Open Resources/MERLOT

Customizing and Authoring Content

If you are looking to use open educational resources within your course, but you cannot find OERs that completely fit the course, you will want to customize an existing OER or author a new one. (For more details on selecting OERs for your course, check our Selecting Textbooks page.)

Authoring Content

Technically, authoring a new OER is like creating any other educational resource, except that you are applying a non-restrictive open license to the material. There are, however, some good practices to keep in mind:

  • Find Your University Publishers: University publishers could help get your OER distributed, offer design advice, host your OER, or even make a print version available. For example, the University Press of North Georgia was instrumental in the creation of the open World History I textbook. If your institution does not have a University Press, your library may be able to help get your OER hosted in a digital repository, and other USG University Presses may be willing to help.

  • Get It Reviewed: Traditional publishers offer editorial review as a way to verify the accuracy of the content in materials such as textbooks. OERs can be peer-reviewed also - for example, MERLOT offers peer review through editorial boards and reviewers by discipline. Organizations also provide their own peer-review systems, such as the BC Faculty Reviewed textbooks on BCCampus Open Textbooks.

  • Make It Editable: Others may want to use your OER, but in a way that fits their courses more accurately. If you license your OER to allow derivative works, be sure you make the OER available in an editable format such as .doc or .rtf, so those who want to modify your OER can do so easily. Only providing the OER in .pdf format will make modifying your work much harder to do.

  • Make It Accessible: OERs should be accessible to teachers and learners with disabilities. Check our Accessibility page for more details.

  • Make It Discoverable: Where will you make your OER available? If it is within your institution’s digital repository, is that repository searchable from search engines such as Google or Bing? Including a permanent link to your work in MERLOT is a great way to make your OER discoverable.

  • Make It Open: By using an open license, you are setting new rules on how your OER can be distributed, modified, and used within another work. See our Open Licensing and Copyright page for more details.

Customizing Content

One of the most helpful features of open licensing is the author’s ability to allow others to make modified (or “derivative”) works - this allows an instructor or instructional designer to make OERs fit a course in a very accurate, local, or updated way. If you want to customize an OER:

  • Check The License: Make sure that the OER you are using allows for derivative works. For example, because all OpenStax College textbook licenses are CC-BY and therefore allow for derivative works, Dr. Peggy Brickman of the University of Georgia was able to modify the OpenStax Biology textbook into the University of Georgia Concepts of Biology open textbook. Not every open license allows for derivative works - see our Open Licensing and Copyright page for more details.

  • When Possible, Share Alike: It’s a good practice to make sure that your work, just like the original work, is open and editable. The original work’s license may also have “share-alike” wording, meaning you would have to share your OER under the same exact license.

  • Make (Or Keep) It Accessible: Even if the original OER was not very accessible to teachers and learners with disabilities, try to make your derivative work as accessible as possible. Check our Accessibility page for more details.

  • Find Your University Publishers, Get It Reviewed, Make It Editable, Make It Discoverable: Nearly every practice between authoring and customizing content is shared, and these four practices are no exception: university publishers can help you distribute and polish your customized work, peer review is still welcome with modified works, your work should usually be modifiable also, and the modified work should be hosted and discoverable by the public through open Web search engines.

The Power of Teamwork

If you want to make an OER for your course, you are probably not alone:

  • Instructional Designers from your institution may be available to help through your institution’s Center for Teaching and Learning - check the USG Centers for Teaching and Learning Directory to find yours.
  • Other faculty members from your institution or other institutions may be willing to co-author your OER.
  • Reference Librarians at USG Libraries can help you find adaptable or customizable open educational resources.
  • Your institution’s University Press, or another USG institution’s University Press, may be willing to help distribute, edit, or even print your OER.