Best Practices for Using Open Educational Resources in Lower Division English Classes

UH Department of English, Fall 2019


1. ) Know the resource’s genre and your pedagogical purpose.

  • Is the resource a textbook? An article from a journal or magazine? Something else?
  • Are you selecting the resource to explain something about rhetorical writing or about a literary movement or concept? Are you selecting the resource to illustrate some of the writing moves that you expect your students to make? Are you selecting the resource to generate perspective (food for thought) for a class discussion? For those of us teaching ENGL 1303 and ENGL 1304, all of these purposes may be relevant, but probably at different times.

2.) Use trustworthy academic repositories for open educational resources, such as those repositories affiliated with MD Anderson Library and listed in the UH English Department’s Open Educational Resources Guide.

  • Not everything that is accessible online is truly an open resource because many online materials have copyright restrictions. See the Open Educational Resources Guide for examples of texts with different copyright situations.
  • Avoid websites that merely advertise published writing as freely downloadable, especially if the writing was published since the early 1920s. See the Open Educational Resources Guide’s section “2000-level English Courses” for some trustworthy websites where you may retrieve literary works now in the public domain.

3.) Be judicious in your selection of one or more open educational textbooks. This point is most relevant for ENGL 1303 and ENGL 1304.

  • Which textbook(s) sufficiently explain and/or illustrate key concepts from your class? Not all do.
  • Which textbook(s) show accuracy and specificity when explaining key concepts from your class? Not all do.
  • If you use excerpts from multiple textbooks, how well do the excerpts work together? Take care lest one textbook describes a concept like analysis or the rhetorical triangle one way while another textbook describes these concepts another way.
  • Which textbook(s) give relevant examples of student writing? Many do not.
  • For recommendations, see the textbooks described in the Open Educational Resources Guide. But notice that sometimes instructors have expressed reservations about even these textbooks, and often instructors have used only one or a few chapters or excerpts from a given textbook. No textbook is perfect.

4.) If needed, supplement your selected open educational resources using your teaching experience.

  • Assume that sometimes you will need to create your own examples of an essay that does what you are assigning or your own examples of communication scenarios illustrating factors that you want students to apply to their lives. Your past teaching experiences may come in handy here.
  • You may supplement your use of open educational textbooks with any material from the UH English Department and the UH Writing Center’s SharePoint site for multimodal writing assignments and other teaching resources. This site was created circa 2016 by faculty, lecturers, and many experienced TFs from the English Department and by staff from the Writing Center. See Dr. Melanie Salome, Lower Division Administrator, for details on how to access the site.
  • Exercise extreme caution if considering the possibility of using excerpts from copyrighted and non-open educational resources. Follow fair use requirements for educators.


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Open Educational Resources Guide for English Copyright © 2020 by Nathan Shepley and Ariana Santiago is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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