Introduction to American and California Government and Politics

Political Science 102 - Introduction to American and California Government and Politics

About the Instructor

John Mercurio, San Diego State University

  • I teach POLS 102 at San Diego State University, Main Campus
  • I also teach POL S 101, Introduction to American Politics from a Global Perspective
  • The majority of students are freshmen and sophomores, although there are some juniors and seniors mixed in.  This is a GE requirement, so students come from all majors, and few political science majors/minors are actually in the class.  Class size is usually over 100 students per section.  Most come into the class lacking any real civics education.  There are no prerequisites for the class.

OER Adoption Process

1.  I used to use a textbook and ancillary package from a major publisher (McGraw-Hill) and I was very invested in it, as I was one of the subject matter experts who developed the political science ancillary materials.  However, it costs $120-130 to the students, and I found that increasingly, students were not purchasing the book/ancillary material.  I could not, in good conscience, continue to use a product that was pricing out students and leading to an increasing lack of equity.  So, I began looking into OER materials, primarily using the Merlot database, which is where I found the book I use now.  It is free to students as a PDF file, so they can access it on pretty much any device for no cost.

2. I used the Merlot database, and searched for American Government/Politics OER textbooks.  I reviewed several of them, but ended up with the one I selected due to its coverage of content and ease of access for students.

3. The first edition of the book I used was published about four years earlier when I started using it, and it quickly was becoming dated.  Links in the book didn’t work, graphics didn’t show up, and I had just about reached the point where I was going to look at other OER options when I received an email from the publisher (University Press of Florida) that the book I was using had just come out in an updated second edition.  That eliminated all of the problems I was having with the first edition.

Course Description

The official course description for the course is:  Political processes and institutions in the United States and California.  Considers a variety of public policy issues such as environmental quality, health, education, relations between government and business, taxation, and foreign affairs as reflected in the dynamics of national and state politics.  When taken with Political Science 101, will satisfy graduation requirement in American Institutions.  There are no prerequisites for this course.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. To show students the importance of questioning and critically analyzing information provided by our government, the media, and other sources
  2. To encourage students to think about the world around them and recognize the pervasiveness of politics
  3. To provide students with the necessary information to make informed decisions, both in the voting booth and elsewhere in life
  4. Demonstrate knowledge of political institutions, governmental and non-governmental political actors and movements, and different policy outcomes of the political process
  5. Show the stakes involved in different modes of political action, organization, and thought

Curricular Changes and Student Access

1. What did you change as part of the OER adoption?
Obviously, I changed the textbook, from the expensive one to the free one.  This also entailed rewriting many of my lectures, PowerPoint slides, and exams to reflect the content in the new textbook.

2. How and where do students access materials?
At the beginning of the semester, students gain access to Blackboard/Canvas and I provide the URL to the PDF of the textbook in multiple places.  I have a link in the syllabus, and I have a link in the modules section, under a folder entitled “Web Links”.  The link is .  The bookstore also keeps a small number of copies of the print version of the book in stock, in case students want a physical copy of the book.

Teaching and Learning Impact

Describe effects on teaching and learning that resulted from adopting OER e.g.

  • Do you collaborate more with other faculty now or use a broader range of teaching materials and methodologies, etc.?   
    • I do find that I collaborate more with colleagues.  I am a lecturer, as well as an adjunct instructor at San Diego City College.  At City College, I am actually a member of their OER committee, which was originally set up as a result of receiving a grant from OpenStax to encourage the use of OER materials.  So, I have already been quite involved in the effort to encourage the use of OER materials at City College, which is part of the college’s efforts to increase student equity and engagement.
  • Have student grades improved or stayed the same? 
    • I think grades have risen a little.  What I have noticed more, though, is that students are much more engaged with the readings, for the simple reason that they can afford the book (it’s free) and so they access the book from the very beginning of the course.
  • Did student retention improve?
    • As far as I can tell, my student retention numbers have not changed noticeably
  • Did you experience any unintended results? What were they?
    • With the first edition of the book, there were issues with links and graphics not working, but now that the second edition has come out, I have not seen any unintended consequences emerging

Student Feedback or Participation

The feedback that I have received from my students has been overwhelmingly positive when it comes to the book.  Many have expressed gratitude for the fact that the book is free of charge, and yet also has good content.  A number of my students have said they read the book for that reason, whereas in other classes with more expensive textbooks, they have not purchased or read those texts.

Cost Savings

The estimated cost saving is about $130 per student per semester, when taking the cost of the materials from the previous publisher and comparing it to the free cost of the book I am using now.

Accessibility, Affordability, and Diversity

  • Are the technologies used readily available and affordable for students?
    • Yes, the book is available as a PDF to students at no cost by simply accessing a URL using any internet browser
  • Do the pedagogical strategies support learners with diverse cultural, ethnic, and gender backgrounds?
    • I believe the answer is yes, since it is a straightforward textbook that is widely available to students of all income levels

Sharing Best Practices

The sustainability of open education relies on sharing with others.  Please give suggestions for faculty who are just getting started with OER.  List anything you wish that you had known earlier.

  • I would say to them that OER materials have changed considerably in the last decade.  Ten years ago, OER was very limited, and the quality was noticeably inferior.  Now, however, there has been an exponential growth in the number of OER materials out there, and the quality of the materials have gone up to the point that many are comparable in quality to those from the major publishing companies.
  • I would encourage faculty to review the materials closely before adopting them, just as they would review material from the major publishers.  Many of the books from OpenStax are high quality, as is the book that I use.  There are also a bunch of non-textbook OER options out there, from LMS courses to PowerPoint slideshows and many other options.  OER can also be used to supplement existing texts from major publishers, for those who don’t want to rely solely on OER materials.

How do you plan to share this OER experience with other faculty, staff, etc. who develop curriculum and teach?

  • As I have done many times before, I am willing to sit down with any faculty member who is interested in adopting OER materials and walk them through the process of searching for, reviewing, and adopting texts or other resources.   There are many myths about OER that need to be dispelled, and I am happy to help :-)