Maximizing the Impact of Online Course Content: Publisher vs. OER vs. CYO (Create Your Own)

Concurrent Session 1

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This conversation will engage participants in an exploration of the benefits and challenges of utilizing various content sources—publisher vs. OER vs. CYO (create your own)—for supporting instruction in an online or blended course. 


B. Jean Mandernach, Ph.D. is Executive Director of the Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching at Grand Canyon University. Her research focuses on enhancing student learning in the online classroom through innovative instructional and assessment strategies. In addition, she has interests in the development of effective faculty evaluation models, perception of online degrees, and faculty workload considerations. Jean received her B.S. in comprehensive psychology from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, an M.S. in experimental psychology from Western Illinois University and Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
Sherri currently serves as the Senior Executive Director of the Office of Digital and Online Learning at Coastal Carolina University. She is an Associated Faculty with the Psychology Department at CCU, and specializes in teaching senior-level classes in lifespan psychology, such as Child Development, Adolescent Development, and Gerontology. Sherri has served in academia within the field of online learning for over 20 years in the role of instructional designer, LMS administrator, faculty, and over the last decade plus as a university-level administrator. In addition to her work with Coastal, Sherri also serves the MERLOT organization as the Editor of the Professional Coaching board, as well as an editorial board member and peer reviewer for the Psychology MERLOT board. Her research focuses on methods for improving student success in the academic environment, to include all modalities of learning (online, face-to-face, hybrid, flipped, etc.) and inclusive design and tools. She has worked as a consultant for a number of organizations to support the development of online learning initiatives.
Julie has been teaching Psychology for more than 20 years. She served as Department Chair and Assistant Dean at the University of Southern Indiana and currently focuses on teaching at Kent State University, Geauga. Her interests include creative problem solving and mindfulness. She has served on the Psychology editorial review board since 2011 with MERLOT and has been a regular presenter at OLC focusing on OERs. She is in the process of flipping her classes and including OERs.
Catherine Honig, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor and Chair, MBA Program in National Louis University's College of Professional Studies and Advancement (CPSA). She earned her doctorate in industrial/organizational psychology from Bowling Green State University and has over 25 years of higher education teaching experience. She currently designs and teaches online courses in leadership and I/O psychology, and her research interests place emphasis on high-touch online instruction, student perceptions of online and blended learning, and the impact of EdTech tools on student learning and engagement in online courses. Catherine also serves as the Editor of MERLOT's Psychology Editorial Board.

Extended Abstract

Faculty who teach and design online and hybrid/blended courses have a variety of options for populating their course websites with content. They may elect to use (1) publisher materials, (2) open educational resources (OER), or (3) self-developed materials (i.e., “create your own”). Each approach is associated with benefits and challenges.

  1. Publisher-provided materials are professionally prepared, accessible, and typically easy to integrate with the university’s learning management system (LMS). In addition, many publishers provide supplemental instructional materials (test banks, resource manuals, PPT presentations, videos, course websites, activities, etc) that can be used to enhance the online learning experience. However, the texts are typically expensive for students and may include“add-ons” to already soaring textbook prices, with varying degrees of use (from non-use to high use) by faculty who have adopted them. A number of publisher-developed content materials have only recently begun venturing into the OER and/or low-cost model space.
  2. OER answers the problem of soaring textbook costs and promotes affordability and access for students who might otherwise elect to forgo required course resources or who might forgo a course altogether if the cost of learning materials is too high.  Still, OER has not yet achieved mainstream status in college courses as there remain challenges to this route including but not limited to continued access to materials and lack of ancillaries. Going Digital: Faculty Perspectives on Digital and OER Course Materials--a widely cited report summarizing the results of a 2016 Independent College Bookstore Association (ICBA)-sponsored survey of “2,902 college and university faculty at 29 two- and four-year colleges and universities”—points to lingering questions about the degree to which digital learning resources positively impact student learning. Further, since OER resources are freely available online and not under an instructor’s control, there may be issues with the stability/availability of materials.
  3. The CYO (“create your own”) approach is a custom-made experience in which faculty voices and perspectives are communicated with each learning activity and material. CYO materials can be developed to especially support course learning outcomes or to address the needs and interests of a particular group of students. However, these benefits may be outweighed by the time needed to develop the materials. CYOs may also become OERs, depending on the model adopted by faculty and/or individual institutions.

 This presentation will engage participants in a discussion of their experiences with these three content development sources as they relate to online teaching and learning at their respective institutions, specifically exploring the tie-ins of each to the OER opportunities. We will provide brief overviews examining some of the intricacies and challenges of each of the three along with exploring the benefits while soliciting feedback and experiences from the audience and live-tracking this feedback.  We will also explore the importance of the institutional course design model (e.g., individual vs. structured vs. collaborative vs. standardized) to the success of these three sources of course content development, with feedback collected from the audience through live polling.

The ultimate goal of this conversation is to explore the quickly-developing world of OERs as it relates to these three core content development models, and examine alongside our audience from a faculty member/online administrator/instructional designer perspective how these formats may best serve us and our students. 


  • A resource will be provided to all attendees including recommended resources from the presenters relating to each of the three content development options, with a special focus on OER support materials.


Green, K. (2016, February). Going digital: Faculty perspectives on digital and OER course materials. Retrieved from