, Watson, Park 2018). 

Colvard, N.B, Watson, C.E., and Park, H. (2018). The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30(2), 262-276. 

6. What challenges did you encounter when you were implementing the new practice?

Integrating a new textbook into a course always has some amount of time investment on the front end. The OpenStax textbook isn't a perfect textbook (just like all other introductory chemistry textbooks). I didn't encounter any additional challenges than if I had switched between traditional textbooks. I have supplemented the textbook by providing some additional practice problems for my students. New and improved supplemental materials are consistently being shared via the OpenStax and Open Education Community. 

7. How did attending Camp IDEA or a CAE Professional Development session contribute to your learning and use of the innovative practice?

Attending Camp IDEA helped make it easy to integrate the OpenStax textbook directly into my D2L course shell and think about the importance of student interaction with the material. One of the best parts for me as an instructor for switching to using Open Educational Resources is that I can utilize D2L as the interface for my course and make all materials directly available for students in one location. 

I am also excited to incorporate different digital reading strategies and student learning annotations with the OpenStax textbook. These ideas were sparked at the Lancaster Learns conference. The freedom to use and modify Open Educational Resources gives me the flexibility to give my students the best learning opportunities.