Case studies: using open educational resources at La Trobe

Modernising first year economics pedagogy

Dr David Walker
La Trobe School of Business
Subject: Economic Issues and Public Policy (BUS1BUE), and BUS3ECW
OER adopted: The Economy by CORE Econ

Adopting an OER as the key text for first year Economics students provided the flexibility needed to create a modern curriculum built around core Economic principles and real world, up-to-date examples.

What was the catalyst for you to change to an open textbook in your subject BUS3ECW?

For this subject, the catalyst was to move to modernise the first-year economics curriculum. The open access text is based on modern insights of economics and takes a different approach in that it uses data and examples to help motivate and inform theory and policy responses.

Did you have any challenges, and if so how were they resolved?

A key challenge is related to the content and resources available with using the open access textbook. In changing to a new curriculum and open access text, we have had to develop a lot of supporting teaching resources, such as questions and topics for discussion. The more traditional textbooks would come with instructor resources and guides that would assist with this. However, this has also enabled me to structure the content and frame the questions and topics more precisely to what the things we want to cover.

What are the key benefits/impact for your students?

The benefits are that it doesn't cost the students to buy a text and this new text is written more as a narrative around using economic principles. It integrates real world examples in how problems are solved and showcases the seminal economic works more so than the traditional textbook. In this way it provides a deep understanding of the principles of economics.

Is there an equivalent commercial text you looked at using/were using?

No, this subject was developed from this textbook. A more traditional first year economics subject was developed from the textbook Gans et al.. Principles of Economics, that we use in BUS1BUE (Economic Issues and Public Policy). For that subject we are also now using the digital version in the library rather than require students to purchase a book. We have now combined the two of these subjects and use a combination of the open access textbook and the traditional textbook.

Overall, our use of this particular open access book benefits students as it provides an alternative pedagogy to teaching first year economics. “It does stimulate interest, but it’s not just the book — it’s the resources and approach overall,” - Further commentary on David Walker’s use of The Economy in an online learning world radically altered by the Covid pandemic.

Customising an open text for equity and access

Dr Mathew Marques
School of Psychology and Public Health
Subject: Social Psychology (PSY2SOC)
OER adopted: Social Psychology customised Noba open textbook

In this video shared at Open Access Week 2021, Social Psychology subject coordinator Mathew Marques talks through his experiences developing a custom digital textbook from the Noba platform to creatively engage student learning, reduce barriers, and support equity.

Now with further hindsight, here are Mathew’s reflections on two years of using the custom open text:

What have your students told you about their experience with this open textbook?

It's the second year that we're using that Noba text with 2nd year Social Psychology students and early feedback from students is that they appreciate the resource. They've remarked that the accessibility and being free are great. It isn't a panacea in ensuring all students do the reading, but it does speak to the ethics of prescribing a text that is free as opposed to a costly resource that many students may not end up buying or accessing at all.

Has your experience with the Noba book inspired you to use other open educational resources in your teaching?

I am moving another class to an open access resource for statistics (4th year methods class; PSY4MIP) Learning Statistics with Jamovi in conjunction with the use of the associated open source software program Jamovi (instead of the proprietary software IBM SPSS).

Opening up for Academic Success

Associate Professor Tanya Serry
School of Education
Subject: Learning Literacy (EDU1LLI)
OER adopted: Academic Success (Bartlett, C., Cawthray, T., & Clark, L. (2021))

Switching to a new text helped to resolve ongoing student access issues due to both restrictive licensing and new editions being unavailable to the Library in digital form. Adopting this open textbook for this core 1st year subject has generated up to $45,650 of student cost savings by replacing a traditional commercial text.

Why OER?

The Fifth eEdition of the current text was not yet available at the commencement of the subject so I sought an alternative. [The Library] alerted me to Academic Success. I found it to be a little more straightforward than what we had used (Communications Toolkit).

What would the ideal resource for this course look like?  

Academic Success was good. On its own, it was not enough for the subject, but it was easy to find additional sources to supplement readings.

What were the challenges?

None that I am aware of, but I cannot verify how many students read the prescribed text.

What were the benefits?

  • Easily accessible.
  • Clear, short, and specific chapters.
  • Excellent examples used.

Any other points that would be helpful for us to know?

As this text is for Year 1 SEM 1 students, many of whom are doing a pathway course to get into a Bachelor of Education, the text needs to be as readable and accessible as possible.