Open Educational Resource (OER) Spotlights

Happy Open Education Week! We’re back today to share a few open educational resources (OER) chosen by members of the OER Outreach Working Group. Each of the resources below are great examples of OER in use at UT (and authored by our faculty and staff in several cases!). 

OER are teaching and learning objects that are generally free of cost, but just as importantly, they are free of the legal barriers that often prevent their unrestricted reuse and adaptation. Each of these resources can be accessed and shared freely, but anyone can also make copies with changes that suit the needs of their class or personal study. For example, you could translate them into Spanish, change examples or images to enhance their relevance, or combine them with other openly licensed resources to create something entirely new! These are the permissions and power that open licenses confer to you. 

Check these out, get inspired, and contact Ashley Morrison, the Tocker Open Education Librarian, if you’d like to know more or get help locating OER for your discipline. 

Information Literacy Toolkit, reviewed by Sarah Brandt, Librarian for First-Year Programs

Authored by UT Libraries Staff & UT Faculty

Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0


The Information Literacy Toolkit is a set of customizable research and information literacy assignments, lesson plans, assessment tools, and course examples built over many years by UT Libraries staff and UT faculty. Though largely created with undergraduate classes in mind, these resources can be adapted for graduate-level courses. Most of the items in the toolkit are available as Google Docs so that they are easy to copy or download and modify for a particular course. This toolkit is a dynamic resource. Library staff add and update resources regularly, and work with faculty to add interesting course examples. UT faculty who want to implement an assignment from the Information Literacy Toolkit can request assistance from a UT librarian as they modify assignments for their purposes. We encourage instructors to take a look at this resource as they are creating research assignments and to send in feedback about resources they use or feel are missing from the toolkit.

Her Şey Bir Merhaba ile Başlar! (Everything Begins with a Hello!), reviewed by Sarah Sweeney, Project Coordinator at COERLL

Authored by Dr. Jeannette Okur, University of Texas at Austin

Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Her Şey Bir Merhaba ile Başlar is an open textbook for intermediate Turkish language learners, the result of a collaboration between the author Jeannette Okur, native speakers, students, and COERLL. These four units address aspects of modern Turkish society: family, love and marriage, the environment, and art and politics. The content includes a variety of authentic texts, videos, audio, and images curated from the internet, as well as audio and video created specifically for this project. The textbook is available for free as a PDF or in Google Docs, where teachers and students can adapt it according to their individual needs. A print copy can also be purchased. Supplementary materials include Quizlet vocabulary lists and interactive Canvas exercises.

Proteopedia, reviewed by Hannah Chapman Tripp, Biosciences Librarian

Authored collaboratively

Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Image: Porto, A., Martz, E., Sussman, J. L., & Theis, K. (n.d.). Lipids: Structure and classification. Proteopedia – Life in 3D. Retrieved February 24, 2021, from

Proteopedia is an encyclopedia containing protein, nucleic acid and other biomolecular structures represented in 3D rotating format using Jmol technology. The tool contains both annotated and unannotated structures, representing efforts by the biomolecular community worldwide and automatic weekly imports from the Protein Data Bank respectively. The resource also contains syllabi, quizzes, concept pages and more developed by educators with the intent of reuse in mind. Proteopedia can be edited by registered users, allowing the community to contribute to resource construction. Each page that is supplemented contains a contributors and editors section at the bottom with links to author profiles including academic credentials allowing for appropriate citation, responsibility for content and trust in the content.

OER Faculty Author Spotlight: Dr. Jocelly G. Meiners

In celebration of Open Education Week, UT Libraries is proud to spotlight a few of our talented faculty members who are on the forefront of the open education movement as open educational resource (OER) authors! Today we’re featuring Dr. Jocelly G. Meiners, Lecturer in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. 

Dr. Meiners is a native of San José, Costa Rica. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and obtained a BA in French and Astronomy, an MA in French Linguistics, and a PhD in Hispanic Linguistics. She is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and specializes in teaching courses for Heritage Spanish learners. Her research interests include pragmatics and emotion in second language acquisition, heritage Spanish learners and pedagogy, as well as linguistic attitudes and language maintenance regarding Spanish in the US. She currently serves as co-director for the Texas Coalition for Heritage Spanish (TeCHS)

Dr. Meiners shares her experiences creating and contributing to the Heritage Spanish community website, where instructors of Heritage Spanish can connect with each other, share classroom resources they’ve created, browse resources created by others, and stay updated on relevant professional development opportunities. 

Do you recall how you first became aware of open educational resources (OER) or the open education movement more broadly?

“I think I first learned about OER through COERLL (Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning). Carl Blyth, the director, was my professor and one of my mentors during graduate school, so I learned about COERLL from him. It was exciting to hear about the creation of COERLL and that it would be hosted by UT.”

What was your primary motivation in building Heritage Spanish?

