Human Nutrition 2.0!

This is a guest blog post by a team from the Department of Human Nutrition, Food, and Animal Sciences.

Mahalo to the University of Hawai‘i Outreach College OER grant and the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) for supporting our efforts to create Human Nutrition 2.0 this Fall! Kellie Taguchi, Distance Education Coordinator, and Ya-Yun Yang, Graduate Assistant, from CTAHR are collaborating with a team from the Department of Human Nutrition, Food, and Animal Sciences including faculty member, Marie Kainoa Fialkowski Revilla, graduate student Noemi Caacbay, and undergraduate students Gemady Langfelder and Christina Gar Lai Young. Version 2.0 will be expanded to include additional interactive study activities for students to reinforce the concepts they have learned in the OER textbook as well as to provide accompanying resources for instructors wishing to adapt the OER textbook to their courses.

Call for Cover Image Submissions

In anticipation of our release of Version 2.0 in time for the Spring 2020 semester, we are putting a call out for submissions for a new cover image! Cover image submissions should reflect food, nutrition, and our beautiful Hawaiian community. Images should be submitted by 12/1/2019 to Noemi at caacbayn@hawaii.edu.   


Human Nutrition Textbook Cover


Posted by llys in Faculty Leaders, Grant Projects, OER, Open Textbooks, UH Manoa
September 2019 OER Sprint Releases – English Composition and UH Microeconomics

September 2019 OER Sprint Releases – English Composition and UH Microeconomics

With the semester getting into full swing, we are proud to share the outputs of the OER sprints conducted in May of this year. During two sprint events, faculty and instructors from throughout the University of Hawaii system focused their energy and expertise to produce two OERs.

Likened to a coding hackathon, book sprints involve rapid planning, writing, revising, and more writing. Book Sprints champions the notion of going “zero to book in five days” but due to time constraints, three-day sprints were planned and focused on content for English 100 and Economic 131 (Microeconomics). Our teams gathered at the Information Technology Center (ITC) at UH Manoa to take part in this experimental approach to curriculum development, spending 11-to-12-hour days giving their all to the project. From roughly 9:00am to 9:00pm, these subject matter experts sought out existing content, drafted entire chapters from scratch, and edited each others’ work.

Professors and a facilitator in front of a white board

The first sprint team members had already adopted the widely-used Openstax Principles of Microeconomics in their courses, which provided an excellent base of content. As many instructors do in the classroom, each instructor brought with them extensive notes about how they might change or augment the curriculum if given the opportunity. While it can be a slow process to make substantive changes to a textbook over a semester, the sprint offered the chance to make changes immediately and receive expert feedback from others who work with the same content, resulting in a book that better supports the needs of the instructors. Changes from the off-the-shelf Openstax version to the UH version include a Use of Mathematics appendix as part of the first chapter, the combining of multiple chapters and updates to examples, tables, and data throughout.

After major combinations or eliminations of chapters and sections were decided, a checklist of tasks was established for each chapter and work was divided among the participants. For the Microeconomics book, each of the seventeen chapters went through phases of text revision, figure/table updating, checking links to external content, knowledge check revision, alignment with learning objectives, and final in-house copyediting. Each night while the subject matter experts rested, Book Sprints staff in South Africa and Germany copyedited the day’s work and made suggestions to align the content with a style guide established at the beginning of the sprint. This process repeated for each of the chapters, and each day the group began by reviewing the copyediting notes and making plans for the next full day of work. As a final step, figures and equations throughout the book were formatted in LaTeX.

Screenshot of UH Microeconomics OER textbook

Click the above image to visit the book.

The second sprint group focused on the creation of a writing and rhetoric guide that is commonly assigned alongside a set of readings and contemporary literature. English 100 is taken by as many as 10,000 UH students each year across all campuses, representing one of the highest enrollment courses in the entire system. Several similar OER guides in various website and course formats had been produced at the time of this sprint, but the end goal was to create a guide that would take book form.

As with many courses, the approaches and objectives for English 100 vary somewhat from campus to campus and between instructors. The Book Sprints team guided the team of subject matter experts through a process of harmonizing the variations of learning outcomes associated with sections of the course, clarifying the goals for the project. In what can be described as a semi-chaotic post-it note session, the instructors were tasked with curating all the ideas and goals for the book into buckets representing chapters. Many ideas and goals overlapped, and some were discarded if they did not fit within the scope of the book or were a better fit for an individual instructor’s edition of the book — which was promised from the beginning. Having a shared collaborative version was foundational, and the open licensing and simple cloning in Pressbooks meant that each instructor now has their own version to use with their students and continually edit during the pilot period.

Organizing ideas on post-it notes on a white board

As it turned out, three days of sprinting was barely enough time to yield the first draft of the text, now titled English Composition. Finishing touches on this initial version of the text were made in the weeks following the sprint, ensuring each instructor could confidently move forward with the text. The book begins with a chapter on student success, which gives helpful tips for communicating with professors and other students, and for understanding standards of quality for writing. The following chapters then explain the writing process and distinguish between types of essays that students are likely to write during their college experience. A final chapter on research skills rounds out the core content of the book, which is supplemented by appendices that recommend place-based and culture-based readings, videos and sample assignments.

Screenshot of English Composition OER textbook

Click the above image to visit the book.

Both books are now available on the UH Pressbooks site, to be viewed and used and downloaded under the terms of the CC BY license attached to it. Print on demand for both books is being finalized, which will allow students to access low-cost print copies. Overall, the sprint approach to OER development holds real value for those interested in OER but who, like many, haven’t moved to the adaptation and creation phases of OER beyond off-the-shelf adoption.

A huge thanks to Barbara and Karina from Book Sprints for their master facilitation skills, and to the eight authors across both sprints who shared their expertise and collaborative energies with us. Big thanks as well to Davilla Gose and Laura Chuang for helping make the logistics and operational side of the sprints smooth.

Posted by Billy Meinke in OER, Sprints
Leeward CC Open Educational Resources Award Winners 2019

Leeward CC Open Educational Resources Award Winners 2019

Open Educator Award

Michael Cawdery
Michael Cawdery

Michael has designated two (2) of his classes as TXT0 (Textbook Cost: $0). He has reached more than 500 students, saving them over $50,000.

As part of his dissertation and a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant with Leeward CC’s Associates in Arts in Teach (AAT) program, Michael facilitated the creation an OER website: Highlighting Effective Teaching Strategies Video Library (http://hets.leeward.hawaii.edu/).  With permission of students, parents, teachers, and administrators, the project visited over 30 classrooms and recorded more than 55 lessons in public and public charter schools over an 18-month period.  The website was a collaborative project between Michael, local education agencies, and David Fry who helped with the video and technical aspects of the project. The video library is designed to bring real-world examples and models of effective teaching practice to pre-service and in-service teachers.
The Leeward Open Educator Award is an annual award which seeks to recognize faculty who promote or contribute to a culture of utilizing Open Educational Resources (OER) in the classroom.

