Bringing Columbus Professionals’ Advice to the Classroom

After talking with a former student about the Affordable Learning Exchange program, Communications professor Mary Sterenberg was interested in getting rid of the required book for her COMM 3334 class. With ALX’s help, Sterenberg replaced the required book with free materials such as original writing and first-person expertise videos from established professionals in the Columbus area.

Through the Affordable Learning Exploration Grant, Sterenberg’s new resources will save students $34,800 during the 2017-18 school year. Learn more about Sterenberg’s experience developing openly licensed content for her class with the help of ALX.

Q: Why did you decide to pursue this project?

I had lunch with a former School of Communication student who works for ODEE and we started talking about the grants and ideas for reshaping the COMM 3334 class as part of the ALX program because she had taken that class. I was energized at the thought of having the support to create a custom resource aligned with the class learning objectives while also introducing students to local professionals and potential career options in the field.

Q: Can you tell us about the materials you found while creating your new course resources? Did the resources you found meet your needs and expectations in terms of quality and credibility?

My project is somewhat unique in that a large portion of the material used is first-person content contributed by local professionals based on their own expertise and the work they do for actual clients and companies on a daily basis. I also coordinated with University Libraries and looked to credible industry resources. With a professional background in public relations, I feel like I had a fairly good appreciation for the reputable resources used by industry professionals and that was helpful.

One of the local professionals who shared his experience was Nick Dekker. He discusses his blogging strategy for Breakfast with Nick and provides helpful advice to students looking into similar career paths.

Q: How has the input of students helped to shape the new textbook you’ve put together?

Working with students is my passion and this project is no different. A student worked with me as an independent study spring semester and we met weekly. She helped me develop and administer a survey to the spring COMM 3334 to give us benchmark data on how students were using the course’s textbook and preferences on ways to consume information. She also gathered resources and created materials for my collaboration with local professionals. On a larger scale, the new online textbook and video series I created are the culmination of comments and feedback I’ve received from students over six years of teaching this course.

Q: What advice do you have for others thinking about reimagining their textbooks and course materials?

Take the time to look at what others are doing within the university, at other universities, and even in other industries. The possibilities for innovative ways to teach are endless. I didn’t want to do something different just to be different. But I did want to create the best possible way for my students to learn the course material in a way that made them excited about their future careers.

Take advantage of the ALX program—it gave me the push to dedicate the time and the resources to bring to life my vision for the best version of this course. I had great intentions before participating in the program, but this process made it happen. My project manager helped me make step-by-step progress and connect with many resources within the university I didn’t realize were available to me. The funding allowed me to create professionally-produced videos that benefit the students but also build relationships between Ohio State and the local employers who hire our students as interns and entry-level employees.

ALX is now accepting proposals from instructors who want to transform their courses using open and affordable materials, just like Mary did! Any course is eligible for consideration–from small seminars to large, multi-section general education courses.

APPLy here

Applications are due Friday, Sept. 8, 2017.

Learn more about the program and opportunities for faculty to get involved.