So, you want to create an OER? Some advice on getting started.

From applying a Creative Commons (CC) license to your existing course materials to authoring a new open textbook, creating open educational resources (OER) is a powerful way to contribute to the global knowledge commons. This post provides practical advice for instructors who are interested in OER creation but aren’t quite sure where to begin.

First, it’s worth noting that OER creation typically falls into one of three categories:

  1. Converting existing resources to OER. Reuse permissions are the main difference between an open resource and a closed one. As we saw last week, CC licenses make it easy for creators to grant broad reuse permissions for virtually any creative work. Accordingly, the easiest way to create OER is to apply CC licenses to course materials that you have already created.
  2. Adapting existing OER. In many cases, openly-licensed resources already exist on a given topic, and they may only need to be revised or remixed to suit the needs of a specific course. For instance, if an instructor wants to create an open textbook on research methods for psychology students, it might be simplest to start with an existing open textbook on research methods and then adapt it to include domain-specific examples from the field of psychology.
  3. Creating new OER. If the needs of a specific course are not met by existing OER, then the best option may be to create something new. This is the most complex form of OER creation, and also potentially the most powerful, especially when the new resource represents an original contribution that can be reused and built upon by a broad population of teachers and learners.

If you are interested in creating new OER, as opposed to converting or adapting existing resources, here are some tips to help you get started:

1.  See what's already available. 

This is an important first step before undertaking any form of OER creation. By searching for existing OER on a particular topic, you may discover that the OER you want to create already exists, or that there are similar resources you could adapt to suit your course without creating something completely new. Check out my post on finding and evaluating OER for ideas on what to look for and where to start looking.

2.  Check out resources for OER creators

There are several superb guides and resources on the different forms of OER creation. If you want to convert your existing resources to OER, visit the Creative Commons website for guides and tools on applying CC licenses to your work. If you want to adapt an existing OER, it’s definitely worth consulting Modifying an Open Textbook: What You Need to Know. If you want to create a new open textbook, Authoring Open Textbooks is a comprehensive guide that covers all the bases. And, if you have a question that isn’t answered by these resources, consider reaching out to other experts through forums like the Rebus Community.

3.  Seek out collaborators

Do you know any other instructors who teach courses similar to the one for which you’re planning to create an OER, either at your institution or elsewhere? What about collaborators who aren’t instructors but may have expertise relevant to OER creation, such as academic librarians, instructional designers, or staff at a university press? Many hands make light work, and there’s no sense slaving over your project in isolation if there are people who are willing and able to help!

4.  Make a project plan

Especially in cases where you are working with collaborators, it’s very important to come up with a project plan to ensure that everyone is on the same page going forward. A good project plan should address roles and responsibilities, project timelines, and long-term sustainability, in addition to points covered below such as licensing, accessibility, and tools and platforms for project management, content authoring, and publishing and dissemination.

5.  Compile your sources

Even if there isn’t an open textbook on the topic at hand, there are doubtless many relevant resources that you can draw upon and incorporate into your new OER. These resources could take any number of forms, from openly licensed scholarly articles and books, to images, figures, and illustrations, to audiovisual content from streaming providers like Youtube and Vimeo. When searching for resources, remember to limit your searches to CC-licensed content wherever possible, to ensure that any material you incorporate into your OER is also openly licensed. Also, it is helpful to use citation management software like Zotero to keep track of the resources you discover, especially in cases where multiple collaborators will be involved in this process.

6.  Choose your authoring and publishing tools

The are several factors to consider when deciding what tools to use for authoring and publishing your new OER. If you are working with collaborators, for instance, it may make sense to leverage the real-time collaborative authoring tools available in Google Docs. In contrast, if you are going to be the sole author and are comfortable with blogging platforms like Wordpress, it might make sense to author your content in Pressbooks, which can be used as both an authoring and a publishing tool.

7.  Decide on an open license

As I mentioned in my post on the role of open licensing, CC-licenses are usually the best bet for OER creators, and there are several options to choose from. CC BY is the most open option and is the best choice if you want to ensure that your readers have the broadest possible reuse permissions. If you want to impose some restrictions on downstream reuse (e.g., for commercial purposes), then the CC BY NC license may better suit your needs.

8.  Be mindful of formats

While it is technically possible to create OER by applying a CC license, the power of open licensing is severely limited when OER are published in formats that interfere with a user’s ability to exercise the 5R permissions. In the case of an open textbook, for instance, while it may make sense to distribute the textbook in PDF format, it is extremely important to also make the content available in formats that can be more readily revised. In general, OER creators should strive to make their content available in formats that can be edited using open source software that is freely available and does not require a high level of technical expertise (e.g. OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Word). For more on formats, see the Open Content Definition’s discussion of the ALMS Framework.

9.  Make your work discoverable

Regardless of what platform you use to publish your new OER, it’s important to ensure that it is widely discoverable. For instance, let’s say that you teamed up with some academic librarians to publish your OER in an institutional repository. This usually means that your OER will be discoverable through large search engines like Google, but that may not be enough to ensure that other teachers and learned can find it. To ensure the broadest possible readership for your work, it’s definitely worth adding it to large collections of OER such as MERLOT and OER Commons, since these are often the first places that people will look to find it.


Cuillier, C., Hofer, A., Johnson, A., Labadorf, K., Lauritsen, K., Potter, P., Saunders, R., & Walz, A. (2016). Modifying an Open Textbook: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from

Falldin, M., & Lauritsen, K. (2017). Authoring Open Textbooks. Retrieved from

Open Education Toolkit (n. d.). Retrieved from

Wiley, D. (n. d.). Defining the "open" in open content and open educational resources. Retrieved from


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