Graduate Student University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, United States
True ‘Open Educational Resources’ (OER) are those that educators and learners can retain, reuse, revise, remix and redistribute. Using OER textbooks reduces financial barriers to STEM education (commercial ecology textbooks have list prices of ~$150-$220 and it can be difficult for bookstores to source used versions of current editions). Faculty adoption of OER textbooks also increases measures of academic success for students, especially those underrepresented in higher education. Finally, OER textbooks promote flexible teaching, regular updating of materials, and the involvement of students in resource development and improvement. Despite the advantages of OER textbooks, adoption remains slow. A survey we conducted on Twitter showed the most common barriers to adopting OER in ecology were concerns about quality of materials, a lack of time to adopt new materials, that there were no comprehensive options, and a lack of knowledge about OER. OER textbooks have been created for many introductory STEM courses and are available through platforms such as OpenStax, Merlot, and OER Commons, but it can be more difficult to find intermediate and upper-level OER textbooks. Our team of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students from both Research Intensive Doctorate-granting and Primarily Undergraduate Institutions developed the "Ecology for All!" intermediate undergraduate ecology textbook. In this talk, we will discuss our process and other models for OER textbook creation and adoption. We will also present various ways faculty have incorporated this and other OER textbooks in their small and large-enrollment classrooms (as the sole textbook, as the supplement to other texts, in conjunction with primary literature, etc.). In pre-class surveys, most of our students reported positive emotions at finding out they would be using a free textbook with some reporting confusion or annoyance. By the end of the semester, nearly all students agreed to positive statements about the textbook’s quality, content, and ease of access. We are using textbook comments in the hypothesis.io platform made by both our students and peer reviewers to improve the textbook. Finally we will give a brief overview of ways to find OER textbooks for your courses and ways to get involved with the "Ecology for All!" textbook if you are interested in adopting it in your classroom.