Developing OER resources for a large first year science unit- SLE103 Ecology and the Environment

When it was announced that there would be OER grants available to help support academics, the task of replacing a custom textbook in our unit SLE103 Ecology and the Environment became an achievable goal.  Our student cohort comprises over 60% of students who are either low SES, regional, remote, students with disability or from NESB and at a cost of ~$124 per textbook, there are considerable issues with equity and access for these students.  When we were successful in obtaining the grant, we employed a casual research assistant, Rachel Lee, who began sourcing relevant materials from existing OER textbooks and other open-access materials. The SLE103 teaching team, led by Tricia Wevill has modified these materials into weekly prescribed readings, and written content to provide relevant, local examples and case studies. 


We will have modified OER resources available for half of the weekly readings in 2022 and will continue to use an existing textbook for the remainder of the content (as it constitutes less than 10% of the text).  The main challenge has been rewriting content or substituting examples derived from American OER textbooks to be more relevant, with local or regional examples.  This is particularly time-consuming, hence our approach is to gradually increase OER content, as we develop it.  For students, the impact will (hopefully) be enormously positive. Apart from the cost savings to them, their weekly readings will now have more content that is directly relevant to   environmental and ecological issues in the Southern Hemisphere, and we hope that this will be much more engaging for them. 

Angie Williamson has led the OER project team and our community of practice and provided excellent support with getting this off the ground. Kate Herford and Astrid Bovell have helped us to navigate the copyright licensing associated with OER materials. Alyce Greenwood, SEBE Liaison Librarian has also assisted to ensure that our materials will be available for Deakin College to utilise and set up in our reading list for T1 2022.