Open Education Week: A Q&A with MacKenzie Kembel

For Open Education Week, the Colorado Community College System is spotlighting faculty and instructors embracing the power of Open Educational Resources (OER). We are thrilled to feature MacKenzie Kembel, a business instructor at Front Range Community College.

Kembel is part of a CCCS systemwide group developing a new bachelor’s of applied science degree (BAS) in business management that will use OER exclusively and roll out this fall. Her responses below have been edited lightly for length.


When did you first hear of OER? When did you decide to incorporate it?

I first learned of and started using OER as a high school English teacher in 2019. I am currently using OER to create a customized textbook for a new Bachelor’s-level business course at FRCC that will be available across CCCS. This is part of a new Bachelor’s program under development that will use 100% OER—one of several degree programs offered by CCCS that does require students to pay for learning resources. Ultimately, the goal of any OER course is to reduce barriers to pursuing higher education and to provide students with relevant, accessible materials that reflect current trends and up-to-date data.


What are some of the advantages of using OER for you and your students?

Education is more than just rote memory exercises and now focuses more on analytical and critical thinking skills. It is the why and not just the what. OER allows instructors and course designers to critically examine all materials prior to pushing it out to students. Traditional texts do not allow educators to do this—the text is the text—whereas OER allows for choice.


Can you share a success story?

For the business degree project, OER has allowed me to pick and choose relevant materials and put them in the sequence that makes the most sense for my course. I have also been able to choose materials that reflect multiple perspectives on concepts, which has helped to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into instruction. The landscape of higher education has changed; it is so important to honor the diversity we now have in our classrooms both virtually and in-person. Materials and instructional activities must reflect what we see in our classrooms.


What advice would you give to a fellow faculty member or instructor who’s interested in developing and/or implementing OER?

OER comes with great responsibility, so one must be dedicated to the process prior to implementation. It takes a lot more time, effort, and planning up front because you are creating your own unique materials.

If you’re thinking about using OER, I highly recommend collaborating with your campus OER team. They have expertise in the area and can help you be successful. Some campuses also have pay incentives for creating an OER course, so I’d recommend asking your OER team or leadership before you start. It takes a leap of faith and a lot of patience, but it’s worth it in the end.

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