VCU Libraries

Research Guides

Creating Open Educational Resources

What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching/learning materials that are free to access (digitally) and have open licensing which allows for unrestricted use, retention, sharing, and editing. Anyone can create an OER, although many OERs originate from higher education institutions or open-focused publishers.

OER can be any type of teaching or learning materials, including textbooks, images, videos, slide decks, assessments, syllabi, and whole courses.

OER are always free digitally. They are often also available for print for the cost of printing, making print versions significantly cheaper than their commercial counterparts. For example, the 1272 page hardcover version of OpenStax College Physics is available for $48.50.

The open licensing, often in the form of a Creative Commons (CC) License, allow for unrestricted usages often referred to as the 5 Rs. The ability to:

Retain: Make, own, and control copies of the content

Reuse: Use the content in a variety of ways

Revise: Adapt, adjust, modify, improve, or alter the content

Remix: Combine the original or revised content with other OER to create something new

Redistribute: Share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others

Choose and Apply a Creative Commons License

Open Educational Resources Librarian

Jessica Kirschner's picture
Jessica Kirschner
Contact:
kirschnerj2@vcu.edu
(804) 828-2105
Cabell Library, Room 121-U

Creating Open Educational Resources

Creating an OER follows the same process as creating any other teaching materials, including textbooks. The only difference is the license you ultimately attach to the work.  The open licenses also allow for more flexibility in reusing existing resources so that you don't always have to create everything from scratch to make an idea resource. 

When you create an OER, you could be creating a new resource from scratch, assigning an open license to something you previously created, or adapting/customizing existing content.

Creating a new resource from scratch

If an OER that fits your needs to do not currently exist, you can create a resource from scratch. This process is the same as any other creation process, except you assign an open license to the final product. 

Creating from scratch might seem like a giant endeavor, but don't forget that you can pull on resources that you've already created (see "assigning an open license..") or OER that already exist (see "Adapting/customizing...") to help build the perfect resource.

Assigning an open license to something you previously created

Many instructors create slides, handouts, etc for their classes. If you add an open license, these items will become OER.

When using materials you've already created for class, make sure that these materials were not taken in whole or in part from a publisher or copyrighted work. For example, a slidedeck using images from the publisher would contain copyrighted work, which cannot be openly licensed. We recommend not including any copyrighted work in your OER. However, if you feel a copyrighted material is absolutely necessary for inclusion, you can either claim fair use or ask for permission. See the "Use Existing Content" tab for more information.

While you can informally share materials with colleagues, not adding the open license technically requires them to ask permission before usage, since the work is automatically copyrighted. Instead, open licenses clearly indicate what downstream users can do with your work, without forcing them to ask for permission.

Adapting/Customizing exisiting OER

Adapting/customizing OER means taking existing materials and changing them to meet your needs. This could involve: 

  • Adjusting content to update a resource with new information
  • Making changes or adding content to ensure it fits your specific class
  • Combining multiple resources to make a new resource, also known as remixing. This option allows faculty to make the book reflect their syllabus rather than vice versa or asking students to use multiple resources
  • Customizing your resource for your class and its environment, ensuring it reflects the populations you teach and their environment. For example, including examples from Virginia, Richmond, or VCU.

With the open licenses, like Creative Commons, of OER, authors can make these changes without requesting the permission of the original author. However, derivative works--those that would be created in this process--will still need to attribute the original resource.

Basic of how to create an OER

While the process of creating an Open Educational Resource (OER) will vary resource to resource, all creation can be distilled into these four steps.

Step 1: Create your resource

This step will be the most time-intensive and hardest to standardize, but will follow one of the three pathways described above: creating a new resource from scratch, assigning an open license to something you previously created, or adapting/customizing existing content.

Here are some tips for creating your resource:

  • Chunk up the work into manageable sections. Whether creating something new or customizing existing content, creating an OER can be a lot of work. We recommend breaking the work up into smaller sections to make it more manageable. This might mean working chapter by chapter and setting internal deadlines. You could also consider working on portions of the work at a time (e.g. saving all problem sets for last).
  • Think about content first and presentation later. We especially emphasize this advice for those presenting their work on websites rather than as a discrete PDF or Word document. Presentation can be worked and adjusted much later in the process, especially after all the content is created.
  • Think about accessibility and inclusion from the beginning of creation. It's much easier to embed accessibility measures (e.g. using headings, creating alt-text) while you author the text rather than being forced to retrofit your finished resource. VCU requires all online resources to meet accessibility standards. Thinking about inclusion and representing diverse populations in the text is also easier to include while creating than add-in through editing later. 

Other items to consider as you're creating your resource:

  • Do you want to gather feedback from your resource as you're creating your resource? This can be from students, colleagues, or faculty teaching a similar course at another institution. Sometimes beta-testing portions of a resource in class can help shape the final product. 
  • Is there anyone who can help you with the creation process? Creating an OER is a lot of work, and it's great when you don't have to go it alone. Consider if there is anyone else, either at VCU or beyond, who might be interested in helping. Students can also be great collaborators, and lend a unique perspective to the creation process.
  • Are you taking advantage of support that's available? There are a variety of avenues of support at VCU, including some financial, for the creation of OER. There are also a number of guidebooks available that can help you think through the process. We'd recommend reviewing this guide to have a full understanding of the support available to help you on this journey.

Step 2: Pick an open license 

OER typically use any Creative Commons (CC) license that does not include a no-derivatives (ND) restriction. For help picking which CC license is the best fit for you and your work, review "Choose and Apply a Creative Commons License" or visit:

Step 3: Indicate the open license on your resource

It’s good practice to indicate the license on your resource. We recommend including it as a footer on the document (including it only on the first page is fine) or website. Use the following template:

[picture of license] [“This work”/title] by [author] is licensed under a Creative Commons [license information, include hyperlink to license information on creative commons website] license. 

For example: 

 This work by Jessica Kirschner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

Step 4: Share your resource

Congratulations, you’ve now created an OER! We now recommend widely sharing so that you and others can take advantage of the open license. Check out the "Sharing your OER" tab for some suggestions and guidance.