Award Amount: $500

Leeward Designing OER Renewable Assignments

Tasha Willimas
Tasha Williams
Rachael Inake

Tasha and Rachael will be working together to create a renewable assignment for ENG 100.

The renewable assignment will have students contribute to a chapter in an existing OER College Success textbook plus create ancillary materials for that chapter.

The goal of the LDORA is to create renewable assignments based on the principles of OER-Enabled Pedagogy which are designed to be used with specific open educational resources.

Incentive Award: $250 each

Leeward OER Creation Award

Leeward OER Creation Award
I-Chia Shih

I-Chia Shih will be creating OER lab manuals for Leeward Anatomy and Physiology students (PHYL 141L and 142L).

This project has the potential impact to save our students at least $16,662 within an academic year. While I-Chia will be building upon and remixing existing content, about 70% of the content will be originally created, peer-reviewed, and copyedited. I-Chia has established a collaboration with other Anatomy and Physiology faculty within the UH System and they plan to help each other with the development of OER resources across campuses. 

The goal of the LOERCA is to develop original OER materials where none exists or revise and remix existing OER with the addition of original content.

Incentive Award: $3000


More information on Leeward CC OER Site

Funds for these program have been provided by the Office of the Vice President for Community Colleges at the University of Hawai’i. 

Posted by Leanne in OER
Happening this May: UH OER Sprints!

Happening this May: UH OER Sprints!

Over the last several years, instructors and faculty from across the UH system have joined the movement in adopting OER in place of textbooks and other costly resources in their classes. A subset within this wave of adoptions includes content that has been adapted or customized to better suit the teaching style of the instructor and needs of the students, something that can only be accomplished with OER — which carry copyright licenses that allow such modification. These customized OER projects have typically followed the OER Production Workflow we published just over two years ago. Even with project milestones and sufficient assistance in place, the single largest barrier to meeting projects goals has been time. It can take months or even years to produce a single OER textbook.

Recognizing this barrier, we have begun to wonder how the processes of adaptation and creation of new content can be invigorated, and how the energy and enthusiasm of our faculty could be focused in way that would allow us to reach a pilot-ready OER in less time. To that end, we’ve made plans to employ sprint-based textbook development methods this year to build customized UH OER. Using existing OER content as a base, our motivated faculty and instructors will have the opportunity to build curricular materials that demonstrate their expertise in a given subject area. Beyond simply replacing costly materials, there will be opportunities to explore innovative pedagogical approaches that might be done during course refreshes.

But what the heck is an OER sprint?

When introducing the concept of a sprint, we often compare it to a “hackathon” like is done for code, but instead to build a book. Putting the rather important nuances on hold for a moment, sprint methods usually involve a small group of subject matter experts who are guided through the ideation, writing, and revision phases of writing a book over the course of a few days. A facilitator and handful of support staff assist with each step in the process, and some post-production in done after the writing and revisions have ended, polishing up the content and forming in into a useful package. Sprint methods have been used for more than a decade to create documentation very quickly, and have now expanded to include textbooks and even ancillary materials like assessment banks.

In our case, we will be sprinting to build OER books to address needs within some of our highest enrollment courses in the UH system. This May our first sprints will take place between May 15 and May 22, in three-day all-day sessions of curating, writing, and revising content for Introductory Microeconomics and Macroeconomics (ECON 130/131) and English Composition (ENG 100). In some cases, faculty who teach these courses have already begun to gather and adapt OER for their specific course at their campus, and now we are moving to create foundational OER available to all UH campuses where these courses are delivered — even the online ones!

What if I’m interested in being a part of this but haven’t yet had the chance to chime in?

We are still gathering instructors and faculty to from all campuses to take part in the May sprints. Please reach out to Davilla Gose (drgose@hawaii.edu) or Billy Meinke-Lau (wmeinke@hawaii.edu) ASAP if you would like to get more information or sign up for participation.

What if I think this sounds *awesome* but I am not available in May during the above window of time?

The response to our call for interest in OER sprints has been overwhelming, and for this first set of sprints we are going to focus on these few courses. Instructors from a range of fields including history, physiology and anatomy, chemistry and more have reached out, and so we are already making plans to host more sprint-style events in the coming Fall semester. These will likely be single-day events to address lighter revisions/remixing and the development of shared ancillary resources like quiz banks and lecture slides decks.

If you are interested in future activities like OER sprints and training or workshops around customizing OER, be sure to sign up for the UH system-wide listserv by making a request via email to oer@hawaii.edu.

Posted by Billy Meinke in OER, Sprints
Textbook Cost Zero Marking Coming to UH Course Listings

Textbook Cost Zero Marking Coming to UH Course Listings

Students at all ten campuses of the University of Hawaii system will soon be able to make more informed decisions about the courses they take than ever before. Beginning in Spring 2019 semester for some campuses, and Fall 2019 for all campuses, instructors will now easily be able to give their courses a “TXT0” attribute to indicate that the course has adopted an Open Educational Resource textbook or moved to using only free resources. Marking of courses to indicate their being textbook-free or OER based has been an ad-hoc effort at various campuses for the last couple of years, but now a standardized technical implementation will be available to all instructors in all sections of a course.

In an age where OER textbooks are available for most high-enrollment undergraduate courses, students will now be able to identify the instructors and departments shifting toward cost-free resources. A 2017 survey on the impact of textbook costs for students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) campus was consistent with the findings of similar regional and national surveys: students make poor academic decisions based on the cost of textbooks. According to the survey, more than eighty percent of students have skipped buying a required textbook for a course, with nearly two thirds of those students acknowledging it would affect their performance in the course. Additionally, nearly seventy percent of students indicated that the cost of textbooks for a course would determine their taking that course, with more than twenty percent of students reporting having withdrawn from a course due to the cost of textbooks and materials. Both on its face and in the long-term, this new ability to mark courses as having no textbook cost will surely allow students to make better decisions about the courses they take.

Class Availability with TXT0 marking at Honolulu Community College / Carol Hasegawa

Hawaii joins Texas, Washington, and a growing list of states that have enabled zero-textbook cost marking in course listings, many of them having done so in a response to legislation that required such action.

This move will also enable institutional research to understand how lowering barriers to instructional materials affects student success more broadly. A growing body of research is seeking to answer this question, and early signals suggest that student success is generally noted to be at same level or higher level when OER and/or zero-cost materials are used in instruction as opposed to traditional costly materials. How this shift towards students making enrollment decisions based on marking for OER and zero textbook-cost courses is yet to be seen, but we are optimistic about students making better-informed enrollment decisions.

