Learning with Technology

for Teaching

November 28, 2018
by Leanne Riseley

Creating an OER Textbook by Cara Chang

The following post is written by Cara Chang, Leeward CC English Instructor.

TCara Changhis semester (Fall 2018) is my first semester teaching and piloting a new OER textbook for English 209: Business Writing.  Prior to teaching the class, I found two possible OER textbooks for my class on OER Commons.  The first textbook was Business Writing by Lumen Learning and the second textbook was Business Communication for Success from Open Textbook Library. I found both books to have important information; the Business Writing textbook focused more on writing skills and concepts while the Business Communication for Success text focused more on oral communication. I also noticed that there was some overlap in the content in both textbooks; in fact, some of the chapters in both textbooks were exactly the same.  As I started thinking about what textbook I wanted my students to use, it became apparent that both textbooks had something to offer. Though most of the SLOs in the course focused on writing skills, one of ENG 209’s SLOs mentioned delivering an oral report, which my students would be doing for their final assignment.  Therefore, I figured it would be helpful for my students to have access to material on both written and oral communication skills.

In April and May of 2018, I attended a workshop led by UH OER Technologist, Billy Meinke, who shared about Pressbooks, which is a simple e-book production software.  He shared an example of a UH Mānoa Nutrition textbook, which had used Pressbooks, and I really liked the appearance, layout, and clean look of the textbook. I also liked how compatible and easily accessible the textbook was on my phone since I knew that would mean that students could also easily access the textbook.  I also learned that some OER materials could be easily imported into Pressbooks, which would mean that I would not necessarily need to create material from scratch.

I spent July and August creating the textbook for the business writing class.  After planning the course schedule and looking through the two OER textbooks, I decided what information I wanted to include and exclude.  I ended up keeping information from both books and combining both textbooks into one textbook while organizing the information in an easy to understand way.  I was able to do this quite easily by importing one textbook into Pressbooks, but I wasn’t able to do this for the other textbook, which I ended up copying, pasting, and organizing in a cohesive manner.  The book starts with general content surrounding communication, covers the writing process and types of business writing, narrows down to specific writing rules and conventions, and concludes with presentations.  Lastly, I made a cover page for my textbook and named the textbook Business Writing for Success, which is a combination of both of the textbook titles.

Business Writing for Success Fall 2018 Edition

Overall, I liked working with Pressbooks.  It seemed fairly easy to use, and the layout was visually appealing and organized.  Furthermore, it seemed to be easily accessible for my students. When I finished creating the textbook, I included the textbook as an external website link in Laulima.  My students seem to like the textbook. They like that they don’t have to pay for a textbook and that all of the course materials are located in Laulima. To be honest, I’m not sure they really utilized the textbook as much as I hoped.  However, they did have group presentations on how to give presentations where each group was required to read and present on an assigned chapter in the book. I plan to have them take a survey regarding the textbook at the end of the semester, so I know how to better improve it.

While teaching the course and using the book for the first time, I came to realize how I would like to revise the textbook to make it better.  As I progressed through the semester, I realized that there was not enough business writing examples for my students. I ended up creating examples for my students that we would view, discuss, and critique in class.  Furthermore, I also realized that there are possible chapters I would like to add in the textbook. For example, I had my business writing students create a website and blog in class, and I needed to find external websites for students to read to assist them in this process.  Finally, there is room for creating and curating more lectures/videos for students who wish for supplemental materials.

In conclusion, I learned a lot from creating an OER textbook using Pressbooks.  It was user friendly and allowed enough customization for my needs. I would definitely consider utilizing Pressbooks to create another OER textbook in the future if I need to, and I invite other faculty members to participate in this valuable experience, as well.

May 3, 2016
by Rachael Inake

Flipping English Classes

This is a special guest blog post by Cara Chang, Writing Instructor at Leeward CC. Cara participated in our “Stop Lecturing and Flip Your Classroom” track at the PRLS conference (Summer 2015) which we are repeating again this summer at PRLS. In her blog post she shares how she flipped her classroom. We will continue working with Cara to further enhance her flipped classroom efforts.

