I have heard that sometimes adjunct faculty are assigned to teach a class at the last minute, often with the textbook already chosen and sometimes with a syllabus to follow. No one should argue that this is an ideal situation. But I also wonder how often instructors teach their courses to meet the align with the textbook they are using, rather than teaching the way that works best according to their context (e.g. students and their understanding of the subject)? I know I did it this way when I was a new faculty member. One of the claims regarding open source textbooks is that they lead faculty to think more deeply about their pedagogy and their contexts. This is what popped into my head when I read Cathy Saunder’s wonderful thought-provoking post: “How Good Can a Course that Follows a Standard Textbook Be?”
For some years, I’ve wondered why there tend not to be open textbooks in English Literature or Composition. OER publishers have told me that they prefer to publish open textbooks that have a large market. English faculty have told me they don’t typically use textbooks, but rather anthologies with commentary. Cathy made two points in her post that caught my interest:
“The class is, however, a huge one, with over 100 22-student sections taught each semester, and the instructor community is correspondingly large (even with many of us teaching 3 or 4 sections a semester).”
“Because 300-level composition courses with similar learning goals are rare, we don’t really fit into an existing market (though this doesn’t, of course, keep textbook reps from trying to convince us that they’ve got the perfect book for our class).”
These points made me think that there is indeed a large market for suitable English OER, and that we might be able to expand Cathy’s model of creating and sharing resources as follows. An OER publisher connects a group of interested instructors, who work together to develop not a textbook, nor an anthology, but a collection of readings, annotations, commentaries, and other resources. The OER publisher creates a platform that would allow instructors to easily create their own anthology, by picking and choosing from the collection of resources, which the platform would then turn into a finished book. The book could be made available in a variety of digital or print formats for free or modest prices. One could imagine asking students to contribute to the collection as well in the form of renewable assignments that David Wiley has discussed and Robin DeRosa has experimented with. The platform would also keep the master copy of all finished books created, for use by those adjuncts who are hired at the last minute or anyone else who didn’t wish to create their own customized anthology. What say you @OpenStax & @LumenLearning?