Connecter, Adviser, Creator: The role of the instructional design librarian in campus OER initiatives

Notes and resources for my round table at the Open Education Conference 2017 on the role of the ID librarian in campus OER initiatives: Connector, Adviser, Creator.


Download handout from Dropbox

More Resources

Things I’ve Developed as an ID Librarian

Pollak Library Elearning YouTube

Pollak Library Elearning Repository


Blog Posts That Might Be Relevant

How to become an instructional design/elearning librarian

Instructional Design Librarian Starter Kit

Get started with elearning development

Technology and 21st Century Skills/Free Graphics, Audio, and Video for Education

Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s free! In this hour-long webinar, you’ll learn where to find media while respecting creators’ copyright. We’ll go over the basics of “Creative Commons” licenses and what it means when something is “open”. You’ll learn how to use Google Images and other sources to find open and openly licensed images. Come and learn how the basics of media may be reused, adapted, and legal while feeling guilt-free!

This presentation is part of California State University’s College of Education Webinar Series, 2017-18.

Download my slides under CC BY 4.0. 

Learning APA Style Through Games and Simulations

I’ve been working on an APA citations tutorial for almost two years now. Yes, two years. I started an APA citations tutorial in Storyline in November 2015. There was a long hiatus in there somewhere, and then a complete change-of-course altogether. I’ve only been ready to show this project since July. I was fortunate to upgrade to Storyline 3 over the summer, but of course I had to iron out the bugs after upgrading the file.

Screenshot of title slide of Citations APA Style

This tutorial is worthy of its own post because of its format: it’s a series of games and self-directed learning opportunities wrapped in an essay-writing simulation. The scenario is that you, the learner, have finished writing an essay and have only to complete the citations to finish it all up! (If you’re anything like me, citations take as long as the writing did!).

The learner’s home base is a simulated desktop, compete with computer, the three sources they “used” for their paper, and an APA style guide (written by yours truly).

Screenshot of desktop-type landing screen in tutorial

Learners may click on the computer to complete their references. On the left, the book, the iPad, and the phone each represent a source used for the paper. The APA book is an online style guide for reference.

Learners have to complete three references: a book, a website, and an article. Each reference is completed via quizzes, complete with multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and hotspot questions that step-by-step build each tutorial. The learner has access to the APA style guide every step of the way – and has the option (self-directed learning!) to play a game prior to attempting each reference to build their APA knowledge.

There are three included games, one in each reference module:

  • APA Reference List Tic Tac Toe (website module)
  • VIP Game (article module)
  • Authors APA Trivia Game (book module)

The trivia game is pretty straightforward – it’s a set of multiple-choice questions about how authors’ names are formatted in citations. I got the template from Tim Slade.

The Tic Tac Toe and the VIP Game are both completely built from scratch.

The VIP Game is a modification of my Spaceshooter game – learners have to shoot down the incorrectly formatted “VIPs” – the Volume/Issue/Page facet of any APA article citation. It’s impossible to win, but learners can replay to achieve higher scores.

I’m especially proud of the Tic Tac Toe game. Each square leads to questions related to formatting a paper in APA style – the learner must answer three questions correctly, in a row, to win the square. Otherwise it goes to their “opponent.” Each square is linked to a question bank, so that the questions appear randomly, and the learner never plays the same game twice. If the learner scores three boxes in a row, they win! This game took a lot of development time all by itself.

I’m still working on testing this tutorial, and figuring out how best to make it play nice with our learning management system so that students can earn a badge for completing it. When it’s all done, I’m going to publish each game individually as well.

Here’s what the structure looks like, including a scene off to the side of unused just-in-case slides:

Visit the live tutorial demo!


Spark Tutorials recognized as ACRL-IS Site of the Month!

posted in: My Work | 0

I regularly submit my tutorials to ACRL Instruction Section’s PRIMO Database, which peer-reviews instructional materials created by librarians. I’ve been very fortunate to have several accepted!

My Spark Tutorial “Finding Articles and Databases” scored high enough on the reviewer rubric to be selected as a Site of the Month for June 2017!

Read my interview about this tutorial and the Spark Tutorials project over at the ACRL Instruction Section blog.

You can try out my Spark Tutorials as well! I’m currently in the process of updating them for our new website and discovery tool.

screenshot of ACRL instruction section blog

Instructional Design & eLearning Blogs, Conferences, Podcasts, & Websites

Occasionally I get asked about what blogs I follow, what podcasts I listen to, what conferences I attend. I like keeping a leg in both worlds: libraries and the eLearning industry. This is especially important since I also teach in a graduate instructional design program.

Here’s a short list of my favorites:



Both of these are fairly expensive, but offer discounts if you work at a nonprofit. DevLearn gives you free registration if you present!



