Montgomery College’s UN Sustainability Development Goals Open Pedagogy Fellowship

The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating conversations around educational access in an increasingly virtual environment. As we have previously written, Open Educational Resources (OER) can reduce financial barriers for students and increase access to college courses. Open pedagogy can also spur teaching innovation by inviting students to contribute to course design and construct learning resources for other students.

Following their participation in ATD’s OER Degree Initiative, Montgomery College faculty and professional development staff built a program that uses Open Educational Resources and open pedagogy to engage students in multidisciplinary learning projects focused on sustainability and social justice—based on the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (UNSDGs).

Renewable assignments for community engagement

For the UNSDG Open Pedagogy Fellowship program, students gather information related to a pressing issue of equity or sustainability and develop multimedia communication products—videos, pamphlets, Prezi presentations, and other tools geared toward community education and engagement.

Previous student projects, which can be accessed on the program website, span a wide range of topics and disciplines. To list just a few: A Spanish-language flyer about the benefits of recycling, an informational pamphlet on waste in the fast fashion industry, and a business proposal for a mobile dentistry facility.

Shinta Hernandez, chair of the Social Sciences Department at Montgomery College, has referred to these assignments as “renewable.” Where “disposable” assignments are learning exercise that students are expected to discard once they’ve been graded, renewable assignments help students develop cognitive skills and knowledge that they can use to help their communities—and can be reused and expanded on later in the students’ education and careers.

Hernandez developed the program in partnership with Dr. Michael Mills, vice president of Montgomery College’s professional learning center ELITE (E-Learning, Innovation and Teaching Excellence), in 2018. Since then, the program has grown fast. Initially, it consisted of 15 UNSDG faculty “fellows” working in seven teams. By the end of the 2020–21 academic year, more than 3,000 students will have taken part in pilot courses, and thousands more will have benefited from the renewable assignments. MC has also brought in institutional partners Maricopa Community Colleges (Arizona) and Kwantlen Polytechnic University (British Columbia).  

Ready for what comes next

Because the fellowship already involved inter-state and international collaboration between partner institutions, “We were already set up pre-COVID to do this,” Hernandez said. She added that the pandemic has increased interest in OER among educators, and is hopeful that changing learning environments will inspire more institutions to get involved in a program that has already demonstrated success in a virtual format.

This fall, the Open Education Global consortium (OE Global) awarded the fellowship the Open Pedagogy Award for Excellence. OE Global praised Montgomery College for “an innovative open teaching practice that incorporates openness in several levels of the learning processes.

Hernandez said this recognition has already sparked interest from potential new institutional partners. "The more students we can impact, the better—better for the communities, of course, but also for the world of open education,” she said. More faculty involved in renewable assignments and OERs would mean more resources being shared in the public domain with more educators. “I think it really can make a big difference in education in general.”

About the OER Degree Initiative

Montgomery College is one of many ATD Network institutions working to increase college access and completion by redesigning courses to replace proprietary learning materials with open educational resources.

As a result of Montgomery College’s collaboration with ATD, Hernandez told us, “We have saved about $6 million of our students’ textbook money, we have over 500 sections of [zero-cost] courses, and we have over 10,000 student enrollments in these sections.”

To learn more, visit the OER Degree Initiative page.
 

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