Development of the PrepLab, an Open Educational Resources Repository
As graduate students at Virginia Tech, we have the unique position of holding roles of both students and instructor simultaneously. Graduate students are often given the responsibility of teaching their own course without sufficient resources to plan one of their first teaching experiences. This Virginia Tech Graduate Academy for Teaching Excellence (VTGrATE) project draws from the areas of technology, computer science, and education to create the PrepLab, a curated open educational resource repository.
The PrepLab will provide graduate students with access to transdisciplinary teaching and learning materials in collaboration with and hosted by the VT University Libraries. Officially defined by UNESCO in 2012, open
educational resources (OER) are “teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.” The resources that would be curated and available include: curricula, syllabi, course notes, assignments, assessments, and facilitation guides.
To date, no such resource exists at Virginia Tech that is geared toward graduate students and their specific needs. Additionally, no repository is currently available that allows for easy modification and re-mixing of content while preserving authorship history. Existing repositories of open access educational resources (e.g. OER Commons, Open Michigan, MERLOT) only promote the sharing and reuse of materials pre-packaged for different scopes, either providing individual lesson plans and activities that can be integrated into a specific course or entire curricula from the syllabus, lecture material, and assignments.
The innovation of the PrepLab will directly address what is currently lacking, in particular the re-mixing material while maintaining authorship history of the component pieces that enables the full range of open-access philosophy. This added component allows for continuous student collaboration across disciplines to promote transdisciplinary pedagogy. The proposed prototype of the repository will focus on resources that have been developed and implemented by graduate students at Virginia Tech. Future iterations would increase the user base of the OER Repository to instructors both at and outside Virginia Tech.
As each discipline is important, the advent of transdisciplinary research will be able to provide a direction to where new and strong discoveries are made. The PrepLab is providing a platform where instructors of all levels, including graduate students teaching their first course, will be able to creatively engage with the practice of teaching by using or adapting openly available resources. The mission of this repository is to create a space, albeit a digital space, where the boundaries of each discipline fall away to link education, creativity, and innovation. The nature of sharing educational resources is collaborative in the learning and discovery process where a graduate student that wants to provide calculus notes for her advanced engineering class can find those from another graduate student that taught calculus. The PrepLab will be the creative space that allows for inspiration and innovation for stronger, better teachers. The bulk of the development of the PrepLab consists of managing digital resources, and coding features of the repository. This will occur digitally and hosting will be made possible through our collaboration with the VT University Libraries. There will be no physical location associated with this work, and no technical resources from ICAT are requested.
The prototype of PrepLab is still in development. We have enlisted the help of CS4624 students in the construction of the prototype after spending the semester researching pedagogical needs of graduate student instructors. Through our research and conversations with other creators, we came across the concern of adoption barriers. We have set-up a project for better understanding of graduate instructor needs in the re-mixing of teaching content and the potential barriers to adoption. Our hope is to counter these barriers before the prototype is completed to ensure adoption of PrepLab. We are presenting about these barriers at the upcoming Conference on Higher Education and plan to submit the results in the upcoming year.