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Faculty Interview Diane Duffin-UNK
Dr. Diane Duffin, Political Science
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Well, today I have Dr.
She is a UNK political science faculty
member here, and I have to share something about Diane.
Diane, well UNK started
the OER program in 2015 And Diane phrased it just right.
We were the pioneers for UNK
for OER for the University of Nebraska.
And so Diane was just so happy to hear you and hear your input
from the very early days.
And you have continued to teach OER and saving our students
hundreds of dollars in their in their textbook costs, etc..
But we want to learn about your experience in your classroom with OER.
So my first question, because you jumped in
right away in 2015 as the pioneer.
What was your why in OER
I think about that almost every semester and I think if I were to distill it
to a short answer, I can give you a short answer or a very, very long one.
The shortest answer is this.
I don't like textbooks either. Right.
I teach introduction to American politics and of you know, I've been to that point,
I'd been teaching for 20 years and more before we started this.
So I'd used plenty of textbooks.
I had read plenty of textbooks, and I knew that I didn't like reading them. And
if I didn't like reading them, the students weren't
going to like reading them and textbooks have their place, don't get me wrong.
But what you lose in
a textbook is you've got someone else in control of your course agenda.
If you make the students
buy the book and pay the money, then they should get their money's worth.
And so you should teach out of that book.
And in American government anyway, the textbooks are fairly
broad and shallow on most topics.
It's a survey course, as it should be
and they cover a lot of topics and not particular depth,
and not all of them are as interesting or as relevant to today's students.
So I was looking for a way to make the course more relevant because,
you know, I feel pretty strongly about about democracy generally and wanting
students to be engaged in their democracy and making it continually better.
So I saw the OER as an opportunity to kind of pare out of the course
the things that didn't seem relevant to students
and that didn't get them excited.
And, you know, make no mistake about it, when you when you go to an OER away
from a textbook into an OER you're going to inevitably find yourself
just not covering everything that the textbook covers.
And I think that's fine because I earned my Ph.D.
in my discipline to make me an expert on what people first
approaching the subject need to know and could find useful.
And the OER
also this is
part of the second part of my answer is it allows me to rely on my knowledge
of my discipline to find the things that students can engage with
and give them a deeper content knowledge about fewer things.
What I love about what you're sharing there also about the OER
is that in your answer, I feel that
you were contemplating this
even before we first kind of probably sent out this
announcement that we were looking for pioneers
to start an OER program and teach
an OER at the University of Nebraska, Kearney in 2015.
I just feel was that sort of you were kind of wrestling but didn't maybe know?
Absolutely. And part of that was contextual.
I was at that time teaching sections of that
course that were just for students and teacher education.
So I wanted to be able to tailor the course a little bit
more to the kinds of things
people in the education field would need to know about public policy
and education policy and how it gets made and how they can influence it.
And there are no textbooks on that. Exactly.
So I was looking for a way to to tailor a course to a
particular groups of students.
But it turns out that all of my sections of introduction to American politics,
you know, the teacher had ones and the ones
for the general student population, they just work better this way.
I love that. So when when you
converted your first course to. OER.
And that's been a long time ago.
So I know there's there is you've taught for many years on OER.
So maybe just kind of general through the years.
But what we're looking at is to inspire other faculty about what it takes, etc.
So if you kind of
go back to those early days, but then you know how you've transitioned
and continued to do other courses in OER, etc..
So my question is, what's surprised you when converting
to OER appreciating that you want to inspire people to do this.
I also don't want to give an unvarnished
view of it
One of the things that surprised me was
it was a little more difficult than I anticipated picking materials
because you know, an intro textbook is pitched at the introductory level.
It assumes the students don't know much.
So there's there's one level there.
And then in your academic discipline, there's the professional writing,
and you can't teach that to intro students.
my field, you've got a whole body of work where you the knowledge is there
and you have to figure out
how to distill that knowledge that's delivered for a professional audience
in a voice that beginning undergraduates can understand.
And in the field of American politics generally,
there's just a whole lot of content.
I mean, just look at the information universe around politics in America today.
Most of it is not theoretic or deep enough
that you would want to teach at a college course.
So the hunt for materials was harder than I thought it was going to be.
And I'm continuing to search.
And generally what what I find over the years
is that if I find a piece that works right the students respond to it,
they learn from it, they retain it, they can apply it to new sets of facts.
I'll keep that piece.
But if the piece kind of fails on any of those
you know, informal measures that I have, then I think next semester
I need to find something else to teach that content.
So I will go looking sometimes I will find something better.
Sometimes I have to stick with the thing that's good but not great
and continue the search, you know, talking, visiting with you, Diane.
I'm just going to add another question that I remember,
you know, through these years that you've taught OR OER and specifically
when we've pioneered this in 20,15 2016 we were all growing and and trying to find
where are the resources in each area, you know, looking for different resources.
But I remember recording and having a recording and an interview with you
at that time in your classroom teaching OER.
