panOpen Releases OER-based Courseware for Texas Government

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The courseware represents a new model for creating, maintaining, and using Open Educational Resources

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A compelling collaboration. The faculty authors brought the writing talent, curation of open resources, and understanding of what works in the classroom; panOpen brought the tools for faculty and students, the editorial support, and learning design. Dr. Terry Gilmour, Professor at Midland College

panOpen, a courseware company that helps educational institutions adopt Open Educational Resources (OER), announced today the release of groundbreaking, interactive courseware for Texas Government, a required course for all public higher education students in Texas.

The work, which is being released under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC license, has been designed, organized, and authored collaboratively by community college teaching faculty from across the state. They not only have Texas government expertise, but also an understanding of how best to reach students with the subject matter through decades of experience teaching it.

After reviewing and choosing to adopt the work for his own classes, Dr. Reed Welch, Teel Bivins Professor of American Politics at West Texas A & M University, commented, “"I was impressed how this text covered topics in more depth (than others he was considering and using), with better explanation but I didn’t see superfluous coverage."

Relying on an open model for usage and for its production, panOpen’s Texas Government improves equity of access for economically disadvantaged communities, and shifts the authorship from a single perspective to a multiplicity of voices. This replaces the conventional “edition cycle” with a work that is always in development, extending and iterating, and, crucially for faculty adopters, enables localization of materials and includes community-specific content.

“It’s a compelling collaboration. The faculty authors brought the writing talent, curation of open resources, and a strong understanding of what works in the classroom,” noted Dr. Terry Gilmour, Professor of Government at Midland College, where she runs the honors program, “panOpen brought the tools for faculty and students, the editorial support, and the learning design.” Professor Gilmour, who was awarded Teacher of the Year, contributed the chapters on political culture and local government.

The Government Department at Houston Community College has a strong presence in this iteration of the work, with contributions from three of its faculty: Professors Mark Shomaker, Andrew Teas, and Penny Watson. Professor Shomaker, who previously co-authored a Texas government textbook with a major publisher, noted the difference in the experience between commercial and openly licensed textbook authorship: “This is an approach that blends the best of open and commercial. As an open resource, we can adapt quickly to the changing circumstance and keep costs low to students; at the same time, the model preserves the recognition that authors deserve for their work. This has been a missing piece until now in open publishing models.” Professor Shomaker contributed chapters on the court system of Texas, interest groups and the Texas criminal justice system, and co-authored the chapter on the executive branch of Texas government.

Professor Teas sees the courseware as an expression of best practices in teaching the material. “Whether online or my own images from onsite at the state capitol,” Professor Teas notes, “I like to mix it up for students and pull in a range of resources for my class. The courseware has allowed me to bring it all together into a single narrative flow.” Professor Teas contributed the chapter on the legislature and supported the chapters on financing state government and Texas public policy.

For Professor Penny Watson, the inclusion of social media and other multimedia are crucial elements in today’s classroom: “To reach students effectively, one needs to meet them where they are, and use the same technologies that they use to connect with one another and develop their worldviews. The flexibility of the new courseware not only allows this group of faculty authors to achieve this, but faculty adopters can carry this forward and adapt the social media threads to their local contexts.” Professor Watson contributed the chapter on Texas political parties, elections and participation, and co-authored the chapter on the executive branch of Texas government.

“The state legislature met this past January and passed important legislation,” commented Dr. Kevin Jefferies, Professor of Government at Alvin College. “What’s more, some of these new laws won’t have a practical effect until this summer or beyond. While traditional textbooks lock the material down long before such events can be reflected, the panOpen courseware is constantly a work in progress, incorporating the latest developments in state government.” Professor Jefferies contributed chapters on the Texas state constitution, the American federal system, financing state government, and Texas public policy.

“This work on Texas Government is an important milestone in the movement toward distributed forms of educational content authorship and collaboration made possible through the open license,” noted panOpen’s founder and CEO, Dr. Brian Jacobs. “Gone is the hard and fast distinction between textbook author and faculty adopter. Openness allows a blending and cross-over of these domains that have been historically determined by publishing technologies and are now artificially sustained through the commercial copyright. We are thrilled to work with this impressive group of faculty authors who are concerned not only with the quality and integrity of the work but in making a difference in the classroom, for their own students and for those of others.”

About panOpen

Designed by educators, panOpen is a courseware platform that realizes the promise of OER by providing all of the components required for its widespread use. panOpen offers complete peer-reviewed content, customization tools, assessments, analytics, LMS integration, and a means of financially sustaining campus-based OER efforts. With panOpen, faculty adopt enhanced interactive OER as they would a commercial textbook, with confidence in the quality and reliability of the content. panOpen preserves the virtues of OER—radically reducing textbook costs and freeing faculty from the constraints of commercial copyright—while delivering the quality, features, and ease-of-use faculty expect from their learning materials. The result has enormous implications for pedagogical practices, changing the relationships of instructors and students to their educational content. To schedule a demo of panOpen’s new Texas Government courseware, click here.

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