NEXT: OER Courseware - Creating Personalized Learning at a Lower Cost

With its promise of affordable course delivery, easy accessibility for students and effortless customization for instructors, open educational resources (OER) are gaining popularity in higher education. But as its popularity grows, questions still abound: Where does the courseware content come from? Is it suitable for my syllabus? And is it really free? With its growing suite of OER courseware and analytic tools, BNED LoudCloud, a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble Education, has been a leader in the growing open resources movement, and has worked closely with faculty, administrators and educational technologists to help answer some of those questions.


Working with both academic content providers and college faculty, Barnes & Noble Education Senior Digital Content Manager James Metzger, and Course Editor Danielle Lindsey, work on the development of BNED Courseware. “OER can be a really broad term and those who attend our presentations and training sessions come with incredibly varied backgrounds, experiences and expectations,” Metzger says. “Their interest usually stems from what kinds of affordability initiatives are happening on their individual campuses,” he adds.


In addition to affordability and access concerns, the LoudCloud team has also found an array of skill levels among faculty incorporating digital course materials into their course content. “It can be incredibly time consuming for instructors to scour the internet and find these resources on their own, so from the outset, we recognized that some faculty are interested in an out-of-the-box conventional publishing product — which Courseware readily does,” Lindsey explains, “while others are more interested in customizing and adding their own touches to the high-quality content.”



The comparison to traditional publishing isn’t incidental. “We work in a lot of the same ways a conventional publisher would,” Lindsey explains. “The courses that we’ve developed are authored by subject-matter experts — people who are leaders and actively teaching in their fields — and from sources such as OpenStax. All content undergoes a very thorough vetting process from experts and equally qualified reviewers.”


“There are a lot of eyes on the materials,” Metzger agrees, “not just to confirm their accuracy, but to ensure the breadth of content is appropriate for the course and that the content is written in an engaging manner,” he says. Questions and concerns about the costs of Courseware are openly addressed by Metzger and Lindsey, educating faculty how they can freely obtain content from an open resource provider such as OpenStax, but that Courseware also takes the simple downloadable PDF to another level. “What we’re doing is designing a product with not just the course materials, but we’re also curating videos supporting that content that will engage students, creating homework assignments, discussions and developing a thousand-plus test questions and self-check quizzes that really pull together a whole course experience for both instructors and students,” Metzger says.


These additional learning assets are proving to be useful for students. In recent survey conducted at the Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS), over 74 percent of students using LoudCloud Courseware watched all the accompanying videos to their courses. Intentionally designed around the student experience, the platform also provides an exceptionally clean, mobile-friendly interface as students increasingly access their course materials from their phones.



As a leading provider of digital education services, Barnes & Noble Education understands where the demand lies for new courseware, and Metzger and Lindsey believe they’re already seeing the beginning of the future of learning. Although a full-print companion is available to students using Courseware, less than 20 percent requested it. “They’re digital natives, and a lot of what we’re now doing is packing functionality into the course materials — clicking on a word to get its definition is a different way of learning — and that’s something you can’t get with a printed version,” says Lindsey.


The LoudCloud team is currently working on more course offerings, with 15 additional titles in development, focusing on new subject areas. “The current trend is on general education, but we would argue that the areas that would really benefit most are those focusing on general training and business topics such as criminal justice,” Metzger says. “We’re also focusing on two-year colleges, where there’s so much potential for us to help students — where the rising cost of textbooks is becoming an increasingly critical issue.”


Article reposted from Barnes & Noble College NEXT.

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