The e-Learning Heroes Community has tons of great stuff. I especially enjoy their weekly challenges (someday I’m going to participate, I swear!) The community is run by Articulate, so naturally it’s Storyline-focused.

Nothing like this exists for Captivate, unfortunately!

Design Your Own Tutorial: Workshop Materials

I love developing eLearning! Even more than that, I love teaching people to design effective online learning experiences. Here are my slides and handouts from a workshop I did recently on designing tutorials (and aligning assessment with objectives!).

Download my materials from my workshop on designing an effective tutorial:

Presentation Slides

Handout – Storyboards

Handout – Learning Objectives

All of my materials are licensed under CC-BY 4.0.

Watch a 10-minute video on effective learning object design over on my post featuring my digital badges presentation (similar but not identical to above slides!)

Profiting from OER: A New EdTech Model

Here at Cal State Fullerton, we’ve been hard at work lowering the cost of education for students by promoting the adoption of OER and A(ffordable)ER instructional materials.

That means we’ve been persuading instructors to give up their cherished traditional textbooks in favor of an open textbook or an eBook available through the library, or a mix and match of OER and AER from across the web.

We’ve been pretty successful so far! (In fact, our entire Master of Instructional Design and Technology program has gone entirely AER – no textbook purchase required! [I’ve had a hand in this, naturally!])

We’ve saved students thousands of dollars! But oh –

What’s a traditional textbook publisher to do?

Good ole traditional publishers realize that they have to evolve or die. Start-up edtech companies that have pitched their “disruptive” OER/AER products for a few years now, and traditional publishers have tried presenting ebooks or rental ebooks as “affordable.” Just offering cheaper textbooks isn’t enough. Students know that e-textbooks are a scam, and as a librarian, I can plainly see that this model is not sustainable.

But the model is changing, slowly and surely – both start-up companies and traditional textbook publishers are now trying out newer and more innovative business models to try to profit from AER. Some good, some not so good!

This article from EdSurge on the growth of “enabler” companies put a name on the trend I’ve been seeing in the parade of vendor demos that come through Cal State Fullerton. Whereas we’ve been calling EdTech and OER efforts “disruptive” to the traditional model of higher ed, there are now more companies that facilitate or “enable” shifts in higher ed. They’re not offering products in the traditional sense. They’re offering services or discovery layers, which librarians have a LOT of experience with.

For-profit OER, aka, LMS Plug-ins Everywhere

First, Boundless came for a visit. They pitched us a service where they develop OER for courses that students access through a mandatory plug-in to our LMS. Students are charged in this model – I can’t remember the exact number, but it was between $20 to 40 to access the course content. No up-front fee for this one, as long as Boundless could recoup the cost of OER development later through student fees.

Their mandatory LMS plug-in and student fee was as bad as traditional publishers pushing ebooks! Yes, the Boundless model is cheaper, but students are still beholden to paying a mandatory fee for access to digital content. The LMS plug-in functioned as a sort of piggy-backed parasitic LMS – students accessed content and completed quizzes in the Boundless LMS, which communicated with our Moodle gradebooks. What happens to these courses when Boundless goes out of business? And I hear that it is going out of business!

An OER Spin on Discovery Layers

Next, there was Intellus. Intellus’ model is FASCINATING to me! And probably the most useful model I’ve seen so far. Intellus is basically just a custom discovery layer that integrates into the LMS. Intellus’ bots will scan your academic library’s resources to create its own index, and then will combine this index with their existing OER index to create a new discovery layer for faculty to more easily locate OER and AER for their courses.

The beauty of this model is that faculty can search and add content to their courses without leaving the LMS, and Intellus has a neat web app that allows faculty to organize content by module and learning objective as well.

This model focuses on libraries – they want to charge us several thousand a year to launch and maintain this service. (Because academic libraries have so much money, hah!)

While completely redundant since any self-respecting academic library ALREADY indexes all of its content in a local discovery layer, I thought that this could be a useful service that would enable greater OER and AER adoption among faculty because it makes the process easier, and makes it available at the point of need in the LMS. (But! This will only exacerbate the problems that arise when a library eBook goes away because it’s part of a subscription package, because the faculty didn’t tell us they were using it).

I do worry that the Intellus reps couldn’t pronounce EBSCO to save their lives, though. They kept saying “eh-bes-co,” and other librarians reported that the the reps didn’t know the difference between OER and AER. (Unfortunately many faculty fail to make that distinction also).

Interestingly, our new discovery layer we’re implementing at our library, Primo, actually offers its own LMS plug-in. So does MERLOT, a prominent OER repository. Their plug-ins are probably not as slick as Intellus, though.

OER-Centric Databases

Cengage is in the process of offering a somewhat similar model to Intellus, minus the indexing of local library content. Cengage is offering a series of subject-specific OER databases, and they’ll charge libraries by the database when it launches sometime this year. Their databases will have Cengage content also, videos and such. They, of course, have an LMS plug-in as well.

