by Judith Sebesta, Ph.D., Executive Director, DigiTex
As some readers may recall, I was a professor of theatre for many years (see Ready Player One, Hamilton, and Me: “Liveness,” Mediated Communication, and Building Relationships in a Virtual World for some thoughts related to this prior avocation).
In 2013 I transitioned to a career focused more broadly on higher education innovation, becoming an advocate for Open Education along the way. In 2018, I had the opportunity to combine my experience teaching theatre with my passion for Open Education, redesigning an online Theatre Appreciation course that I was teaching as an adjunct instructor to utilize primarily OER. As a result, in addition to increasing affordability for the students enrolled, the class became much more effective through better alignment between the course materials and the competencies/learning outcomes and assessments.
Flash forward to this fall, when I was invited by staff in the Digital Learning Division of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to participate as an observer in a virtual training, “Bring Your Own OER,” created to celebrate the first-year anniversary of OERTX, the state’s digital repository of OER for Texas students and educational institutions. The training showed participants how to get started contributing course materials using OERTX’s digital authoring tool, Open Author. Although I originally intended to stay on the virtual sidelines, I was inspired to “bring my own OER” to the repository.
So, in October I charged myself with contributing materials from my OER-based Theatre Appreciation course (which I last taught in May 2019). As I imagine readers “of a certain age” like me may understand, I felt some trepidation at learning new skills and transferring theory I learned in the training to practice. Fortunately, the Open Author tool quickly allayed my fears.
Open Author — developed and powered by OER Commons, as was OERTX — walks the course materials contributor through a clear, step-by-step process that includes opportunities to engage in such activities as
- creating materials in text boxes;
- uploading/importing existing materials in various file formats;
- selecting appropriate categories and attributions via drop-down menus;
- tagging and providing metadata for discoverability of materials; and
- adding alignments with courses in manuals like the ACGM and WECM.
A convenient built-in checker helps ensure that the resources are accessible and compliant with WCAG 2.O, WAI-ARIA, and more. Resources can be previewed in both instructor and student views before publishing. Submitting my resources only took about three hours (although I was uploading existing, not creating new, materials). Once the OER are submitted, they are reviewed by OER Commons staff and, if approved, made publicly available. You can find more information about Open Author here, and my Theatre Appreciation course, including a syllabus, learning outcomes and competencies, readings and videos, and assessments, is available here.
Users of the resources can review and evaluate them, an important part of quality assurance processes and reciprocity within the Open community. Ideally, this reciprocity also would include revising and remixing the OER, adapting them to different contexts, and then contributing those resulting resources back to the repository. My Theatre Appreciation resources have yet to be reviewed or, to my knowledge, adapted and redistributed through OERTX — but I remain hopeful that they will prove useful to other instructors and become even better through these Open affordances. When I first began teaching theatre full time in 1997, I never could have imagined a thing called “Open Education,” but I did dream of an education system where more affordable and equitable access to knowledge would be possible. As Hall & Oates sang, Open Education, “you make my dreams come true.”