 

Contact oer@hawaii.edu with questions.

Posted by Billy Meinke in OER, Student, Zero Textbook Cost
September 2018 UH OER Releases – Communicology, Building Maintenance, and OER Training Pressbooks

September 2018 UH OER Releases – Communicology, Building Maintenance, and OER Training Pressbooks

As we slide into the Fall 2018 semester, more of the Open Educational Resources (OER) developed at UH are ready for sharing out. Each of these OER have been developed on the UH Pressbooks platform and are available in a wide range of file formats for reuse, under an open license that allows you to borrow and adapt to suit your needs.

 

Building Maintenance and Construction: Tools and Maintenance Tasks

Clifford Rutherford, University of Hawaiʻi Maui College

Written by the Program Coordinator of the Construction Technology Program at UH Maui College, this book serves as a foundation for students seeking entry-level careers in the building trades and facilities management fields. Covering a range of introductory topics, the text touches on proper use of common tools, preventive and reactive maintenance procedures, mechanical systems, and much more. An augmented version of this text is being piloted at this time, with interactive practices and assessment items built in. Please get in touch with the author to learn more.

Textbook cover for Building Maintenance

 

Message Processing: The Science of Creating Understanding

Jessica Gasiorek and R. Kelly Aune, Department of Communicology (UHM)

This text provides an upper-level undergraduate introduction and explanation of the social and cognitive processes involved in human communication, focusing on how people create understanding. Written by faculty in the Communicology Department, the book delves into human processing of sounds and physical behaviors, and the biological, cognitive and social processes that are at work.

Textbook cover for Message Processing

 

UH OER Training

William (Billy) Meinke, Outreach College (UHM)

This is a three-part workbook that guides the OER training workshops delivered to faculty through the Center for Teaching Excellence at UH Mānoa. The book has been piloted and refined into a resource that can support OER training in the areas of 1) Basic OER knowledge, 2) Copyright and Creative Commons, and 3) Skills for authoring OER. The book is intended to be a quick-start guide for higher education instructors who wish to jump in and get their hands dirty with OER quickly using best practices for adaptation and creation.

UH OER Training workbook cover

 


Interested in reusing any of these texts? Contact information for the authors is available in the front matter of each book, and you can always drop us a line at oer@hawaii.edu.

Mahalo and enjoy!

 

Posted by Billy Meinke in OER, Open Textbooks, Training
Policy and Open Educational Resources in Hawaii, the Story of SB 2328

Policy and Open Educational Resources in Hawaii, the Story of SB 2328

As we settle into the summer season here in Hawaii, it’s time to look back at the first six months of the year and reflect on the policy happenings. As I’ll take a few words to explain, Hawaii State Senate Bill SB 2328 appeared on our radar in January, the first high-level policy in Hawaii to focus on the development and adoption of Open Educational Resources. To be sure, the original mandates of the well-intended bill were impossible to effect as they infringed on the academic freedom of faculty. But even as feedback through testimony and hearings improved the bill — by establishing a task force and grant program — and seemed likely to pass, last minute testimony and revised wording marred the bill with inaccurate statements regarding copyright and OER, and the publishing industry came onto the scene. Opinions aside about whether or not a bill for OER is actually needed for it to flourish in Hawaii, the process of following a bill from first introduction to its quiet death offered an interesting look into the legislative process for policy affecting the University of Hawaii (UH).

Before my commentary, you can read the history of the bill on the Hawaii State Senate website. Therein you will find all four versions of the bill as well as testimony submitted by UH, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA), and myself among many other individuals. I’ll note that as the lead of the UH OER project, I was never contacted or consulted by either of the Committees on Higher Education (HE), although text from the UH OER website (oer.hawaii.edu) was copied-and-pasted into the bill itself in its first draft. At the end of this post I’ll touch on what would make a strong, impactful OER bill if the HE committee in either the State Senate or House of Representatives were to consider introducing similar legislation in future sessions. They very much fall in line with what you will find in the fantastic OER State Policy Playbook created by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Research Coalition (SPARC).

SB 2328 first came to my attention via Twitter when a government relations employee of a national bookstore organization tweeted it out. Clicking down to the Hawaii State Senate website confirmed that a bill for OER had been introduced. In short, the bill stated a need for improved college affordability and then presented the following mandates that by 2021:

  • All courses at UH required to use Open Educational Resources
  • Paid materials and subscriptions in courses no longer allowed
  • In cases where no OER exist for a course, instructors must create new OER

After confirming that no one within UH was aware of the bill before its introduction, internal feedback was sought and testimony was submitted to the Senate HE Committee by the UH Office of the Vice President of Academic Policy and Planning. From the beginning it was clear that any mandate to use OER would violate academic freedom, and that existing OER (in our repository) simply could not meet the needs of instructors in all courses. The notion of instructors being required to work off the sides of their desks to create new OER was impossible. A lot of stick without much carrot.

Current and emeritus faculty railed against the bill, and an unfortunate association was made between OER and limiting academic freedom. This association echoed in the hallways of UH campuses and across social media networks for months, long after the second draft removed the mandates entirely. The issue on its own was also highlighted by Inside Higher Education and e-Literate.

In a positive turn, the second draft of the bill:

  • Removed mandates to use or create OER
  • Established a UH OER Task Force charged with reporting on the suitability of OER for all general education and high enrollment courses by 2019
  • Established a $50k OER pilot grant program

The task force would be made up of all vice chancellors for academic affairs in the UH system, representatives from UH Faculty Senate, the OER project, UHPA, and the board of regents among others in the 16-person group. All members of the task force were directly associated with UH at this point. As for the grant program, it closely mirrored the UHM OER grant program I manage in terms of funding amount per project, but did not reflect the technical support and OER production guidance we also offer to our grantees.

The third draft of the bill carried no substantive changes.

The final hour is where things got interesting in terms of what, when, and how changes to the bill were made. Another hearing of the bill had been postponed, and what emerged from the rescheduled meeting was a fourth draft of the bill with critical changes that removed the term Open Educational Resources entirely, killed the OER Pilot grant program, and added a publishing industry representative to the task force which now would now focus on “No- and Low-Cost Options”.

But how?

Keeping in mind that supportive testimony we see was actually supporting a very different bill (the third draft), a review of the final batch of testimonies did not reveal anything out of the ordinary. But alongside testimonies and drafts of legislation, committee reports can provide more information related to changes in a bill. The committee report showed a gross misunderstanding of copyright and OER, and used it to justify the removal of OER from the entire bill in both name and substance.

