University of Texas at Arlington

UTA Libraries publishes first batch of OER

Book cover for the UTA open educational resource Human Anatomy Lab Manual
UTA Libraries publishes first batch of OER

The University of Texas at Arlington has published its first batch of open educational resources (OER). OER are free educational materials that are licensed to allow others to reuse and remix the content. UTA Libraries published the books under the Mavs Open Press imprint using PressbooksEDU, a web-based publishing platform. 

Over the summer, the Mavs Open Press team worked with staff in UTA’s Division of Student Success to transition No Limits to Pressbooks and make it available under an open license. The OER was modified from a customized textbook the university previously used in first-year-experiences courses. It will be used by over 3,500 new UTA students in Fall 2018. The project team plans to continue to revise and improve the OER over the next academic year with input from faculty and students. 

“The University of Texas at Arlington is cognizant of the financial strains many college students face today,” said Dr. Ashley Purgason, Assistant Vice President for Strategic Initiatives. “Having textbooks at the start of the semester is important for a student’s success. UTA wanted to provide an opportunity for students to gain access to the textbook used in the Student Success course for free. We hope this new strategy will set the standard for other classes as we strive to make college more affordable and accessible for each student. It’s been an exciting opportunity to partner with the Library and attempt to help students in ways beyond what we do in the classroom.” 

Human Anatomy Lab Manual, another of the OER published by Mavs Open Press, was a collaborative effort between Dr. Malgosia Wilk Blaszcvzak, Professor of Instruction in UTA’s Department of Biology, and some of her students, who have since graduated from UTA but continue to contribute to the OER project. The resource will be used by approximately 100 undergraduate students in her course this fall. 

“What attracted me to the OER and Pressbooks is an open, easily customizable nature of the publications,” Dr. Blaszcvzak said. “OER are a perfect way to create quality custom resources for students, especially short pieces such as lab manuals that need to be adjusted frequently based on availability of the equipment, school budget or time. And OER changes students’ attitudes toward labs. It empowers them to participate in the creation of their own educational experience.” 

Creating Online Learning Experiences: A Brief Guide to Online Courses, from Small and Private to Massive and Open was released this summer by Dr. Matthew Crosslin, Learning Innovation Coordinator at UTA’s Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge Research Lab (LINK Lab). Print copies are available for sale

"Publishing the book as an OER makes it accessible to more people around the world," Crosslin said. "It also removes the price barrier for readers. And it allows educators to reuse the content and customize it for their own needs." 

Maha Bali, Associate Professor of Practice at the Center for Learning and Teaching at The American University in Cairo, was one of the book’s reviewers. 

“I think this book is unique in how well it strikes a balance between theory and practice,” said Dr Bali. “It has hands-on strategies and tips, but it also delves into why we would do what we do and what we need to think about as we make those decisions. It also somehow manages to be deep while staying brief.”  

Helping UTA educators discover new ways to share their teaching and learning materials is a primary goal of Michelle Reed, Associate Librarian with UTA Libraries, who leads open education initiatives. “We believe open education can transform teaching and learning and are supporting educators on our campus who are leading the way in what is a nationwide shift toward more open sharing of scholarship,” Reed said. “The first three publications in our catalog are excellent examples of how OER benefit students, foster collaboration and teamwork, and empower educators.”  

Pressbooks recently released two articles on UTA OER publications—Creating Online Learning Experiences is New Resource for MOOC Creators, Instructional Designers and University of Texas at Arlington Kicks off OER Program with Eight Books in Development. Five additional OER are currently in development on the Pressbooks platform. 

UTA Libraries provides no-cost access to Pressbooks for UTA faculty, staff, and students interested in creating or modifying OER. UTA affiliates interested in learning more about OER publishing via Pressbooks are invited to explore the UTA Pressbooks Sandbox by requesting access online. Find more information at Open Education at UTA: Pressbooks.

Michelle Reed