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Image courtesy of Chaos in June

In all phases of the OER cycle, attention to quality is vital. Issues around the quality of OER are debated vociferously within the OER community. This handbook does not cover fully the issue of quality, but highlights a few things for you to keep in mind while composing, remixing and adapting OER.

Most OER projects draw from several sources, which has the benefits of a wider pool of resources and multiple perspectives. However, there are some considerations to keep in mind while composing OER to ensure a quality result.

During composition, think of the learners and the learning environment. Are the resources suitable and being pieced together in a way that will engage the learners and enable them to reach the required level of understanding?

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  • Is there any objectionable material, or material is that is counter to institutional policy?
  • Is the material appropriate for that grade?
  • Is the material culturally relevant and appropriate?
  • Is the OER aligned and supportive of applicable curriculum mandates?
  • Is there a close relationship between the OER and the other resources with which the learners will engage?
    • If so, is there anything that can be done to enhance this synergy?
  • What is valuable about this OER?
    • What does this OER have that my current teaching materials do not have?
  • Are there any factual errors in the OER?
  • Are there parts of the OER that are less interesting than others?

Based on your answers, select components to include and prioritize areas for revision and localisation. For example, objectionable material should be excluded immediately, factual errors should be eliminated, and consider whether or not it makes sense to localize components before remixing.

Decisions on which components to include will be constrained by the resources you have available including time, people with technical and artistic skills, etc. In particular, think about the extent of revision and localization required.

Ultimately, you need to decide which changes are most helpful and practical under the circumstances. Quality is contextual, and no one knows the context of your own classroom and learners better than you (and the learners).

The Ultimate Test

Does the OER work in the classroom?

It is not uncommon for the composer to feel a strong sense of ownership and pride having built an OER, and to proceed to use it with great enthusiasm. This has been known on occasion to blind the educator to its ineffectiveness. Therefore, be sensitive to the efficacy of the OER. Observe your learners and get their feedback. Continually adapt the resources and be prepared to dispense with an OER if it is not working for your learners.

Considerations for Quality During OER Composition

If the source prevents derivative works:

  • Provide an introduction explaining the source, including any terms or concepts necessary to understand it.
  • Bring in additional information to better supplement the source (although you will still have to abide by the license).
  • Select another source that does allow derivatives.

If the source allows derivative works:


Content from sources may pulled out of context, resulting in confusion. The solution is to review the entire source, if possible, before incorporating it into your OER. Some of that information may need to be modified before placement in your OER.


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


Unique 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 processors "find and replace" feature when changing words or phrases.


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 used an image editor (See Audio programs and Image programs in Compose OER for possible tools).

Tone and Voice

Existing OER and other educational material incorporates a wide variety of writing styles. Consider the tone and voice(first, second or person) of the content. Often these 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 quickly pick up on inconsistencies.

Managing the Authoring Process

There are no quick and easy solutions to the problems introduced by remixing sources. If a source 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 to the material as well as 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 course material. The advantage to having one overall plan is that you know the context is which your course is used and plan accordingly. However, you should keep in mind that remixing sources takes time and if your overall goal requires heavy modification, you should plan on spending significant time making them.

The second option is best when there is a single source that is used in the majority of the course. The advantage to 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. It can be challenge to keep track of all the sources in an OER, as it may include a combination of audio, video and text. Using a spreadsheet or text document that lists the source, format (audio, video, etc.), license and where it is used in the OER. The licensing section will discuss how these sources are attributed within the OER itself.

When not to remix

Remixing sources is not always necessary. In some instances maintaining a source "as-is" can be beneficial. For example, in 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. Similar situations may apply across the humanities and social sciences.

Depending on the time and resources you have available, remixing may not be possible. In those situations, you should indicate that future development of the OER should involve unifying the sources.

Collaborate for Quality

Whether you are composing OER for learners, for fellow educators, or for your own professional development, OER production is a learning experience in itself. In particular, collective learning among groups of educators is possible through cooperation on OER production. Being part of a community of educators can greatly enhance your work.

OER Tip: Engage with the community in all phases of the OER development cycle, 
even the early phases of composition. There will certainly be peers with common interests 
facing the same sorts of challenges.

The result will be improved quality of the OER you produce, improving the overall quality of the global pool of OER.


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