One of Paradise Valley Community College’s best kept secrets is its growing Open Educational Resources (OER) program.
Open educational resources are educational materials and resources offered free and openly for anyone to use. Under some licenses, materials can be re-mixed, improved, and redistributed. These materials include:
- Full courses, course materials, content modules, learning objects, collections, textbooks, lecture captures and journals.
- Software to support the creation, delivery, use and improvement of open learning content including searching and organization of content, content and learning management systems, content development tools, and on-line learning communities.
Although Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) launched the Maricopa Millions OER Project in 2013, it wasn’t until 2018 that PVCC made a strong push to educate its faculty on the benefits.
“The beauty of OER is the student’s voice is embedded in the curriculum they use,” said Senior OER Specialist Jessica Parsons. “Faculty and staff work hand in hand to create relevant, hands-on materials to excite learners. It’s an amazing opportunity to take out-of-date textbooks and information and restructure it all to what PVCC students need right now.”
Parsons is a theatre major and has been working in the OER department for four years. She is one of three specialists assisting faculty and students with various projects and research. The program is overseen by Paula Crossman in PVCC’s library.
“It’s a lot of research, which I thrive on, taking various journal articles and other select materials to create a cohesive format in either textbooks and video scripts.”
Professor Julie Lazzara, who teaches primarily Introduction to Psychology and Lifespan Development courses in various formats including Honors sections, was one of first instructors at PVCC to reach out to the OER specialists. As part of the 2020-2021 OER Research Fellowship for the Open Education Group, Lazzara created a new learning platform for developmental psychology. The award-winning text book has since been used globally and translated to French.
Since 2018, PVCC’s OER program has worked on 20 projects, and wants to keep the momentum going. The majority of PVCC’s math department is currently utilizing OER, helping to keep costs down for students, and many of the science classes are also transitioning to OER.
As life begins to return to normal following the peak of the pandemic, it is the goal of Crossman and the OER team to continue adding both open textbooks and corresponding question banks to achieve a Z-degree at PVCC. This means a student could attain an AA and never have to buy a textbook.
“These open materials give instructors the freedom to create content that reflects current events, and reduces their reliance on publisher created materials which place a financial burden on students. Reducing the cost of course materials increases access to education for all students,” Crossman said.