20150520_113945-0-2cfk5yv-croppedI used the flipped classroom method in my ENG 100 class by creating different modules and activities for the first two essays that students write in class (Narration and Description Essay 1 and Literary Analysis Essay 2 Part 1 and Part 2).  The videos and activities worked well.  Students liked it because it was organized and told students exactly what they needed to do.  It then allowed me to use valuable class time to do more hands-on activities (applying what was covered in the flipped lessons).  For example, after learning about how descriptive writing includes figurative language like similes and metaphors, students used class time to create similes and metaphors in their essays.  In ENG 100, I believe that the flipped classroom method helped students work on SLO 2 (write compositions appropriate to a particular audience and purpose) and SLO 3 (incorporating source material appropriately) since the flipped lesson 1 and 2 covered how to write different types of essays and flipped lesson 2 covered pulling quotes from the text to support their point.

In collecting student reflections of what they learned in the course, many students wrote that they learned how to be more descriptive, which includes writing similes and metaphors.  Students were required to find and post a song that has similes and metaphors on the Tackk page in the comments section.  Students seemed to like this because it was fairly easy to use because they are familiar with social media.


This image shows student participation in the flipped class where students had to find a song with similes and/or metaphors and explain what it meant.

At the end of the semester, students are required to submit their favorite/best essay that I put on a student blog, so they may share their writing/work with the rest of the class, and students often choose to share their narration/description essay.  One student also wrote in her reflection that she learned how to quote and cite her sources from the flipped lesson on Literary Analysis.


This image shows my literary analysis lesson to prepare students to do their Literary Analysis Essay 2.

A challenge I faced with the flipped classroom method was managing and grading all of the activities I assigned and copying a course to be used more than once at the same time.  For example, I taught 3 sections of ENG 100, so I need to learn an easier way to manage these 3 (similar, but different courses).  I also realized that maybe I gave too many activities.   I think I will move some of my activities to a pre-flipped classroom activity.  Lessening the number of activities will make it less tedious for students to complete and easier for me to grade/manage.

In addition to using the flipped classroom in ENG 100, I also used the flipped classroom in ENG 24 to help students learn and practice grammar in collaboration with colleague, Jennifer Wharton.  Jennifer created a flipped lesson on Identifying Verbs, and I created lessons on Identifying Subjects and Identifying Prepositional Phrases.  Our goal is to eventually flip all grammar lessons, but this semester, we just decided to pilot a few lessons.  The videos were a great teaching tool as it allowed students to re-watch a lesson if they didn’t understand the material the first time.  In ENG 24, exposing students to flipped learning introduces them to a different way of learning.  After students experienced flipped learning, I believe that students better understood different ways to learn/study concepts (vocabulary, content, grammar).  This directly speaks to SLO 5, which states that students should “apply study skills to improve learning.”  In ENG 24, an improvement in student writing is very obvious, but I teach grammar using different methods (flipped and traditional), so I do not know if I can attribute their improvement to the flipped classroom experience.


This image shows a grammar flipped class lesson for ENG 24.

A challenge I faced in facilitating a flipped classroom with my ENG 24 students was not spending enough time helping students get to the assignment.  I ran out of time when assigning the lessons, so not as many students did it the first time around.  Next time, I need to walk my ENG 24 students through the flipped classroom process by having them go into the lesson in class before they go home.

Because of the positive responses I received towards the flipped lessons, I plan to eventually create flipped lessons for all types of essays that I assign (Cause and Effect Essay 3 and Argument and Research Essay 4).  Another thing I would like to try is to maybe have students create their own lessons.  I may try this in ENG 22 since I assign a lot of presentations in this class.  Furthermore, as stated earlier, I would like to create more grammar lessons for ENG 24 students since I only created 2 lessons.

Please find the links to my flipped learning lessons created using Tackk:

  1. Narration module: https://tackk.com/d7p43p
  2. Literary analysis: https://tackk.com/lylshz
  3. Literary analysis 2: https://tackk.com/5ds9g0
  4. Subjects (ENG 24): https://tackk.com/0e901a
  5. Prepositional Phrases (ENG 24): https://tackk.com/xa7tn7
  6. Study Skills: https://tackk.com/zr2tgr

January 26, 2015
by Rachael Inake

Syllabi Makeovers

On Monday, January 5, 2015, several faculty participated in our Syllabus Starter and Makeover Challenge workshop where they:

  1. Accessed Curriculum Central to download their approved course outline.
  2. Created their visual course syllabus within the parameters of the approved course outline.
  3. Saved their syllabus as a PDF.
  4. Used the Laulima Syllabus tool to post their syllabus.
  5. Created a syllabus activity for their class(es).

visual-syllabus-creator-badgeSince then, three instructors – Cara Chang, Michael Cawdery, and Kale’a Silva – continued their efforts to successfully complete this workshop by making-over their syllabi into visual syllabi, creating and implementing a syllabus activity, and sharing it with us to share with the online community. They were awarded with the “Visual Syllabus Creator” badge. (These digital badges contain detailed information and evidence that can be used in their contract renewal or tenure/promotion dossiers.)

