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CPS Guide to Open Education (UNH Manchester Library)

Adapting, Creating, and Sharing OER

In the previous seven modules, you’ve learned a great deal about open educational resources and how they can be used as effective teaching and learning material in your courses. In this module, you will gain experience in applying what you’ve learned to successfully adopt, adapt, and create an OER.

Adapting an Existing Open Educational Resource

The term adaptation is commonly used to describe the process of making changes to an existing work. We also can replace “adapt” with revise, modify, alter, customize, or other synonym that describes the act of making a change.

One advantage of choosing an open educational resource is that it gives faculty the legal right to add to, adapt, or delete content from the open work to fit their specific course without obtaining permission from the copyright holder. As you learned in Module 7, this is possible because the copyright holder already has granted permission by releasing their work using an open — or Creative Commons — license.

If you are considering making changes to an open educational resource, such as an open textbook, ask yourself the following questions:

    • How much content do I wish to change? Do I want to remove chapters, reorganize chapters, or rewrite entire chapters of content?

    • What technical format is the original textbook - an MS Word doc, Google Doc, or a PDF? A Word document is much easier to modify than a PDF document.

    • What type of license is the content released under? Does it have a Creative Commons license that allows for modification or adaptation of the content?

    • How comfortable are you with using technology and creating content?

    • How will my students access the content? Will it be available in Blackboard, Canvas, Google Classroom, OER Commons, or another online hosting service?

If you decide to adapt an existing open resource, here are six recommended steps to follow:

    1. Check the license of the work - does it allow for modifications or derivatives?

    2. Check the format of the work - common formats are HTML files (webpages), Word or open documents (Google Docs), Text files, ePub, LaTex files (if the original book includes math or science formulas and equations).

    3. Choose tools for editing an open textbook (or other open resource) - there are many available. Your choice of editing tool may vary depending on the original format of the resource.

    4. Choose the output for the work - students like having material in multiple formats. This allows them to choose what works best for them. Some may prefer printed versions of the textbook; others will prefer using a website. Still others will like to use an e-reader or e-reading software. By offering multiple formats you are making your content more accessible.

    5. Determine access for the work - how will your students access the content? Will it be available in an LMS, Google Classroom, OER Commons, or another online hosting service?

    6. Choose a license - the open license you choose will depend on how the textbook you adapted was licensed. For example, if the original textbook was licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) license, then you must release your book with the same license to ensure it is compliant with the terms of use.

Creating Open Educational resources: The ALMS Framework
For work to be truly “open” and allow the 5R permissions, the work should be meaningfully accessible and editable. How can you ensure adopters can easily reuse, revise, remix, redistribute, and retain the work? The ALMS framework, established by Hilton, Wiley, Stein, and Johnson (2010), highlights the vital importance of offering source files and creating work in easily adoptable formats.

      • ACCESS: Offer in a format that can be easily edited with freely accessible tools

      • LEVEL: Format should not require advanced technical expertise to revise content

      • MEANINGFUL: Offer in an editable format

      • SOURCE: Source file that is accessible and editable

Using the ALMS framework offers OER creators a structure guiding the openness of the content while ensuring access to adopters in a meaningful way. When creating work, consider sharing it in several formats that permits accessible classroom adoption: MS Word, PDF, and Google doc.

Resources for Creating OER
There are low tech, medium tech, and high tech tools and authoring platforms available to create your OER. Consider the tips previously mentioned and determine which tool best meets your needs. Check with your institution about institutional licenses and access to technology that can support your creation. Listed below are some widely used tools:

    • Google Docs

    • Google Sites

    • Google Slides

    • Adobe Spark

    • Pressbooks

    • OER Commons Open Author

Whichever creation tool or authoring platform you choose, be aware of any restrictions this tool may have on how the final work may be published or shared. Before creating your work, look closely at the terms of use for that product.

Sharing Your Work
Are you interested in sharing your material? Do you have an engaging course activity, image, assessment item, video, or a whole course that might be beneficial to other faculty in your discipline? Sharing your work is a personal choice and can be daunting, but it also can be rewarding. Sharing your work with others allows for increased use as well as opportunities for collaboration, enhancement, and improvement of your work. You can start small by sharing your work with others in your department or just at your institution. Or, if you are ready, you can share it globally with other educators and students, thus contributing to the open education community at large.

Whether you share it locally or globally as an OER, consider the following steps as your guide to sharing your work.

Step 1: Terms of Use

Decide on the terms of use. Do you wish to release your work under Creative Commons license or in the public domain? Please make sure to review the difference between these two copyright terms:

    • By releasing your work under a Creative Commons license, you retain ownership while allowing others to use your work (as long as they attribute it to you) without needing to ask permission of you directly.

    • By releasing your work in the public domain, your copyright ownership is waived. It is as if you are GIVING your work to the public as a gift. Users may still cite you when adopting your work, but they are not required to do so.

Please see “What is the difference between public domain and open license?” in Module 4 for details.

Step 2: Seeking Copyright Clearance

Be sure that the work is eligible to be shared. To release your work with a CC license or in the public domain, your work should be cleared from all copyright issues. To do so, your work should be one or a combination of the following types:

    1. your original work,

    2. built from open resources,

    3. built from the public domain,

    4. built from copyrighted work that you obtained permission to use and distribute for the life of your openly licensed work, or

    5. combination of above works

Note: For any third-party materials, whether openly licensed or copyrighted, those materials need to be attributed as not governed by the CC license you chose for your work, but under different terms and by different authors.

Getting Permission to Use Copyrighted Materials

If you must use any items that are copyrighted with all-rights reserved, please be sure to obtain the permission letter(s) from the author(s). Please find a sample permission request email.

A sample email to ask for permission to use the work:

Hello Dr. Lone Star,

I am a faculty member with the ____ project. The purpose of this project is to design openly licensed Science and Technology courses that can be taught face-to-face, hybrid, and/or online. These courses will be freely available on the internet for anyone to copy, modify, and use. One of the purposes of this project is to offer educational resources to regions where formal educational opportunities are scarce or expensive.

I am creating a course titled “Horticulture History of the Texas Bluebonnet” and I would like to use a post from your blog titled “Environment and Climate: Impacts On the Texas Bluebonnet ” from February 2020.

I am seeking your permission to distribute this material as part of our course. You will maintain your copyright but will be giving us permission to distribute this material for reuse as part of the teaching of this course. We will most likely copy the text of your post into a Google document and attribute you. A full citation for the work will accompany it, as will a statement of copyright ownership.

Please contact me at or by telephone at 512-xxx-xxxx with information about this request. Thank you for your time and attention.


Your name

Step 3: Post to a Repository

Add your OER to the HN Open hub on OER Commons so other educators can find and use it!


GSC Open Ed Guide is largely derived from Texas Learn OER by Carrie Gits for DigiTex is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. 2020