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Open Education Resources Trailblazers

OER Trailblazers are NIC faculty members who have adopted, adapted, or created OER and completed the Project Z initiative documentation to pave the way for our students to gain an Associate's Degree with only no-or low-cost.

James Devlin

Bio: James Devlin is an adjunct English professor working out of Sandpoint, Idaho. He traveled a long way from his hometown in Florida; however, he's always loved trees and mountains. He enjoys active pursuits like hiking, kayaking, or long walks in the snow and quiet hobbies like nights in with a book, video games, or board games.

Why I use OER: I use OER material because I understand how expensive books can be. During my college career, I had to work several jobs to afford rent, food, and support my parents. On top of that, I was paying for college. Surprisingly, not many classes could accommodate OER which meant I had to sacrifice something to afford my education. I have encountered many NIC students in similar financial situations. I don't want any student in my classroom to feel they have to sacrifice their comfort to achieve an education.

OER Impact: I have seen many students in my classrooms who are single parents just managing to get by. They work a job or two, take care of their children, and attend class on top of that. I hear so often that these parents work and go to college so their children can have a better life. I often see the relief on my students' faces when I repeat from my syllabus there are no material costs. That is part of the Impact OER can have on this campus.

Dwayne Huff

Bio:  Dr. Dwayne Huff is an Assistant Professor at North Idaho College with 18 years experience in higher education. Most of these years have been in roles as music faculty in traditional undergraduate music programs. Specializing in pedagogy, music theory, music history, and applied piano, Dwayne uses his experience to play a key role in helping music programs achieve their objectives and adapt to the needs of their institution and community.

Why I Use OER: I use OER in my teaching because I realize that costs can be one of the key barriers for community college students to achieve their educational goals. Since the OER movement began, the resources to develop high quality OER materials have continually grown which means there is a large and ever-expanding body of excellent materials in all academic disciplines. While I believe there is still also a need for traditional, commercial products in higher education, I think that OER resources are often comparable to or even equal to these commercial products in quality, especially for use in general education and lower division courses.

OER impact: Using an OER text has given me the flexibility to use a comprehensive text which I can adapt to fit my needs. The text is licensed in a way which allows revisions of the text by the user. Students obviously appreciate the zero cost of the text and that it includes the standard kinds of resources which are vital for any course in music.

Laura Godfrey

Bio:  I’m an Associate Professor in the English and Humanities Division and Affiliate Faculty member for the University of Idaho English Department. I teach classes in rhetoric and composition, American literature, business writing, and technical writing, as well as upper-division classes in English for the University of Idaho-CdA. I received my B.A. in English from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, my M.A. degree in American literature from the University of Idaho, and then my Ph.D. in American Literature from Washington State University. I’ve published articles on a range of 19th, 20th and 21st century American authors including Mary Hallock Foote, Mourning Dove, Ernest Hemingway, and Cormac McCarthy. My first book, Hemingway’s Geographies, appeared in 2016 and was followed by Hemingway in the Digital Age (2019).
Why I Use OER: When I took on teaching NIC’s Business Writing and Technical Writing classes, in researching textbook costs I was immediately shocked at the price tags—many of the commonly-used and referenced textbooks for these classes were well over $100. I decided to try and trim down the cost for my students and to choose books that were thoughtful, accessible, and helpful to them not only in school, but out there in the real world for their professional lives—but I didn’t want my students to pay more than $30 for either class.
OER impact: What I’ve noticed is that, compared to other classes I’ve taught with more expensive materials, my students are able to buy their books quickly and get right to work in the class.This puts them at a huge advantage because they don’t fall behind, and it takes stress off of them, which is really always my goal.I want learning in my writing classes to be fun, open, and dynamic, not an experience that’s bogged down with the pressure of buying a $150 Business Writing book.

James Jewell


Bio:  Dr. Jewell earned his AA at Spokane Falls Community College (Business Administration emphasis), his BA (History major, Economics minor) and MA (History) at Eastern Washington University, then completed his academic training with a Ph.D. from West Virginia University (History). He has taught at the college level full time since 2003, first at Bloomsburg University and then for the last 19 years at North Idaho College.

Why I Use OER: Never comfortable with the high cost of textbooks and additional course materials, I slowly began to shift to OER materials more than a decade ago. However, I did feel OER textbooks met my standards for academic rigor until the last few years. This is one of the great benefits of OER material, improvements are happening constantly. Now that OER textbooks are at a much higher level of academic rigor as well as more user friendly, I like being able to have direct links to specific chapters. This allows students to jump straight from the unit modules to the readings for each module. The expanding number of interactive tools, like maps also enhances the student learning possibilities.

OER impact: As alluded to above, my students not only have a smoother transition between modules and syllabi to materials, those sources are increasingly interactive, which seems to generate more student usage. Of course, I routinely hear from students how much they appreciate not having to pay for expensive course materials. One of the best things from a structural standpoint is that OER materials have improved so much that I do not have to make adjustments (like adding in more sources) to cover gaps in the OERs. One additional point worth noting is the evolution in the types of OER material available encourages regular investigation into what has been created/added to the clearinghouses -and collaborative discussions with my friends teaching all over the country about what they are using. The standard textbooks remain pretty consistent in structure and content, limiting the regularity when I reviewed them, though I did and often changed textbooks.


Lucas Brown

Bio:  Lucas Brown is an Idaho native with a passion for literature, fairy and folk tales, Russians, Catholics, transcendentalists, and people saying they're sorry in front of a lot of people. He wrote his Master's degree thesis on the rhetoric of public apology, and completed the coursework towards a Ph.D. in Rhetoric/Composition. He decided not to write a dissertation because time is a finite resource that he chooses to spend elsewhere. He has seven kids and a couple of acres. He grows blueberries and raspberries and has big plans for a Greek-style gymnasium on his currently barren estate. He hopes to teach his students to seek out the good, the beautiful, and the true.

Why I Use OER: I adopted a policy of freely-available materials because college costs enough as it is without adding unnecessary additional costs. I'm lucky to teach in a field that has centuries of out-of-copyright scholarship and great literature.

OER impact: Being able to provide a low-cost or free set of texts for my students has increased textbook uptake; students seem to be more likely to read a book if it doesn't cost them an arm and a leg.