Training Modules

Creating and Modifying Open Educational Resources

Module 2: Adaptable OER

Determining the Adaptability of a Resource

One of the largest benefits of open educational resources is that you can modify and remix existing OER to meet your and your students’ needs, and this practice is called adapting an OER. Not all OER are as adaptable as others, though; if you are creating new OER, you will need to make sure your resources are as adaptable as possible. If you are looking to adapt an existing OER or create a new one, keep these features in mind:

1. An Open License Allowing Derivative Works

Creative Commons licenses are the most common open licenses applied to educational resources. There are various types of Creative Commons licenses, but the ND (no derivatives) restriction should be avoided if you want to adapt a resource. An ND restriction stops users from being able to remix or modify your work. If a work has an ND restriction, you do not have permission to change anything within the resource.

2. An Adaptable File Format

Many educators release their materials as PDFs, since they are usable on nearly every desktop and mobile device. If you are creating or find a PDF made from scanned images, make sure that the text has been scanned by optical character recognition (OCR). OCR enables you to select and copy/paste text, which allows for much easier adaptability than transcribing entire passages with no copy/paste ability.

To make a document even more modifiable, an author can provide a copy in a word processor format, such as .docx and .rtf, making the document editable straight from the file itself.

3. A Modular Format

It is far easier to modify an open educational resource that has been broken up into modules (sections) than it is to modify one gigantic OER. Generally, the more modular your content is, the easier it is to adapt. OpenStax College textbooks in Web View are separated not only by chapter, but also by subchapter, making it easy to mix and match sections for an adaptation.

If you are creating a new OER as a PDF, be sure to provide an option to download individual PDF chapters if the file size of the full textbook is large. This allows students with limited internet access to still access materials in a timely manner.


1. Many OER advocates argue that any work with a no derivatives restriction should not be considered as OER at all. Do you agree? Why or why not?

2. History textbooks often present their content in chronological order. Do you think that History textbooks still need to be as modular as possible? Are there any disciplines where modularity may not work?

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