Social Work Student and Professor Present at Online Learning Consortium in Florida

Like some of her classmates, Miriam Rodríguez struggles to pay for college. An adult learner at Hostos, she returned to college in Fall 2017 after a three-decade break from the classroom.

One pleasant surprise that has kept the social work major on the road to success:  Open Educational Resources (OERs). OERs are often online learning tools released under a copyright license that permits anyone to freely use and repurpose them. They include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, journal articles, and any other tools or materials used to support learning.

For Rodríguez, they have eliminated the cost of expensive textbooks and helped her focus more, because the classes using OERs make her work more independently. She loves the teaching tools so much, Rodríguez has appeared on several panels to speak about how they have helped her, including one at Hostos last spring as part of the Bronx EdTech Showcase at Baruch College for the SUNY/CUNY Showcase. Also, most recently, at the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) in Orlando, Florida on November 15.

Dedicated to advancing quality digital teaching and learning experiences designed to reach and engage modern learners, the Consortium welcomed both Rodríguez and Hostos Assistant Professor of Sociology Sarah Hoiland. Professor Hoiland is another huge advocate of OER and introduced Rodríguez to OER in Fall 2017 in her Intro to Sociology Class. The pair talked about how OERs have not only saved money, but helped students interact more with faculty and learn more efficiently.

Hoiland has seen her students thrive with OERs. “Miriam contradicts the belief that adult learners are not tech savvy,” said Hoiland. “She has absolutely excelled with the kind of interactive, individualized OER learning offered through Lumen's Waymaker in my classes. The systematic approach to course learning objectives, coupled with automated responses upon quiz completion, helped her as she started her college career.”

“By reading and taking quizzes prior to class in a flipped classroom approach, Miriam was the first to ask questions about course material and to contribute to small group discussions during class, allowing her and others to participate more fully. For students like Miriam, OERs make college more accessible and removes one of many possible stressors,” added Hoiland.

According to the College Board, students spend approximately $1,200 a year on textbooks and supplies, which amounts to 14 percent of tuition for students in public four-year colleges, and 39 percent for students in two-year colleges. Hostos has joined CUNY’s Office of Library Services to help lessen these burdens by supporting the promotion and use of OERs. CUNY faculty who develop OERs may deposit their materials to CUNY Academic Works' Open Educational Resources collection, where they are searchable and free to be used by all.

Dedicated to helping others through social work, particularly those struggling with addiction and homelessness, Rodríguez is planning to work toward a master’s degree. “It was a great experience,” Rodríguez said after returning from the national conference. “I am so grateful for OERs that it was easy for me to talk about how they have helped me. Aside from the monetary savings on a textbook, they also help me hone in on my study habits like I never imagined.”