Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Solving the Textbook Crisis through OER

Thank you to Regina Gong, Manager of Library Technical Services & Systems for contributing this post.
The skyrocketing cost of college textbooks is a major concern that has increasingly gained national attention. Data from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (USGAO) report show that college textbooks increased 82% in the last 10 years, outpacing the rate of inflation three times. The College Board calculates that students spend about $1,200 per academic year for books and supplies alone. In a four-year, public college, that represents 14% of tuition costs. For a community college where tuition is lower, it’s 39% of student’s tuition. In a national survey conducted by the U.S. Student Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG), 65% of students decided against buying a textbook because the cost is too high. Nearly half of the students surveyed say they have at some point taken fewer courses due to the cost of textbooks.

The broken textbook market paved the way for the open educational resources (OER) movement. The goal is actually very simple: to make textbooks free and affordable to students and enable faculty to take control of learning materials away from commercial publishers and into their hands. Here at LCC, a group of faculty are working to address the textbook problem and help our students save money. That’s why a lot of buzz has been going around OER lately. But what are they exactly? OERs are defined as teaching and learning resources issued with open licenses (usually Creative Commons) that allow users to legally use, revise, remix, and redistribute the content.  For faculty, it represents a pedagogical change because you now have the ability to choose your own learning materials and supplement it with a variety of resources that meets your learning outcomes.

If you want to learn more about OERs, you can start by going to the Open Educational Resources Research Guide. I created this resource as a starting point to help you learn more about OER and jumpstart your knowledge about this exciting initiative. It points you to a curated list of the major Open Textbook websites and OER repositories so you can find learning materials for your courses. You’ll learn from our community college colleagues who have successfully implemented OER in their institutions. There’s also a lot of short videos, handouts, and other materials you can download to keep you up to speed with OER.

For more information, email Regina Gong at or contact the Library Liaisons.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Change Up Your Organization Style with Pinterest

I am always on the lookout for new ways to teach difficult scientific concepts to non-majors, but I struggle to keep track of the great active learning ideas I find on the web.  My browser favorites and bookmarks get messy and the titles hardly ever reflect what the original site had to offer.  I know I have lost many good ideas this way, from the lack of a system to file away the stuff I might use someday.  Then I found a user-friendly organizational tool in Pinterest.

When I first heard of "pinning", I thought it was only good for recipes and vacation ideas, and maybe the occasional home improvement project.  I was worried that I might end up wasting more time in front of my screen, but so many friends recommended the site that I finally created a free account.

I was surprised to find out how many people use the site for education.  It's easy to learn and there are already collections of active learning techniques created by instructors.  I make my own "boards" (categories) like the one shown above for Biology Activities, and I use them to organize all of the "someday" stuff I stumble across here and there.  Because the pins are visual representations of the ideas, it's easy for me to remember what I liked about the page.  As a bonus, Pinterest sends me suggestions from other boards containing related content.

If you want an introduction to the concept of pinning, click on the video for a quick tutorial.

Yes, Pinterest has the potential to be a time sink, but at the end of my web surfing at least I have a useful product.  Here are some other educational boards I found to give a taste of what the site has to offer:

ESOL for Adults
College Algebra
Inspiration for Students

For more ideas or to learn how to use Pinterest, visit us in the CTE or email Meg Elias at

Friday, April 3, 2015

Teaching Tip - Share your Story

Here's a surprise...teachers are human beings.

That might not be a shocker to you, but to some students teachers are academics, authority figures, experts in their fields, and (sadly) unapproachable.  To learn best from you, students need to see you as a person they can talk to, ask questions of, and trust.  Personal connections can be made in subtle ways that don't sacrifice your role as leader and guide.

In Environmental Science (BIOL120), we need to assess the impact of a growing population on the state of the world.  The phrase "Population Control" is used in more than one textbook and is a concept that tends to cause controversy and even alienate some groups of students.  In an effort to be sure students understand that I am not "anti-reproduction" I show a picture of my great grandparents and their offspring in Scotland.  Go ahead, count those children.  My grandfather is the one in the front, looking smug.  If my ancestors had stopped at 8 children I would not exist!

This picture serves several purposes.  It reminds the class that big families were the rule just 100 years ago.  If you pair it with some math it illustrates exponential growth (and each child had 11 children and so on and so on).  But most importantly it lightens the mood and shows that I have a history, and a personal stake in the material I'm teaching.  We ask our students to seek relevant connections with the material and we shouldn't be afraid to do it ourselves.

For more ideas or to share your ideas with us, visit us in the CTE or email Meg Elias at

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Secure Your Mobile Device

Many mobile devices provide little to no security when accessing personal apps.  Often access to a web app involves nothing more than a simple tap on the app icon to open it under your account resulting in minimal security.  The notion behind this choice is that “convenience trumps security.”

I have borrowed a number of tablets from the Library and have noticed that previous users neglected to clear their logins to various apps and even left their home network login credentials intact.

If you access Facebook, Netflix, Lynda, Twitter, or any app that requires an initial login, then subsequently provides access with a tap, you need to log off of these services before returning the loaner mobile device.  If you are unsure how to log off a particular app, I have found a quick Google query “how do I log off the App_in_question on the device_name,” usually gets an answer.

For more information, visit us in the CTE or email John Thommen at