The report states:

Your Committee finds that the University of Hawaii is already providing options to reduce the cost of educational materials on an ad hoc basis. Your Committee has chosen not to have the Task Force focus on requiring open educational resources because open education resources are proprietary, do not fully reflect the ad hoc efforts that are already being undertaken by the University of Hawaii, and are not available for certain professional and graduate programs.

Your Committee further notes that, as requested in testimony, a representative of the publishing industry was included as a member of the task force to incentivize publishers to lower costs for textbooks.

Let’s pause right there for a moment.

Open Educational Resources are precisely the opposite of proprietary. OER are defined in part by having an open license, one that permits reuse and revision — the legal linchpin of why OER are so impactful. In the United States, copyright is automatic and requires no registration to protect creative work, which can stifle collaboration. To make content legally open, licenses like Creative Commons (CC) are used to publicly and clearly license work for reuse, telling others that your work can be shared — the first three drafts of the bill state this clearly. I work directly with faculty that both reuse and publish new OER with CC licenses in their practice and are able to collaborate across UH campuses without the need for lawyers to draft new licenses constantly. On the other hand, educational resources without an open license are actually considered “proprietary”.

Traditional textbooks from the big education publishers such as Pearson and Cengage are proprietary. The publishing industry has seen declining profits in the print sector and is now shifting towards digital textbook rentals, which of course carry a limited license. Each student pays a fee that is typically lower than a traditional textbook for limited (often 16 weeks of) access, then the book disappears. Nothing to keep, nothing to sell back, and the notes students made in the margins are usually kept by the publisher as well. So consider that once a course has transitioned to an OER textbook, it can be updated and shared with other instructors, and it remains open. Free for good. All students have perpetual access to the book: they keep it when it’s OER. When we calculate cost savings for a course moving to OER, those savings are ongoing and saving students money year after year as the free book lives on and is updated by instructors as part of their practice. Discounts and low-cost rentals from the publishers simply pale in comparison to what OER do for students and faculty.

If a defining term such as Open Educational Resources can be removed from a bill on the basis of being proprietary (which they actually are not), then content from the big publishers could be disqualified from consideration based on the fact that it is proprietary, no? This would seem reasonable.

Finally, in terms of the last minute changes to the bill, we saw the addition of a “Publishing Industry Representative” to the task force. Stepping back for a moment and noting that the cost of textbooks rose 82% from 2003 to 2013, why would we invite those who are the cause of the problem to the table? Let us not assume that those who created the problem know it best and are better positioned to solve it. Our work with OER at UH simply does not involve the publishers because we are sharing and adapting content that carries no profit margins for them, and they have yet to offer worthwhile products or services that help us do better what we are already doing.

If the bill were to re-center itself on OER, there would be no need to “incentivize publishers to lower costs for textbooks”. Having attended several hearings and pored over the testimony, there was absolutely no participation from the publishing industry until the final moment, if any public participation was made at all. A publishing industry representative would add nothing meaningful to a task force focusing on OER, full stop.

Many seemed to hang on the unfortunate mandates written into the first draft of the bill and lost interest once they were removed. It appears that at the end the bill failed to be scheduled for a hearing and so fell out of the legislative session. Gone for now. But questions remain about how the bill changed so dramatically at the end and how the publishing industry was involved.

Changing gears slightly, a bill positively supporting Open Educational Resources in Hawaii might do any of the following:

  • Establish an OER grant program*
  • Require OER to be marked in course schedules
  • Create a task force or council*
  • Issue a savings challenge

*These were originally part of SB 2328.

SPARC’s playbook has detailed information on each of the above including sample policies from several states that have recognized the potential of OER and are using legislative means to support its growth. Sample text from those policies can provide a starting point for an OER bill for Hawaii. The legislatures of other states including New York and Georgia have made significant investments in OER resulting in tens of millions of dollars in student savings and hundreds of thousands of students affected. Half a dozen other states have similar programs but with fewer resources committed, and more are on their way.

SB 2328 was going to be the beginnings of policy support for OER in Hawaii, and it was derailed before dying. The implications of involving for-profit publishers in the policy-making process for higher education curriculum are uncertain. What we do know is that we are already making progress with adoptions system-wide and publishing our first OER textbooks developed locally. And that well-informed legislation that secures perpetual student savings through specific, positive support for OER would be welcomed in the future.


Featured image for this post by Jim Bowen on Flickr / CC BY.

Posted by Billy Meinke in Creative Commons, OER, Policy
First Set of UH OER Textbooks Shared into the Commons

First Set of UH OER Textbooks Shared into the Commons

We are proud to announce the release of a first wave of OER into the Commons! The work in this collection represents a round of projects funded by the UH Mānoa Outreach College to adopt, adapt, or build open textbooks and instructional tools for our students. These OER have helped offset hundreds of thousands of dollars in textbook costs for students, and the use of content that firmly places control in the hands of faculty so they can adapt them to suit their needs. Teams of faculty leads, graduate and undergraduate students, and instructors collaboratively developed content that offers unmatched relevance for our students. We plan to take what we have learned from these projects and offer the technical and human processes to enable OER broadly at UH.

Faculty and instructors were the initiators of these projects, in some cases already having curated and created supplementary content over years of teaching. The UHM Outreach College offered open source software, training, and consultation to the teams to build confidence in their ability to reuse and revise existing OER content that formed the base for many projects. We’re excited to highlight a few of them here.

Human Nutrition
University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Food Science and Human Nutrition Program

Forward-thinking faculty and graduate students on this team developed a 100-level college textbook for introductory human nutrition for the HAP-designated (Hawaiian, Asian, and Pacific Issues) FSHN 185 course. Hundreds of students take this course at UHM alone each semester to prepare for majors such as nutrition, nursing, culinary arts, and a range of health sciences. Over eighteen months, the team audited content from existing open textbooks, designed their own ideal text to support their learning goals, and constructed 16-chapter open textbook that is endlessly customizable for their needs. Over 100 new figures and diagrams demonstrating concepts from the book have been added.

Human Nutrition textbook cover

Principles of Microeconomics: Hawaii Edition

John Lynham, Economics Department

Having already transitioned to using the OpenStax Principles of Microeconomics textbook for his sections of this high-enrollment ECON 131 course, John committed time to adapting the text for students in Hawaii. He replaced images and rewrote passages to support the understanding of concepts, covering them in local context. A set of assessment items were converted to H5P and embedded as interactive practice opportunities aligned with learning objectives for the course.

Mathematics for Elementary Teachers

Michelle Manes

Though her book had been available openly prior to this project, Michelle and a post-doc student converting her open textbook that had been created in iBooks Author into Pressbooks. Open content is limited by technology that makes it less adaptable and portable, and this project was an act of liberation from iBooks, the Apple publishing that requires the use of an OS X operating system. Formulas and equations in the content were converted to LaTeX for machine-readability and edibility. and the content was revised to be more accessible inside Pressbooks.

