OER User Story: An Interview Featuring Dr. Sam Zaza, Assistant Professor of Information Systems & Analytics

OER User Story: An Interview Featuring Dr. Sam Zaza, Assistant Professor of Information Systems & Analytics

A headshot of Dr. Sam Zaza

Monday, April 26, 2021

As the OER Grant Steering Committee continues to raise awareness about Open Educational Resources (OER) at MTSU, we’re excited to share a second brief interview of OER Faculty Advisory Council (FAC) member, Dr. Sam Zaza, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Information Systems and Analytics.

Dr. Sam Zaza, Assistant Professor in the Department of Information Systems and Analytics


Introduce yourself to our blog readers

What department do you teach in? Which classes do you most commonly teach? What does your research focus on?

I’m an Assistant Professor in Information Systems and Analytics and most frequently teach Business Data Communications (undergraduate), Applied Business Analytics (Graduate), and  IT applications for Decision Making (Graduate). My research focuses on Perceptions of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity, IT workforce (turnover and turnaway), and STEM Education and Careers.


Tell us about your choice to use OER in your discipline and/or courses

What motivates you to use OER? What was your first experience with OER? Was there a moment when you decided OER was right for your classes?

Being named to the Faculty Advisory Board for MTSU’s OER grant was really important to me because using OER aligns with my beliefs and research about equity. When I began teaching two classes that had been developed by other faculty members, I wondered how I might improve the courses by selecting a different textbook. Using OER, which requires no purchase of materials, helps me to make a statement about my belief in equity.  


Tell us about your students' experiences with OER

How do your students typically react to your use of OER? Can you tell us a story about how OER has supported student learning in one of your courses?

Some of my graduate students have lost their jobs as a result of covid downsizing and other pandemic adjustments. When I tell them about OER, they get excited. They’ll be able to be at their best because they will be able to access free learning materials. They also reimagine themselves as creators of knowledge since they understand that we’re developing the course in-house together. They can contribute to the refinement of the course and be relieved of the expense burden. Had I known about OER earlier, I’d have been able to help one particular student who was not doing well in my class. He shared with me that he could not afford the cost of the book with the HomeWorks link. Using an OER would have helped that student and others who weren’t comfortable enough telling me about their financial situations.  


OER Repository Recommendations

What OER repositories and/or research do you recommend for faculty? Please list 1-2 repositories and/or 3-5 research articles/books and a rationale for why you're recommending them.

I use LinkedIn Learning for my business data communication class. I especially like how it lets me incorporate videos. This way, students can hear the same information and compare how it is presented from different perspectives. These videos also prepare my undergraduate students to apply what they learned.

I did not develop the graduate classes, but now I understand that they were already using OER.  One of them uses publicly available datasets, and both use videos and faculty-developed assignments that don’t require students to purchase a book. 


Future of OER at MTSU

What is your hope or vision for OER at MTSU? Where do you see this OER grant taking us as a student-centered, comprehensive university? 

I believe some students are worried about the cost of the books needed in certain majors, and this cost is a factor in their decision to apply to their major. I see OER is a tool to address these students’ concerns. As a result of OER, I think we will see increased enrollment in some majors. OER has the potential to promote MTSU as an inclusive, equitable university. That institutional profile will attract more students locally and internationally. Most importantly, our students will feel that their socioeconomic background does not have to dictate what majors are available to them. Thanks in part to OER, students will be more satisfied, which may promote their achievements at MTSU.