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Image courtesy of Visual Panic

Most OER projects draw material from several sources reaping the benefits of a wider selection and multiple perspectives. For a good quality result, pay attention to the following while adapting an OER.

If the license associated with the resource you wish to use disallows derivative works:

  • Provide an introduction describing the resource, including any terms or conditions for its further use.
  • Bring in additional information to contextualize the resource by wrapping it around the resource (rather than placing it within the resource).

Alternatively, select another resource that does allow derivatives and consider the following.


Material from different sources may be pulled out of context and need to be adapted for the target environment in a consistent manner. One approach is to gain a good understanding of the role of the component in its original context before adapting it for the new context and incorporating it into your OER.


Continuity can be disrupted if the OER jumps around as a result of being composed from a number of different sources. To prevent this from happening, review your entire OER from beginning to end. Have colleagues, friends or learners review the information to determine whether or not there are any problems with the logical flow.


Terminology may be undefined, or certain phrases may have a unique meaning in the source (e.g. learning object). Find any terms, phrases or examples that are not mentioned in any other source. Decide whether or not to include them, or if some explanation is needed. Identify any informal or slang terms. Depending on how you want to present these materials you may or may not elect to keep them. Use your word processor's "find and replace" feature when changing words or phrases.

Consider adding definitions as text in video used, if it is not defined by the video itself. Definitions for audio may be included in a separate text file or web page.


The manner in which the sources are presented will likely differ. For example, two sources might use a different font, or some images might have a border around them, while others do not. For audio, some sound clips might have louder volume than others and may need readjustment using an audio editor. Likewise, images could be altered using an image editor (See Audio programs and Image editing programs in Compose OER for possible tools).

Tone and voice

Existing OER and other educational material vary in style. Consider the tone and voice (first, second or third person). Often the necessary changes can be made by altering only a few words in some of the material. However, this type of inconsistency can be a source of frustration. Nonetheless, having a consistent tone and voice is essential, as learners may be distracted by inconsistencies.

For audio and video, changing tone and voice may be impossible. In those situations, carefully consider if a source is too incongruous for inclusion into the OER.

Managing the authoring process

Adapting and remixing resources has its challenges. If a resource is licensed in such a way that it prevents derivatives, you may have even less flexibility. However, there are some things you can do to mitigate any problems you might have.

  1. Decide on an overall organization of the material as well as the tone and voice. Then modify all source material to match those prescriptions.
  2. Modify all material to match whatever tone and organization is followed in the majority of the other sources.

Each option has its own considerations. The first option is best when there is no single source that is used in the majority of the material. The advantage of having one overall plan is that you know the context in which your course is used and plan accordingly. However, you should keep in mind that adapting resources takes time and if your overall goal requires heavy modification, you should plan on spending significant time on reaching it.

The second option is best when there is a single source that is used in the majority of the course. The advantage of modifying all material to match the majority is that it saves time. Unfortunately, this option may not work if the major source's tone and content is far removed from what learners need.

Keeping track of sources

As a matter of good academic practice, all citations used should be tracked. Some OER licenses also require attribution as one of their terms of use. It can be a challenge to keep track of all the sources in an OER, as it may include a combination of audio, video and text. Keep a spreadsheet or text document that lists the source, format (audio, video, etc.), license and where it is used in the OER. Keeping files in separate folders according to their license may be a helpful way to keep track of material and prevent mixing two sources that have license incompatibilities. The licensing chapter will discuss how these sources are attributed within the OER itself and issues regarding license incompatibility.

When not to remix

Remixing resources is not always necessary. In some instances reusing an OER "as-is" can be beneficial. For example, USU OCW's English 1010 course[1] deliberately kept its opinion pieces distinct in tone, voice and terminology so learners could compare and contrast the differences.

Depending on the time and resources you have available, complete adaptation may not be possible. In those situations, you should recommend further modification of the OER for more effective use.


  1. http://ocw.usu.edu/English/english-1010