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Open Educational Resources (OERs)

Some questions to ask when evaluating:

  1. Does the content under consideration cover the subject area appropriately?
  2. Is the OER content accurate and free of major errors and spelling mistakes?
  3. Can the license of the content be used or altered for the course’s needs?
  4. Is the OER clearly written and appropriate for the students’ level of understanding?
  5. How accessible is this content? Will it be accessible for your students, or is it too technical? Or is it robust and challenging enough for your students?

Adapted from "Evaluate OER" by Abbey ElderIowa State University Library under a Creative Commons License CC BY 4.0

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

In addition to cost to students, one of the biggest advantages of choosing an open textbook is it gives faculty the legal right to add to, adapt, or delete the content of the textbook to fit their specific course without obtaining permission from the copyright holder. This is possible because the copyright holder has already granted permission by releasing their work using an open — or Creative Commons — license. This type of license gives users permission to use and reuse, share, copy, retain and modify the textbook without consulting the author.


"Definition of Adapt" is a chapter in the Adaptation Guide by BCcampus and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

When an instructor adopts an OER, they use an OER as-is in their course to replace high-cost materials.

Adopting an OER means that an instructor is integrating Open Educational Materials into their courses without significant revisions, similar to adopting and integrating any new textbook into an existing course. The difference here is that when adopting OER, there is no publisher support.

The work of adopting OER includes creating or finding supplementary and ancillary materials for students. There are many resources online you can adopt and adapt, but this is added onto the work of finding and evaluating an OER textbook for a course.

When an author decides to create OER materials, they are publishing and licensing their your own work as OER.

The Open Education Network writes that when choosing to write a book an author has a blank slate of opportunity, but sometimes opportunity means not re-inventing the wheel. There may be resources or books that exist that will suit your needs entirely, or will be close to what you need. After having discussed what the ideal structure of your book looks like, and what elements you would like to see within it, the next step is to evaluate the books and resources that have already been created. Can you use all or some of these materials? How much modification will be necessary to suit the goals of your project?

This section of the OER Lib Guide is adapted from the chapter "Adapting or Authoring" in Authoring Open Textbooks by Open Education Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.