As part of a shift toward open education at VCU, the OER committee in the Department of Focused Inquiry has begun a grassroots project to build a re-envisioned writing resource to replace our traditionally-published print handbook. The Department of Focused Inquiry primarily teaches a sequence of three courses focusing on critical thinking, information fluency and writing (among other objectives). VCU enrolls over 4000 students in this innovative first- and second-year sequence that replaced traditional freshman and sophomore composition and is taught by over 65 interdisciplinary faculty.
A faculty survey revealed that the use of an $80 required reference book was primarily limited to teaching citation and documentation. Based on these results and a series of committee discussions and votes, the OER committee gained department-wide support for developing OER to replace this expensive handbook.
Given that most of the material in our previous book is freely available and new material is frequently needed to respond to rapidly emerging technologies, we recognized an ideal opportunity to build an OER. Because our faculty already embraces a shared curriculum and frequently and freely shares teaching materials, it was a natural choice for eight faculty members, including VCU Libraries faculty, to develop a project that would initiate our larger OER endeavors. The group sees this and future OER projects as a way to extend the department's collaborative efforts to develop content and establish a comprehensive and fluid set of resources for learning across multiple audiences.
Faculty in our department and elsewhere can develop original content to be included in the OER, and the project will include links to high-quality content available on the web. Individual professors can then design their own course material by selecting from the content and tools we offer, thus giving them an unprecedented amount of control. Our approach will also allow us to quickly add new information, citation styles, and other tools based on user requests and changing technology.
In this presentation, we will explain the history of this faculty-initiated project, our current process and methods for generating content, and showcase the product thus far. We will discuss the challenges we are facing, including the need for funding and support, which has been difficult to find. Further discussion will include planning for updates in citation styles and other content and the ongoing need for programming and technical support. We welcome input, feedback, and content suggestions from our audience.