The Sakai Teaching and Learning Group, an initiative originally of IBM and the Sakai Foundation, honored Daryl O’Hare, adjunct faculty member from Chadron State College’s English and Humanities Department, with the Teaching with Sakai Innovation Award last week.
Currently in its fifth year, the TWSIA is an international competition that seeks to “recognize excellence in teaching and learning,” according to its website.
The contest is based on three categories – pedagogy, delivery, and student support.
The TWSIA, through a panel of 10 judges, recognized individuals in five categories of higher educational innovation in its 2012 contest. O’Hare’s course, English 135: Composition I, won the online/hybrid category.
O’Hare developed one of three transitional courses, English composition, that is used at CSC and funded by a grant from the Kaleidoscope Project, which is corporately sponsored by the Gates and Hewlett Foundations. The goal of the grant is to “use open education resources to reduce costs to students and to serve place-bound learners through distance education,” according to a May 2011 CSC press release.
O’Hare said that the limited course development time frame was the most challenging aspect of the project. Despite the time frame, O’Hare said she was pleased with the end results.
“We had to push ourselves to produce quickly without compromising on the quality of the product. In the end, the challenge was worth the rewards,” O’Hare said.
For O’Hare, open educational resources benefit CSC due to their high quality content at no cost to the students. According to the Kaleidoscope Project’s website, five of the 30 rural counties that CSC serves are ranked among the 20 poorest in the country.
“On the most practical level, CSC students benefit from materials that are equal to or better than the textbooks/materials they typically use, but they receive them at a much greater cost savings,” O’Hare stated. “English Composition I for Chadron State College uses multiple layers of Open Education Resources (OER) on purpose. This course took students’ costs in textbooks to zero dollars without sacrificing the quality they deserve—those savings and benefits are very real.”
In addition to the cost-effective nature of OER, instructors are also drawn to it because of its adaptability.
“For general level courses in particular, where learning outcomes and assessments share a common thread across institutions nationally, instructors and content experts can pool their collective work in ways they can adapt, edit, and reuse the content without losing their academic freedom, expertise, and style of delivery,” O’Hare said. “OER is still relatively new, so my advice to colleagues is to research it as carefully as they do any other resource they use when designing their courses. It’s just one of the wonderful options.”
O’Hare, who has taught at CSC since 2010, is scheduled to present her award-winning course at next month’s Sakai Conference in Atlanta, Ga.