Dr. Emily Baldys
1. What innovative practice did you incorporate into your classroom?
I redesigned the curriculum of my English Composition course to achieve zero textbook cost using a combination of open educational, open web, and library resources. While I knew that this change would be beneficial for students’ wallets, I wanted to ensure that it was also beneficial for their learning and their success in the course. So, I collected some data. In the first section I taught with OER, I administered a pre- and post-assessment, which ultimately showed that students had enhanced their understanding of key course concepts such as audience and purpose. While that was encouraging, I also wanted to know more about the effect on student grades. I collected and analyzed student grade data, which showed that student grades in my 110 courses did not decline after the implementation of OER; in fact, they rose very slightly (.7%). These findings are consistent with published studies, which have found that implementing OER either made no significant difference in course grades (Fischer, et. al., 2015) or improved them (Colvard, et. al, 2018).
2. When did you implement the new practice into your classroom?
I began incorporating open educational resources into my English Composition course design in Spring 2019 with support from the Millersville Open Textbook Initiative. Since then, each section of ENGL 110 I’ve taught has had a textbook cost of zero. I’ve been working to lower or zero out textbook cost in several of the other courses I teach, as well. I performed the pre- and post-assessment of ENGL 110 learning outcomes in Fall 2019 and the analysis of grades data in Fall 2020.
3. Did the students willingly accept the use of the new practice? What were the reactions of the students?
Students typically seem pretty happy to learn that they won’t need to pay for textbooks (who wouldn’t be?) and have commented positively about the zero cost in their end-of-semester course evaluations. I haven’t yet shared the results of my data analysis with students, but I’m going to try it out when I teach my next ZTC course in Winter 2021. I suspect students may feel reassured when they learn that both my own analyses and published studies have shown that this change won’t harm (and could even help) their grades and their learning.
4. How has the use of the new practice positively affected the classroom learning environment?
When I teach, I work to achieve a student-centered classroom learning environment that promotes access and inclusion. This is a priority in all of my courses, but I find it’s especially crucial in English Composition as a course that many students take in their first semester at MU. When I email the students before the course starts to tell them they need not spend any money on textbooks, I think that this sends an important early message letting them know I care about their needs and will work to eliminate barriers to their success.
5. How has the use of the new practice affected student engagement in the classroom and the level of participation?
My impression is that students are engaging more frequently and more directly with course reading materials thanks to the accessibility of OERs and their ability to integrate smoothly into our course D2L shells and classroom practice. With the transition to remote education in Spring 2020, it’s been particularly helpful to have readings that can be easily embedded into D2L and linked directly through reminder announcements and emails; it’s also been productive to have course materials that we can readily share and annotate together on screen during a class Zoom session.
6. What challenges did you encounter when you were implementing the new practice?
Implementing the OER materials into curriculum design takes some work on the front end, as it requires substantial revision of a course’s syllabus and D2L shell. Making time to do that work—especially the D2L building— was challenging but worthwhile; also challenging was finding ways to meaningfully assess the effectiveness of these changes.
7. How did attending Camp IDEA or a CAE Professional Development session contribute to your learning and use of the innovative practice?
My initial work on converting English Composition to a zero textbook cost course was supported by the Millersville University Open Textbook Initiative. The guidance and mentorship I received through OTI was tremendously helpful, as was participating in the OTI’s Campus Learning Community focused on OER pedagogy, adoption, and assessment.
8. How did you analyze the grades? What was your data collection like?
I used Banner to collect student grade data from six sections of English Composition: three sections I had taught before my implementation of open educational resources and three I had taught after implementation. I calculated the overall percentage of students who were successful (where success was defined as a final grade of C- or higher) in the pre-OER and post-OER sections and found that 90.4% of students were successful in the post-OER sections as compared to 89.7% in the pre-OER sections.