This Open Educational Resource (OER) is the product of a grant from the state of Florida to the John C. Hitt Library and Center for Distributive Learning at the University of Central Florida. The purpose of the grant was to create OERís for large introductory classes in the sciences and humanities. Recent studies at UCF have shown that the cost and accessibility of textbooks factors greatly into the success of student learning. If textbook costs are too high, students are unlikely to buy the books they need for class. This significantly impacts their performance in classes and leads to higher drop, fail, and withdrawal rates (DFWís). The problem is particularly acute in large introductory classes that are part of the General Education Program (GEP) at Florida public universities. The GEP is made up of introductory classes in the natural sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities, math, and communication. Regardless of their major, student participation in the GEP ensures they are exposed to the fundamental concepts of a liberal arts education, which helps them become more informed global citizens and instills in them a life-long desire for learning.
Unfortunately, the cost of introductory textbooks in many of these classes is very high. Because of the price, and the limited use of the texts, students may forgo buying their required books. It was thought that OER material could help alleviate the burden of buying texts while at the same time adding a layer of convenience and mobility for students. The authors were asked to create an OER text for the large introductory GEP course ìGeneral Anthropologyî which is listed in the Florida system as ANT 2000. General Anthropology is an introduction to the discipline of anthropology that covers the four main sub-fields of biological anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, and cultural anthropology. While classified under a different name at schools outside of Florida, it is a common course in many university curricula. We were both excited and anxious to take on the challenge of creating an OER text, but once we decided on our goals, the mission became clearer.
We had three goals in creating our OER content: namely, 1) to create a free and accessible text for students, 2) to supplement existing gaps in OER content that already exists, and 3) to create a flexible text that instructors can integrate into their existing classes. In regard to the first goal, we visualized the creation of a conventional four-field text written in a jargon-free accessible voice aimed at undergraduate students. The purpose of the text was to introduce students to the core methods, theories, and debates in each sub-field and provide them with discipline-specific terminology. The text would be made available through the Florida State Educationís Orange Grove website and available for viewing or downloading anywhere students had an Internet connection. This goal changed slightly once we began researching existing OER material.
After an extensive search, we learned there were surprisingly few OER texts related to anthropology, and the ones that did exist had consistent gaps in particular sub-fields ñ namely, biological anthropology and archaeology. After seeing where the gaps existed, we decided it would be more productive to address the gaps in the present material as opposed to rewriting what was already available. In addition, it was a fortunate coincidence that the gaps appeared in biological anthropology and archaeology, as these are our sub-disciplinary specialties.
Our final goal was related to instructors who might be using the text. We wanted to create an OER text that was flexible and could be integrated into existing lesson plans. At UCF, as at many other Florida schools, multiple instructors teach ANT 2000. We know that as instructors we all have our different styles, areas of expertise, field-stories, and preferred case studies. Unfortunately, we are also required to adopt the same core text for all ANT 2000 classes. This regulation can conflict with our individual teaching styles and preference for instruction. We tried to work around this problem by focusing on essentials ñ concepts, methods, theories, core debates, and terminology ñ and keeping smaller case studies to a minimum. We also avoided references to popular culture and very recent current events, as these kinds of examples can outdate a text rather quickly. We thought this approach would allow instructors the freedom to teach what they wanted, while still providing students with the essentials they need to successfully complete the course and understand the value of an anthropological perspective.
So how should instructors and students use this OER content? We recommend using this text as a supplement to other OER texts that focus on cultural anthropology and include chapters on linguistics. We specifically found Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology edited by Nina Brown, Laura Tubelle de Gonz·lez, and Thomas McIlwraith to be a particularly authoritative and comprehensive supplement. Perspectives is endorsed by the American Anthropological Association and contains core content associated with cultural anthropology written by leading figures in the field. Instructors should also feel free to supplement OER content with professional journal articles, book chapters, book-length ethnographies and any other material they believe would teach students the principles and value of anthropological studies. We encourage students to use our OER as a reference for terminology, methods, theory, and concepts in biological anthropology and archaeology. We also included an introductory chapter that discusses why anthropology is unique as a social science, the sub-disciplines of anthropology, the culture concept, and what you can do with a degree in anthropology.
General Anthropology is one our favorite courses to teach and we have been teaching it for over ten years. Every semester we enjoy seeing how students expand their perspectives on life after being exposed to anthropology. It's one of the most rewarding parts of teaching anthropology to undergraduates. We hope instructors and students inside and outside the Florida system find this OER content helpful and engaging, and we invite them to adopt it for their classes.
Callaghan, Michael G. And Williams, Lana