News and Events

Students save big thanks to MHC’s first OER

March 10, 2016

A collaborative effort between faculty and staff has led to the creation of Medicine Hat College's first Open Educational Resource (OER) and a savings of $12,000 for students.

After months of research, revisions and review, Peggy O’Sullivan’s online textbook was introduced this semester to 65 first year nursing students enrolled in her cellular molecular microbiology class. Her course was selected from eight MHC proposals to participate in the OER project because of the number of students enrolled and the high price tag of the required textbook ($200). Her proposal was then submitted by Vera Bracken Library staff to the Alberta OER Initiative and received a $25,000 grant from the provincial government to help fund the project.

Peggy O'Sullivan 

O’Sullivan, together with Denise Holt, Chelsey Reid, and Andrea Woods, formed a committee last April to tackle the LibrOERy project.

“It’s been a labour of love,” says O’Sullivan of their goal to create and implement the OER by January 1, 2016. “I had a great team working with me. We all had distinct jobs and collaborated really well together. We are proud of what we have accomplished and that we are able to provide MHC students free access to this microbiology material.”

She explains that the point of this OER project was not to write a new textbook but to use copyright free materials to create a new resource. It was quickly discovered, however, that much of the microbiology information online was not covered under the Creative Commons copyright license which slowed the research process. With the help of Holt, a library research assistant, and Reid, the college’s copyright officer, the team was able to compile the necessary resources to support the project. The expertise of MHC’s educational technology services was then called upon last fall with Barb Mitchell working with O’Sullivan to produce lab videos and Andrea Webb designing the online resource.

The final product included 17 chapters of text, two videos, and in text references to scientific papers, journals, online videos, professional organization postings, and websites. While she admits she tried to include too much information in an attempt to make the OER adaptable for other courses, O’Sullivan learned many valuable lessons in the process and believes the advantages to OERs are significant.

“As an instructor, the OER project gave me the flexibility to choose and assemble lecture material to meet my curriculum rather than having to match my lecture material to a pre-published textbook. I was also able to include videos, assignments, review questions, and animation in my OER lecture notes and chapters - things I couldn’t do using a publisher’s textbook."

Despite the challenge of a balancing a busy teaching schedule with project deadlines, O’Sullivan would do it again.

“I didn’t know what I was getting into at the time but it was a good experience for me. As an educator, it’s nice to know I’ve been able to contribute to education, everywhere. It was about collaboration and how we can share information. I think OERs are the way of the future.”

Above photo: Science instructor Peggy O'Sullivan stands with a microbiology textbook that has been replaced with her OER.