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Affordable and Open Educational Resources: Case Studies and Instructional Tech Support

This guide will assist NYU instructors in understanding the basics in finding, using, or creating affordable and open course content.

Faculty of Arts & Science: Addressing affordability through OER and ed tech

The Faculty of Arts & Science has launched an OER Affordability initiative that leverages new and existing OER to reduce or eliminate the need for paid course materials for students. The Spring 2017 pilot yielded over $150,000 in cost savings for over 700 students. 

quarks_video_lectureAllen Mincer, Professor of Physics and Chair of the Tenured/Tenure-Track Faculty Senators Council, is participating in the OER pilot for "Quarks to Cosmos" (CAS-CORE), a large lecture course for non science majors. He has developed original online lecture videos, interactive modules, and simulations to replace the use of two required textbooks (Click to see examples).  “No textbook really deals with the material in this course in a way that fits what I wish to teach. But I feel that students need a way to go over the topics covered in lecture, as it is too easy to miss something when it is just heard once,” said Professor Mincer. Because of the complexity of the content involved, OER will allow Professor Mincer to cover topics more efficiently and allow students to use online delivery to review "anywhere, anytime".  OER plays an essential role in meeting pedagogical goals, such as increasing student engagement and learning.  The course has adopted a flipped  structure, meaning that students will engage with OER outside of class and participate in collaborative, active learning activities in class.  In the spirit of affordability, OER will also eliminate the need for students to purchase textbooks that they might only need for a single course. 

fas microeconomics oer

Marc Lieberman, Clinical Professor of Economics, is looking beyond textbooks to consider licensed platforms that students are required to purchase for his Introduction to Microeconomics course.  In addition to online modules and animations, Professor Lieberman is developing an online problem solving platform using NYU Classes.  The course materials developed will replace textbook/platform costs totaling over $300 per student. Additionally, Professor Lieberman’s commitment to affordability has led him to cease the copyright on the textbook that he co-authored, thereby making it freely available.

Both of these OER projects show collaboration across NYU teams, including NYU IT Digital Studio, NYU IT Global Learning and Innovation team, and the FAS Office of Educational Technology. NYU-created OER will contribute to a growing library of course materials that other professors can re-use across the disciplines and units. Click to see FAS OER examples.

Tisch: OER for Creative Coding

Tisch School of the Arts has no shortage of leveraging OER to promote open access to course content.  One excellent use of OER is for the teaching and learning of Creative Coding, an area of programming that is advancing so rapidly that the use of traditional course materials is no longer a sustainable model.  With Creative Coding, students learn how to leverage traditional programming techniques to advance inquiry, critical thinking, and exploration within their fields of interest and expertise.

dan shiffman2Daniel Shiffman, Associate Arts Professor at the Interactive Telecommunications Program and scholar specializing in open source software, has created over 200 open access videos that offer students around the world guidance on coding topics (see The Coding Train Youtube channel).  Additionally, he has been experimenting with more flexible and accessible ways to deliver textbook content. With his first foray into textbook creation, Professor Shiffman found that the traditional publishing process prevented quick and easy updating, as well as multi-format presentation.   The need for a more flexible textbook creation process was apparent. “If I could just write the content of the book in one document, and press a magic button to have a pdf that I could email, a pdf that I could print; I could have an epub version, a mobi version, and I could have a web version.”  


cellular automataWith his second published textbook, Professor Shiffman released an open access, creative commons web version that allowed for interactive simulations related to content.  He utilized The Magic Book Project, an open source tool for creating print and digital books from a single source.  The platform is being developed by Rune Madsen, Faculty researcher and Adjunct Professor with the Interactive Telecommunications Program.

Stern: Affordable Course Materials for Global Economy

For the past several years, Stern has created and used affordable course content for its Global Economy course, a required course for all MBA students. Under the direction of Professor Kim Ruhl (Penn State University) and the late David Backus, Heinz Riehl Professor in the economics group at Stern, students have various options on how they access materials.

Materials, including video tutorials, a pdf of the text, and links to statistical program files, can be accessed for free on the course site.  These materials are posted over time, and reflect the contributions of multiple professors within the program. Students who prefer a printed text are given a free hardcopy version ($5 cost subsidized by the program). The authors use Amazon’s CreateSpace service for printing, and note, “We can buy the book ourselves for $4 a copy plus $0.75 shipping, which is cheaper than having it photocopied locally and put into binders. We also have it for sale to others on Amazon for [~$10], of which $2 goes to us and the rest to Amazon. If we make any money, it will go to the Center for Global Economy and Business to support student research.”

Additional advantages of this flexible approach are:

  • printed copies can be printed quickly, and on demand

  • updates are easy and do not involve a lengthy vetting process

  • multiple instructors can participate in the curriculum-building process and share resources