Cara Chang

Lecturer, English

Cara earned the “Visual Syllabus Creator” badge.

cara-chang-profileIn Cara’s made-over syllabus, she used different colors, pictures, and quotes to add meaning to her visual syllabus. She included photos and quotes taken from some of her course’s readings. Her syllabus also shows her personality and gives students a preview of her course. She even added a personal touch by including her own haiku to go along with a picture she took in her syllabus.

For Cara’s syllabus activity she divided students into groups and assigned each group a section on the syllabus to annotate and share back with the class. She also had her ENG 24 students take a syllabus quiz on the second day of class. She said that, “Students seemed to remember what was on the syllabus a little better and did better on the syllabus quiz than previous semesters. Students were also more engaged because they asked more questions about my syllabus. [They] seemed to like the different colors because some of them went on Laulima and printed out a color copy even though I had given them a black and white copy in class.”

This is Cara’s standard “before” syllabus for ENG 100 – Composition I.

Click to view PDF

Click to view PDF

And this is her made-over “visual” syllabus for ENG 100 using Michele Mahi’s visual syllabus document as a template.


Click to view PDF

Cara has graciously shared her Word (.docx) file for others to download as a template to modify for their own visual syllabus. To view all syllabus artifacts, click here.

Michael Cawdery

Assistant Professor, Education

Michael earned the “Visual Syllabus Creator” badge.

michael-cawdery-profileMichael condensed his 13-page standard syllabus into a 6-page visual syllabus that is more organized and meaningful. Information is “chunked” in parts for easier reading, colors are catchy, and relevant images and quotes add context.

For his syllabus activity, he did a scavenger hunt and exploration activity where he “jigsawed” the syllabus into parts and divided it up among small groups to review and then share back with the class.

This is Michael’s standard “before” syllabus for ED 285 – Introduction to Classroom Management.

Click to view PDF

And this is his made-over “visual” syllabus for ED 285 using Michele Mahi’s visual syllabus document as a template.

Click to view PDF

Click to view PDF

Michael has graciously shared his Word (.docx) file for others to download as a template to modify for their own visual syllabus. To view all syllabus artifacts, click here.

Kale’a Silva

Instructor, Education

Kale’a earned the “Visual Syllabus Creator” badge.

kalea-silva-profileKale’a made-over her syllabi by using colors and blocking of each section to make reading easier. She created hers in Google Slides to take advantage of easily creating and arranging blocks, textboxes, and inserting images with simple click-and-dragging.

For her syllabus activity, Kale’a did a syllabus hunt/group building activity where students were given five main questions regarding information in the syllabus, and answered questions in groups. She applied this to her course, teaching, by asking students to reflect on their schooling experiences and how teachers explain course requirements. They compared the activity they did in her class, to the traditional “read the entire document out loud” method. Students discussed the benefit of community building and cooperative learning to learn information. Kale’a commented that students liked the images, clip art, and quotes used in the new syllabus.

This is Kale’a’s standard “before” syllabus for ED 294 – Introduction to Multicultural Education.


Click to view PDF

And this is her made-over “visual” syllabus for ED 294.


Click to view PDF

Kale’a has graciously shared her Google Slides file for others to download as a template to modify for their own syllabus. To make a copy of Kale’a’s syllabus to use as a template for your own, follow these steps:

  1. Launch the Google Chrome Internet browser (because Chrome allows you to use a bunch of cool fonts in Google Slides) and log into your Google@UH account (Gmail or Drive).
  2. Click here to open Kale’a’s file in Google Slides and click on File > Make a copy.
  3. Name your file appropriately and edit in Google Slides as desired.
  4. When you’re done, to download it as a PDF file, click on File > Download as > PDF Document (.pdf).

To view all syllabus artifacts, click here.

Syllabus Artifacts

All syllabus artifacts can be viewed and downloaded here, where there is also a basic template available for copying to create your own visual syllabus. If you do make-over your syllabus and found our resources helpful, please submit yours to share too. Or if you’re interested in attending our Syllabus Starter and Makeover Challenge workshop next semester, please look out for the registration information in your email or in the “Week of Welcome” flyer.


The Syllabus Starter and Makeover Challenge workshop is a part of our Learning with Technology for Teaching > Starter Instructional Technologies series offered every semester.

Skip to toolbar