Open Author tool

Just last week a faculty at one of our Collaborative Learning Days sessions on Faculty Select asked if there was a repository or OER authoring tool sponsored by the college. I answered “no”, and talked a little about some of the online tools available to aspiring OER authors our on the web. Then just today I ran across a tool that’s new to me, from OER Commons. It’s called simply “Open Author“, and it looks like the perfect authoring tool for many faculty who want a simple way to create or remix, and share open licensed content with their students and with other faculty.

This tool is free, has a Google account login option, has a simple editing interface, and lets you import documents and other resources from Google Drive or OneDrive.

Check it out and let us know what you think!

Some textbook & OER news today

I had two different articles shared with me today related to textbooks and affordability.

First, an update on the Cengage/McGraw-Hill merger. Already opposed by student accessibility-minded groups, it’s now also opposed by college bookstores due to a new Cengage policy that discriminates against students who need to use financial aid funds to purchase online pass codes to access their book or complete their homework. Read more here:

Second, OER champion David Wiley writes about some potentially problematic language in what should have been a great win for OER advocates. He explains that the language adopted in a new UNESCO charter paves the way for less flexibility and fewer options for user saving and copying of open-licensed materials. Read more here:

Interesting court decision on CC-By-NC licensed work

I try to keep up on current issues on copyright, fair use, and open licensing at part of my work as a librarian. This case kind of surprised me — I would have assumed, as the school district did, that I could pay a copy company to make copies of an open licensed text. Thankfully (in my opinion) the court found in favor of the school. Always interesting to read these decisions, makes me realize that my understanding only goes *just so deep*, and makes me thankful for more knowledgeable people who blog about it!! 

OER use by commercial publishers

I just read a very interesting article from “Inside Higher Ed” on the recent upsurge in use of OER by commercial publishers. It’s also the topic of a new guide by longtime OER advocates ISKME, titled “Toward a Sustainable OER Ecosystem: The Case for OER Stewardship“.
By open licensing their creations, OER authors (mostly — see this discussion of the “Noncommercial” Creative Commons feature) leave the door open to commercial use of that resource that the authors clearly intended to be used for free by faculty and students. Commercial use would seem to contradict that intention. The authors of the new ISKME guide began the work of clarifying when commercial use would seem to be in accord with the author’s intentions (such as creation of an online homework system based on and in support of the open licensed content), and when that use would tend to be in bad faith. Take a look at the guide and please comment your thoughts on this important issue.

Leaving the Textbook Behind

by Emily S. Logan, Assistant Professor, Kirkwood Community College

Emily 2017 copy

With the support of the Kirkwood OER team, I am now utilizing open resources for two courses, Substance Abuse and Treatment and Loss, Trauma and Resilience.  Both are Human Services (HSV) courses and offered in the Kirkwood ATAW (online) format.  I began considering this shift about a year ago and intend to continue the use of open educational resources for both courses.  As I reflect on my experience, some themes emerge.


Perhaps to you can relate to the struggle in finding the “right” textbook for your course.  My office bookshelf is littered with my attempts. The ongoing search for a better book left me frustrated.  The more frequently I taught the courses, the more I brought in “supplemental” readings, outside of the required textbook.  From these experiences, I wondered if relying solely on open educational resources, as well as other non-copyrighted sources, would be a better alternative.


Research, theory, policy, and practice move quickly in human services, so textbooks too become quickly outdated. I found myself editing course readings semester to semester due to new developments in the field, often inspired by a conference I attended or collaboration with community providers.  As an applied program, having current, up-to-date information for students is critical.


Integrating new resources empowers my creativity as an instructor. Familiar course material becomes new.  Furthermore, the flexibility of online instruction and utilization of electronic resources such as podcasts, websites, and video creates a dynamic learning atmosphere.


Through the use of open resources, I ask students to make connections between research, theory, policy, and practice.  Weekly modules typically contain content and applications.  Content knowledge is evaluated by quizzes, and applications are evaluated through discussions.


Students overwhelmingly like the videos I create to introduce the week’s material.  Even if the video is just a few minutes long, it seems to help students understand how the week’s assigned content is tied together.  Furthermore, I can explain the websites I’ve chosen and help students see what parts of the website are most critical.  For example, when assigning Understanding Drug Use and Addiction (, I use Zoom technology to share my screen and highlight key points or links on the webpage.


Without a textbook, we lose many of the convenient publisher resources including presentations, notes, and test banks.  This can increase preparation time for faculty, so commitment to the process is critical.

Concluding thoughts….

If you’re curious about leaving the textbook behind, contact me anytime.  I’m happy to talk more about my decision, process, and lessons learned along the way.