Creating OER with students "Our Story: An Ancillary to US History"

An OER text for the US History survey with content researched and written by community college students. Currently contains 252,657 words in 31 chapters (with 10 chapters still to be written). Currently being used and evaluated by my students.

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This looks fascination, like the work Robin Derosa has done to have students participate in the research and textbook creation process. Will they be credited as contributors? Will you be sharing your process, approach?

I like seeing the use of many historical images, e.g scanning the chapter on the Great War:

and wondering if these are mostly public domain (I saw two with sources credited). My personal preference with public domain is to credit the source, although by the fine print of the license you do not have too, as it can be a pathway for a reader to pursue more related images.

But again, these projects involving students as content creators are really powerful examples.

I prefer public domain but when not possible I try to remember to cite the source or at least provide the URL of the source. I am having a hard time editing this book with so many hands in the cookie jar (too many cooks in the kitchen). My plan is to write, along with my Spring students, then review/edit over the Summer starting with every image. Focus on using nothing but public domain images but when not possible, then cite the original source under each image as opposed to providing a link, which may be broken by the time someone wishes to view the original source. Sometimes the feeling is overwhelming.

It’s a joy working with students. We are not just collaborating in writing this OER textbook. I use "Our "Story as the textbook for my US history survey, both sections, from pre-contact to 1877 and from 1877 to the present. Students’ reaction to our collaboration has been almost universally strong. One hit is with students who just do not want an electronic book. They want a traditionally printed book. So, when that happens, I give those the students the opportunity to purchase any textbook for sale at the college’s bookstore. I have approximately 210 students each semester and maybe 1 student will want a traditionally printed book.

Here is what students have said about our collaboration, Our Story.

“Our Story is relevant because I can participate.”

“I like to read what other students have researched and written.”

“Exciting to participate in this OER project.”

And students have told me that collaboration was one of the drivers in completing the course. Many have even taken the second half of the survey class with me in part because of our collaborative OER textbook project. A group of five students who took me for the first part of US history all enrolled in my second US history class just to stay together to work as a group. They became friends and even carpooled to and from campus together.

Now, I’m not saying that collaborating on an OER project with your students will necessarily be environmentally friendly by lowering the carbon footprint because your students will carpool to school, but for me collaboration with undergraduates has been an enriching, fulfilling experience and one I look forward to every time I walk into the classroom, I mean, every time I turn on my computer, set the Ring light to “warm” and, take the privacy cover off the Logitech webcam.

One issue that concerns me is editing. This project is immense. Trying to move forward with the writing, teaching students about doing history, selecting images, editing, sometimes things have slipped by. Sometimes the writing is too informal for me, although the students enjoy the informality. Sometimes the images are not properly cited if I am not using public domain, or the URLs used are broken, or text becomes “messed up,” for lack of a better phrase. I could really use a good editor. I was hoping to finish the draft, then go back to Chapter 1 and start a serious editing job, but the more I look at the early chapters, the more I think I need to start editing now. Closely examine those images. I want to do this right. Correctly. Properly.