Why Avasthi chooses open: access, engagement, and student success
The interview series “Why We Choose Open: OER Stories” invites VCU community members to share why they use, adapt or create Open Educational Resources (OER) and what impact that work has on their students, teaching experiences, and/or career.
Faculty: Manika Avasthi, Professional Development Instructor, VCU College of Engineering (Formerly of VCU School of Business)
Funded by a 2020 Affordable Course Content Award
Estimated annual student savings: $50,000
Average number of VCU students impacted annually: 800
Briefly describe your project
Foundations of Business was created for use in VCU School of Business’s Business Foundation course (BUSN 201). The book is an adaptation of existing open educational resources (OER). To make sure it aligned with the course offered at VCU, I actually worked to pull relevant chapters and exercises from three existing OER:
- “Fundamentals of Business, Second Edition (2018)” by Stephen J. Skripak (VT Publishing)
- “Introduction to Business” by Lawrence J. Gitman, et al (OpenStax)
- “Exploring Business “ by University of Minnesota
The book contains numerous practice problems, is easy to comprehend, and has great examples to help students better understand the content.
What motivated you to make the switch to open and affordable course content?
College is expensive and textbooks add to the cost of higher education. Through my time teaching BUSN201, I had many students approach me with concerns about finances or how they were going to pay for their textbooks. Additionally, for students with financial aid, the purchase of the textbook can be delayed several weeks into the semester until their financial aid processes. To help students take that additional burden off of their shoulders, I decided to work on this project.
What was your experience creating OER material? How did it compare to what you were expecting?
It was a great experience as I had incredible support from VCU Libraries. I had monthly meetings with Jessica Kirschner, Open Educational Resources Librarian, who provided feedback on the textbook. Additionally, we bounced back ideas with each other regarding how to make the book more interactive and appealing to the students. A big thank you to Jessica for helping me with this project. Based on the response I received from the students, I believe it did exceed my expectations and my students’ expectations.
How were students impacted by the new materials? What was their reaction?
With the OER textbook, students had access to the textbook at the start of the semester. It gave them an opportunity to learn the content as it was discussed, allowing for an increased potential to succeed in class and in their academic careers. Additionally, the textbook was easy to understand, which was appreciated by the undergraduate students, mostly sophomores who have not declared their major. Simultaneously, it was effectively used by students who took this course as an elective to gain a general understanding of business. The adapted resource gave the feel of a traditional textbook with no cost to the students.
Some student reactions included:
- “I really enjoyed learning from the textbook as its extensive library includes very applicable and interesting subjects.”
- “I am so thankful that the textbook was free. Very helpful in comparison to other classes.”
- “The textbook being online and easily accessible was extremely helpful throughout this course.”
- “I really enjoyed reading the textbook as it had an extensive database full of useful business knowledge that I may benefit from in the future.”
- “I love how the textbook was free and we actually used it! I have many classes that make me pay over $100 for a book we never even used.”
- “It was extremely nice not having to purchase the textbook.”
- “I am extremely happy that the textbook was written and provided by the professor, it made learning the subject easier.”
- “I believe the textbook required for this course was very informative and was useful in helping us really understand the material.”
- “I thought that the textbook was well written and made the assignments less dreadful. Most of the chapters had interesting examples and were overall straight to the point.”
- “THANK YOU FOR THE TEXTBOOK. Seeing that on my syllabus and reading the acknowledgement really moved me and made me more motivated to work in the class because that’s a LOT of work and I want to respect that and match your level of commitment. It also made learning really accessible and straightforward because everything came from you rather than a collection of sources.”
- “[I] like that we did not have to purchase the textbook and how easy it was to access.”
How have you been impacted by your use of OER?
I am a big advocate of OER especially because of its affordability and accessibility. OER has changed my perspective on how we use textbooks. The perception that free resources are dated and their content quality is not the best was dramatically changed after working on OER. This was definitely a feather in the cap when it came to my career and reputation. I am now teaching at the College of Engineering and I believe this had a role to play in taking me to where I am now.
Do you have any guidance for other faculty considering the switch to open and affordable course content?
I would strongly recommend that other faculty members make the switch to OER as it has taken textbook affordability and accessibility to another level.
Learn more about OER in the VCU Community
Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that are free to access online and shared with open licenses that allow for unrestricted use, retention, sharing and editing by faculty and students. OER can be any type of teaching or learning materials, including textbooks, images, videos, slide decks, assessments, syllabi, and whole courses.
VCU Libraries’ Open and Affordable Course Content Initiative provides education on open education and textbook affordability and direct support for the adoption, customization and creation of open educational resources, including managing the Affordable Course Content Awards. To learn more or explore the possibility of using or creating OER, visit the initiative’s website or contact Open Educational Resources Librarian Jessica Kirschner at firstname.lastname@example.org.