We will be rolling out releases of more books and OER content as they are ready for public sharing.

A Note about Cost

No content or proprietary software were purchased in the development of these projects. For high-enrollment courses (like those supported by these books), many OER options exist that can serve as a starting point and be tailored to instructor and student needs. Pressbooks was the primary software used to develop and publish these books, which is free and open source software that supports accessibility, interoperability, and makes it possible for any institution to participate in OER revision and creation.

Stay tuned as we prepare to release the next set of OER from our grant program!

Posted by Billy Meinke in Grant Projects, OER, Open Textbooks
Faculty Insights, Pedagogical Innovation, and the Power of OER on stage for #OEWeek

Faculty Insights, Pedagogical Innovation, and the Power of OER on stage for #OEWeek

As we march further into the Spring semester at the University of Hawai’i, we’re recapping our participation in Open Education Week celebration from March 8th. There were more wonderful conversations, ideas, and discussions had than can be captured in a single blog post, but that shouldn’t stop us from sharing some of the event’s highlights.

Our invited keynote speaker and workshop facilitator Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani opened with a talk titled Serving Social Justice and Pedagogical Innovation with Open Educational Practices. Rajiv walked the audience through the realities of higher education in terms of access and equity, asking us to consider how existing power structures reinforce inequalities for students. Open Educational Resources (OER) and related “open practices” can not only lower and eliminate materials costs for our students, but can also provide more meaningful, engaging learning experiences when a shift is made towards openness. Dr. Jhangiani reminded us how many faculty have become accustomed to “bending” our courses to align with an existing publisher textbook, whereas OER offer faculty the ability to customize the content to fit the course — representing a new layer of academic freedom.

Rajiv Jhangiani speaking

The keynote presentation was followed by a workshop on Open Pedagogy, focusing on helping faculty and instructors (re)design assignments that leverage the openness of OER. Examples offered by Rajiv were medical student contributions to Wikipedia articles, collaborative student curation and annotation of public domain texts, and more. But instead of prescribing lesson plans and strategies, participants were asked to examine their existing learning activities and assessments to see where openness could be woven into them to create re-useful assignments that could contribute to something larger or at the very least offer students the opportunity to showcase their skills to a broader audience in a way that lives on.

Rajiv Jhangiani speaking with faculty

The transition period for the day included a lunchtime meet-and-greet with faculty and instructors who received OER grants through the UHM Outreach College last year and have been working on adopting, adapting, and creating OER for their students. Cross-pollination occurred as we had hoped, and many of the grantees formed professional bonds around their changing practice. For many, this is only the beginning of their journey towards open practices that lower barriers, improve access, and do more for their students.

The event came to a close with a panel of four faculty that were willing to share their experiences in the OER adoption process. Participants included Deborah Halbert (Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs), Alison Nugent (Assistant Professor, Atmospheric Science), Marie Kainoa Fialkowski Revilla (Assistant Professor, Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences) and Malia Lau Kong (Associate Professor, History Department, Windward Community College). Courses being converted to OER often undergo a “refresh” process through which the course outcomes, assessments, support materials and other errata are reviewed as an expensive textbook is replaced with an open, free one. Moderated by Outreach College Dean Bill Chismar, the panelists responded to a series of questions about the realities of their adoptions and OER development. The freedom for faculty to adapt or customize the OER materials to their teaching and their students was highlighted, as was the need for technical support throughout the adoption process. Marie Kainoa Fialkowski Revilla also pointed out how OER adoptions (like the one she leads) benefit from a team effort made up of faculty, students, and instructors — direct collaboration involving many stakeholders.

Video of the keynote presentation and faculty panel can be viewed here:

Pictures from the day’s sessions are available here.

Mahalo to all who participated!

Posted by Billy Meinke in Conference, Grant Projects, OER, Open Education Week, UH Manoa
March 8th — Save the date! Open Education Week at UHM

March 8th — Save the date! Open Education Week at UHM

We’re pleased to announce the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa’s celebration of Open Education Week, our second year participating in the global event. This year’s event will be unique in that we will both welcome Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani as our opening keynote and highlight the wonderful outputs from the first round of UHM OER grants!


Rajiv is the Special Advisor to the Provost on Open Education at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver, British Columbia. Rajiv was instrumental in the launching Kwantlen Polytechnic’s Zed Cred (http://www.kpu.ca/arts/zedcred) program, an entire degree with zero textbook costs by way of using OER and/or free library materials. He has delivered dozens of keynote addresses and is one of the most informed, influential proponents of Open Educational Resources and Open Access anywhere in the world. Rajiv will follow his keynote with a workshop on Open Pedagogy, offering guidance in crafting learning activities that leverage of the openness of OER to provide improved feedback and help end the “throwaway assignment.”

OER projects funded through the UHM Outreach College are nearing completion, and we’re excited to have many of our grantees join us during this years event. Ranging from nutrition to physics, second language studies to economics, these projects represent the work of forward-thinking faculty, staff, and students at UHM who are embracing the power of open and building learning content that will be free forever.

Other exciting sessions happening on our March 8th celebration will include:
* OER Panel with Faculty and Instructors — What does it take to go open?
* 2017-2018 UHM OER Grantee Showcase lunchtime meet-and-greet

So, mark your calendars for Thursday March 8th!

Full schedule and details to be shared shortly.

Posted by Billy Meinke in Conference, Grant Projects, OER, Open Education Week
An Economic Argument for Economics OER

An Economic Argument for Economics OER

This guest post was written by John Lynham, grant recipient and project lead developing OER for the ECON 130 microeconomics undergraduate course at UHM.

One of the questions I sometimes ask students in my introductory Principles of Microeconomics class is “Why are textbooks so expensive compared to other books?”. Part of the reason is that the market for textbooks is not like the market for other books: the person who chooses the book isn’t actually the person who pays for it. Most of the time, when you want to buy a new book you go to a bookstore (or online), choose the book that you want and then pay for it. But with textbooks, the professor chooses the book and then the students in the class have to go out and pay for it. This creates a disconnect between the person demanding the book and the person actually paying for it. In economics jargon: demand is “inelastic” or less responsive to changes in price. If the price of a textbook goes up by 10% many professors might not even notice since they never have to buy the book themselves. In addition, for some reason I can never figure out, the Instructors’ Edition of the textbook that professors receive for free never lists the price of the book on the back…

It shouldn’t be too surprising then that textbook prices increased 300% from 1986 to 2004 but the prices of most other goods only increased 80%. One of the most popular textbooks for the class I teach has a list price of $249.95! You can buy a new hardback edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on Amazon for $16.16. I know which one I would prefer to read! In response to the exorbitant cost of textbooks, I started using a free Creative Commons (CC) licensed OpenStax textbook a few years ago. It’s a very good book, my students really like it, and I always encourage other faculty members to adopt it.

