Dina Borysenko is a full-time Chemistry and Biochemistry instructor in the STEM pathway. Dina is an active member of the MATC community serving throughout the years on various committees and projects (FQAS, OER, Competency-based Education, Innovation and Problem Solving, 21st Century Classroom, Learn Pilar Integration, audit of Instruction and Assessment practices through DEI lenses). Before joining MATC, Dina was a full-time faculty at Alverno College and was involved in designing and implementing ability-based assessments. She also served as a chair of the Milwaukee section of the American Chemical Society, started and led an award-winning after-school science and math program for high-school girls, and served as a Faculty Support Coordinator at the MATC Center for Teaching Excellence. Currently, she is focusing on building faculty-driven, efficient and meaningful processes for student learning assessments (Career Essentials). Dina earned her MS in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from the National Technical University of Ukraine. She had a successful career as a research and development chemist prior to joining academia.
1. What led you to believe that OER is the future?
There are several aspects to this question. First, at some point, I realized that many of my students struggle financially and have to choose between buying a textbook or paying rent. So I started to look for less expensive alternatives to science textbooks which can often cost up to $300. Second is the sustainability and environmental impact issue. I started looking for electronic resources for those students who don't mind reading online, and more environmentally friendly laboratory experiments. I stumbled on entirely free resources in my search, and they were not bad at all! In fact, some of them are even better quality since they are peer-reviewed much more than any commercially published textbook (they are open for everyone, and many allow to submit corrections that are implemented right away rather than waiting for a new edition). And the last aspect is flexibility. In my department, it is often 7-8 instructors who teach the same course, so it isn't easy to agree on one textbook or lab manual that we all like. I am sure we still have such disagreements, but at least now, students don't have to pay $300 for something that is less than perfect.
2. How do you use OER in your classes? (This can include what materials you use, how you found them, and why you use the particular ones you use.)
Currently, our department uses OER in four courses: Introductory Chemistry (Chem 110), Intro to Biochemistry (Chem 186), and a two-semester sequence of courses General, Organic, and Biochemistry (Chem 207/208). Due to the nature of Chemistry, all of our courses have a lab component. Our department completely replaced laboratory experiments manuals for these courses with in-house ones in the last five years. We each wrote a lab or two, piloted it, and then published it internally. Students only pay for printing. So each student saves at least $80-100 in each class. We are talking about at least 20-25 sections each semester with 20 students in each section (a saving of $32,000+ per semester). Not only saves students money, but we also were able to incorporate experiments that we believe are beneficial to our students and that enhance their understanding of the theoretical material. In addition, we strived to make them safe and environmentally friendly. One of my colleagues is now writing in-house labs for another two courses (Chem 211/212)!
Besides lab manuals, Chem 110 also uses an OER textbook which students have an option to print themselves or buy selected chapters at the book store using financial aid. Again, they only pay for printing and a bookstore fee, which significantly cuts their cost. As far as quality, it needs some supplementation, but so do all textbooks since we teach specific outcomes and that doesn't always follow the table of contents.Nowadays, you can even find an online homework component that accompanies OER, which we are looking at adding. For now, we collaborated and created online homework in Blackboard LMS and shared it so we all could assign it to our students.
3. What is a highlight of your experience teaching with OER?
Autonomy and flexibility. We can choose what to use, how to use, when to change, and serve our students better and at a lower price.