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Open Education: Some  Insights and Resources from the 2021 OE Conference

As part of my journey to learn more about Open Educational Resources, I turned to the videos available online from the 2021 Open Education Conference. I clicked around a bit, and I encourage you to go there and check it out. There are so many amazing resources, ideas, and conversations, and you likely won’t get through them all like I haven’t, but it’s helpful–I try and remind myself–that in teaching and learning research and reflection, a little often goes a long way. Below are my reflections on a few videos I found especially compelling.

Mays Imad gave the keynote, “Bearing Witness as an Act of Love, Resistance, and Healing” for the Conference. Did you know that Imad is a UM-Dearborn graduate? And in February 2022 she gave the keynote for the UM-Dearborn Digital Education Days. With an undergrad degree in philosophy from UM-D and a PhD in Cellular and Clinical Neuroscience from Wayne State, Imad has become fairly well known in teaching and learning circles, especially for her work on Trauma-Informed Pedagogy. Imad opens her 2021 conference presentation with a reflection on the word “open,” explaining that in Arabic the word “means to begin and open … an opening in the heart.” She asks her audience to consider what it might mean “to become radical openers” interested in the potential for “transformative change” in education. With this idea of openness in mind, Imad asks us to consider how so many stories are overshadowed–those whose voices have been historically marginalized, for example–and how pedagogies of openness can make those voices more central as we move forward. 

But paying attention to others also means taking care of ourselves. Imad asked her audience to respond to a poll with the question: “do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed?” and the huge majority (246) of respondents said yes. Many felt stressed by time, isolation, uncertainty, burnout, and more in the fall of 2021, and likely these kinds of stress are still affecting many faculty today. Imad makes clear, though, that we are not alone, and that utilizing practices from a trauma-informed care lens might give us tools to help ourselves and to be present for others. She focuses on the importance and power of community and social connection, and suggests: learning about trauma, including intergenerational trauma; resisting trying to fix others or making assumptions about them; making sure to let others know that they matter and that we’re all part of a community; and empowering others to express their voices and have choices. She also encourages us to be advocates for change, to engage and to hope, to ask questions and to “think of others” as in the Mahmoud Darwish poem she references.


In her presentation, “Designing An Interactive OER Syllabus As An Equitable-Practice,” communications professor Dr. Jennifer T. Edwards walks through the Google Doc of her syllabus to show how using such an interactive document can help students to follow the schedule and access materials directly with no extra costs for textbooks. Instead of creating an OER textbook, Edwards utilizes a mix of links to library journal articles, YouTube videos, and more. The syllabus can be modified as necessary in real time, vs if it were a Word Doc. Although the syllabus then is only “open” to students on that campus with access to the library, it serves to foreground and introduce them to library resources, and acts as a living hyperdocument connecting texts and resources in various locations. The Google Doc syllabus is also incorporated into the Canvas page for the course and updates occur simultaneously across platforms; when changes are made in the Google Doc for example, they show up in real time in the Canvas page. One thing I personally really like about using Google docs is being able to link to websites, other Google Docs, and even sections within a single Doc by using headings or bookmarks.

In addition to the syllabus document, Edwards has a personal YouTube channel where she houses videos for her own students/courses and anyone else to find publicly. There she has some general information videos that can be used across courses or purposes, such as “Barriers to Intercultural Communication.” She also has videos more specific to particular classes but that are nonetheless open to public viewing. I admit, I hadn’t thought about using Google Docs and YouTube as ways to both present and archive course materials and it’s giving me a lot to consider. Since I already create a kind of interactive syllabus within Canvas with live links that I can easily modify, it may be helpful to also use Google docs instead of copying back and forth from Word docs when necessary; a Google Doc can be easily downloaded as Word doc, potentially making the process a bit more efficient. 

Among other suggestions, Edwards also noted having a practice of pre- and post-semester checklists for all courses, which includes checking to make sure the syllabus links work and other tips. And since incorporating different kinds of “open” resources into a syllabus can, at times, be more work than using a single, hard-copy textbook, she advises finding ways to “work smarter not harder” in creating ease, efficiency, and accessibility into syllabi and course design.


In “Getting Started with Open Education” Cheryl (Cuillier) Casey, University of Arizona Open Education librarian, offers a comprehensive overview and many resources: from “what is OER?” to research on OER topics, advocacy, publishing OER, understanding creative commons licenses, and more. This OER Toolkit  is an amazing resource linked to the many websites and other tools Casey references. Although there is a lot of information that might feel overwhelming, the Toolkit is a nicely organized document that one can use as a foundational resource; I’ve made a copy of it to annotate for my own use. Here are just a few of the tools she discussed that I found pretty intriguing: 

Finding OE texts:

Open Textbook LIbrary

Pressbooks Directory

Openstax Textbooks (especially for math and science books, Openstax includes a lot of additional resources for teaching, and a large collection of texts including the ability to get kindle versions and low-cost print versions)

Using mega search tools to find texts across platforms:

Megasearch tools, eg. Asis Geneseo

Mason OER (MOM) metafinder

Google Advanced Search to find OER and more by using the “usage rights” option

Creative Commons search for images, music, videos, and more

Explaining the different kinds of creative commons licenses (16 min into video); and more in-depth info on Best Practices for fair use for OER

She also shares resources for Creating OE Texts, which I’ll be looking into as I move further into my OER journey and consider creating an OE text that I can share with my students and others. I think I’ll start with these:


The Open Textbook Toolkit

And I’ll also be reaching out to others who have experience with or more knowledge about creating OE texts to get their advice.

Photo by Jill Darling. This image is shared with a Creative Commons BY 4.0 license.

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