The Freedom to Teach: Using Open Educational Resources in Your Courses


  • Claudia Holland George Mason University
  • Karyn Pallay Reynolds Community College
  • Jane E. Rosecrans Reynolds Community College
  • Ioulia Rytikova George Mason University



open educational resources, hybrid courses, digital tools, multidisciplinary learning, teaching online, digital pedagogy, student engagement, student motivation, library collaboration


Open educational resources (OER) are ââ¬Åhigh-quality, openly licensed, online educational materials that offer an extraordinary opportunity for people everywhere to share, use, and reuse knowledgeââ¬Â (William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, n.d.). These materials range from full courses and course materials (including textbooks) to streaming videos and software.

Innovative educators recognize that OER offer an exciting alternative to restrictive (and expensive) textbooks by allowing them the freedom to select quality content that better fits their pedagogy. Students benefit from more engaged learning, lower costs, and the ability to revise and remix these materials as assigned by their instructor. The virtual sky is the limit!

The 4-VA Collaborative at George Mason University recently announced a competitive grants pilot program (February, 2016) to incentivize Mason instructional faculty to identify existing, or create new, open digital content and incorporate it into their course(s). The proposed interactive presentation session will build on the Mason 4-VA pilot program. A team of four faculty members from Mason and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College will lead the session. Discussion topics to be covered include defining OER, describing Creative Commons licenses, strategies for integrating OER in courses, and identifying quality materials. Participants should bring a laptop as they will be divided into small groups during the session to familiarize themselves with websites that aggregate OER content applicable to their discipline(s).

By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  • Define OER,
  • Understand Creative Commons licenses,
  • Outline the first steps in planning an OER project, and
  • Identify some online sources for discipline-specific OER.

We anticipate that OER collaborations will emerge from this session.



Mason 4-VA Collaborative. (February, 2016). Course Redesign: Using Open Educational Resources. Retrieved from

William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. (n.d.) Open Educational Resources. Retrieved from

Author Biographies

Claudia Holland, George Mason University

Claudia Hollandàis Head of Scholarly Communication and Copyright within Mason Publishing Group, George Mason University Libraries. Sheàholds Masters' degrees in Anthropology and in Library and Information Scienceàand has been actively involved in open access advocacy since 2008. She offers expertise (but not legal advice) in copyright issues, open access publishing, author rights, and open education. Claudia manages Masonââ¬â¢s Open Access Publishing Fund, established by the library to assist Mason authors publishing in OA journals that require a fee. She also serves as an appointed Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA) System Leader in the Open Textbook Network, a national group dedicated to increasing the adoption of open textbooks in higher education, and as Masonââ¬â¢s representative on the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia-Open Virginia Advisory Committee (SCHEV-OVAC).

Karyn Pallay, Reynolds Community College

Karyn Pallay holds an MA in Writing and Rhetoric from Virginia Commonwealth University and a BA in English from the University of Utah. During her tenure at Reynolds, she has become both a Senior Online Instructor and Course Designer, and a Certified Quality Matters (QM) Peer Reviewer. From Fall 2012 to Fall 2014, Ms. Pallay served as chair of the Reynolds Critical Thinking Task Force. She has spent many hoursââ¬âthrough courses, conferences, and other activitiesââ¬âlearning pedagogical approaches that can help Reynolds students think more critically, and has presented on critical thinking to diverse audiences. In Spring 2015, Ms. Pallay participated in the VCCS Chancellorââ¬â¢s Innovative Fund grant as part of the Reynolds OER Initiative to develop College Composition II (ENG 112). She now uses the OER model in all of her composition classes and has co-presented with Dr. Jane Rosecrans at two conferences. Currently, in addition to developing OER courses, she facilitates the Critical Thinking Faculty Learning Cohort and serves as the Reynolds Faculty Learning Communities Facilitator.

Jane E. Rosecrans, Reynolds Community College

Dr. Jane Rosecrans is Professor of English at Reynolds Community College where she has taught since 2002.à She has been involved with OER efforts statewide since 2013 and has served as the Faculty Coordinator of the Reynolds OER Initiative since 2014.à She serves as chair of the new OER Peer Group in the VCCS; their very first conference took place in late April and attracted over 200 faculty and administrators from around the state.à She is also the Project Director for a new 3-year NEH grant the college was recently awarded; the grant focuses on working with local museums, historical societies, religious institutions, and cultural and artistic organizations to incorporate on-site visits and digital holdings into humanities courses.à She believes this will open up new avenues for OER.

Ioulia Rytikova, George Mason University

Ioulia Rytikova is an Associate Professor and Associate Chair for Graduate Studies in the Department ofàInformation Sciences and Technology,àGeorge Mason University.àShe received a B.S./M.S. degree in Control Systems and her Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science from National University of Science and Technology, Moscow, Russia.

In over 15 years of her career in higher education both in the US and Europe, Dr. Rytikova acquired significant work experience in providing leadership in the areas of innovative teaching and learning, instructional design, and distance education in a variety of STEM disciplines, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Dr. Rytikova designed and developed multiple interdisciplinary programs, concentrations, and courses in the emerging areas of data sciences and big data analytics, computer and information technologies, health information technologies, and statistical analysis.

Dr. Rytikova founded aàPersonalized Learning in AIT lab (PLAIT)àand organized several workshops, as well as published and presented on the topics of learning sciences and analytics, innovative teaching and learning, data sciences and big data analytics, and decision-support and expert systems for large industrial complexes at multiple workshops and conferences.

For her exceptional efforts in the classroom and her contributions to the educational process, Dr. Rytikova received recognition not only from her outstanding students, colleagues, and industry partners, but also from the GMU Volgenau School of Engineering when she received the 2008 Outstanding Teaching Award, one of the most prestigious VSE awards.