OER courses remain unaddressed

The status of Online Educational Resources (OER) courses that a new professor must take over remains ambiguous in regards to the material used, causing uncertainty for students enrolled in them.

Ethical and union issues concerning OER courses were discussed at the Academic Senate meeting on April 24.

OER-designated courses do not require students to purchase expensive textbooks and are centered around low-cost, online books that retain few ownership rights.

There is no set rule as to whether a professor ought to resume or teach the class using the intended OER book or to teach the course according to their syllabus and text, which may not be OER.

According to OER Taskforce and Professional Ethics Committee member Cara Gillis, in the situation that a professor can’t teach a class or is bumped for seniority reasons, there is no curriculum to follow.

Professors are able to choose the coursework for the online class. However, if the curriculum is subject to change, it infringes on the freedom of the teacher, and then it becomes an issue for the student.

“That seems to fly in the face of academic freedom, which the code of ethics says with respect to selecting our own textbook,” Gillis said. “And if they don’t, what does that do to the students who signed up for the OER course because they thought it was a low or no-cost textbook.”

Essentially, as of now, the fate of students in this situation is apparently at the hands of the replacement professors, who may choose to teach using the designated OER textbooks or decide to use their own curriculum.

“We are wondering if there is a way they can turn it into where if you were bumped and you weren’t OER, it wouldn’t count on your records as refusing a class if you weren’t prepared to teach OER. That’s why we think the union has to get involved in it,” said Distance Education Coordinator Wendy Bass.

The Professional Ethics Committee hopes that a solution that accommodates both students and professors of OER can be implemented. In such a solution, students can remain in an OER regardless of circumstance, and professors, especially adjuncts, who are asked to take over a course, but aren’t OER familiar, don’t face the risk of having a refusal marked on their records.

“My concern is mostly for the students because that’s my orientation, but I’m particularly concerned as well about academic freedom because that’s really important,” Faculty Position Priority member Ann Hennessey said. “I suppose to some extent it depends on the discipline, but I certainly wouldn’t want someone else picking textbooks for me.”

Secondary items discussed at the meeting were upcoming college events, including the National College Fair, the UCLA STOMP Conference and the UCLA and CSUN Day.

Details on these events are all available at the Career and Transfer Center in the Student Services Building.