Canvas Spotlight Course Showcase

Course Showcase – PSY 1001: Introductory Psychology

Last updated on May 21, 2024

The old saying that multiple minds are better than one has never been more true than when it comes to developing courses. Members of our Center for Teaching, Learning, and Design – Instructional Design team (CTLD ID) recently collaborated with expert faculty members from the Department of Psychological Sciences during the Spring 2022 development cycle. From the beginning to the end, we knew we were developing a very exciting and unique course. To celebrate, we decided to showcase the efforts from these faculty members by walking you through what makes this course so special, and to offer some ideas that can help you in our own course designs.

For this showcase we’ll cover the following unique aspects of the course design process:

  • Converting and using an Open Education Resource (OER) textbook directly in Canvas 
  • Collaborating with multiple instructors and an instructional design team in the development of the course and materials

Video Showcase


This spring and summer, the CTLD ID team worked in collaboration with Dr. Chris Garris, Dr. Lisa Hagan, Dr. Chrislyn Randell, and Dr. Laurel Hyslop from the Department of Psychological Sciences to convert PSY 1001: Introductory Psychology to a no-cost course for students (a cost savings of $93 per student). 

An OER textbook from OpenStax was selected as a starting point, with each instructor-developer adding and removing content to make the course unique to MSU Denver and the goals of Introductory Psychology for the Department of Psychological Sciences. In total, 15 textbook chapters were converted and placed into Canvas, with each chapter including unique formative assessments written by the instructors for students to check their knowledge about content after they had finished reading.

In addition to the four primary instructor developers, eleven other faculty members worked with the CTLD media team to record mini-lectures (10-15 minutes in length) on their topics of expertise for the course. In total, 44 new lectures were created, giving students at MSU Denver a unique introductory psychology course far different from the more generic publisher courses often offered at other universities.  

Best Practices

Through this course development process, we learned many best practices and techniques we would like to share with you.

OER Lessons

  • Using an OER textbook saves our students money! For many MSU Denver students, the excessive costs of textbooks are often a barrier to enrolling in classes. For example, the previously required textbook for the Introductory Psychology course is close to $100. For some, this may have been a barrier to entry for this field of study. Consider a degree program at MSU Denver that consists of 120 credits total. At an average of $100 for a textbook per course, a student could spend as much as $4,000 textbooks throughout their time here. OERs can make a significant difference in savings for our students.
  • According to (Hanson, 2022), 43% of faculty members believe their students learn more from print textbooks versus electronic textbooks. However, OER textbooks have actually been shown to be as effective, if not more so, as publisher material (Hilton, 2016).
  • Using a pre-existing OER textbook with a Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 gives you the freedom to add, change, or remove content and make the textbook unique to department and course goals. It also empowers instructors to include best practices for online instruction, such as formative, non-graded assessments. For example, in PSY 1001, over 150 formative knowledge check questions were added throughout the textbook, so students could receive immediate feedback about content they had just read. Studies have shown that students who participate in formative assessments have improved overall performance and higher scores than students who do not participate in the formative assessments (Robertson, 2019).
  • Using a pre-existing textbook from a reputable OER source like OpenStax can help with making a course 100% accessible, which is not a guarantee from most publisher content. All of the OpenStax material included in this course came with the required alt text and long descriptions for all content.
  • Converting an OER to Canvas Pages allows students to have a cohesive learning experience. All their learning can happen in one place without having the distraction of leaving a course and learning a new system to access other content (as is the case with almost all publisher content). Highly structured, organized, and easy to navigate courses increase the performance of online learners.

Collaboration Lessons Learned

  • Involving many faculty members from the Department of Psychological Sciences in the development of this introductory course creates a unique learning environment custom made for MSU Denver students that reflects our specific values and knowledge. It also highlights the wide-range of expertise in the department and lets future psychology majors get to know instructors that they might have in future courses
  • Collaboration with multiple faculty partners expands the scope of development and allows the creation of more robust courses than what would be possible with a single developer. The amount of course content created (such as the amount of mini-lectures and formative assessments) simply would not have been achievable without the division of labor
  • Collaboration helps replicate the “wow” factor often seen in the more expensive publisher materials, but without the added cost to students. Items such as knowledge prechecks, study guides, formative assessments with feedback, and intriguing graphics and videos often even cost extra beyond the initial textbook cost, but by using OER materials, the students are relieved from these financial burdens 
  • Collaboration promotes the quality of online courses at MSU Denver. Since PSY 1001: Introductory Psychology is such a high enrollment course for many majors beyond Psychology, creating a content-rich, quality online course highlights the high standards expected for online courses at MSU Denver and displays the goal of creating the best possible learning experience for our students

Partnering for Continuous Improvement in Teaching and Learning

A significant factor in the success of this and similar projects is the support and funding from the Office of Online Learning (OOL), which has been instrumental in enhancing the quality of our online educational endeavors. OOL’s support and contributions have empowered faculty members to innovate and create a more enriching educational environment for all. Please visit the Office of Online Learning for more information about all that they are doing to help MSU Denver faculty members and students.


Bawa, P., & Watson, S. (2017). The Chameleon characteristics: A phenomenological study of instructional designer, faculty, and administrator perceptions of collaborative instructional design environments. The Qualitative Report, 22(9), 2334+.

Capobianco,B.M., Eichinger, D., Rebello,S.,  Ryu, M., & Radloff, J. (2020) Fostering innovation through collaborative action research on the creation of shared instructional products by university science instructors, Educational Action Research, 28:4, 646-667, DOI: 10.1080/09650792.2019.1645031 Hanson, M. Average Cost of College Textbooks. Accessed July 15, 2022,

Hilton, J. Open educational resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions. Education Tech Research Dev 64, 573–590 (2016).