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OER and Textbook Alternatives: Five Steps of OER Adoption

5 Steps of OER

Five Steps to OER Adoption

After you have found OER relevant to your course objectives and student learning outcomes, there are a few considerations for ensuring successful adoption of the open materials into your teaching practice. The evaluation and integration of the material into the course content is usually the responsibility of the faculty member, but other campus stakeholders may be involved. All campus employees who are involved in the decision-making and delivery of instructional materials to the ultimate consumers, your students, can support your adoption. Encouraging feedback from students on usability and access is also an important component of making a successful transition to OER.

Steps 1-3 involve evaluation of the OER,  including a decision of whether to modify or not, and how to attribute the resulting materials. Steps 4-5 involve processes and policies at your institution.

Step 1: Review the Materials

Keep in mind that many open textbooks have been peer reviewed by faculty or subject matter experts so you may use these reviews to narrow down choices before examining them yourself. If you want to evaluate the materials yourself, there are some existing rubrics that can guide you.

The BCcampus Open Textbook project has published open textbook review criteria that is used by faculty who provide peer reviews for its open textbooks. The criteria was derived from an earlier rubric created by the College Open Textbooks Collaborative and has also been adopted by the Open Textbook Library.

Achieve, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising graduation rates and getting student college and career-ready, has also published an evaluation rubric for OER. This rubric raises the important issue of the accessibility of learning materials for students with disabilities. You should consult with your Disability Services Office on campus whenever selecting instructional materials to ensure that materials meet these standards.

Step 2: Modify the OER if Necessary

After completing an evaluation of the materials, you can determine whether any modification is needed.  If you decide to modify materials, then the format of the material, the creative common license type, and potential hosting for a new digital version must be considered. BCcampus’ Open Textbook Authoring Guide offers a helpful section on adapting open textbooks.


If the open material is available in an editable format, then the easiest approach may be to use the same tool as the original author to add, delete, or modify it. Consulting with your colleges’ instructional designers is recommended, particularly if you have not done this kind of work before. They can make you aware of tools that will streamline this process.

If you are remixing multiple OER in different formats, then you will have to decide which format you want for your final product, and convert the remaining resources to this format for remixing.

License Considerations

When remixing OER with different licenses, it can be tricky to understand how they can be combined. If the resources have licenses with the ShareAlike (SA) and NonCommercial (NC) clauses, you should consult the Creative Commons Wiki for compatibility information and charts on which licenses are compatible. If you remix OER with different licenses, you need to make clear in your final product which sections have license restrictions that are different from the one you select for your remix. This Copyright and Open Licensing Guide, by the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Schools, provides a lot of information on using copyrighted and openly licensed work. Your librarian on campus may also be able to assist you.  Florida Virtual Campus produced a video on different remix scenarios that can be helpful  in understanding how openly resources can or cannot be combined.



Video: Creating OER and Combining Licenses – Full by TheOGRepository licensed CC-BY 3.0


Now that you have a revised version of the OER, you’ll want to consider where to post it so students can access a digital copy. If you are only planning to share on campus, then you might post it to a college file server or in the Learning Management System (LMS). If you would like to share more widely, there are OER repositories with platforms that provide authoring tools and hosting to enable public access to your OER and maximize the impact of your work.

Step 3: Attribution of OER

Creative Common licenses require that the user of a creative work attribute the creator or copyright holder. This is  also a requirement of U.S. copyright law, and is good practice in general, particularly to model the behavior you are trying to promote. If you plan to use images, videos, or other CC-licensed works in your own instructional materials or documents then you must include the required attribution. Read “How to attribute a Creative Commons licensed work” to learn more about attributing CC licensed materials as well as to receive tips and a free tool to help you automate the process.  

After assessing the open materials and determining the proper attribution for any open resource that you may use or develop, take a look at the policies and processes at your institution that are involved in the decision making around instructional materials. Seek support for your adoption.

Step 4: Curriculum Approval 

Consider whether you need to get approval from others at your college for instructional material choices such as the division or department chair, curriculum committee, articulation officer, disability services office, etc. 


Step 5: Delivery of OER to Students  

There are several stakeholders on campus involved in delivering instructional materials to students, including the bookstore, library, IT help desk, and possibly on-site print services. It is important to engage these stakeholders in your move to OER as they can all assist in the smooth delivery of open materials to students. Your college may have a policy requiring faculty to notify the college bookstore of any textbooks required for courses they are teaching by a certain date. In this case, you may need to work to broaden the policy so that an open textbook (digital or printed copy) selection can also be made available through the bookstore.

The simplest and most economical method of delivering OER to students is to provide a link for students to view the OER online or to download it.  Most open textbooks are available in a few different downloadable formats, such as PDF, ePub, mobi, or DAISY formats. Keep in mind that certain formats may be preferable for students with visual impairments. Downloadable options may also be useful for students without reliable Internet access, as they can download the material to their computers or mobile devices for offline access. You could also download a copy of the OER and integrate it into the Learning Management System (LMS) at your college. Low-cost printing is another option for open textbooks. Some OER textbook providers offer low-cost printing services directly  from their websites, in which case you may be able to work with your institution’s bookstore to acquire printed copies. Other printing options could include institutional printing services or students using free printing allowances to print chosen sections of the textbook.


"Five Steps to OER Adoption" by CCCOER is licensed under CC BY 4.0


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