Skip to main content

Ask a Librarian!

Need help with Research? Have a general question about the library's resources or services? We're here to help!

There are a number of ways in which you can reach us:

Chat with a Librarian 24/7. Need help now? Click here to chat with a librarian 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Email us at  When sending email, please allow 24 hours for a librarian to respond.

Call a Reference librarian at (206) 592-3232 (on-campus extension 3232) during library hours.

Visit the Reference Desk, located on the Library Plaza Level (2nd Floor) during library hours.

Faculty Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER): OER Heroes

Gayatri Sirohi


Avatar created with:



Gayatri Sirohi
English Instructor


Process: Putting an English 101 course into Canvas Commons
Spring 2016

Conception:  I collaborated with our Librarian Deb Moore to find Open Access material to use for content in English 101.  With material from the Highline library databases and from articles available online using “Google”, I had compiled a set of some 15 articles where the focus of the content was on access and equity in math education and/ or how lack of access, equity created math anxiety.  Some of the research suggested that making students aware of these issues such as “stereotype threat” would help ease math anxiety.  So I further whittled down the number of articles that I could use from this set and found 8 articles that I now use for this particular English 101.

Citation: Deb Moore and I then wrote the MLA citation for all the articles that we were interested in using. Since students also learn how to cite and document their sources in MLA style, we felt it was a good way to model something that is also part of the course.

Attribution:  I also have content that I have created such as 4 “argument documents” that are used to provide some rhetorical understanding to the students.  I then created CCBY licenses for these documents and added them to these.  Other content that would need these licenses would be rubrics and assignments that I have created.

Making it Possible:  Writing the citations was not a problem as both Deb and I could cross check for each other.  For the attributions, I used what I had learned from the SBCTC canvas OER course and created CCBY licenses.

How it’s Working out:  The students seem to be benefitting from the MLA citations, and I am seeing more students writing out the end-of-text citation even for their discussion posts. The CCBY licenses seem to confuse them somewhat with some students clicking on the attributions and reaching the Creative Commons page.

Issues that Confuse:  The YouTube videos are automatically linked from Canvas and the standard YouTube license applies. I am not sure if this is true of Purdue OWL videos (Vidcasts) for MLA style citation and documentation. This needs to be figured out still.

Once the Spring session is over and the course has had a dry run with my current online students, I will put it into Canvas commons.

Dr. Helen Burn

Avatar created with:


Dr. Helen Burn
Mathematics Instructor

My initial goal in joining the OER group was to find ways to reduce the cost of textbooks for Math& 146: Introduction to Statistics. For this class, the department allows instructors to choose their own textbook (this is not generally the case in sequential or prerequisite courses). A major consideration for me is that the text include an online homework program. Most of our current texts do, and this is a great way for students to practice and get credit without increasing my grading load.

Deb Moore found an OpenStax Statistics textbook for me. I was excited when I learned that the authors hail from De Anza College, which has been a leader in community college mathematics. I was ecstatic to find that the authors contracted with WebAssign to create an online homework suite. In May, 2016, I secured the required committee approval and will be using the text beginning summer quarter, 2016. The .pdf is free, and a hard copy of the text costs about $35, as does the Webassign. Thus students will spend a minimum of $35 and a maximum of about $70 for course materials. This is in contrast to over $200 for our regular text bundled with WebAssign.

In addition to using the text in Introduction to Statistics, I also plan to use pieces of the .pdf in a Quant 346: Data Analysis for Youth Development, which I will teach this fall for students in the BAS in Youth Development. In this course, I plan to take the next step related to OER and to begin authoring and licensing data activities. I’m very excited about taking this next step in which I will involve student in authoring and licensing activities.

Dr. Steve Lettic

Avatar created with:



Dr. Steve Lettic
Criminal Justice Instructor

Process: Government Documents as a “Textbook” Using OER materials
Spring 2016

Conception: The class I chose is part of a five class certificate in Introduction to Homeland Security called Intelligence Led Policing. The class is intended to give students an awareness of data driven policing that maximizes staffing resources to work in those high crime areas. I had already gathered several government documents that highlighted key concepts that met the Student Learning Outcomes (SLO). The challenge was to ensure they were foundational and to find other materials that provide alternate perspectives that are current and relevant. 