Could you kind of help the audience understand a visual about how you're face
to face classroom because I think it's still face to face and still face to face.
So, you know, I think sometimes people think, OER
oh that has to be all, you know, all online or all all digital.
But I was so impressed with that classroom with you teaching there.
Your OER course,s the students with their laptops in the classroom, etc.
So so kind of make a visual for our audience teaching OER.
Generally, you have to to
incentivize the students to do the reading outside of class, which is true.
With any kind of content you're using.
But what I was doing at that time,
and I've changed that up many times over so many different versions of my course.
But at the time you were thinking about I would have them do the outside reading.
And then when we came to class, I would give them problem sets.
And I don't mean like mathematical problems,
but what applications for the content, right?
And put them into small groups and have them work through.
Well, here's what we learn from this literature.
Now, here's a scenario that occurs in real life
how can you use this literature to, you know, solve the issue of the scenario?
And, you know, we would do that
almost day in and day out and the students really had to kind of own the material.
But it was also a way to double dip on the teaching because you get
you've got the material that you want them to read
that somewhat theoretical but it also has some applications.
And then you're I try to apply do applications out of current events
so that the students can also be paying attention to and learning current events
and using the course material to make sense of the wider world.
Because the ultimate thing you want to take away is some
some theoretic tools that they can use to just understand
what's going on, what's your courses over.
So when you and just one other question,
because I know you've received a lot of great feedback
with some of the feedback you get from students, because
as we talked earlier, before you came in, we said when they come into Dr.
Duffin's class, you know, they don't know, you know,
I mean, they probably now know they don't have a textbook, but
but they just know this is the way we teach.
What what does what's the feedback you get from students?
A little relief, you know, and I'm not ashamed to say
I can be a little bit shameless on that
on the first day of the course when we're going over the syllabus.
I point out this is the format.
There is no textbook.
I've saved you $150.
You're very welcome. Right.
And they appreciate that. I mean, you know, there's
they don't especially have young students, right?
They're somewhat mostly fresh out of high school.
And they don't really understand how college works,
how college professors work or what they're going to have a wide range
of experiences with faculty across their 120 something credit hours.
But at least early on,
they can get a sense, well, here's someone who's actually thinking
about what it's like to be on my side of the classroom.
And I know that sounds kind of self-serving.
Like I said, I'm a little bit shameless about that,
but I think it's good for them to see that they
that their situation matters to us here.
And then the learning, you know, and the outcomes in the end of the year
when they get through, do they ever say anything in reference to any of that?
With the feedback on the. OER?
they'll comment about some readings they liked better than others.
They're more inclined to comment about readings they didn't like.
And that would be true in a textbook situation.
I mean, I mean, I've had the experience of,
you know, with students, students filling out the evaluations.
They say this textbook was terrible. Get a different one.
I'm not sure
what to do with that information exactly, but I.
Have you got one you would want to recommend?
But, you know, they do evaluate as they're going along.
you know, I can't say that I can really call specific instances
of them praising particular assignments, but I can recall them criticizing
and that you know, that makes me go back and take a second
look if if I thought the assignment worked, but maybe they didn't.
I need to look at that through their eyes.
And, you know, the beauty of of course, is if I decide I don't want to use this
assignment anymore, I can do something different next semester.
So just to kind of wrap up here, I have one other question.
What is there one thing you would say to a faculty member, I'm sure,
and of course, that we're going to have a lot of listeners here,
but I know UNK faculty, too, have come to you.
What do you say to them when they're contemplating teaching an OER course?
Is there something you say?
I think you need to set aside much more time for course development
because the textbook can provide you the structure for the course
and the topics, and the publisher can provide you the ancillaries.
If you really don't want to write your own tests,
you don't have to writing assignments, whatever when you go, OER, it's
it's all on you.
And so what I've done is depending on the nature of the reading
and how I was, you know,
emphasizing different things in the course,
there are a lot of times where you just have to writer a study guide
to go with the reading assignment.
And that takes time.
But I think it pays off because the students,
if they if they use the study guide as they're reading,
they come to class better prepared to work with the material.
And that's what it's all about.
I think so.
That's what it's all about.
So Diane, is there anything I didn't ask you or
we didn't ask you that you wanted to talk about?
You know, I would just say anybody who's contemplating this,
especially if it's of course, you teach semester and in semester out,
I would try it.
And I love that.
You know you can
if it doesn't work, either go back to your textbook or keep working
to make it better, but, you know, decide how it feels for you,
decide how it feels for your students. And then you have to do what works.
It's not for everyone. It's not for every class.
But I think enough benefits are there to make it worth giving it a try.
And if somebody wanted to contact you, how should they contact you
at email@example.com Thank you, Diane.
It's been wonderful having you.
Thank you for saving our students dollars and inspiring them in political science
for the all these years and specifically since 2015.
I thank you for being a pioneer. All right. Thank you.
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