The Magic of OER

Posted on September 21, 2022

By Rosie Liljenquist - Publishing and Open Access Librarian

Once upon a time, so all the stories go, there was a librarian and an English professor who wanted to not only save their students money on textbooks but also innovate their teaching. Luckily, the concept of open education was familiar to them both and they set out to create a curriculum that would support their teaching objectives and hopefully be easy on their students’ wallets.

Transitioning to OER can be daunting. Collaboration and creativity can help! Through the creation of a hybrid introductory academic composition and information literacy course imbued with fairy tales, the building of an OER came rather naturally. The course was unique and would inherently require the frankensteining of resources. Using OER was a logical choice given the interdisciplinary nature of the course. Luckily, many of the canonical fairy tales are in the public domain and available on a variety of websites. Similarly, there are a lot of early college writing and information literacy textbooks and resources openly available. Materials were abundant!

The course was structured by tale type: Cinderella tales, Beauty and the Beast, Tricksters, Little Red Riding Hood, to name a few. The beauty of teaching this way is that it allows for a diversity of tales to be presented. Different cultures have different tales that fit specific categories. Many of the students had been tangentially introduced to fairy tales in large part to growing up with the Disney versions. Allusions in popular culture abound making connections between the tales and their varieties easy topics for discussion.

Fairy tales in academia is also a rather niche field which lends itself well to highlighting the ACRL Framework of Information Literacy. There are six frames that aim to support the discovery, analysis, and ethical use of information. One of the frames is “scholarship as conversation.” This frame works well within the field of fairy tales because much of the contemporary literature is in active conversation with each other and the discipline’s seminal works.

Using OER supported a student-led learning approach in the creation of the syllabus as well as choice in the topics for research. A biology major for example inspired by the wolf in the Little Red Riding Hood tale type researched the re-introduction and proliferation of wolves in Yellowstone National Park. The possibilities for research are magically endless! 

For more information about integrating open educational resources and information literacy in your curriculum please see Intersections of Open Educational Resources and Information Literacy edited by Mary Ann Cullen and Elizabeth Dill. To purchase a copy please see the ALA bookstore. The chapter “‘All the Better to Teach You With’: Integrating Composition, Information Literacy, OER, and Fairy Tales” can be found on Rosie Liljenquist’s W&M Profile through ScholarWorks.

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