Adaptation: Once I gathered the materials, I made them available both in electronic form through Canvas and printed form as class desk copies. I also consulted Librarian Jack Harton who reviewed the gathered content and found alternate terminology under the term Predictive Policing

Adoption: At this point, I am reviewing the new materials to adopt into the course for Spring 2017. 

Challenges and Benefits: One of the unintended benefits was the overlap to CJ 122 Intelligence Analysis and Security Management. The new terminology has relevance and can be adapted to augment this class as well. The plan is to eventually have the entire certificate OER.

Shana Friend


Avatar created with:




Shana Friend
Education Instructor

Process: Creating a Math Textbook Using OER materials
Spring 2016

Conception:  My class prepares students to take the GED or enter college math classes. I was very unhappy with the textbooks. Some had too much information, others had not enough information, and none had enough practice. Over the past year, I began to investigate OER math materials that I could adapt to suit my audience.

Finding a Starting Base: After looking carefully at my SLOs and the GED requirements, I began researching open resources. Eventually, I decided that basing my lessons on the CK-12 curriculum would be best. CK-12 had a variety of levels of math with more examples and practice than other sources.

Adaptation:  After assembling CK-12 information according to topic, I then began to adapt the information. I changed any names in the material to match my demographics and changed examples to more suit my audience. For example, instead of candy-based word problems I changed them to money-based word problems. I added explanations that experience had shown me was helpful.

Adoption:  I started by this material as supplemental to my textbook. This way I was able to test it out in stages, as I had time. Students were very helpful in detecting errors and asking for clarification. This quarter is my final quarter using it as supplemental. During the fall, I will make it available on Canvas for students to print out as units. This way they don’t need to print an entire textbook, only the sections they need. The great thing about this is that I can continue to improve the material as I get more feedback.

How it’s Working out:  The students appreciate that they have handouts available that meet their needs. They have been frustrated with the lack of explanation in the textbooks and the lack of practice, and I have had positive feedback. It is also great to provide a low-cost book that I can legally put onto Canvas. Eventually I plan to make it available to anyone interested in adapting it for their own courses.

Dr. Bob Nylander

Avatar created with:


Dr. Bob Nylander

Bob Nylander

Process:  Locate and use OER materials for a specialized paralegal course, Academic Year 2015-16

Conception: I began teaching Law Office Technology in the paralegal program at Highline in 2014. I became concerned about the cost of textbooks and joined the OER working group during academic year 2014-15 with the goal in mind to find free OER material to replace the textbook. A secondary concern was to have more control over the content of the course, including the choice of what software applications would be taught. Textbooks come with password protected access to demo software, which has to be installed on one’s home or school computer. This led to lots of problems with OS compatibility, firewalls, virus protection, etc. I decided that cloud-based software, whenever available, would make the best replacement. It was not part of my goal to create an OER textbook.

Method:  While the class is team taught by a colleague (a practicing paralegal) and me, I took the leading oar in searching out OER material. I searched far and wide on the internet, participated in OER meetings on campus and took the SBCTC online course on OER class development. What I learned was fascinating and useful, but did not lead to the discovery of the wrapped-up-with-a-bow, ready-made course I was looking for. Plan B then was to use various materials that were available for free, even if they were not, strictly speaking, OER.


  1. Computing text: I located at textbook, D. Bourgeois, Information Systems for Business and Beyond (Saylor 2014) which is available on a very open CC-By license. The chapters in this book on computing in general, hardware, software, database and security made a good replacement for the similar chapters in available law office technology texts.

  2. MS Office exercises: at the suggestion of a former student I explored the assets at, an online training site run by Goodwill Industries. This site provides cloud-based interactive lessons on a variety of business computing topics, including tutorials on MS Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint). The material is copyrighted, but free to use as long as there is no charge. This replaced the MS Office chapters of the printed texts.

