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Open Educational Resources (OER): Tools for Affordable Learning

This guide describes high-quality educational resources that can be used to decrease material costs for courses at WSU and in higher education more broadly.

Planning: What Are Your Goals?

You will want to consider your learning objectives before starting an OER project: What would you like the OER to do for you and your students? Consider also the educational value of the creation process itself and how these steps engage with your desired learning outcomes. As noted by David Wiley, OER creation typically entails the following:

1. Find: Searching for OERs may involve use of search engines, repositories, and individual websites, as well as offline materials.

2. Compose: Piece together resources that you've found with others that you may have created yourself.

3. Adapt: If you are using other resources, you will likely need to adapt them for your students and your local context. Be sure that borrowed materials have licenses allowing modifications.

4. Use: Use the resource in a class.

5. Share: Publish your OER so others can find and reuse it.

Find: How to Locate OER

Take a look at the resources listed in this guide. You may want to build from an existing open textbook or find open images, media, and other materials to add to something you've created.

Compose: How to Design an Open Textbook

You will want to take into account effective instructional design when creating your OER. Use repetition, frameworks, meaningful names, hierarchies, and careful presentation of new elements to help students absorb information from your textbook or resource. Take a look at these five rules of textbook development by BCcampus.

graphic showing the 5 rules of textbook development

Compose: How to Ensure Accessibility

Think about students with disabilities as you begin creating your OER. Students who use screen readers or other assistive technologies will benefit if you pay attention to hierarchy in your textbook, describe images with alt tags, caption your videos and include transcripts, and follow other best practices. BCcampus has created this helpful Open Education Accessibility Toolkit that you might consult as you get started.

Compose: How to Help Readers Access Your OER

If you want your students to be able to easily access and use your OER, consider the file format that you're selecting. For textbooks, ePub is often the most accessible format for those who want to read your OER using a mobile device. The University of Leicester explains how to create ePubs, and Bookdown provides tools for creating books from R Markdown. WSU also provides access to publishing via Pressbooks, which allows you to author and export textbooks in multiple formats.

Adapt: How to Use Creative Commons Licenses

Licensing is key when you're looking at incorporating existing resources into your OER. If you want to adapt an existing resources, you'll want to make sure that it's licensed to allow modifications (OR that you get the author's permission to adapt their material).

Several Creative Commons licenses allow remixing. Look for these when you're collecting materials for your project (especially if you know that you want to adapt existing content): CC Attribution (CC BY), CC Attribution Non-Commercial (CC BY NC), CC Attribution Share-Alike (CC BY SA), CC Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (CC BY NC SA). See the chart below for summaries of these licenses.

 This graphic shows the six Creative Commons licenses with descriptions of the permissions that they allow.

Adapt: How to Cite an OER

When you're remixing OER, you will want to know how to properly cite other people's work. All Creative Commons licenses come with the expectation of attribution, even if you are adapting content. In your citation, be sure to include:

  • Title of the work
  • Author of the work
  • Source of the work (for example, a URL)
  • License under which the work is distributed (for example, CC BY)
  • Link to the license used for the work (for instance,

Here's a sample citation for an adapted work: 

Use and Share: How to Complete an OER

As you finish your OER, here are a few last things to consider before sharing it with others:

  • All content should be your original work or material that was licensed for reuse with modifications. Alternatively, you should have permission from the author to distribute/adapt the material you've included in your OER.
  • Make sure your OER is accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Write an attribution statement if you've included other OER in your work. 
  • Choose a Creative Commons license for your OER.

Share: How to Provide Access to an OER

Once you've finished your OER, you have lots of options for sharing it with others. Here are a few tools that may help:

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