Tackling the Challenges of Creating Innovative, Interactive, and Engaging OER

Concurrent Session 7

Brief Abstract

In this session, we will explore possible solutions to OER challenges, namely design and structure, technology integration, and rigor. Through a guided brainstorming session, we will create a checklist that can be used to ensure the OER we create or adapt are high-quality, engaging, usable, and integrate technology appropriately.


Juanita M Woods, Ph.D., PMP, PgMP, is an Associate Professor with the Mike Cottrell College of Business at the University of North Georgia. Dr. Woods has over 25 years of experience managing projects and people, where she focuses on ensuring projects align with organizational and group objectives. Her current research areas bridge the disciplines of project studies, people development, and work teams. In her work in the private sector as a project and program manager and the public sector as a college professor, Dr. Woods has mentored and continues to mentor people at all career stages in developing or strengthening their leadership, strategic, and technical skills in project management. As a college professor of management and project management, Dr. Woods feels it is her responsibility to support the professional development of today’s workforce and the next generation of workers. She has conducted academic and practitioner research in teamwork and leadership, project studies, knowledge management, and teaching and learning scholarship to provide opportunities for learning and professional development to aspiring, new, and current project management practitioners. Her most recent work includes the development of an open-source textbook on project management aligned with the latest professional standards, which includes a student workbook and instructor materials. The textbook, 'Delivering Value with Project Management,' will be published in the summer of 2023 through UNG Press.
Louisa is a driven and people-oriented native German who independently immigrated to the US in 2017. She is highly organized and analytical, always focused on the needs of the business and going above and beyond on her tasks. She drives for efficiency and sustainability in every aspect of her life and believes in technology to enable us to stay ahead of our competitive environment. Louisa is highly interested in Project and Operations Management and continues to seek opportunities to expand her experience. She recently completed an internship in Product Operations at Cox Automotive under the Esntial Commerce Portfolio. Furthermore, she acted as the President of Enactus (a student organization at the University of North Georgia focused on entrepreneurship and sustainability) during the Fall 2022 semester. She is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma and has achieved the President’s List multiple times since starting her Bachelor of Business Administration in 2020. She has gained a competitive internship role on the Global Innovation team at General Motors for the Summer 2023 semester.

Extended Abstract

In an era of technology adoption and integration within learning communities, students and teachers are more comfortable with accessing digital information, and open educational resources are proliferating (Hudson, 2021). Open pedagogy encapsulates the ideas of sensitive design, participatory pedagogy, open licensing, and collaborative knowledge-building around educational resources (Tietjen & Asino, 2021). This is in marked contrast to the traditional concept of pedagogy as the “art of teaching” that places the teacher as the primary provider of knowledge and the student as a willing absorber and processor of information.

The digital transformation of education has led to the proliferation of digital textbooks and provides an opportunity to rethink how information is accessed and consumed by students. Moving away from printed textbooks that present information sequentially to digital resources that include multiple interconnections between ideas opens the door to restructuring how we share information with students to maximize their learning.

Open educational resources (OER) provide low-cost and adaptable resources for teachers to engage in the “art of teaching” by creating appropriate and relevant teaching materials to meet the preferences and needs of their students and teaching domain. OER seems to be a technological evolution of recent innovations in learner-centered instructional design (Cornelius-White & Harbaugh, 2009).

As such, recent research on OER highlights the importance of understanding how students want to interact with the material, the cost of acquiring it, and the types of content presented to them (Dennen & Bagdy, 2019). OER should be designed to maximize student engagement with the material to boost student learning and knowledge retention (Hudson, 2021). Digital learning designers should also consider the cognitive styles and prior knowledge of students who are expected to interact with the content (Alomyan, 2017).

While creating OER that is relevant, appropriate, interesting, and engaging to students is a laudable goal, achieving that may take more effort, technical skill, and time than instructors have available. Thus, the purpose of this session is to brainstorm methods and approaches to creating high-quality, interactive, and engaging OER without extensive technical knowledge or herculean effort.

The impetus for this session came about after the presenter won a grant for developing an open textbook. Planning to create an open textbook is easy; creating it is a bit more challenging. Deciding on the structure, content, and types of material to share with students can be overwhelming, even to someone intimately familiar with the topic. Some of the challenges encountered relate to OER design and structure, integration of technology, and content rigor and assurance of learning.

Challenge #1 Design and Structure

The OER created by the presenter introduces students to project management, a process for producing unique products, services, and results within specified timeframes and budgets to meet organizational or personal needs. Project work is both linear and cyclical, as there are many points where past information is accessed and reprocessed to fit into new stages of the project.

Teaching a topic that is applied non-sequentially using a textbook that presents concepts sequentially makes it challenging to adequately communicate to students the practice of project management. In this case, the best approach to teaching and learning project management might be to create a non-sequential design. But what is non-sequential course design? Hudson (2021) suggests that the most successful digital textbooks incorporate best practices for learning, such as distributed practice, interleaving, and elaborative processing as mechanisms to boost learning from digital resources. These practices support the idea of non-sequential learning. The challenge of a non-sequential design then revolves around how and in what order to present information to reduce student confusion and builds on prior learning. Questions to address here include:

  • How can we model the presentation of information to mimic the natural flow of learning and doing in real life (e.g., progressive elaboration of knowledge and proficiency)?
  • How do we present non-sequential activities in a way that maximizes student understanding and minimizes confusion?
  • How do we incorporate effective learning strategies (like distributed practice, interleaving, elaborative processing, and metacognition; (Hudson, 2021)?