Photo by Alex Read on Unsplash

However, one of the barriers to adoption of this free textbook is that the more expensive textbooks come with a great online database of practice questions. It’s really important to have access to lots of practice problems in order to understand the material being taught. I have tried to get around this by having my teaching assistants come up with questions and upload them to Laulima (UH’s learning management system). My simple goal for the OER Project is to develop an interactive online database of practice questions for the standard Principles of Microeconomics course that will be available to any teacher that wants to use the free textbook. Hopefully the more barriers to adoption that are removed, the more faculty will make the switch to free CC texts, thus lowering the cost of attending college for students. By making demand more elastic, prices should fall, and there should be greater investment in human capital. If that sentence doesn’t make sense, take my class in the Fall!

Project Lead

John Lynham

John Lynham

John is an Associate Professor in the Economics Department at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where he is also a UHERO Research Fellow. He is the Director of the Graduate Ocean Policy Certificate and an Affiliated Researcher at the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University. His research interests are in environmental/resource economics, marine ecology and behavioral economics. John is a Pacific Century Fellow, class of 2012, and was honored to receive the Board of Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching in 2013.

Posted by Billy Meinke in Grant Projects, Open Textbooks
Finding Our Footing for OER Training: Information and Digital Literacies

Finding Our Footing for OER Training: Information and Digital Literacies

OER is becoming part of conversations throughout the UH system, with more than half of our campuses reporting new adoptions and opportunities. Excellent training and leadership from Leeward Community College (LCC) and Kapi’olani Community College (KCC), and continued advocacy are bringing OER to more students than ever. While we continue to support the OER project grantees, we are still hard at work refining processes for building and remixing open content.

Hawai’i will be well-represented at this year’s OpenEd conference in Anaheim, CA later this year, as two of our presentation session proposals have been accepted. And since my session will focus on our OER training initiative, it seemed a good idea to explain the structure and design of the workshops through a write-up. This post will walk through some of the concepts in information and digital literacy that are guiding the development of our OER training at UHM. For context, the overarching goal of our training is to help faculty gain confidence when creating and reusing OER for instruction, putting their hands at the helm.

On Spectrum

We can look to Helen Beetham and Rhona Sharpe’s (2010-2013) work on digital literacy for JISC for greater context around how OER training may fit into the professional identity of a faculty member. They provided a useful pyramid structure that stacks Access and Awareness, Skills, Practices, and Identity layers to represent an active progression from low to high literacy levels of students — which I believe carries over to adult learners (our faculty). Individuals grow from having discrete skills (such as being able to use the basic functions of a software tool) towards developing practices that reflect these skills (such as regularly updating their software toolbelt with new tools or techniques) and later to possessing advanced technical knowledge (such as critically reviewing a range of software of a certain purpose). To serve the diverse population at UH, our initial workshops will begin at the lower level skills that can become a foundation for later growth in digital literacy.

Beetham and Sharpe ‘pyramid model’ of digital literacy development model (2010) All rights reserved.

A branch of the same project from JISC yielded a set of “Seven Elements of Digital Literacy” that more specifically describe knowledge and skill areas within digital literacy — The Seven Elements describe what it means to meaningfully participate in a knowledge economy as a student, researcher, or academic professional. It’s easy to think of OER-specific skills that fit into each bucket, and that’s just what we plan to do with the compiled a list of learning objectives borrowed from other successful OER training initiatives from both outside and within the UH system.

Seven Elements of Digital Literacy by JISC / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

And while we cannot possibly cover all areas of digital literacy through our OER training, understanding how the topics would fit into broader categories can help guide other literacy workshops at UHM that are beyond the scope of our work. I’ve found JISC’s documentation to be comprehensive and communicated well, useful if you are designing new training resources around digital literacy.

What About Information Literacy?

If this discussion around digital literacy rings your bell, then you may be familiar with information literacy, which typically falls into the realm of training that academic librarians offer. Many institutions (including UH) are members of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), and so we can look to the ACRL’s Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education* for overlap and weaving that might make sense with our OER training.

The ACRL’s information literacy standards are:

  • Determine the extent of information needed
  • Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base
  • Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
  • Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally

As with other structured information literacy descriptions such as SCONUL’s Seven Pillars and The Open University’s DIL framework, the ACRL framework focuses on knowledge, skills, and attitudes the individual should possess (or gain) to effectively and appropriately locate and use information — participate — in a knowledge society. Through an OER lens, the ‘information’ could be anything from a video to an ebook, or even a dataset. But where information literacy frameworks bring us to is a point that (in my opinion) suggests that digital content is largely used in whole, unmodified. One the other hand, digital literacy frameworks insist on participation and collaboration and the remixing of content that really leverages the open in OER. Open is the means to (or headway in the direction of) an end that I’d very much like to see, where faculty are collaborating across campuses and systems, building the kind of content and courseware that will do the most for their students.

To each their own, and until I hear screams of horror about weaving these frameworks together, we’ll go with it. UHM is currently without a comprehensive information literacy training program, and so our OER training may serve as a set of starting points for a broader information literacy training on our campus.

*Just before publishing this post I was reminded that ACRL is moving towards the Information Literacy Framework, which will be referenced going forward (thanks Sarah!).

Learning Objectives, Outcomes, Whathaveyou

At certain edges of the Open Education community you can hear calls for reform around outcomes, assessments, and grades. We don’t want faculty who participate in our training to feel as if they’ve been reduced to a number, but we do need a bar or standard of completion as we get skilled up so that learners can eventually become mentors.

Mapping instruments on a desk

Photo by Ruthie on Unsplash

To that end, we’ve combined the learning objectives used by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), those from Leeward Community College (LCC), and those from and Kapi’olani Community College (KCC) into a master list of sorts. Some of the objectives have been combined, but they are listed here:

  • Define and describe the importance of OER
  • Differentiate between Copyright, Fair Use, Creative Commons licensing, and Public Domain
  • Identify resources that are openly licensed, in the Public Domain, or all rights reserved
  • Distinguish between different types of Creative Commons licenses
  • License a work with a Creative Commons license
  • Upload a work into the UH OER repository
  • Combine work with different types of Creative Commons licenses
  • Properly attribute a Creative Commons licensed work
  • List useful repositories and search tools for finding OER
  • Find OER that are relevant to a specific area of study or research
  • Assess the technical openness of an OER (ALMS framework)
  • Download an OER from the UH OER repository
  • Describe techniques for creating accessible OER
  • Describe the steps necessary to plan for OER adoption

The above list gets most of the way towards covering three main areas that I specifically see value in issuing some sort of certificate or badge for:

  • Open Educational Resources 101 — Background and foundational ideas
  • Copyright, Fair Use, and Public Domain — Creative Commons, licensing/attribution/reuse
  • OER Creation and Adoption — Software tools and processes for publishing and remix

The curriculum supporting each of the objectives isn’t built yet, but in this post I am trying to explain the framing with regard to existing information literacy training. The idea is to identify which domains/pillars/elements from other frameworks are being supported by this work (that is specifically for OER), but with obvious overlapping information literacy benefits. In a perfect world, our training around OER would develop a common structure to inform faculty-directed workshops so that individual efforts across campus work in concert.

