9 Adopt, adapt or create?

Learning outcomes

By the end of this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Differentiate between adopting, adapting and creating OER
  • Explain the pros and cons of adoption vs adaption vs creation of OER, and identify when is each more appropriate

Adopting, adapting and creating: How are they different?

There are three main choices when it comes to using OER in educational settings (Elder, 2019):

  • adopt an existing resource that suits the learning objectives of their course without making any changes to the content
  • adapt a resource by customising some of the content, e.g., add local examples
  • create
    • remix a variety of sources to create a new resource
    • author and license a new resource, created from scratch using their own materials

Each option has different considerations, including suitability of the OER content and format, accessibility features, and the preparation time required.

A study by Jung, Bauer & Heaps (2017) found that 82% of participants spent the same amount of time or less preparing to teach their course using an open textbook. This indicates that adopting an OER does not necessarily lead to increased workload and may even reduce preparation time.

However, using OER will often require some customisation of content to improve course alignment and ensure the material is tailored to support student learning. You may also wish to combine multiple OER and remix them, or you may decide to create their own OER from scratch. Each of these involve different time commitments, as illustrated below.

Diagram showing adopt, adapt, remix, and create, in that order, from less time intensive to more time intensive.

Figure 9.1: Spectrum of time intensiveness. Image by University of Melbourne Library, licensed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.

Why adopt OER?

If you locate a suitable OER to adopt and do not need to make any changes to the content, you can simply share the resource. The majority of OER are online and can be shared via a hyperlink, embedded into a Learning Management System, LibGuide, website etc. according to the Creative Commons licence. Many OER have an option to download a file of the resource, and the file may be shared.

Considerations when adopting OER

Students will have different preferences for using online vs print resources. So, if using an open textbook, keep in mind that OER that have a specific non-commercial clause (CC BY-NC) cannot be sold with a markup or at a profit. Therefore, making a print copy available for purchase may not be possible. Some open textbooks publishers, however, provide print-on-demand availability, such as OpenStax.

Be aware of any requirements of your institution, which may add tasks and/or complexity. For example, you may be required to record the use of an OER within a course, as BCcampus does, using an online form.

Why adapt OER?

As you’re already aware, one of the greatest benefits of OER is that you can modify and remix existing OER to meet your needs, a practice known as “adaption”. In other words, you can adjust the educational resources to fit your course curriculum, not the other way around. I’d like to introduce the notion of “good enough” here too. Many educators feel driven to create the “perfect” resources for their classes and it can be difficult to put aside that preference and use other people’s creations. However, the number, variety, and quality of OER available freely is such that any educator should be able to find resources they can readily (with or without adaptations) put to use within their classrooms. Many will be “good enough” for the educational purpose, and adaptation or adoption of OER will almost always be more efficient than creating teaching materials from scratch.

In general, there are a number of reasons for which we may choose to revise an existing OER. These are as follows:

  1. Address a particular teaching style or learning style
  2. Adjust for a different course or program level
  3. Adapt for a different discipline
  4. Accommodate a different learning environment
  5. Address diversity needs
  6. Meet a cultural preference
  7. Meet a regional or national preference
  8. Make the material more accessible for people with disabilities
  9. Add material contributed by students or material suggested by students
  10. Translate the material into another language
  11. Correct errors or inaccuracies
  12. Update the book with current information
  13. Add more media or links to other resources
  14. Use only a portion of the book for a course

Considerations when adapting OER

Not all OER are as adaptable as others. So if you are looking to adapt an existing OER, there are four key considerations that you should keep in mind when evaluating existing OER for adaption potential.

1. Creative Commons licensing type

It is important to consider the type of Creative Commons licensing that’s been applied to the OER you would like to adapt. The licensing that has been applied must provide you with the permissions you need to adapt the work within the context of how you want to use it. Licensing has already been discussed in chapters 4 and 5 so if you need to, review this material to ensure you understand the CC licences and what you are permitted to do according to each of them.