“As the population of Spanish heritage learners increases throughout the US, the demand for Spanish courses designed specifically for heritage learners keeps growing. However, there aren’t any “one size fits all” textbooks for teaching these students, since the heritage student populations around the country are so diverse and have such different needs. Therefore, a lot of instructors are constantly creating their own materials to serve their students, so we wanted to create a platform where instructors can share OER and find materials that they can adapt and use in their own classes.” 

What has been the greatest benefit of creating and using OER as an instructor?

“The greatest benefit as an instructor is being able to access materials that other dedicated instructors have created and implemented successfully in their classes, and then modify and adapt those materials to serve my own students. Also, sharing OER is a great way to give back, contribute to the field, and support other instructors, especially those who are getting started teaching heritage learners.”

What was the most challenging part of creating Heritage Spanish?

“The most challenging part, which we are still working on, has been building the community and gathering instructors’ work to share on our website. Although many instructors are creating amazing content, they often don’t know about Creative Commons licenses and how to share their work. However, we have several projects to help with this, particularly our annual summer workshop, where instructors can learn all about finding, creating, and sharing OER and also learn techniques and strategies for teaching heritage Spanish.”

How have your students responded to the material? What feedback do you receive from other users?

“Students appreciate using materials that are designed specifically for them, with topics that are really engaging to them, and also of course the fact that OER are free! Instructors who use OER love having access to such a great variety of resources and being able to use them freely. Instructors are often amazed that they can find such great materials for free on our website.”

What would you say to an instructor who is interested in creating or adapting OER but isn’t sure how to get started?

“For heritage Spanish instructors I would say get familiar with our website, check out what other instructors have created, get in touch with us, sign up for our newsletter, join our community, and come to one of our workshops! For other language instructors, COERLL has lots of great resources, and navigating the Creative Commons website and creating your CC license is easy. Just start by looking at other people’s work and you will realize you can do it too. It feels great to share and know that you are helping your community of instructors.”

Want to get started with OER or find other free or low cost course materials? Contact Ashley Morrison, Tocker Open Education Librarian (

Behind the numbers: pandemic metrics

When I tell people that my job is to do assessment for an academic library, it’s not uncommon to see a brief blank stare, followed by a story about a library that made an impact on them. People know and love libraries. Assessment? Not so much. This new blog series, Behind the Numbers, will show examples and tell stories about how we use assessment at the UT Libraries to help give our users those impactful library moments.

Because it’s at the forefront of everything at the moment, I will use this inaugural post of Behind the Numbers to delve into how we’ve used assessment to help navigate the disruption to our spaces and services caused by the pandemic. When the University moved all operations online in March 2020 and we quickly changed all of our service models to a fully remote configuration, we needed a way to monitor how students, faculty, and staff were using online library services. As the pandemic continued into the Fall semester, we needed to make difficult decisions that involved limiting access to physical materials in order to retain special emergency access to those materials in digital formats through a partnership with other academic libraries called HathiTrust.

Faced with a difficult balancing act between the need to provide access to materials, spaces, and in-person support, and the need to keep our staff and community safe, we turned to available data to inform our planning. We built a basic dashboard with monthly metrics on the use of a few services that we thought might be helpful for making decisions about our physical spaces, in come cases comparing use in 2020 to use before the pandemic. The dashboard is not comprehensive of all of our services, or even our most popular services. We chose to include data points that were quickly attainable and might help us make decisions about “re-opening” physical spaces in Fall 2020.

Of note here is the line chart in the top right that compares daily usage of physical items and the digital items we’re receiving through the special HathiTrust agreement. It shows us that in general, use of the HathiTrust digital items has been on par with usage of physical library materials.

After a period of operating as an online only library, we reopened the main library with limited services and spaces and serious COVID precautions in place. We needed a way to measure safe capacity in our space to allow for adequate social distancing, so we implemented a people counter and a swipe to enter system. The people counter has software built in that allows us to monitor occupancy at any moment and look for patterns of occupancy. We have used this to make decisions about how much of the main library to make available. Through the fall semester, we learned that the main floor of PCL is large enough to safely hold all library visitors even at peak usage times.

Beyond occupancy, we wanted to know about the people who were using the physical library space. Were they students? Faculty? Were they coming often to study, or just occasionally to borrow materials? As part of a mixed methods study, we used swipe data to create visualizations that tell us how many times each unique visitor entered PCL. As you can see below, over half of the people who have visited since we reopened in Fall 2020 have only visited one or two times, suggesting that they were there to fulfill a specific need, not to study or attend classes online. We also monitor the university affiliations of our visitors, showing that the vast majority are students.

We also invited everyone who visited PCL during the Fall semester to respond to a survey with questions about perceived safety and suggestions for the Spring. We were thrilled to learn that almost 90% of survey respondents reported feeling very safe or extremely safe at PCL. This gave us further confidence that our occupancy data was helping us make good decisions.

The Assessment Team had been thinking before the pandemic about what data we might include in dynamic dashboards to help our colleagues make data-driven decisions, but COVID-19 pushed us in that direction more quickly than we planned. Stay tuned for more dashboards (and info about other methods) in posts to come.

