Customizing OER to Improve Student Engagement and Success

Concurrent Session 8

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Western Governors University used Open Educational Resources (OER) to redevelop five high-enrollment, business core courses. We faced challenges in using OER materials including curating, customizing, attributing, revising, editing, and ADA compliance. We will share our lessons learned and want to learn from others who have faced similar challenges using OER.



Ginger Bidell is a Program Manager of Curriculum for the accounting programs in the Business College at Western Governors University. Previous roles include instructional designer at Western Governors University as well as public and private universities. As an instructional designer, she has developed competency-based and traditional online courses and supported faculty in the development and design of online, blended, and face-to-face courses using the principles of Universal Design for Learning, accessibility best practices, and Open Educational Resources. Ginger holds a B.S in Elementary Education and Social Studies Education, a M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction, MBA, and a M.S. in Management and Leadership.
Erik Spoelstra is a Senior Curriculum Program Manager for the Business College of Western Governors University. Previous roles include Curriculum Director, Assistant Dean, and Online Business Faculty at public and online Universities. Throughout the 15 years in the education industry, Erik has had oversight in the area of business education from developing competency-based and traditional online courses, blended, and face to face courses and programs along with the assessment of students competency through the use of educational best practices, sound instructional design, and direct alignment to industry standards to ensure student success in their careers and in life. Erik holds a B.S in Business Administration, a MBA, and a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership.
Kathy Ebert is currently a Program Experience Manager for the College of Business supporting the Healthcare Management and IT Management programs. Previously she was a Curriculum Program Manager was involved in the development of two of the five courses WGU utilized OER's for in the redevelopment of the courses. Previous roles include curriculum manager and director, program design and evaluation manager and faculty/curriculum developer. Combined educational experience and leadership is just over 18 years. Kathy holds a M.S. in Organizational Leadership and Quality.

Additional Authors

Extended Abstract

In 2018, the Business College at Western Governors University (WGU) used OER and WGU library resources to develop five high-enrollment, competency-based business core courses including Principles of Accounting, Principles of Finance, Business Law, Microeconomics, and Fundamentals for Success in Business.

Goals for the project included 1) using a modular design, 2) moving from vendor content and platforms to WGU’s Acrobatiq Platform 3) using customized OER and WGU library resources, 4) ensuring ADA compliance, and 5) improving student outcomes for each of the courses. All five courses launched during the summer of 2018. During our session, we will be able to share data related to how well the WGU team accomplished goal number five.

At WGU, students do not pay for textbooks out of pocket. Instead, they pay a nominal resource fee each term that includes access to all course and library resources. Thus, the real advantage of this project for students is the capability for WGU to customize the course content so that it includes all of the content, practice, and feedback students need to be successful and nothing they don’t need. The estimated savings for WGU is more than $500,000 per year on learning resources for the five courses.

Our team worked together to identify, curate, and customize OER for each of the redeveloped courses. Each course project team included program managers (assessment and curriculum), a project manager, subject matter experts (internal and external), a learning resource specialist, instructional designers, assessment developers, editors, QA team members, and publishing.

Our process included:

  • Identifying, reviewing, and selecting OER (text, videos, images) to support all course outcomes

  • Remixing OER content (revising, supplementing, updating, deleting) to support all course outcomes, remove unnecessary content, and provide information in multiple formats

  • Identifying accessible WGU library content (videos, articles, etexts) to fill gaps, as needed

  • Developing formative assessment items with unique feedback for each response

  • Creating alternative text and long descriptions for all images, diagrams, tables, and charts,

  • Creating page level attributions/citations for all course resources including images

  • Logging all course resources

  • Peer reviewing course content

  • Editing all course and assessment content

  • Inputting course content, including formative assessments, into Acrobatiq Smart Author platform (platform is ADA compliant) attending to the principles of Universal Design for Learning

  • Peer reviewing and editing course in Acrobatiq Smart Author platform

  • Quality Assurance reviewing final course in Acrobatiq and all assessment items

As part of this process, we faced common OER challenges including curating resources, remixing OER to align with course outcomes, providing attributions for multiple resources per course page, revising and updating content, editing all course materials, documenting resources used in each course, and addressing ADA compliance and the principles of Universal Design for Learning. We would like to share our experiences and lessons learned as well as learn from others who have faced similar challenges using OER.

The purpose of the session is to share ideas, strategies, processes, and lessons learned related to using OERs. The majority of this session will include an open discussion where we will engage the audience by asking the following questions.

Engaging Questions to be Discussed:

  1. What tools and strategies can we leverage to ensure our use of OER content is ADA compliant?

  2. UDL principles include providing students with multiples means of representation, multiple means of expression, and multiple means of engagement. How can we leverage OER to attend to the Universal Design for Learning principles and guidelines?

  3. What strategies and roles have your institution used to address OER curating and remixing challenges like customizing, mixing CC licenses, editing, and updating content?

  4. How have you developed processes for documenting and logging OER assets used in courses?

  5. How has your institution addressed the challenge of maintaining OER content used in courses? For example: ensuring it is current and locating and fixing broken links in courses.

  6. What is the best way to publish our remixed content as an OER for others to use?

  7. Besides reducing the textbook cost, what other benefits came from using OER in your courses?

Session Outcomes:

  • Attendees will collaborate and communicate to discuss challenges related to using OER in course development.

  • Attendings will share strategies for ensuring courses leveraging OER meet ADA requirements and the principles of Universal Design for Learning.

  • Attendees will discuss benefits of using OER.