I am a writing instructor who teaches several levels of writing, from Writing 115 (Introduction to College Writing) to Writing 227 (Technical Writing), and I have long been interested in making my course materials, such as handouts, videos, audio files, shared readings, etc., easier for students to access from a central host. I have used Moodle for years—mainly only for posting course syllabi, handouts, and assignment instructions—but I’m interested in learning ways to use this more thoroughly and effectively. I’m also bothered by (sometimes even appalled at) the ever-rising costs of textbooks. Each term this is a common complaint from my students, many of whom are not able to obtain their textbooks until the second or third week of the term when their financial aid becomes available, which can put them at an early disadvantage. To remedy this, I typically scan the first few textbook sections/chapters/readings and make them available on Moodle as PDF files. This has been a terrific help to my students and has prompted me to finally move forward in designing a Moodle Dev shell to centralize and make more readily-available my course information and materials.
Several years ago I taught a Writing 121 course at LCC without the usual required course readings text. Instead, I gathered readings from different sources and posted them on Moodle (I also made copies for students who requested them). There were a few issues for some of the students whose access to and experience with computers was at first limited, but allotting additional class time for basic Moodle instruction seemed to eventually remedy this for the most part. I thought the class was a success overall, and my students agreed, with many of them expressing gratitude at having saved money and not finished the term with a textbook they’d only opened a few times.
I have chosen to do this for Writing 115 because I have taught the course for years and am most familiar with its content and materials. I have also found that Writing 115 students, many of whom are just beginning their college careers, sometimes lack the resources (and occasionally the willingness) to purchase multiple textbooks, resulting in my settling on a single text for the term rather than have the freedom to cull materials from multiple sources. For similar reasons, however, I have some concerns about just how successful this will be for this population of students, many of whom tend to be new or nontraditional/returning students who have in the past proven to be somewhat less techno-savvy than my students in higher-level courses and may even fear a more technology-based classroom experience. For this reason, I wish to make this as simple and straightforward as possible. To this aim, I plan to use a Moodle Dev shell to set up the course, as I am fairly familiar with it and find that most of my Writing 115 students have at least some experience using it or are, at the very least, beginning to learn to use it for their other courses.
So far in my Writing 115 courses this term, in addition to posting basic course information on Moodle as I usually do, I have moved almost completely away from paper copies of in-class handouts in favor viewing these on screen during class, and I have instead posted them to Moodle for students to access or print outside of class. And while I’m still using a traditional textbook for class readings, I have also posted a few supplemental OER readings for the term and plan to add more as the term moves forward.
I do have a few concerns about the availability and stability of web-hosted OER materials, especially with regard to newer publications, as well as some questions around copyright infringement. I’m also curious to see what problems, if any, I or my students might encounter in this transition and whether my students will truly benefit from it in the long run. I have come to love the classroom experience and have been at times reluctant to change what has so far worked well for me and my students. I now consider this an opportunity to enhance that experience rather than replace it. I’m also excited to have finally begun this process and look forward to better serving my students.