Epiphanies from the Field

Lisa Young

Fireside Guest – Lisa Young

Lisa Young has been the director of the Scottsdale Community College Teaching and Learning Center for thirteen years. She is an advocate for OER on a global scale and is a board member of Open Education Global. She was one of the main instigators of the Maricopa Millions Project, a project that to date has saved students over 11 million dollars in textbook costs. 

About Lisa and her work – Open Education BoardEducause PresentationsYouTubeOpen Maricopa

Open Educational Resources – a definition

“At Hewlett, we use the term “open education” to encompass the myriad of learning resources, teaching practices and education policies that use the flexibility of OER to provide learners with high quality educational experiences. Creative Commons defines OER as teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities– retaining, remixing, revising, reusing and redistributing the resources.”


Lisa told us how many instructors in her community were using OER before she and her colleagues formalized the practice into a college mission with the Maricopa Millions project. That reminds me very much of our situation at UW Bothell:

  • Julie Shayne and her students wrote and published the Badass Womxn in the Pacific Northwest (an example of open pedagogy–sharing how and what students learned, in addition to creating an open educational resource)
  • Charlie Collins makes stats videos.
  • Chris Wade shares videos about public health. 
  • Jesse Zaneveld is writing a textbook with students about bioinformatics. And then there are materials being developed by folks in community–while I haven’t gotten up the nerve to share my videos about statistics yet, other folks are doing great stuff on the open web. 
  • Sarita Shukla introduced me to liquid syllabi, and she’s been working on a blog (soon to be published) with students to share resources about how to succeed in college. 
  • Ko Niitsu has made his course on Critical Reading & Information Literacy in Nursing available to the public. 
  • Gavin Doyle and Deborah Hathway made a video with performing tips.

We are doing so much! How can we share resources and combine forces to support more use and production of OER on campus?

Learning community in Zoom meeting.


Lisa shared multiple benefits of using OER but the one that piqued my interest was the flexibility and the ability to remix materials based on student and class needs. For the classes I teach (and this might be the case for most other faculty as well); I bring in multiple texts, articles, videos, and podcasts. For the most part, adhering to one text does not lend itself to the complexity or varied perspectives and voices that are pertinent to bringing in critical and complex views about a topic. I like the use of first hand accounts and stories from the people who might be experiencing the topics we discuss in class. I therefore have been remixing materials to help bring in diverse voices that might either be absent or get a cursory mention in texts. 

What makes OER another step in the right direction is the ability to draw upon and build upon work that is being done by other faculty in a true spirit of sharing and co-creating content. I can use and remix these materials, bring students in this messy co-creation process and then share this so that others may benefit from my own learning. The ability to create texts that are reflective of the needs of my students and classes while building upon other materials that are freely and openly available in the spirit of sharing and reciprocity may transform my teaching. The work that Lisa and the Maricopa Millions Project did to elevate OER is powerful in that sense. I want to create a text for a newer course that I am developing and will be dipping my toes into OER for that purpose.


One of the people Lisa talked about was  Richard Baraniuk.He was instrumental in OpenStax. When I went to learn more about this person,  I found his website and a link to the persuasive video Cracking the Textbook.  I was moved by what the account of older student who had gone back to community college at the same time as her kids were starting–in fact, the whole family was attending. She said that using OER sources was like giving each student a scholarship.

One thing that stood out for me is that OER was something Lisa was already doing, then it grew into an  institutional project (Maricopa Millions Project) that 10 different community colleges could use. I think that most of us already create a lot of course content that could be OER. I also think that most of us have little or no time to spend packaging our content for OER (except maybe Sarita, who is developing a new course on Educational Statistics and OER). 

This  leads to the next thing that stood out, which is that Lisa set a goal (saving students $5 million) and had the insight to realize that this would require a coordinated systemic response with multiple stakeholders involved. This included an execute sponsor (provost), students, librarians, digital learning people and, importantly, skeptics. Lisa later realized that they should have included a student (or students) and a faculty association member.

