Last week, we celebrated International Open Access Week with guest posts from some of our friends, and we decided to keep the party going a little longer! Today, June Oh, Assistant Professor in English & Digital Studies at The University of Texas at Tyler, shares her thoughts on the joy of an open access syllabus.
Recently, I realized something about open access. It’s not just about those publications I want to get; it’s about the support for the teachers. Previously, I shared my experience as an international student finding joy in open access (“Humanities Commons for International Students and Scholars”). Now adopting from an R1 university to an R2 mentality, and with a few access issues every now and then, what I experience daily isn’t just about research. It’s about teaching—and how open access is a shining light for a busy, worried, and eager instructor.
I’m a new hire with three new class preps and upcoming class pilot proposals for a new minor, a new certificate, and a new PhD program on my radar. As I was entering the job market as an English literature major—18C literature—I learned pretty quickly that all academic jobs, at least for the first several years, will ask me to teach outside my comfort zones and expertise. It does. And I need help.
From class activities and rubrics to syllabus and learning objectives, open access teaching materials available on Humanities Commons soothe my new hire anxiety. Googling works too, but sometimes the promising-looking syllabus sits behind the veil of the university proxy. Other times, I venture into platforms like “Teachers Pay Teachers” but rarely find higher ed materials. As of October 20, Humanities Commons hosts 402 items that are categorized as syllabus. Just looking at the topics and the titles of these courses inspire me. Also, what I love about Humanities Commons’ open access is that it opens space for what I consider teaching-in-progress. I search for “Digital Humanities syllabus,” and I see Kristen Mapes’ syllabi from 2017, 2018, and 2021, among others. What I see in these syllabi are Kristen’s continuing revisions and experiments with her pedagogy, materials, and approach. I know in theory no class is perfect and it’s a work in progress. But the academic plague of perfectionism gets in the way. That’s when actually having access to and reading the syllabi from other instructors through open access platforms is saving my day.
It’s starting to get chilly and the university bookstore is asking for a book request. And tonight, I’ll make some tea and find joy in open-access syllabi.