Challenge #2 Technology Integration for Interactivity

Many types of technology and platforms can be incorporated into digital learning materials and research has observed that technology enhances teaching and learning (McKnight et al., 2016). One notable attempt at documenting the plethora of technology available for teaching and learning was introduced by Adam Carrington in 2013, the “Padagogy Wheel,” which organizes technology platforms and tools by its support for Bloom’s Cognitive Domain Categories (Carrington, 2016).

Using a variety of apps to support student learning increases the opportunity for interaction, but also increases the potential for overwhelming students with the different sources and types of activities and information. Research has demonstrated that ease of use was more important to students than the available features of digital textbooks (Noorhidawati & Ghalebandi, 2016; Tang & Lin, 2015). Since usability seems to be an important consideration for student adoption of digital textbooks, we need to consider the following questions as we incorporate technology into OER.

  • How can we integrate technology into OER without overwhelming students?
  • How can we ensure usability and student adoption of the technology incorporated into the OER?
  • How can we integrate technology into the OER without having to become an expert in specific technologies?

Challenge #3 Course Rigor and Assurance of Learning

Academic rigor and assurance of learning are required considerations when designing courses in today’s accreditation-focused academies. Academic rigor, depending on one’s perspective, entails a demanding student workload and cognitive challenges (Culver et al., 2021). Thus, as we create OER, we should consider the following questions.

  • How do we ensure the rigor of the materials without overwhelming students with information or busy work?
  • How can we incorporate cognitive challenges into OER that go beyond simple confirmation of understanding?

Session Format

The session is structured to maximize participation by all participants as they work through the design thinking process to generate possible responses to the challenges discussed above. The “prototype” developed from this session will include a list of best practices for addressing the challenges and answering the guiding questions. It is planned that the resulting document can be structured as a checklist for authors to ensure OER are high-quality, engaging, and usable. This session will also provide an opportunity for participants to discuss and explore how to incorporate interactive technology into the OER they create or use.

Session Introduction (5 minutes)

  • The presenters will introduce the topic and share the challenge topics and questions.
  • The presenters will hand out a brief introduction to the design thinking process and brainstorming best practices.

Breakout sessions (30 minutes)

  • Participants will be divided into three groups, one for each challenge. They will be given the following information.
    • Empathize: Think about the needs of undergraduate students using digital textbooks and open resources
    • Define: Your challenge is (assigned challenge) and your guiding questions are (guiding questions for challenge).
    • Ideate (15 minutes): In your group, generate as many responses to the guiding questions (and others you find relevant) as possible.
      • There are no wrong answers at this point because everything has the potential to be a great idea.
      • Use one sticky note for each new idea.
      • Post your responses to the appropriate challenge board in the session room.
    • Prototype (15 minutes): collectively determine your group’s best set of suggestions and move them to the prototype board under your challenge.
      • Organize your suggestions in a meaningful and logical manner.

Reconvene and Review (10 minutes)

  • Presenters will walk through the shared prototypes, and everyone will have a brief opportunity to discuss and consider next steps.
  • The presenters will transfer the group’s work to a digital format that will be shared with all participants after the session.


Alomyan, H. (2017). A Conceptual Framework for Web-based Learning Design Multi Conference on Computer Science and Information Systems, Lisbon Portugal.

Carrington, A. (2016). The Padagogy Wheel English V5. Retrieved 11-1-2022, from https://designingoutcomes.com/english-speaking-world-v5-0/

Cornelius-White, J. H., & Harbaugh, A. P. (2009). Learner-centered instruction: Building relationships for student success. Sage publications.

Culver, K. C., Braxton, J. M., & Pascarella, E. T. (2021). What We Talk about When We Talk about Rigor: Examining Conceptions of Academic Rigor [Article]. Journal of Higher Education, 92(7), 1140-1163. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221546.2021.1920825

Dennen, V. P., & Bagdy, L. M. (2019). From Proprietary Textbook to Custom OER Solution: Using Learner Feedback to Guide Design and Development. Online Learning, 23(3). https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v23i3.2068

Hudson, D. L. (2021). Learning how to learn from digital textbooks: Evidence-informed recommendations for instructors and students. Canadian Psychology / Psychologie canadienne, 62(4), 377-384. https://doi.org/10.1037/cap0000304

McKnight, K., O'Malley, K., Ruzic, R., Horsley, M. K., Franey, J. J., & Bassett, K. (2016). Teaching in a Digital Age: How Educators Use Technology to Improve Student Learning. Journal of research on technology in education, 48(3), 194-211. https://doi.org/10.1080/15391523.2016.1175856

Noorhidawati, A., & Ghalebandi, S. G. (2016). Continuance intention of using e-book among higher education students. Malaysian Journal of Library & Information Science, 21(1), 19-33.

Tang, K.-Y., & Lin, C.-H. (2015). Exploring College Students' Intention to Adopt e-Textbooks: A Modified Technology Acceptance Model. Libri: International Journal of Libraries & Information Services, 65(2), 119-128.

Tietjen, P., & Asino, T. I. (2021). What Is Open Pedagogy? Identifying Commonalities. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 22(2).