That sounds really big, but actually only two faculty members organized and executed the project–which makes it sound much more doable, for example right here on the UWB campus. But it does lead to some questions:

  1. Implementation: Given that every faculty member I know is vastly overburdened, would it be more realistic to have “coordinators” at work in each division to chunk the work down into smaller parts? Could fellowships or time release be given to participants?
  2. How could this work at our university? Would we get faculty buy-in? How much buy-in do we need to make it successful? Lisa found that naysayers were converted to believers by participating in the process, but she is in a community college system where people may not be doing “tenure track” research. Is our system truly comparable to hers? If not, what would we need to do differently than she would have done?
  3. Improving educational access: OER improves access, and If we are really concerned about DEI and educational access at UWB, using OER should be central.


Elevating the conversation of OER from the “beautiful pockets of innovation” to the larger system is our challenge. Particularly here at Bothell, and the UW at large, where we are still kinda bickering over things that were known and decided by most universities many years ago. OER at UW Bothell flyer

Who will champion the OER cause here at Bothell? As Lisa noted, they had many faculty on board both using and advocating for OER, but no representation from the faculty senate (our GFO). She also said they had done all kinds of surveying of students to gather information, but there was no student representative on the “board” of the OER effort. Good things to remember as we head into this space. 

And we will head into it. It is just a matter of being drawn into it without our consent or ability to change it, or are we going to identify it as a goal and intentionally engage with it. Really, it is already happening. Many faculty have stopped using textbooks. Some are using coursepacks, or using publisher digital assets but not requiring the physical textbook. How will administration lead the effort? Who in administration will lead the effort? When will they? What will our Maricopa Millions Project look like?

Right now we do have faculty at Bothell creating OER. We do have faculty with amazing YouTube channels. We have librarians who know how to find OER materials for faculty. We have faculty sharing various portions of classes openly and freely. One way to gain more traction is to hold up their efforts and make them visible. That is something faculty can do without a broader administrative effort. They can share the work they do with colleagues and in faculty meetings. We are going there.  


What interested me the most from the conversation with Dr. Young was about the evolution of teaching technologies. When I was a student, my teachers physically wrote down the contents on the blackboard with chalk. No technologies whatsoever. Then, my teachers started writing down the content on the transparent sheet and projected the notes by using the overhead projector. I remember how hard it was for me to read those handwritten notes! As Dr. Young pointed out, those notes used to be much less colorful with just a few colors (e.g. black/white, red, & blue). 

Then, we have started using PowerPoints and now we have websites. The educational materials have become much more colorful, accessible, and shareable. Dr. Young mentioned her frustrating experience with losing all teaching materials, such as the transparent sheets for the overhead projector, that she accumulated over the years. But now, depositing and storing those materials have been much easier and manageable than ever by using digital technologies. After talking to Dr. Young, I felt like adapting with and keeping updated with the digital technologies is such an important aspect for teachers to provide the optimal learning experience for our students.

Open Research Hub and John Hilton

For data about importance of OER

“Students have the materials on day one with OER, and they don’t if textbooks are required. Only half of students buy textbooks! 70% don’t have them on the first day, 50% never get them.” 

Places to Find OER Resources


​​OpenStax is a nonprofit educational technology initiative based at Rice University. Since 2012, OpenStax has created peer-reviewed, openly-licensed textbooks, which are available in free digital formats and for a low cost in print. 

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that helps overcome legal obstacles to the sharing of knowledge and creativity to address the world’s pressing challenges.

Math is Power 4 U

An amazing collection of math videos from Phoenix College math faculty, James Sousa. This site provides over 7,000 free mini-lessons and example videos.  All of the videos are closed captioned and ADA compliant.

Nova Southeastern University OER site

Nice resource examining the “5 R’s” of OER and has many good linked. The 5 R’s are – Reuse, Retain, Revise, Remix, & Redistribute

The UW Bothell OER Library Guide has many resources and information for Bothell faculty. 

Places to learn about the OER Community 

The Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources

The Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) promotes the awareness and adoption of open educational policies, practices, and resources. 

Open Education Global

Open Education Global is a member-based, global, non-profit supporting the development and use of open education around the world.



  1. This is very timely given that it is Open Education week beginning March 7th. Some great resources, some great presentations being given globally! There is some information here https://oeweek.oeglobal.org/

    We are so lucky to have people like Lisa willing to share experiences and ideas with us!

  2. Pingback: Epiphanies with Terry Greene – Teaching & Learning on the Open Web

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