When I first began teaching at Kirkwood as an adjunct in January of 2016, I was handed a traditional textbook for the Developmental Psychology section I was teaching at the Linn County Regional Center. As many users of this blog will know, Academy sections like that one have a set textbook used for a few years. A year or so later, when I began to teach non-Academy sections, I largely carried over the textbooks I had used there as a starting point.
However, my background is in educational psychology, and I have a particular interest in the use of innovative technologies and methods in learning, including open educational resources – my dissertation even examined one aspect of OER use among adult learners! In part because of that background, and in part because I was very familiar with the costs associated with my own textbooks as a graduate student, I started in 2017 to look at more affordable options.
It was during that search that I came across the Noba Project, a collaborative effort bringing together scholars from many areas of psychology to provide open-access, free-to-use, Creative Commons-licensed teaching and learning materials. Noba provides a series of short modules on a wide range of psychological topics, from the biological bases of behavior to social influences, and everywhere in between. Instructors can build their own text from the available modules (what I do) or use a pre-made textbook from the project group. Both options are completely free.
In the summer of 2017, I first adopted a Noba text for my Introduction to Psychology course, and I have maintained that use in every Intro to Psych section since – though I’ve adjusted the modules I use over time. The flexibility of the Noba Project allows for me to provide a PDF file for students to download and a browser-based version of the text, and it is also possible to embed (through internal resource links) individual modules into specific topic areas within Talon and other learning management systems. In addition, I’ve worked with some folks in the bookstore to make paper copies available (often for ~$30) for those students who prefer to have a physical book.
Noba is a great option for getting started with OERs in psychology thanks to an easy learning curve and a simple transition from a textbook model. I know one concern that a lot of instructors have in switching is the availability of quizzes, review questions, and the like. One great benefit of Noba’s resources is that registered educators can access pre-made quizzes, lecture notes, assignments, and other traditional instructor resources, while your students can still see and use images and videos that are provided as learning tools within the modules.
The Noba Project model is one that I firmly believe could be useful in nearly any field. It combines what I see as the biggest positives of traditional textbooks (built-in resources, relatively frequent updates, & ease of use from the instructor side) with some of the largest advantages of OERs (reduced cost, portability, & ease of access from the student side). I have had a very positive experience with Noba for Intro to Psych over the last two years, even to the extent of using some modules as supports in my other courses. I am also currently working towards completely converting my sections of Developmental Psychology and Educational Psychology to OERs as a result of that success, so hopefully I’ll be back with another post soon-ish!