Watch the video below to learn about adapting OER while maintaining compliance with CC licensing.

Watch: Adapting OER [4:21 mins].

Note: Closed captions are available by clicking on the CC button in the video.

2. Resource or software file type

Although the licence applied to the OER may be sufficiently ‘open’ to permit you to adapt it, the file format and structure can create technical barriers to adaption. As David Wiley (n.d.) explains, CC licenses give us permissions to exercise the 5 R’s (reuse, revise, remix, redistribute, retain), but poor technical choices can make open content less open (and thus, harder to work with). As a result, your ability to work with OER and advise others in their work will depend on having basic knowledge of common technologies used in resource design and being able to work with digital media files.

3. Content structure

The structure and content size are important as it is much easier to adapt an OER that consists of modules, sections or chunks than it is to adapt one large OER. Generally, the more chunked the content already is, the easier it is to adapt.

4. DRM restrictions

Digital rights management (DRM) systems allow publishers and vendors to impose limitations on the sharing and use of digital material such as eBooks and videos. As well as restricting sharing, DRM makes it difficult to open protected material on different devices or in different apps. As you would expect, the DRM applied to the software makes it both difficult and probably illegal to edit the resource, even if the content has been CC licensed by the creator. In these instances, use should probably be restricted to adoption rather than adaption.

One tool to guide the workflow processes for developing OER is the ALMS Framework. The ALMS Framework provides a way of thinking about those technical choices and understanding the degree to which they enable or impede a user’s ability to engage in the 5R activities permitted by open licenses.

The framework includes four areas that questions about the technical openness of an OER mostly fit into, under the letters A, L, M and S; hence ALMS. Here are the descriptions of each area.

  • Access to editing tools: Can you edit the OER without the need for specialised or expensive tools?
  • Level of expertise required: Would most librarians or academics be able to edit the OER at their current skill level?
  • Meaningfully editable: Can all parts of the OER be edited?
  • Self-sourced: Can you edit the OER directly or is a separate editable file needed?

Watch the video below for more detailed understanding of the ALMS Framework. The video is from the Virtual Library of Virginia and explores how technical choices impact the ability to engage in the 5R activities associated with OER.

Watch: The ALMS Framework [4:45 mins]

Note: Closed captions are available by clicking on the CC button in the video.

  Do: Knowledge check activity

Complete the knowledge check activity below to check your understanding of the ALMS Framework. You can retry the question if you answer incorrectly, or check for the correct answer. Refer to the framework materials to refresh your knowledge if you need to.

Why create OER?

As mentioned earlier, creating an OER is generally less efficient than adapting an OER; however, there may be times when there simply isn’t an existing resource that is suitable for you to adapt.

Considerations when creating OER

There are some key considerations when creating OER. These are as follows:

  • why you might need to create an OER
  • what resources you might already have that could be used as a starting point
  • the authoring tools available to use and their potential limitations
  • what licensing you might want to apply to the resources
  • where to publish the resource to make it openly available

Watch the video below for a brief introduction to these considerations.

  Watch: Creating open educational resources: Tips for new creators [5:17 mins.] (Elder, 2017).


Note: Closed captions are available by clicking on the CC button in the video.

The video ends with a recommendation to talk with a librarian about these considerations, which is a great reminder of why we are learning about them in more detail. These considerations will be explored in greater depth in Chapters 10-12 of this book.

Watch the next video for a brief overview of the role of adopting, adapting and creating in teaching.

  Watch: Adopt, Adapt, Create [2:17 mins.]


Note: Closed captions are available by clicking on the CC button in the video.

Now that you have watched the video above, think about the challenges of OER adoption, adaption and creation in your own context and complete the activity below.

  Do: Knowledge check activity

Complete the knowledge check activity below to check your understanding of adopting, adapting and creating. Review the content under ‘Adopting, adapting and creating: how are they different?’ if you need to.