  3. Law office billing and practice management software: Clio ( is a popular law cloud-based office billing and practice management package. It offers an online tutorial that includes grading by Clio and also offers students a certificate of completion to add to their resumes. This is copyrighted and proprietary, but free to use by anyone. We have received special assistance from the company to help students along the way.

  4. Electronic Discovery: This is the hottest topic in the law office technology field, and acting on the suggestion of one of my colleagues in the paralegal program, in the summer of 2015 I reached out to the kCura company (, who produce the Relativity cloud based eDiscovery package. Through good fortune (dumb luck), I learned that kCura was launching a free academic training program to include law schools and paralegal programs. After I received a week’s training at kCura headquarters in Chicago, Highline was granted permission to use the Relativity academic package with access to an online database consisting of real documents from a real legal case, as well as a textbook, slide decks, course outline and lots of online reference material. We have a personal contact at the company who has helped us over any number of bumps in the road.

  5. The other stuff: My co-teacher and I have developed modules on ethics and other topics to complement the OER and proprietary materials.

Practice:  We have taught the course in the Winter and Spring quarters of 2016. The transition from textbook-based teaching has been fairly seamless. No student has complained about not having to buy a textbook. Students react favorably to the cloud based materials. We plan to continue teaching the course along these lines in the future.

Conclusion: I set out to find a full replacement for a textbook. I did not find it. However, we did create a course which does not require students to purchase a text, and we have been able to provide free access to high quality online learning materials.

Dr. Austin Roberts


Avatar created with:



Dr. Austin Roberts
Math Instructor

Process: Write an OER Math Textbook
Spring 2016

Conception: While undergraduate mathematics has not changed drastically in the past few decades, new editions of books and online homework continue to ensure that purchasing books is a significant burden to students. Moreover, I am not particularly excited about any of the differential equations textbooks on the market. Providing my own textbook could tackle both of these problems at the same time.

Choice of Course: I chose to work on differential equations for several pragmatic reasons. First, it is a terminal course at Highline, which means that the instructor has more freedom to choose their own textbook. It would be far more difficult to change the textbook for calculus I, since future classes depend on it.

Second, there is the potential for value added. I am not entirely satisfied with the differential equations books on the market right now.

Finally, and importantly, I had a coauthor. I friend from graduate school had taught the same course at the same time with me. He had already started compiling notes that we had discussed. This has the obvious benefit of using someone else’s work to get a head start, but it also gave me someone to discuss the text with. The latter was just as important as the former.

Putting It to Use Early: Even though it was not complete, I was able to use the text as supplementary course notes in my class. Not everyone used it, but many liked it more than the official text book. This also provided some early feedback.

Remaining Hurdles: Homework is a huge hurdle. Writing homework problems for an entire book is very time consuming. If I want people to adopt the text (including myself), there probably needs to be access to an online homework platform as well. There are many ways this could happen, perhaps even stealing problems from a related book on WAMAP. The path forward is not entirely clear.

The fact that I have a coauthor creates issues of ownership. Any distribution needs to be okay with both of us. For instance, he may wish to have a small fee to encourage future edits.

Once all of this is done, there are questions around publishing, distribution, and adoption. Even using it in only my class would lead to questions about the best way to create printed editions. We have discussed several option in our OER committee meetings, so I am confident that solutions can be found.

Dr. Savio Pham


Dr. Savio Pham
Computer Information Systems/

Computer Science Instructor

Cost of textbooks has always been a concerns for educators in encouraging students to pursue their education dream. After being with the OER group at Highline for a year, I have realized that there are many options out there to assist our students. The catch is that it requires instructor's effort to research and develop courses from OER materials.  

As an instructor, I know best what students need based on the course outcome and the detail of the course from the current structure. With that framework, I am confident that I can gather materials from different sources to make up for the textbook that often excessively cost our students. For example, the main textbook C SCI 100 course (Survey of Computing) is over $200. I have found a compatible OER textbook with a few missing chapters that I am confident I can find supplemental materials for the students. I have brought the idea to the coordinator and await the department's decision on adopting the strategy before moving forward with the effort.

The C SCI 100 usually runs for 4 sessions each quarter. When the OER effort for this class is completed we would save ~100 x $200 (= ~$20,000) for our students.