Open Educational Resources: A Primer

Before You Start Your Search

a large drawing that includes a definition of Open Educatoinal Research and describes the 5 R's of OER.

                      "OER Is Sharing" by Giulia Forsythe is in the Public Domain 

Beginning Steps

  1. Decide which types of licenses you will use for your materials.
    • One reason why: you cannot change the licensing of an already-existing text once you start adapting it.
  2. Consult the outcomes for the course you are developing.
  3. Consider how much time you will need to devote to developing OER materials for your course and develop a plan:
    • If you are only adopting, you will still need to develop supplementary materials.
    • If you are adapting, you may need to create supplementary materials and write original material to meet your course outcomes.
    • If you are creating an OER text, it could take up to two years to finish your project once you write the text, proofread, edit, peer review it, prepare the text for dissemination, and make the text accessible to a wide variety of learners.
  4. Writing and publishing an open textbook takes a long time. Be prepared to incorporate new ideas as you conduct your research. Be ready to cut material that doesn’t work. The graphic below comes from an article in Campus Technology that pegs the costs of creating an OER from scratch at $11,700.

Important Side Note

The last point is not intended to dissuade anyone from creating an open textbook; rather, it's intended to present the reality of developing Open Educational Resources for an entire course. Developing OER is time-consuming and involves multiple stakeholders across the university.

CULLS is working toward developing a streamlined process for faculty adoption, adaptation, and creation of OER  materials. In the meantime, if you have caught the OER bug, hooray for you and your students. Just reach out to the OER Librarian. They will help and support you any way they can from helping with research, citation and attribution of OER (which is a little different from academic writing), and technical questions you might have.

The graphic below illustrates the average time and resources required for creating an Open Course:


Circle graph of costs to create OER: tech related activity 7%; meetings/administrative 9%; course design/redesign 13%; course refinement 11%; finding OER and assessing quality 20%; creating and/or revising content 40%

Typical Time Required for OER Course Creation, graphic cited from Campus Technology. Data from Achieving the Dream.  

Adopting OERs

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.

Adapting OERs

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.

Creating OERs

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.

OER Adoption, Adaptation, and Creation Resources

OER Librarian

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Jennifer Jordan
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Fall Online Office Hours
Wednesdays 10 a.m. - noon