Like all course material and textbooks, you should evaluate the available OER materials to see if they are appropriate for your course. When evaluating OER, you should consider:

  • Coverage – Does the material or textbook provide enough depth and breadth to your subject?
  • Accuracy – Is the material correct and free of major errors (including grammar)?
  • License – Which CC license is the material issued under? Can you use and remix it? (You can learn more about licensing in the Creative Commons and Copyright section of this guide.)
  • Level – Is the text clearly written? Is it written at the level of your students?
  • Accessibility – Can the material be used by all students with full consideration for their learning needs?

The rubrics below are examples of ways to evaluate if an OER material is appropriate for your class.


OER is a growing environment of content. Sometimes, there are gaps in the material available. While it is likely that something related to your course exists, you will want to consider taking advantage of the special licensing that allows for adding new content to existing material or creating a brand new resource. This could be as simple as writing a chapter for a textbook or creating worksheets– or as comprehensive as building entirely new textbooks and courses. The benefit of drafting original OER material is that you can use these tools that suit your courses’ specific needs. How often have you had to piece-meal material together to address your course’s objective?

What would your syllabi look like if you could include every book you want and never worry about the cost to the student? What have you had to do to supplement textbooks to ensure that your course material was inclusive of a larger narrative? How would your course’s academic experience change if every student could begin, fully prepared with all the resources they need, on day one?

Faculty already revise, remix and reuse material to fit their syllabi and course objectives. Often using free educational material in their efforts. OER offers an opportunity to do the same thing in a virtual environment with material that is perpetually available to the student throughout their entire academic career.

While OER material offers obvious benefits to students. There are equally impressive benefits for instructors, as well. How would the quality of a lecture/discussion rise if all students had the same access to the material from day one? What would be the quality of assignments in a class where all students have immediate and perpetual access to the course material? How more meaningful could class discussions become?


Open Educational Resources are better than free. Free means that you can reuse the copyrighted material legally–these are resources like TedTalks, podcasts, and some YouTube videos. These are useful, but they are different from OER material.

Existing material can be perpetually adapted. Your courses’ material can finally reflect all the information you can’t find in traditional published material. Along with textbook readings, you can also include examples, images, audio, and stories that highlight the diversity and special interests of your class. If the OER materials you find for your subject area are too broad, a little dated, or contain information you don’t teach- adapt and edit out all the material you don’t need and build in the information you want to include.

Additionally, also better than free, today’s OER platforms offer opportunities to adopt course syllabi, tutorials, quizzes and other ancillary materials.


Another great way to adapt material is to gather OER resources from various platforms and build a “course pack” specifically designed for your class. You can use a textbook from one website, add peer-reviewed journal articles you have personally selected, and include worksheets from another website. These packs offer a chance for you to be flexible, quickly adjust to current information and events, and share the breadth of the universe of information that is available.

If you adapt or create OER material, there are publishing tools that help make your resource useful and available. The websites below can help you with adoption, creation, and publication.

  • 80 Open Education Resource (OER) Tools for Publishing and Development Initiatives
    A list of 80 online resources that you can use to learn how to build or participate in a collaborative educational effort that focuses on publication and development of those materials.
  • Authoring Open Textbooks
    This guide is for faculty authors, librarians, project managers and others who are involved in the production of open textbooks in higher education and K-12. Content includes a checklist for getting started, publishing program case studies, textbook organization and elements, writing resources and an overview of useful tools.
  • A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students
    A handbook for faculty interested in practicing open pedagogy by involving students in the making of open textbooks, ancillary materials, or other Open Educational Resources. This is a first edition, compiled by Rebus Community, and we welcome feedback and ideas to expand the text.
  • LibreTexts
    The LibreTexts mission is to unite students, faculty and scholars in a cooperative effort to develop an easy-to-use online platform for the construction, customization, and dissemination of open educational resources (OER) to reduce the burdens of unreasonable textbook costs to our students and society.
  • Modifying and Open Textbook: What You Need to Know
    This is a five-step guide for faculty, and those who support faculty, who want to modify an open textbook. Step-by-step instructions for importing and editing common open textbook file and platform types are included.
  • OERu – Digital Skills for Collaborative OER Development
    This is a hands-on course where you will learn and demonstrate your skills in using digital technologies for collaborative OER development culminating in publishing an OER learning sequence on your own website using the OERu platform.
  • OERu – OER Development Project
    Put your digital skills and knowledge of open educational practices to work and develop OER learning materials for the real world, with options for recognition towards formal academic credit.
  • Rebus Projects
    This platform guides open textbook projects through the publishing workflow and makes it easy to find, recruit, and organize collaborators

OER and Copyright

Understanding copyright law can be challenging. Traditional textbooks are usually issued and distributed through corporate publishing houses. The authors of those textbooks may or may not retain the rights to the material they wrote. Using material still under copyright, while allowed for educational purposes, can be fraught with legal ramifications.
OER materials are all issued under an open license. That means they can be used and adapted freely with minimal permissions. The information on this page, while not exhaustive, seeks to make OER permissions and licensing a little bit clearer.

Creative Commons

Most OER is issued under an open license through Creative Commons. Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that helps creators license and distribute their work. Licenses are designed to let others know how the work may be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon. The licenses work within the confines of copyright law.

You can learn more about Creative Commons licenses and use the license selector below.

HBCU Alliance Copyright Overview
A Google Slides walk-through of copyright and how it applies to OER.