OER Faculty Author Spotlight: Dr. Amanda Hager

In celebration of Open Education Week, UT Libraries is proud to spotlight a few of our talented faculty members who are on the forefront of the open education movement as open educational resource (OER) authors! We’re kicking off this series with Dr. Amanda Hager, who teaches several courses in the Department of Mathematics, including M 302 (Introduction to Mathematics), M 325K (Discrete Mathematics), and M 305G (Preparation for Calculus) in addition to the MathBridge dual credit program

Dr. Hager has been a Longhorn since 2011. She earned her Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of Iowa and worked at the United States Military Academy at West Point. She is passionate about liberal arts education, college readiness, faculty welfare, modular origami, and Olympic weightlifting.

Dr. Hager was generous in sharing her experiences creating OER with us in the interview below.

What OER did you create or adapt for your courses?

“For Introduction to Mathematics, I created a set of webpages that are substitutes for lectures and contain a combination of text, illustration, video, and informal quizzes. These are used for asynchronous instruction during the pandemic, and they can be used in a flipped classroom. I’ve also authored problem sets for homework and study.”

What was your primary motivation in leveraging OER for your courses?

“I realized that I was going to strange lengths to justify the existence of paid textbooks in my courses, artificial-seeming measures such as posting homework exercise numbers rather than the text of the questions in my LMS so that students would have to open the book to get the homework questions. I would cherry-pick pieces of textbooks that I liked, telling students to avoid other parts that I found were unpopular to them or confusing, constantly having to talk with the students about whether the book was confusing or not.

I eventually surveyed students in my UT course and dual-enrollment course, and I discovered that less than half of students were purchasing the required textbook. There were also a non-trivial number of students who purchased the textbook and never opened it. I realized that whatever positive results I was seeing in this course, either student satisfaction or learning gains, had little to do with owning the textbook.”

What has been the biggest benefit of using OER?

“I am no longer embarrassed that I am requiring an expensive textbook and then only covering approximately half of the content in it. The students receive essential content only, and I am proud to be providing a course experience that is not only affordable but is clean and sensical.”

What was the most challenging part of making the switch?

“Creating my own content. I suppose there must have been easier ways to get the job done, but I learned HTML, CSS, and Adobe Illustrator in order to create webpages. I studied web accessibility. I produced my own videos. Good video content is labor-intensive.”

How have your students responded to the material? If applicable, did you notice a change before and after using OER? 

“Anecdotally, they seem to like having the information they need exactly where they need it. No book, no clumsy web portals. I get a lot fewer questions about what they need to know and not know for exams, because the answer is everything they’ve been given.”

What would you say to an instructor who is interested in OER but isn’t sure how to get started?

“OER is not just free books. It’s about the power of collaboration. One educator writes a text, another builds aligned assessments, still another creates video tutorials, and the whole is so much more than the sum of its parts. But adopting open resources and using them is probably the easiest way to get started dreaming about what you can create to take your teaching to the next level.”

Want to get started with OER or find other free or low cost course materials? Contact Ashley Morrison, Tocker Open Education Librarian ( 

Happy Open Education Week!

This week, March 1 – 5, we observe Open Education Week, a global celebration of the open education movement. 

What is open education? The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) defines it as “resources, tools and practices that are free of legal, financial and technical barriers and can be fully used, shared and adapted in the digital environment.” Open education expands access to the resources of higher education (like open textbooks!) and enables the sort of collaboration that can engage students in new ways (like contributing to those open textbooks!). 

This week, we’ll share more blog posts highlighting some examples of the ways that education is being transformed by open culture, including by our very own faculty here at UT Austin. But today, we’ll start with part of the “why” that many open practitioners find compelling. 

It won’t shock you that cost remains a significant barrier to the pursuit of higher education. While the biggest costs, like tuition and housing, are generally beyond the reach of most instructors to impact, the cost of course materials is tangible and significant. At UT, students enrolled full-time in the fall and spring semesters can expect to spend $714 per year — and depending on their major, it could be much more. 

Open educational resources, or OER, are learning objects, like textbooks, websites, images, videos, and more, that are generally free of cost AND free of the legal barriers that restrict instructors from customizing them for their students’ needs. Replacing expensive course materials with OER can save a student tens to hundreds of dollars per course. 

We also want to celebrate our instructors who are going the extra mile to make education financially accessible. Are you a student who has taken a course without expensive course materials? If you’ve had an instructor who increased access and equity by selecting free or low cost course materials for class, nominate them as an Affordable Education Champion by Wednesday, March 3. UT Libraries and the Senate of College Councils will recognize some instructors in promotional materials on our websites and social media. All instructors will be made aware of their nominations. 

See more information on how high course materials costs impacts students, and contact Ashley Morrison, the Tocker Open Education Librarian, if you’d like to know more or get help locating OER for your discipline. (See a larger version of this infographic here.)