New River Community College’s (NRCC) Open Text Initiative System (OTIS) is a virtual library of linked and original documents chosen by faculty, originally English faculty and now faculty from other disciplines. OTIS is an example of an open education resource (OER).OTIS allows faculty to collect and store documents to create, supplement, or enhance a course offering. Faculty have their own individual spot in OTIS where they upload materials; and, because NRCC faculty have opted to share their resources, anyone within a discipline or program who functions within OTIS can access any resource in the total or individual OTIS offerings. OTIS is a means for faculty to collect resources and to deliver easily and quickly any number of stored items to students or any other persons for whom materials are relevant.
OTIS originated in concept in the early fall of 2011 as an outgrowth of English faculty unrest with both the content of textbooks and the frequency of textbook revision. Instructors felt pressured to use texts they knew students were not reading and many were not purchasing to be able to pay tuition and other expenses. Revisions were not bringing new materials into the classroom either at all or in a timely fashion or both. Faculty were already supplementing from the Internet and other sources, including documents they themselves were creating. This unrest and discussion reached the college president who then challenged the English department to find a solution that would satisfy the issues instructors faced.
As a result of the college president’s innovation challenge, two members of the English department spearheaded the collaboration with the information technologies department and OTIS began taking shape. OTIS was to be a library from which English instructors could draw both pedagogical and reading materials to accomplish composition outcomes for students. The driving thought was that students do not learn to write from reading textbooks; students learn to write by writing and reading quality writing others have produced.
By spring 2012, OTIS was ready to test and it was implemented for English 112, second semester freshman composition, for fall 2012, as the substitute for a textbook. From its implementation, OTIS has increased in use and has moved to being a major source of material for a number of courses in other disciplines and areas of New River. Faculty and staff continue to find new ways to use OTIS and it promises to be a valuable educational tool for a long time to come.
OTIS is a simple tool. Users login to find a complete collection of uploaded resources which are labeled and tagged accordingly. They can draw in various ways from the complete OTIS library, from their own spot in OTIS, or from other users’ resources. They can create a collection of their own resources by linking from the Internet or adding their own documents.
Resources are primarily shared by all participants from all disciplines represented. One can upload individual links or documents he or she has created. Individuals may elect to use an entire collection or edit it after cloning the collection, rearranging the order and deleting or adding what the user wishes.
OTIS is user friendly. It has easily-recognized icons that guide the participant throughout the process of viewing or using it. It allows instructors to provide entire courses by semester, week, or theme. It makes individualizing a course simple. An instructor can deliver one link or numerous links to one or many students as OTIS creates a URL at the touch of the computer mouse.
OTIS is currently only available for college faculty and staff in the Virginia Community College System.