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OER at Work: Authoring a marine law open textbook was ‘straightforward and seamless’

A humpback whale breaches and soars in the air above the ocean. Holly Campbell teaches an ocean law course for Oregon State and uses an open textbook.

Feb. 3, 2021

Faculty at Oregon State University are leading the efforts to improve access to higher education and make college more affordable by reducing the costs of textbooks and required course materials.

Guided by the expertise and support of the OSU Open Educational Resources Unit, an increasing number of faculty members are adopting, adapting and authoring OERs.

One such faculty member is Holly Campbell in Oregon State’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. Campbell authored an open textbook, “Marine Law and Policy for Scientists and Managers,” under a Creative Commons license.

She recently shared her insights about the decision to incorporate the OER in her course, the development process and more.

Tell us a little about the course you teach that uses the open textbook.

“Since 2009 I have taught ocean law at Oregon State. The course familiarizes students with jurisdictions, authorities and the major national and a selection of international laws governing our oceans. The subject matter spans fisheries, wildlife and natural resources such as energy.”

Holly Campbell is a researcher and instructor in Oregon State's Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and she uses an open textbook in her marine law course.

Holly Campbell is a researcher and instructor in Oregon State’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Why did you choose to use this type of resource?

“I chose to apply for the grant and write the OER after hearing a talk by (former OSU OERU director) Dianna Fisher at the annual Ecampus Faculty Forum. Dianna explained the increasing financial stress nationally among university students and the rising costs of textbooks.

“My former required textbook was $180 and was not available as an e-book. My 30-year background in ocean and coastal and environmental law — and my observation that managers need a different approach to law than future lawyers — led me to want to create the OER.”

What was your process for authoring the open textbook?

“I do not have an office on campus, and in any event for years have loved working in the OSU Valley Library. I spent many months at a large table in the Library with my laptop. I began with an outline and then began the chapters. The process was very straightforward and seamless.”

What do your students think about it?

“The students seem grateful and find the book useful.”

What challenges did you face in bringing the open textbook into your course?

“There were no challenges in bringing the OER into the course. The major challenge is keeping it updated.”

What surprised you about working with OER?

“I was surprised by how much I enjoyed writing it and how I often think of expanding it if I had time, funding and tech support.”

What do you think is the greatest strength of OER?

“The greatest strength of OER is the access that it provides students during and after class.”

What advice would you give faculty who wanted to use OER in their courses?

“Don’t hesitate, but make sure you have set aside a block of time without distractions. Be patient and have fun. Look at your topic from a beginner’s standpoint, and remember what excited you when you first engaged with the topic.

“Make it interesting, stimulating of curiosity, unbiased and accurate, and include thought questions and sources for further reading throughout. My OER contains a large appendix of resources by chapter, mainly the relevant statutes and regulations.”


Learn more about the OSU Open Educational Resources Unit and the support resources available to faculty.

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