Professional Communications OER

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In 2015, the Government of Alberta issued grants for Open Educational Resource developments, focusing on open textbooks. Alberta OER granted Olds College funding to develop a curriculum for first- and second-year students in their programs and other higher education institutions or independent learners. Titled Professional Communication, this resource is helpful for instructors whose courses cover introductory communication skills, workplace communication, technical communication or business writing. It is accessible online, published under a Creative Commons license, and may be reused or adapted. The resources include four modules presented as textbook chapters and ancillary lesson plans, assets, assessments and supporting materials. The sample shown here is an update to Module 1: Foundations.

My Role

For this project, I served as a curriculum developer and instructional designer. The core team included two subject matter experts and two educationalists – including myself. 

As a curriculum developer I:

  • collaborated with subject matter experts to develop learning materials and tools (curriculum),
  • collected, developed, and prepared an online curriculum to meet specific learning outcomes.
  • evaluated the effectiveness and efficiency of learning materials in meeting the learning objectives,
  • developed lesson plans, including facilitator/instructor manuals, and
  • developed formative and summative assessments, rubrics and answer keys.

As an instructional designer I:

  • produced and edited digital learning materials, resources, and instructional aids
  • applied Creative Commons attributions and copyright compliance,
  • collaborated with subject matter experts and curriculum developers in the development process.
  • sourced supporting materials, including graphics, videos, and text,
  • identified suitable digital platforms, delivery formats, and tools for content delivery,
  • applied Web 2.0 principles and tools in content development,
  • ensured fit and finish of quality digital learning materials,
  • monitored and reported on schedule and budget milestones and the progress of projects, processes, and tools.

Delivering OER via Google Drive

When creating open educational resources, there are many tools that you could use. The success criteria for this project included a set of resources that are easy to share, simple to edit, can be viewed online or downloaded, and sustainable. Google Drive offered a way to achieve all these goals, and Olds College being a Google institution, made this an appealing choice over other options. Users can send a simple URL to share the resource with students, instructors, and the world. Revising any materials is as simple as editing a document or slide deck. Using Google Drive is ultimately more sustainable than other options in that the editing process is simple, and the edits appear in a single location without the need to push out updates. Finally, students can easily download the textbook in their preferred format (PDF, Doc, ePUB) and print out any worksheets they might need. 

Design Challenges

While Google Drive met content hosting and sharing requirements, it did not allow for interactive elements to be embedded. As a result, one design concept, in particular, interactive knowledge checks, could not be included. Instead, we provided simplified knowledge checks in the chapters and answer keys included at the end of each module. 

Updates Made for This Sample

I imported the sample provided from Google Drive to a platform designed specifically for open textbooks, Pressbooks. Pressbooks affords many of the same features as Google Drive. Resources can be viewed online or downloaded. Editing is straightforward, although slightly different than a simple document. However, several enhancements are now included:

  • Interactive glossary: key terms are clickable in text to reveal definitions and linked to a glossary,
  • Interactive knowledge checks: using H5P, readers can now check their understanding and receive immediate feedback,
  • Web-Accessibility: alternative text and stylized tables have been added to increase the accessibility of the resource.


The resources have been used at Olds College since 2016, with an average of 700 students using them yearly (over 4000 students to date). In previous years, students purchased an expensive required textbook to accompany their courses. This set of resources provides students with what they need to learn effectively for free and gives instructors the resources they need to feel confident in using them and focus on helping their students learn. 

In addition to its use at Olds College, I am aware of the following adoptions and adaptations of these OERs:

Lessons Learned

This project revealed the importance of authoring and editing workflows and how to provide textbook and ancillary resources in a simple, effective manner. While Google Drive supported many of the project’s goals, it is not an ideal solution for all open educational resources and open textbook projects. 

Project Samples

Module 1: Foundations

View the Chapter

Planning Communication

View the Assessment

Gathering Feedback

View the Activity

Using Visuals

View the Slides



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