More Than Skills

Following is the third of a series of posts by participants in the Spring 2021 Open Pedagogy Fellowship, coordinated by the Mina Rees Library. Fellows will share insight into the process of converting a syllabus to openly-licensed and/or zero-cost resources, as well as their experiences in the Fellowship.

Di Wu is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science at the Graduate Center, CUNY. He has earned master’s degrees in Business Management and Computer Science. His research interest is Temporal Semantic Web and Database Management. He has been teaching introductory courses at CUNY since 2015. Currently he is teaching Principles of Database Management Systems at Baruch College. Di has a strong commitment to education and has dedicated effort and time to communities that lack resources.

My journey

I came to the United States as a student. While I was happy to experience the new culture, I was surprised by the super expensive textbooks: while my monthly rent of a shared room was around $400, a textbook had a price of $200+. The professor required everyone to obtain a physical book and created assignments directly from the book. It was a disaster in many ways.

Then I started to teach at several colleges as an instructor. With my experience as a student in mind, I tried my best to accommodate the needs of my own students: I placed some copies of the textbooks on reserve in the library so students could borrow them by taking turns; I reduced the assignments from the book and made it open and accessible; I made detailed slides so students could rely less on the textbooks.

However, as I started to teach graduate level courses, textbooks were not the only problem. We often need to get access to academic publications and they are limited by all kinds of copyrights. Even though we distributed the PDF files carefully via BlackBoard, there are still many concerns about violating some laws and causing some trouble. To play it safe, we had to reduce the amount of reading—to sacrifice the quality of education and sacrifice the future of our next generation.

I am grateful that the GC library provides this opportunity to graduate students who will be a part of the academic community. I understand the selection process is very hard given the limited spots available. After applying five times, I was super excited to be selected in my final year for the program.

My experience

The experience I had in the workshop was far beyond my expectations. I thought I would learn some skills, mostly techniques and skills in how to find and prepare Open Education Resources. In fact, I learned a lot about the philosophy of education. I had some understanding of OER, but I had never organized my thoughts so systematically. Many participants in the workshop shared their experiences and perspective, and so many great ideas emerged from the discussion. I can understand different opinions much better, thus, I can find solutions much more practically.

For example, I thought open knowledge is free accessible knowledge and simply thought the users (students) have the right to the resources. However, the discussion in the workshop reminded me that for a sustainable knowledge creation/distribution environment, we also need to address the creators: Who will pay for the work? The discussion also changed my view on knowledge creation. Academic scholars and publishers are producing knowledge, but the users are improving and evoking knowledge. 

Life Is Sharing” by cogdogblog is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I learned where I can search for Open Education Resources, such as the Directory of Open Access Journals and the plug-ins such as Unpaywall. I learned that some articles I had happily collected were from fake journals—which was what I should be careful about. 

I learned and built a course site for my summer CIS3400 (Database Management Systems). The GC Commons site powered by WordPress is easy to use and to start, but it does need some effort to be perfect. I was able to set up the frame of the course site quickly, and now I am working on the details to make it as clear, convenient, and professional as possible. I am confident that my students will be smiling and have no burden to start their learning process.

My future

The experience I had in the Open Pedagogy Fellowship workshop was pleasant, exciting, productive, and profound. Besides the many techniques I learned to find Open Education Resources, I shaped my philosophy of teaching and had a much better understanding of what education is and how education should be conducted. As a graduating student who will start his career soon, I really appreciate this opportunity.

About the Author

Katherine Pradt is the Adjunct Reference and Digital Outreach Librarian at the Graduate Center.