Sunday, March 24, 2013
Wise and worldly readers, especially those who have experienced teaching with OER from either the facuty or the student side, what should those of us who are intrigued by the prospect know before jumping in?
I like my iPad, and E.O.Wilson's Life on Earth is a can't-miss bio textbook at $2, but it is different than reading a paper textbook — and not just because it has moving pictures.
The platform issue is similar to calculators. Some classes require more expensive devices, but most do not. I now work with 3 different calculators, all under $15, and the students do not mind that price.
The graphing calculators are simply too expensive when the web offers many open source graphing devices.
I restrict my materials to java-based software so school facilities can be used. Some student have the material printed.
Another low cost alternative is to use past editions of a text book which can be purchased online for pennies-- the editions do not change that much, the ancillary materials are not worth it and we live with the fact that those publisher codes are expired.
I prefer to do those things because I am a respecter of copyright. Some professors are now blatantly copying from various textbooks and shamelessly selling the material to students openly, and for much more one would pay for a used book. The admins turn a blind eye.
OTOH, publishers visit us yearly and give us lavish new editions, and I always point out to them that those books are simply too expensive given the economic landscape of our community.
If publishers were smart they would print cheaper copies of the materials.
Gone are the days when you could use you older brother's books in school.
I feel sorry for the adjuncts-- they are on their own.
As for copyright, fair use (US) or fair dealing (Canada) permits the use of limited excerpts in classroom use. Single chapters are usually OK:
My students also had access to an e-book version of a popular physics text, but I don’t think that any of the students actually looked at this e-book. Student access to the e-book comes with all sorts of annoying digital rights management restrictions—they can only stream the contents and can’t download a copy to their computers, they can’t print it, they can’t e-mail copies to others, they often can’t read it on the platform of their choice, and their access to the e-book expires after a year or so.
I am sort of old-fashioned and am used to having a dead-tree book in my hands. I still have the textbooks that I used in college, and I consult them from time to time. I can’t really do this with an e-book. It seems that I don’t really own an e-book in the same sense that I own my old-fashioned textbooks--I only rent the e-book for a limited time, subject to all sorts of irritating restrictions on what I can do with it.
I teach at a proprietary school, and it is not clear if the educational and fair use exemptions in American copyright law apply to us. Because of this uncertainty, our management has adopted an extremely draconian view of copyright law. They claim that simply because we are a for-profit institution, the same copyright exemptions that apply to nonprofit educational institutions do not apply to us. This means that we cannot hand out short excerpts from copyrighted books, that we cannot play a copyrighted song in class, that we cannot display copyrighted photos in our PowerPoint presentations, and that we cannot show a copyrighted movie in class, at least not without obtaining permission from the copyright owner and paying a royalty.