Whether you adopt, adapt or create an OER, there are important aspects to consider, and it is important to understand the differences between them all. Take the time to explore each concept. It will assist you to include OER in your own practice, and provide the correct advice to your educators to assist them to use OER within their curriculum.

Whether you are adapting or creating OER, or working with others to do so, it is vital that you understand the pros and cons of each approach so that you and they are able to make an informed decision based on the considerations discussed above.

Consider your rationale for wanting to use OER and the goals you want to achieve. As discussed in chapter 2, there are many motives for wanting to use OER. For many disciplines, it is important to have open content that is suited to the Australian or Aotearoa New Zealand context, whether that be case studies, for compliance with legislation, or accreditation requirements, or to achieve equity outcomes. Your end goal may ultimately be the deciding factor in whether you and/or those you work with choose to adapt an existing OER or create your own, and that decision will likely vary depending on the need.

 Reflect: Reasons for not adopting

Now that you have an understanding of adoption, adaption and creation of OER, identify an example of a case in which you wouldn’t adopt an OER. Reflect on why adaption or creation would be a better choice in this instance.

  Read: OER Commons: a game of snakes and ladders for the Library profession

Explore this article written by CAUL Digital Dexterity Champions (Goodwin et al., 2022). They outline the importance of sharing open educational resources in and outside the CAUL network, and the creation of a space for adopting and adapting resources.

Reflect: Your experiences adopting, adapting or creating OER

If you have experience adapting and creating OER, reflect on:

  • Your experiences and learnings with the cohort. What were the challenges?
  • The pros and cons of adaptation vs creation of OER

If you are new to OER:

  • What do you think your primary adaptation and/or creation challenges will be?
  • Based on what you have learnt, would you prefer to adapt or create an OER? Why? How do you think your preference influence your practice?

Key takeaways

  • OER can be adopted, which is about using the resource as is, without changes and within the licensing provisions.
  • OER can be adapted, which is about using the resource with some modifications made to suit the context, within the licensing provisions.
  • OER can be created, which is about making your own resource from scratch and applying your own licensing.
  • It is important to evaluate and review OER to consider if they will meet the learning context. Are there already any that are suitable, or will you need to make changes or create your own?

In the next chapter we’ll look at tools and techniques for creating OER.


BCcampus. (2021). Reasons to adapt an open textbook. In BCcampus (Ed.), Adaptation Guide. Retrieved from https://opentextbc.ca/adaptopentextbook/chapter/reasons-adapt/

Elder, A. (2017, December 29). Creating Open Educational Resources: Tips for New Creators [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DV-HiWtMq1U

Goodwin, A., Ratcliffe, W., King, S., Davidson, S., Howard, S., Tsakmakis, N., & Cain, K. (2022). OER Commons: a game of snakes and ladders for the Library profession [Conference paper]. Proceedings of the VALA Biennial Conference and Exhibition, VALA2022.  https://www.vala.org.au/conferences/

Jung, E., Bauer, C., & Heaps, A. (2017). Higher education faculty perceptions of open textbook adoption. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(4). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i4.312

Meinke, W. (2018). Determining technical openness. In University of Hawai’i (Ed.) UH OER Training. Retrieved from https://pressbooks.oer.hawaii.edu/oertraining2018/chapter/determining-technical-openness/

Pawlowski, J.M. (2012). Emotional Ownership as the Key to OER Adoption: From Sharing Products and Resources to Sharing Ideas and Commitment across Borders, EFQUEL Innovation Forum, Sep. 2012. Retrieved from https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/facultyoertoolkit/wp-content/uploads/sites/114/2017/02/OER_emotional_ownership_pawlowski20120529citation.pdf

The Virtual Library of Virginia. (2020, November 21). ALMS Framework [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubYAHUuE5Zg

Wiley, D. (n.d.) Poor Technical Choices Make Open Content Less Open. Retrieved from http://www.opencontent.org/definition/

Wilson College Library (2018, August 30). Adapting OER [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMLJfTGYgEA


This chapter has been adapted in part from:




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