Earth and Mineral Sciences

College of EMS launches open educational resources initiative

University Park, Pa. — Everywhere teachers and learners have access to the Internet, they now also have access to a rich collection of educational resources created for the popular Penn State course "Geology of the National Parks."

Professor Richard Alley, principal author of the course, observed that "some of the world's best geological features are enshrined in the U.S. National Parks. Geology of the National Parks is a tour of important geological ideas as well as a virtual tour of some of the beautiful places in which these ideas are revealed."

Nearly 1,000 Penn State students enroll in the course each semester, which is offered both online and in the classroom. However, many more interested individuals around the world cannot enroll in the formal course, or don't need to earn academic credit. Now they, too, can benefit from Alley's insights.

The collection — which includes digital video (such as recorded lectures), a complete digital textbook, and many illustrations and animations — is part of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences' new "open educational resources" initiative, which is online at

Alley, his wife, Cindy, and colleague Sridhar Anandakrishnan created the resources over the past 10 years in collaboration with instructional designers and media specialists in the college's John A. Dutton e-Education Institute.

The resources, which Penn State calls "courseware modules," are freely available for non-commercial use under a University-approved open source license developed by the Teaching and Learning with Technology group of Penn State Information Technology Services. Open source licensing is permitted under University policy RA-17, which establishes that academic departments control the use of courseware modules that their faculty members create.

Students who wish to earn academic credit and get feedback from Alley and his instructional team still need to register and pay tuition to Penn State.

Other pioneering contributors to the EMS Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative include Paul Howell, professor of materials science, MATSE 081: "Materials in Today's World"; Michael Adewumi, vice provost of International Programs, PNG 520: "Phase Relationships in Reservoir Engineering"; Sarma Pisupati, associate professor of energy and mineral engineering, EGEE 102: "Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection"; Ian Turton, research associate in geography, GEOG 585: “Open Web Mapping”; and David DiBase, Dutton Institute director, GEOG 482: "Nature of Geographic Information"; among others.

"I hope that this is the beginning of a comprehensive University initiative in OER," said DiBiase.

For commentary about OER and related topics, see the Penn State World Campus blog "Terra Incognita" at


Last Updated March 19, 2009