Champion of Open – Luca Argenti

Luca Argenti
Department of Physics

Describe your open educational resources and/or practices:

Before the start of Fall 2020, all faculty at the UCF Physics department teaching one of the many sections of PHY2054, Dr. Bhattacharya, Dr. Brueckner, Dr. Cooney, Dr. Dhalla, Dr. Jerousek, Dr. Kang, Dr. Kara, Dr. Reyes, Dr. Tetard, Dr. Vaida, and myself, have taken the collective decision of adopting OpenStax College Physics, a free online textbook, to reduce the financial burden on our students. In the past, several of us have expressed reservations towards adopting OpenStax, since the quality of the book is not uniform, and the collection of exercises in it has only a partial alignment with our standards.

To supplement those known deficiencies, many of us have started aggressively developing new material which will become a reliable database for future iterations of the course. It is particularly worth mentioning the massive development of new quizzes on the part of Dr. Tetard and Dr. Kara, which have been instrumental to administer sufficiently randomized exams in remote modality, as well as Dr. Tetard’s development of an electronic lab kit, at zero cost to the students, based on the reusable and inexpensive Arduino integrated board. On my side, I  have decided to bite the bullet, using Pressbook to revise all the sections of the textbook pertinent to the course. In the course of this revision, I rewrote whole paragraphs to increase clarity (and completeness, accuracy, logic …), and I have interspersed the text with interactive elements, such as quizzes and embedded simulation pages. The text, seamlessly embedded in online course modules with the help of Jim Paradiso, is now the backbone of the course.

To complement the text with new quizzes, I have independently implemented a code that can generate multiple-choice questions featuring arbitrary mathematical expressions in the text body and in the answers, which are evaluated on the basis of randomized parameters. This tool exports the question banks in both QTI format, to feed canvas quizzes, and in a text format that can be used with a simple cut and paste to feed the html5 quiz sets in Pressbooks. The elaboration of the material is ongoing, but the hope is that all the new tools we have been developing will become a permanent and unique feature of high-quality low-cost undergraduate education in Physics at UCF.

To conclude, the initiative of the Physics Department, led by Dr. Mucciolo, to institute alignment committees for our introductory courses has been instrumental to build the consensus and critical mass required for these initiatives to be tracked, passed on, and have a lasting impact.

Describe the impact open educational resources and/or practices has had on your teaching and/or students’ learning: 

The adoption of an editable open source has been essential to mold the textbook so that it would fit the needs of the course, rather than the other way around. To some extent, it has been easier to follow a consistent narrative, and to keep students engaged with the material. The SPIs have not been issued yet. However, a large fraction of the students have participated in a survey on the textbook. The vast majority of the answers have been positive or very positive. The most appreciated components of the textbook are hands-down the H5P interactive quizzes that I have added to the text. While it takes time to develop these features, their positive impact is clear, and they become permanent part of the textbook. With large test banks, it was also possible to be much more elastic in the administration of graded quizzes and exams. tudents have been given the chance of practicing in advance with quizzes similar to each exam, since they are unlikely to encounter the same question twice, or to have questions coincident with those of their peers. Furthermore, some students experienced health, family, work, or connectivity issues which could be easily circumvented by rescheduling individual exams without altering the integrity of the exercise. I cannot imagine giving up any of these features in the future, even after the COVID pandemic will be over.

What is one piece of advice for other faculty interested in OER/P?

Go for it. By editing a sentence here and there you can transform a generic textbook in the perfect companion of *your* course.

Related Resources