For example, objectives aligned to info/digi literacy frameworks could be described as such:

Objective Outcome Overlapping Frameworks
Properly attribute a Creative Commons licensed work Create a blog post or lesson plan that reuses a CC licensed image, giving proper attribution back to the creator. ACRL – Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose, JISC – Media Literacy (creatively produce media)
Differentiate between Copyright, Fair Use, Creative Commons licensing, and Public Domain Collect and share links to two educational resources found online (and that are useful for a specific purpose) that exist under each of four subsections of copyright status ACRL – Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally, JISC – Digital Scholarship (participate in emerging tech-based practices

After this process is done in earnest, certain lessons in the curriculum could potentially be reused in training supporting other literacy domains — paired with lessons developed for related purposes. We have specific goals, but a little pre-work to see how our training may fit within a more comprehensive training program can go a long way.

To encourage our faculty to collaborate on OER beyond the walls of their own buildings, we will need to include the creation of tangible OER artifacts in the training. We are currently using Google Docs for collaborative planning and for sharing drafts of work, and since UH is a Google Apps campus, all of our faculty have access to Drive and Docs already. I admire the use of Github, Gitbook, and other open source and/or collaborative platforms, but in our situation we need to meet faculty where they already are and then focus on the skills. I’ve delivered one-off Pressbooks how-to sessions for faculty, and I expect that will be in a second level of the OER Creation and Adoption training. One we get an understanding of the digital skills our faculty are bringing to the training, we can adapt the lessons to also include a constructionist approach — where learners contribute to a public knowledge base.

Onward!

Now that I’ve done some explaining of my thinking around the why, and a little about the how of the OER training, I’m hoping to get feedback from the community. In a round table session at the OTNSI, I asked the group of librarians if they were conducting training in a similar way, one that a OER-specific training could potentially be aligned with. None were aware of information literacy training happening in a highly-coordinated way at their campus, at least not one that was aimed at hitting specific pillars or domains. This may suggest that a set of trainings that hit at the core of being confident working with OER is still needed.

Photo by Fleur Treurniet on Unsplash

If you’re coming to OpenEd, I’d be interested to discuss similar projects happening elsewhere. The hope is to publish one more blog post prior to OpenEd, reflecting on the feedback I receive and sharing more details of the lesson design and overall structure. While there are many directions this project could go, my goal is to to get open, adaptable OER into the hands of faculty as soon as possible — setting them up to take back control of their instructional materials. The more skilled collaborators we have within our networks, the better.

A special thanks goes to Rajiv Jhangiani and Sarah Cohen for feedback on this post.

Posted by Billy Meinke in Creative Commons, Training
Reflecting on the 2017 Open Textbook Network Summit & Institute

Reflecting on the 2017 Open Textbook Network Summit & Institute

Last week I joined over a hundred OER-friendly librarians, technologists, and instructional designers in Minneapolis for the annual Open Textbook Network Summit and Institute (OTNSI) at the University of Minnesota. UH Mānoa is a member institution of the Open Textbook Network, and this was our first time taking part in the face-to-face activities of the network. The OTN has grown to include over 600 higher education institutions through individual and consortial memberships, representing what I believe to be the largest U.S.-based coalition of OER advocates. While textbook affordability projects other than pure OER adoption are part of many groups’ strategic plans, the majority of attendees seem ready to push for 100% OER, bypassing lesser options such as rentals and “inclusive access” programs.

The lean OTN team of Dave Ernst, Sarah Cohen, and Karen Lauritsen delivered a four-day program, the first two days being an institute for newer members to understand what is already working for current members in terms of being able to land major adoptions, publish remixed or original OER, and generally be more effective when introducing the awesomeness of OER to new stakeholders. I was able to meet a handful of OTN members at last year’s OpenEd conference, and I had an idea of who the more active, vocal members were based on their participation on the OTN mailing list. As always, it was wonderful to put faces to so many names and connect with folks doing similar work in other places.

Lots happened during the week, but here are some takeaways that are worth diving into a bit.

Tailoring OER Messages for Different Audiences

This will come as no surprise to many of us, but effective messaging absolutely needs to take the audience into account. It’s easy to fall back onto the more obvious big-picture talking points around the benefits of open, but the same slide deck simply will not work with every audience. During the institute, Dave and Sarah explained their process for running the faculty OER workshop that has yielded hundreds of reviews of OERs and laid the foundation for adoptions across the nation. The faculty workshop includes some data-focused slides, a personal appeal from the presenter, and what ends up being a call for faculty to consider the ever-powerful social justice argument for supporting open education.

Consensus seems to be that administrators and decision makers respond well to hard numbers showing to-date and projected cost savings, total student enrollments affected, and other indicators of improved student success or improvement associated with the use of OER. I consider cost savings associated with OER to be the lever, the foot in the door that allows us to talk about empowering both instructors and students to take control of the learning experience. I’d love to talk to everyone about OER-enabled pedagogy, but these conversations with stakeholders should appeal to goals they have already established, not new ones that need to be added to their plate. OER have the potential to save students thousands of dollars over the course of their earning a degree, and we can do this without affecting departmental budgets — this will be an important point I hope will resonate with those in upper administration.

The Threat of “Inclusive Access” Programs

I mentioned earlier that many campuses are including more than just OER in their textbook affordability initiatives, and publishers have been eager to push digital-first textbook agreements dubbed “inclusive access” programs. These programs are similar to textbook rentals we’ve seen more of over the last few years, but they can also come with highly restrictive terms such as requiring students to opt out (as opposed to having them opt in) of buying the course materials and by offering print versions to students only when they have also paid for the digital copy — which can mean that some students actually pay more with “inclusive access” than they would otherwise pay when older version, used copies, and other buying options are present.

Beyond the obvious issues with these programs, they don’t begin to approach the potential of what OER can offer us. One OTN member suggested that inclusive access programs were just small steps towards OER adoption, but my stance is that when you choose to move towards OER you are on an entirely different path than with closed publisher content. If faculty are to put time and energy into something that will benefit their students, I want all of that energy captured and put towards going fully open. Why would we settle for discounted closed textbooks when OER are available and provide perpetual access to localized, customizable learning materials.