They’re also offering cheaper textbooks in a format that’s half traditional publisher/half Boundless – students will be charged $40 for access to an online textbook, but they’ll have perpetual access at least (if they download it). Cheap is great, but since they’re focused on targeting gen-ed classes, I can’t help but think OpenStax has already done it better and for free.

More Usable OER

Another interesting development – the Cal State OER repository MERLOT is partnering with content-delivery platform Vital Source. Details are forthcoming, but the gist is that Vital Source will use their fancy erReader platform to format Open Textbooks that are indexed by MERLOT.

A lot of OER have usability issues, so this is a nice solution for that (even if the usability issue is just that Word and PDF documents are often ugly). Really the appeal I see in this is that Vital Source is going to package open textbooks more like traditional publisher textbooks – which faculty will really like! The Bookshelf platform is also fully accessible, so faculty won’t have to worry about it.

Vital Source’s Bookshelf platform is already being used by Pearson to deliver etextbooks. The Bookshelf app is pretty nifty – you can annotate your textbooks and the annotations sync across your various devices (there’s a device limit of course).

The Appeal of Packaging and Findability

Overall, one of the biggest issues with getting faculty to adopt OER is that faculty tend rely on the textbook package – they rely on a monograph to guide their teaching, and on the supplemental materials that come along with it.

It’s published by a major company, and faculty also take that as a mark of quality. It’s easy to find because big publishers market to faculty.

If we are able to overcome these twin hurdles, packaging and findability, we will increase faculty adoption of OER/AER.

The more Open Textbooks that are available, and the easier they are to use, the more faculty will use them.

The more findable OER are, and the easier to integrate into their courses, the more likely faculty will be to explore what’s available and put them into their courses.

While I hate that Intellus is duplicating an existing library discovery layer, I do like that their product will enable faculty to find and use OER and library resources more easily in their courses.

And while I hate the model of requiring students to pay a set fee to access a digital textbook in a monopolistic textbook model, I do like that traditional textbook companies are trying to find new ways to lower prices, and I think they’re headed in the right direction with OER databases.

Final Word

There’s a fundamental uncoupling between content and service among textbook publishers – between holding fast to copyright (ahem, textbook DRM) and facilitating OER/AER adoption. The value of content is decreasing. There is less money to be made from monopolistic textbook practices (that once-solid foundation is eroding quickly!) but publishers are seeing that there is money to be made from a subscription-based model with OER databases and fancy discovery layers.

The shift is happening quickly toward OER enabling.

Long-term, OER will only continue to grow in scope and quality and usability, but there will always be a market to make this adoption process as easy as possible for faculty and students.

Pollak Library eLearning Recognized in American Libraries

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One of my projects got a shout-out in American Libraries! My Pollak Library eLearning site, a local learning object repository for information literacy, was included as an example of a WordPress-based info literacy toolkit.

Read the article on American Libraries

Explore Pollak Library eLearning

Learn more about this project, including the tech and philosophy behind it. I originally presented on this project at Library Technology Conference 2016 and Library Instruction West 2016, and developed my presentation into an article in 2017. The author approved manuscript is available for download.

Mentoring for Instructional Designers

So many instructional designers fall into this profession accidentally that there’s a book written about it.

I’m super lucky to have a second masters in instructional design and to teach in an instructional design program – but I am still the only person that does what I do on my campus.* I constantly crave general feedback on my work so that I can improve! I know I’m not alone in this feeling, lots of people are the sole instructional designer at their place of work, and it’s really difficult to figure out how to even begin to get better at what you do. Just like in teaching, meaningful feedback is crucial to the learning process. Without meaningful feedback on my work, I won’t improve very much. It’s a lot of trial and error.

This is why I’m so excited about this new peer mentoring program for instructional designers that’s being launched by Penn State, called ID2ID. The program will match instructional designers across institutions of higher education to allow them to peer mentor each other.

Imagine if you’re the sole instructional designer at your campus, but suddenly you’re in contact with someone else at another campus that has the same challenges? It would be incredible to be able to work with someone else to trade ideas and solutions!

As an Inside Higher Ed article that covers this program quotes a source, “people are being thrust into new responsibilities, but they don’t know how to do some [things]…they want to sit down with others who have the same problems.” Yes, yes they do!

As an Instructional Design Librarian, I’m not sure if this is the best program for me, unless I was matched with another librarian or with someone in charge of developing online tutorials. I haven’t decided yet if I will apply. But I really hope this program is successful and continues in the future, because I think it’s filling a critical need for so many instructional designers. We truly need to build larger communities of practice.


*We do have campus instructional designers that work with faculty, but as the Instructional Design Librarian, I’m the only one on campus developing elearning, designing information literacy tutorials, launching digital badge programs, etc.


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