Case Studies In the Transformative Power of Open Digital Courseware

Concurrent Session 3

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Brief Abstract

Join a panel of faculty members and an educational technology innovator as they use case studies from universities and a community college to illustrate the transformative power of open educational resources (OER) and digital pedagogy - beyond the use of openly-licensed educational resources to lower the cost of course materials.


Brian launched his first company, Akademos, an internet-based company that focuses on new models of distributing physical and digital course materials, in 1999. After leading Akademos for more than 12 years, Brian left his operating role to found panOpen, a company that provides the digital infrastructure to support institutional use of Open Educational Resources. He's also been a mentor for Techstars, and NYU's edtech accelerator. Prior to his work in education technology, Brian was in academia: as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Government and as a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for German Cultural Studies, both at Cornell University. He also received fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, University of Goettingen, and Yale University. Brian earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in English and political science at the State University of New York at Albany, and a doctorate in political philosophy and social theory at Cornell University.

Extended Abstract


  1. Share successful case studies from faculty to demonstrate how digital open courseware in traditional higher ed classrooms can help redefine the relationship between content, teaching, and learning.  

  2. Introduce participants to OER and open courseware, including new and innovative functions of customized digital learning platforms currently available to institutions of higher education.


Measurable Objectives:


By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Explain the definition of OER, including a brief history.

  2. Explain how new and innovative functions of customized digital OER platforms support technology-enhanced, blended, and flipped learning environments, including interactive formative assessments embedded in the digital text, and active reading functions such as highlighting note-taking.

  3. Describe innovative teaching and learning models that are supported by a newer, more dynamic model of OER.  


Session Description for Participants and Program:


Many educators are interested in the potential of lowering the cost of textbooks and other course materials through Open Educational Resources (OER). Other faculty may already be taking advantage of the affordable and flexible benefits of OER, but may not be tapping into the full potential for pedagogical change that OER - and open models of learning - can provide in contemporary higher education.


Educators can benefit from the transformative power of OER to design innovative learning environments that:  

  • refocus face-to-face classroom dynamics away from traditional lectures and toward more interactive, learner-centered model with blended and flipped learning designs

  • replace static traditional textbooks and other learning materials with flexible, adaptable, customizable, and sustainable learning experiences that be continuously created and revised as knowledge - and standards - change

  • offer truly unique and customized learning content and digital media that is untethered from copyright restrictions and traditional textbook models


In this session, join the discussion to hear a panel of faculty and an educational technology innovator as they describe first-hand how OER provided the support for innovative digital open learning models at two universities and a community college.  


Specifically, you’ll hear about how three higher educational institutions use OER as a jumping-off point for course redesign that elevates student engagement, collaboration, and 21st century learning in three case studies:  

  1. A seasoned Business instructor from Penn State Behrend redesigned his traditional face-to-face Microeconomics course into a successful flipped learning environment, supported by a customized open digital interactive textbook.

  2. Faculty from Rockland Community College (NY), designed customized English learning modules using exploratory questions to guide the learning process around Open English literature resources, such as Project Gutenberg.

  3. When Biology faculty at University of Kentucky searched for a traditional text to align with their objectives, they didn’t find one that met their needs. They used, instead, a combination of  third party OER and their own content to achieve their goals.


Also, on Thursday, April 6 at 8:45am join Drs. Fizel and Jacobs in a follow-up Emerging Ideas Session for a more personal discussion about Dr. Fizel’s experience redesigning his traditional face-to-face microeconomics course to a blended flipped learning environment by incorporating open educational resources (OER). In this more focused session, Dr. Fizel will describe his initial vision and goals for the flipped learning model, including the positive learning outcomes that were achieved through following his course redesign. He will also explain how he used principles of instructional design to overcome many of the obstacles that faculty fear - or experience(!) - when flipping their classroom in a blended learning environment, including student motivation, attendance, engagement, and perception. Dr. Fizel will share his strategies for avoiding these common pitfalls, including the “ticket” system, critical thinking assignments, a modified attendance policy, and unique instructional methods for grouping students for collaborative work.


Session schedule AGENDA (45 minutes):


The Introduction (10 minutes):

  • Introduction to the open educational resources movement

  • The evolution in the use of open educational resources (OER)


Case Studies In the Transformative Power of Open Digital Courseware (20 minutes):

An educational technology innovator and faculty will tell the stories of:

  1. A traditional face-to-face microeconomics course that was redesigned at Penn State Behrend for a blended flipped classroom learning environment incorporating open educational resources (OER).

  2. Faculty from Rockland Community College (NY), designed customized English learning modules using exploratory questions to guide the learning process around Open English literature resources.

  3. Biology faculty at the University of KY used a combination of third party OER and their own content to align with learning objectives they view as critical in introductory biology.


Questions and Answers (15 minutes):

  • Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions of the panel members and presenter

  • Dr. Jacobs will provide resources for further information and answer questions