OTN as a Community of Practice

Community in the open source world has long been an interest of mine, and it is something that is difficult to create. I am of the mind that community can’t actually be created, but it can be facilitated by locating a common domain and stimulating existing groups of people working on similar issues to share their best practices (see the Wegner-Trayners for more). Librarians made up the majority of attending members at the OTNSI, and though I am not a librarian I do consider them to be “my people”. Librarians often possess a unique combination of personality traits that means they value structure and organization of information but are also socially aware — this is important when connecting with faculty. Introducing OER to faculty can seem like we are throwing caution to the wind, but those who are interested in OER can find excellent advocates in librarians.

This OTNSI was less focused on technology than I had hoped, but there were a handful of instructional designers and educational technologists in the room who are working with OER. We discussed the course refresh process as a prime opportunity to introduce OER to faculty, especially for the high-enrollment courses and those with instructors who delight in the possibility of customizing their course. Pressbooks was the only open source OER-publishing tool mentioned, but some institutions are using closed source tools that are either under threat of being bought up by larger companies or already have been — and their future is arguably less certain than the open source tools that power UH’s OER initiative.

Not to stray too far from the idea of community, the OTNSI allowed me to expand my network of OER advocates who are not only working on the same issues, but are willing to share their successes and struggles to help carry the group ahead.

Thanks for putting it together, OTN!

Posted by Billy Meinke in Conference, Open Textbooks
Designing an OER Physics Problem Database

Designing an OER Physics Problem Database

The OER Physics Problem Database (pdb) provides an open access resource to enhance problem solving skills and student learning outcomes. The pdb is built with the open source database management system (dbms) MySQL, well known to for its reliability, functionality, and performance.

Two other main components of pdb are JabRef and LaTeX, which are both published under free software licenses. JabRef provides a graphical user interface (GUI) for users to insert questions to the pdb, and LaTeX provides a high quality PDF document output. The following flow chart shows the relationships between MySQL, JabRef, and LaTeX in handling the information in the pdb in order to produce a document of chosen physics problems.

PDB flow chart

 

Figure 1: A flow diagram showing the main components of pdb.

Users will insert problems into pdb with the JabRef GUI, shown in Figure 2. JabRef is typically used as a bibliography manager and paired with LaTeX. The main features pdb will use from JabRef are customizable functionality and the ability to connect to MySQL databases. (See jabref.org for more information.) This the method of managing a database with mathematical expressions is an extension and modification from Mark Hickman’s database of math problems of University of Canterbury, which he has  offered available under the free software license, (mark.hickman@canterbury.ac.nz). The OER pdb differs from Hickman’s in that it is for physics problems;  it contains different customized fields for the question entries, it uses MySQL for dbms, and allows images to be added.

The questions inserted into pdb with JabRef have required fields that must be completely filled in order to qualify as valid pdb input. The necessary fields are: Problem, Ndim, Owner, Timestamp, Subject, Difficulty, Solution, and Bibtexkey. LaTeX commands may be used directly in the fields; this is especially useful for the Problem and Solution inputs. Ndim is the number of dimensions of the problem, the Owner field is the user submitting this question to pdb, Subject denotes the area of physics that the question focuses on, and Difficulty should be entered in as easy, medium, or hard. Also, each question has a Timestamp field in order to make sure the problems in pdb remain current.

jabref dashboard

 

Figure 2: Users input problems into pdb via the GUI provided by JabRef.

JabRef connects to the MySQL pdb and merges new questions with existing ones in the database. SQL is short for “Structured Query Language”, and is a standard for dbms. All information in the database is stored as tables and linked with keys, of which there is only one primary key. The primary key is a unique identification number attached to each problem in pdb. While JabRef provides a GUI interface for input, MySQL will handle the heavy lifting behind the scenes in managing the database. Such managing will be necessary as subroutines are developed to randomize and alter tables.

mySQL document for pdb

Figure 3: The pdb is named PHYSICS_DB, with tables named: ENTRY, FIELD, and METADATA. (Note that MySQL is case sensitive)

The pdb consists of three tables (case sensitive): ENTRY, FIELD, and METADATA. The ENTRY table holds the primary key, denoted as SHARED_ID, which is an increment in each physics problem, the TYPE of entry, and the VERSION. The FIELD table holds all the information about the physics problems, such as problem, timestamp, ndim, solution, etc. In FIELD, the ENTRY_SHARED_ID links to the primary key, NAME matches the title fields in JabRef, and VALUE holds the problem input. METADATA is a table that simply describes the information stored in this database.

mySQL tables

Figure 4: These are the tables in pdb, with a couple of rows filled. All of the question content is held in the VALUE column.

The entity relationship diagram (ERD) for pdb is shown in Figure 5. An ERD aids in visualizing the logical relationships between tables and data in a database; this also helps with design and performance. The ENTRY entity (table) holds the primary key, shown with a yellow diamond next to SHARED_ID. The dashed line linking to the FIELD entity means that there is a relationship between ENTRY and FIELD, and that FIELD contains attribute values from ENTRY. The fact that there is one, and only one ENTRY per row is shown by the two short double vertical lines on the relationship line. The pdb allows for question/answer variation, thus there may be one or many questions per unique row in entry; this is expressed as the “crow’s feet” and short vertical line next to the FIELD entity. METADATA does not relate to the other tables, but shows information about the type of data that pdb holds.

Figure 5: The erd for pdb.

In order to access particular problems from pdb, a user can search for a keyword from subject, ndim, difficulty, owner, or timestamp. For example, to select all problems that are under the subject of kinematics in pdb, the query syntax is shown in Figure 6. Note that the asterisk (*) is known as a wildcard, which returns all matches that fulfill the requirements of the given search. In this example, the subject search for all kinematic questions gives problem numbers: 1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11.

mySQL file

Figure 6: An example showing how to select all kinematic problems from pdb.

Finally, a PDF document of the chosen physics problems is created with a short LaTeX file, displayed in Figure 7. LaTeX is a very common document preparation system used in mathematics and the physical sciences ( www.latex-project.org ). In the LaTeX file it is important to use the ‘problems’ package; this allows access to pdb problems. The user will simply input the desired problem numbers, and decide if they want to create a document with only problems, or problems with solutions.

Figure 7: The LaTeX file that will create your pdb document.

The two links below show the PDFs generated by the above methods with the OER Physics Problem Database. The first link shows the problems only, and the second link shows the output when the problems with solutions option is chosen in the LaTeX file.

The framework for the OER pdb is complete and the next step is to set up a server and provide remote access to users. From there, we will begin constructing the assessment content base and make plans to pilot the use of the pdb in Physics courses this academic year.

Posted by Christina Nelson in OER