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Open Educational Resources FAQ

This guide is designed to answer some frequently asked questions about Open Educational Resources.

Determine the adaptability of a resource

One of the greatest benefits of open educational resources is that you can modify and remix existing OER to meet your and your students’ needs. This practice is called adapting an OER. Not all OER are as adaptable as others, though. If you are looking to adapt an existing OER or create a new one, keep these features in mind:

An open license allowing derivative works

Creative Commons licenses are the most common open licenses applied to educational resources. There are various types of Creative Commons licenses, but the ND (no derivatives) restriction should be avoided if you want to adapt a resource. An ND restriction stops users from being able to remix or modify a work. If a work has an ND restriction, you do not have permission to change anything within the resource.

An adaptable file format

Many educators release their materials as PDFs, since they are usable on nearly every desktop and mobile device. If you are creating or find a PDF made from scanned images, make sure that the text has been scanned by optical character recognition (OCR). OCR enables you to select and copy/paste text, which allows for much easier adaptability than transcribing entire passages with no copy/paste ability. OCR is also crucial for accessibility reasons, as it turns the document into machine-readable text.

To make a document even more modifiable, an author can provide a copy in a word processor format, such as .docx and .rtf, making the document editable straight from the file itself.

A modular format

It is far easier to modify an open educational resource that has been broken up into modules (sections) than it is to modify one gigantic OER. Generally, the more modular the content is, the easier it is to adapt. OpenStax College textbooks in Web View are separated not only by chapter, but also by subchapter, making it easy to mix and match sections for an adaptation.

(The content in this section is adapted from USG's tutorial "Creating and Modifying Open Educational Resources", which is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license.)

Add OER to a course

After finding an open educational resource and adapting it if necessary, the final step is to add the OER to your course. There are multiple ways to do this:

Embed the material into the Canvas course site

The way to do this will vary depending on the resource you are using. For instance, if you use an open textbook from LibreTexts, they have instructions for how to import the textbook as Canvas modules.

Link to the material

You can include direct links to OER wherever they are relevant, such as the syllabus, assignment descriptions, or course calendar.

Provide a course reserve in the library

Many open textbooks have the option for "print on demand," whereby you can obtain a physical copy for the cost of printing. As with commercial textbooks, the library would be happy to place a copy of a printed open textbook on reserve.