Before I entered the OER/ZTC world, I taught macroeconomic theory with a really good textbook that was really expensive. It was so costly (the paperback lists for about $250) that I felt obliged to assign all but two chapters in the book, so that students wouldn’t feel they had wasted their money on a text they barely used. Relying so heavily on one textbook left little room for other assignments; my syllabus was easy to follow, if perhaps a bit boring.
Once I found a great OER textbook, I gave myself the freedom to assign small slices of that free, e-textbook garnished with a variety of ‘sides’—podcasts, magazine articles, New York Times and Wall Street Journal articles, TED talks—that have made the course much richer. Students can find themselves surprised by what they are reading, instead of consuming chapter after chapter of a single textbook author’s voice.
Before OER, I devoted half a class session to teaching my students how to save money on their textbooks, aware that my least ambitious students would probably fall into the trap of paying full price, as much as I hectored. Now I can hold them all responsible for doing all the assignments, knowing that money, at least, is not a barrier.
Unexpectedly, my students have also made the connection between our “open source” classroom, and some of the material we study in macroeconomics. Students recently debated whether a strong patent/copyright system or an open source culture would lead to more economic growth. Traditionally, economists have argued that since patents and copyrights confer private property rights on new innovations, economies grow faster with such protections. Yet my students could come up with a lot of ways—beyond our open source textbook—that innovation, particularly in media platforms, was more exciting in the open source sector.
So for me, it’s a win-win change in my teaching practices…and I am happy to help anyone else give it a try!
Image by Jeremy Brooks. Used under a Creative Commons license.