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Sharing about Leeward OER Creation

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The following post is written by Kelsie Aguilera, Leeward CC OER Creation Award Winner for 2018

Kelsie doing workLast semester, I was honored (and thrilled!) to receive the Leeward OER Creation Award (LOERCA). The goal of the LOERCA is to develop original OER materials where none exists or revise and remix existing OER with the addition of original content. I highly recommend applying for one of the many Leeward CC OER Award programs when the application periods open up again this coming spring semester; they are a great way to stay motivated and focused while transitioning to or developing OER.

I was graciously awarded the LOERCA in recognition of the following project I am working on: I, along with a team of three other managing editors, am developing a high-quality, open access biological anthropology textbook with 100% original written content that will be written and peer-reviewed by experts in the field—a project that will be the first of its kind and slated to be ready for use in Fall 2019. This edited book will be available free of charge under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 International License and housed on a website administered by the Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges (SACC), a professional anthropology organization that is part of the American Anthropological Association. In addition, this edited book can be made available on the University of Hawaii Open Educational Resources (OER) Repository and can be uploaded to UH Pressbooks. We finally decided on a title for our book, Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology.

The idea for this projected originated at the 2017 SACC conference in Boise, Idaho. On the bus to an archaeological site, I was chatting with an anthropologist from the California State University system about how great it would be if there were an OER textbook for biological anthropology. After the conference, when we got back home to our respective institutions, rather than just ignore our big idea, we decided to take action and make this textbook a reality. It is so exciting to be where we are now with the project. Over 25 expert authors have submitted chapters for our book, some of whom are big names in anthropology. And dozens more are supporting us as reviewers, illustrators, or designers. We are also fortunate that money will not be a problem for our project; we were quickly awarded the first grant we applied for, a $25,000 Innovation Grant from Minnesota State. If you decide to take on an OER project, no matter at what scale, you might be surprised at the tremendous support you will receive from Leeward CC and your larger communities. For example, receiving the LOERCA was unexpected but much appreciated. As a managing editor and author of this textbook, the Leeward CC OER Award program is supporting the countless hours I have put in to make this textbook for our students.

Although the cost savings to students is obvious, I want to mention another important contribution that our project will make. In the field of biological anthropology, there are less than a handful of “classic” introductory biological anthropology textbooks, some of which are now in their double-digit edition. While I certainly received a solid education as an undergraduate via one of these “classic” textbooks, in what ways are we limiting the voices that teach by privileging the voices of a select few? How many generations of anthropology students have been taught by the same voices with the same perspectives? Our textbook challenges this model by providing our students with a fresh multiplicity of voices, many of which have been traditionally underrepresented in biological anthropology textbooks. OER democratizes not only who gets to learn but also who gets to teach.  

Lastly, a note of encouragement for those who are considering transitioning to or developing OER. The first step is always the most daunting but you don’t have to take that first step alone! There are so many resources at Leeward to assist you along the way. Don’t be shy in reaching out to the Educational Media Center, Library, OER Campus Committee, or me!

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